Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sustaining a Relationship During 1L

There is an immense irony to life. My next post was going to be about how people in law school can sustain long-term relationships through law school with enough work. In the beginning of the semester, there was a lot of talk from people about how difficult it is to be in a coupledom while attending law school. According to 'every' book and 'every' lawyer, law students should ditch their significant others if there is any ambiguity in the parties' commitment. Other people heard that law school was the greatest test of the strength of your relationship; if you survived the first year, there was a good chance that you guys could make it long-term.

As proof of this, I had been planning to use my section as a case study for healthy relationships. I am clearly not up on all of the relationships in my section. There are almost a hundred of us, after all. Therefore, I'm going to be working off my limited knowledge of the love lives of my peers. As a disclaimer, this analysis is colored by my own bitterness and bias right now. It's not the word of God. Don't take it as such. Also, this post is exceedingly disorganized. Apologies.

Several of my peers got married last summer to preemptively solidify their commitment to each other in the face of the law school beast. From what I understand, those people are still in newlywed bliss. While many non-marital relationships stayed consistently strong, a lot of people broke up with their significant others in the first semester, present company included.

Perhaps it's because we were unprepared to face the stress of the first semester. Everyone goes a bit crazy in the first couple months. Unless you have legal experience, you are probably completely unprepared to understand and appreciate the complexity of the law. Personally, I found the content and the environment to be mentally and emotionally overwhelming, purely because I had no idea what to expect. Moreover, attending school five days a week with seven days of studying sets up crazy hours which can make it difficult for you to prioritize social necessities. Nonetheless, hell is unbearably lonely and most of us ended up back in our original relationships by mid-year.

Of course, most of the people who lived together had an edge on those of us who lived further from our significant others. While a lot of people who lived together had their issues here and there, most of them are still together. I hypothesize it's because returning to the sanctity of your home and the comfort of your lover removes you from the hectic environment and full-time job of law school. Living together provides a measure of stability and security. The majority of these people are doing pretty well.

Those of us who didn't live with our significant others had a slight handicap. I'm not just talking about the long-distance people. The ones who didn't live in the same apartment or the same city often had a more difficult time sustaining their relationships. This is logical and obvious. Good luck contributing to your relationship when:

1. It's difficult to find time for yourself, let alone your s.o., in a crazy hectic schedule.

2. You must expend a lot of effort to see them. People would disappear for entire weekends in order to visit their person. This means that you need to complete a lot of extra work during the week. So, study fifteen hours a day instead of twelve. Have fun with that.

3. Law school is inherently stressful and most people do not understand or have the capacity to understand the content without full immersion. Therefore, good luck explaining to your s.o. what exactly you're doing in Civil Procedure or Torts. I had to explain to mine a number of times the difference between briefing a case and my moot court brief.

I started talking about relationships with some of my peers a few weeks ago because my fiance and I were planning on moving in together this summer and it's just one of those social scripts that naturally follows such news. Surprisingly, a lot of people in our section quietly dropped out of their relationships by the end of this semester. Some stopped dating anyone altogether. Others either continued or began indulging in one-night stands because they didn't want to emotionally invest themselves in something other than law school.

I was shocked. I thought things were going pretty hunkey-dorey in the love department of Section 1. In fairness, I hadn't seen a lot of people for the month of finals when everyone was hiding in study rooms. I wasn't up on the gossip. But still, how wrong I was!

This post was originally slotted to be an uplifting and motivational treatise on how you can keep everything together through a really stressful and unpredictable period in your life. But, as some of my faithful readers may know, my fiance left me a week after my last final. As one of the reasons for the split, he cited the fact that we had both changed so much over the past year that we couldn't possibly meet in the middle again.

It's true. Law school has changed me. I have no doubt about that. I make law-related jokes that my family and friends don't get anymore. I savor my time on stupid websites which dish lawyer gossip and post funny law student anecdotes. I think in IRAC and CRAC and form topic sentences for discourse in my dreams. My tolerance for stupidity has decreased immensely. I have run out of patience for people who speak or move slowly because my time is valuable. Moreover, I have lived like a twenty-something, more or less by myself, for a year in one of the most amazing cities in the world. I cannot deny that I have changed and I am completely happy with the person I have become. I would have liked for the two of us to evolve along the same course, but it didn't happen.

So, I am bummed right now for myself and others in similar straits. I take my hat off to the long-distance folks who made it work. Despite my situation, I optimistically believe that law students can sustain a relationship with enough effort and contact. Looking at my section, it seems as though living together is the winning move. Just a consideration for future law students.