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Summary: Here are 11 tips from the experts on how to endure relationships with people who give their lives to the law - and don't seem to have much left over for you.
Normally we give advice to law students and lawyers. We are devoting this week's advice to their better halves. Lawyers and free time are not typically well acquainted with one another. And anyone married to, living with, or otherwise romantically entangled with a JD (or soon-to-be) will tell you that the relationship can be, to put it kindly, challenging.
Another dinner alone.
Another canceled vacation.
Another pile of dishes to wash.
In an effort to try to make every lawyerly romance a sweet one, we've rounded up tips from the experts on how to endure relationships with people who give their lives to the law - and don't seem to have much left over for you.
1. Raise Your Awareness
If your significant other ultimately hopes to work at a big firm, one day you'll look back fondly on law school as a simpler time. Really. Law school is just the beginning of many years of challenges, says a New York City-based psychologist who specializes in the rigors of high-pressure careers. If you go in with a high level of awareness and can keep adjusting how you deal with the pressures, you'll manage better in the end. The sooner you realize you're both in this for the long haul, the better.
The grueling days and sleepless nights that are part of law school and firm life are tough. But remember, most lawyers aren't masochists. They love the study and practice of the law. Lawyers can earn a lot of money, and there's a reason: The job is hard. You have to have a lot of respect for the difficulty of what the person is going through, says a fifth-year associate at New York City's Shearman & Sterling whose wife is a first-year associate at a large firm. There are times when you just have to leave the other person alone and let them get through it.
3. Get a Life
If you've ever had an urge to start a hobby, now's the time. While your partner is memorizing tax codes, learn to cook Uruguayan food. Or sign up for that paleontology class you've been eyeing. The wife of one prominent Hartford lawyer started a book club in the early years of her husband's practice, creating a routine around something she loved. You need a strong sense of autonomy, says Hayes. This is a good time to do structured activities that can make the transition easier, rather than just doing things on the fly. The key is to stick to it - the Hartford partner's wife has missed only three monthly meetings in 22 years.
4. Get a Dog
"I wanted a buddy around, since my wife was studying all the time," says Todd, who bought a pooch when his wife, Lillian, was a 1L at Vanderbilt. "It was great -and it was good for my wife, too, because it gave her something to focus on besides school."
5. Keep Your Own Company
Be confident doing things alone -eating, shopping, catching a movie. "I got used to having dinner by myself," says Rachel, whose husband, Dan, is an associate at Washington, D.C.'s Arnold & Porter. But solo meals don't have to be gloomy affairs. Try new recipes. Learn about wine. Take your time preparing the food.
6. Set Ground Rules
A heavy workload doesn't absolve your loved one of all responsibilities. The occasional load of laundry or grocery run should be manageable. Divide chores, and even stick a chart on the fridge detailing who does what -dorky, yes, but effective. Work out a statement of expectations that each person can set priorities around. This includes time for each other. Plan a 15-minute phone conversation every afternoon. At first it may seem pathetic that you have to arrange this kind of thing, but it'll give you both something to look forward to - a constant, which will be hard to come by these days.
7. Learn the Language
Buy a copy of Merriam Webster's Dictionary of Law. Each day, commit to memory one legal term. When your beleaguered spouse sloughs through the door at night, ask if she'd like her dinner in facie curiae or by herself. She'll think it's funny.
8. Show Some Interest
Most law schools offer an orientation session for family members. Go. You'll meet the people your partner will be spending long days with, so in the future her stories about what Joe said to Peggy about Larry after study group will be conversations, not one-sided monologues about people you don't know. "I participated in the extracurricular like dinners and events," says Marilyn, whose husband, James, is a partner at New York's Kaye Scholar. "The people Jim went to school with were nice and welcoming, and they made me feel a part of it."
When you feel neglected - and you will -take a deep breath and give the neglecter a break. But if it gets serious, voice your concern. And voice your concern does not mean whine and complain. When you need to talk, try saying, I know you have a lot going on, but I really want to talk to you about something. Can we talk tonight before bed?
11. Join the Team
Try to view your partner's experiences as your own, not some weird thing she's off doing while you're home resealing the driveway (again). As Rachel puts it, "I realized that Dan's becoming a lawyer was something that was part of our goal as a unit, not just his goal individually."
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