Going through a divorce while in medical school?

I was just wondering if anyone ever had to go through a divorce while in pre-med or medical school but yet pressed on despite what was happening in your personal life? Sadly, I am going through a difficult time in my marriage which may possibly lead to a divorce. My husband was very supportive of my dream of becoming a physician but unfortunately sometimes life takes us on a different direction and we may find ourselves alone. However, becoming a physician is a big dream of mine and I will not give it up despite if we go our separate ways. The plan was he was going to support our family financially while I was in medical school because I would have to quit work but that plan may fall to the wayside. Has anyone ever had to go through a divorce while trying to pursue a career in medicine? Has anyone lost the support they thought they would have and have to do it alone? Your advice or life story is greatly appreciated!

Hi Traycee,

First of all, let me say how sorry I am that you are going through this difficult time. Getting a divorce is a horrible thing at any time, but it is all the more stressful when you are in school. Especially heading toward medical school. I can say this because I am going through it myself. I keep a diary here on OPM (the link is in my signature), and have chronicled much of my story there. I would encourage you to read my diary posts. But I will briefly describe/summarize my situation here as well, in the hopes that it offers you some encouragement for whatever lies ahead in your own life.

I am currently in the second year of a two-year formal post-bac program. Last spring semester (during my first year of the program), over spring break, my husband told me he wanted a divorce. Not that there is ever GOOD timing for this kind of announcement, but his timing was absolutely horrendous. He told me this just days before our 10th anniversary of being together (for which we’d already made plans), and a week before I had three midterms (physics, biology, and chemistry) and a 25-page lab report due. I was taking four classes at the time, with four labs (I do NOT recommend doing this if you can help it!), and it was all I could do to keep from crawling into bed and staying there with a box of Kleenex. But that was obviously not an option, if I wanted to survive the semester.

Like you, my husband had said he would support me financially while I was in school. So I saw my financial support drop out from under me. That, of course, was the least of my worries at the time. We had been together nearly 10 years, since I was 19, and had been married almost 7. We were best friends, and I thought we were soulmates. I definitely had not seen this coming.

So I had a decision to make: I could let this drag me under, or I could press on. I chose the latter. I was losing my husband; I did not want to lose my dream of becoming a physician as well. So I turned to the people around me, my family and friends, and I also turned to the strength I had inside myself.

Did I cry? Yes. A lot. I was completely devastated, because the person I expected to grow old with no longer wanted to be with me. That hurt. But I wasn’t going to let what was happening destroy my other ambitions in life.

I made it through those exams and that lab report (all A’s, I might add). In all honesty, in some ways it was good to have thermodynamics, fungal life cycles, and angular motion to focus on instead of my internal pain. The rest of the semester was difficult, but I pulled through that too.

In late May, I moved out of our beautiful house into a 1-bedroom apartment closer to my university. I have settled in, and am continuing to do well in school, despite all of the emotional turmoil that continues to drag on … finding a lawyer, selling the house, etc.

I would never wish this upon anyone, not my worst enemy. It is painful beyond belief. But it is possible to move on, and to continue with your dream. Does it take additional tenacity and emotional fortitude? Yes, I believe it does. But I think that is one of the benefits of being an OldPreMed: we have a maturity that enables us to deal with the most difficult situations, a maturity that most people (i.e., traditional applicants) do not have at 18 or 19 years old.

If indeed your marital situation heads toward divorce (which I pray it does not), I just want to encourage you that all is not lost. It is amazing how, when things like this happen, that the people who really love and care for you step up and support you. It is also amazing how, when things like this happen, that you realize you are a stronger person than you ever thought you were.

In sum: If you really want to be a doctor, don’t give up.

Feel free to PM me anytime if you want to talk more. The pain waxes and wanes, but it does get better. I am proof of that.

  • Lorien

Thank you Lorien for sharing your amazing story with me. I really appreciate you for taking your time to care for someone like me who is going through a tough time. I am so sorry for what you had to go through and you are such an inspiration to me. It is very difficult for everyone involved when a divorce occurs. I have been married for 19 years and was hoping for it to last forever but unfortunately sometimes things doesn’t work the way we would like. It’s just sad that I will not have that emotional, moral, and yes, even financial support during the biggest journey of my life. In a marriage, we want to share those big moments with the ones we love, our spouses whom we thought is supposed to stick by our side through it all. I am appreciative that you understand what I am going through. Once again, thank you and I will PM you sometimes because I know I will need some guidance through all of this. You are absolutely right about families and friends standing with us through times like this. I am grateful for them!

Hi Traycee,

I’m very sorry to hear that you’re having issues with your marriage. I hope that things resolve in as positive a way as is possible for you. It’s definitely not an easy situation to endure; particularly when you’re already undertaking a relatively difficult journey.

Like Lorien, I’m also going through a divorce right now. My soon-to-be-ex had also volunteered to support our family through my educational pursuits. Instead, he’s now waging a custody battle against me (claiming I’m a ‘bad’ mom because I spend ‘too much time’ studying and volunteering at a hospital). In reality, I believe that this is more about the fact that there are no medical schools near us geographically, and he knows that. His reasoning being that it’s better to ask for full custody and then get half (giving him better leverage to keep me from leaving to attend medical school) then it is to chance that he’ll get less than 50% visitation and risk that I’d be able to move to attend med school. Just speculation on my part though.

Unfortunately the whole experience does take a toll. In my case I didn’t perform as well this quarter as I’d hoped to. We also had 5 hearings in a span of 10 weeks, plus I’ve been having some medical problems of my own to deal with. What keeps me going is remembering that no matter what comes of this, I will be ok. Circumstances might not be ideal, but my world will not end. I realize that all I can do is take it a day at a time. Heck…somedays I can’t even do that much! It’s more like moment to moment. I’m learning the importance of self-care and being true to myself, and to who I’d like to become.

You’ll find a way, Traycee. Keep the hope alive. Hugs to you!

Erica, I am so sorry to hear about your situation as well. I know it is never easy when in this kind of situation. I am feeling all kinds of emotions at this time and was thinking just a few years ago my husband attended one of OldPremeds conference with me and he was so excited for my journey and now, I may have to travel down this path on my own. Thanks for the encouraging words! I know that no matter what happens, I will get through this. It is an experience that will certainly be life changing but it also goes to show just how strong we can be when going through such trials and tribulations. You seem to know exactly what it is you need to do to move on…to stay focus. You too, will come out of this even stronger than when you went in. God Bless you in your journey as well.

It’s never easy, but it happens. I went through my divorce while working, taking physics, and studying for the MCAT. And I filed all the paperwork myself. It is so not a party. I agree that being busy allows you to process it all gradually, but it is still not a party. But better to find out now. I’m so sorry for your pain. It’s a dreadful thing, and there’s no good time for it.

I can’t imagine how painful and difficult it would be for anyone to go through something like this. It’s even worse when it happens during a time like this. I’m very sorry to hear that you are going through this and is also sorry for those who had already gone through it.

I wish I could make it to the Conference and meet all of you. It would be fun to go to the bar and just have a night where we can forget about all of our worries.

It is really good to see that we at oldpremeds are a very tight community. I’m confident that all of you will not only get through this but rise far above it by achieving success beyond anything you could of imagined. It might not mean much coming from someone many miles away, but I believe in all you and I say this with sincerity.