Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Til Law School Do We Part

Let's chat for a minute about a little known law school fact that you won't find in any school brochure: law school is very hard on marriages. Many of my first year section mates who were married during orientation were divorced (or in the process) by finals. One man fell completely in love with a fellow section mate - whose husband chose to live 3000 miles away - and often invited her to have dinner with him, his wife and his young child. After sixteen years of marriage, another section mate took her twin daughters and moved out of the marital home. We often saw her at Thursday bar nights with her new boyfriend. Recently, she married someone else.

My marriage has also suffered. My husband is a self-proclaimed blue collar guy. Sure, he rides a desk during the day, but he's a corporate drone stuck in the system who likes nothing more than a good massage and a domestic beer. He has no aspirations of corner offices and box seats; he leaves those dreams to me. He prefers gaming and sports talk to the latest political fracas on Capitol Hill.

It's funny how law school really amps up the Type A-ness of a person. Suddenly, I became annoyed with his gaming habit. I was critical and frustrated that he didn't take more of an interest in my law school life. He seemed bored with my constant complaining about the lack of interesting legal careers. I quit holding my tongue and railed at him when he talked sports. I pleaded with him to talk about more "interesting" things. I was afraid to take him to parties with my classmates because he wasn't hip to the latest political issues. We grew apart and we stopped sharing parts of our lives with each other. He was secretive and I was mistrustful. Something, or someone, had to give.

So I quit the social scene cold turkey. I stopped going out for drinks with my classmates. I avoided law talk and I told myself that mediocre effort, and the grades that come with it, were ok. I relegated the law parts of my life to the back burner for the sake of my marriage.

I did it because the pre-lawschoolmom was funny, spontaneous and optimistic. A few weeks in the trenches and I was as cynical and argumentative as the rest of the bunch. Discussions became debates as I smugly poked holes in Madhubby's arguments. I stopped listening and so did he. We're on better footing now, but it was rough going those first two semesters because - honestly - I turned into a self-righteous bitch. Law school can do that to you.

But, that's not going to happen to you because you have the benefit of my hindsight. I write this entry as a cautionary tale; don't neglect your spouse. Do make time for your marriage. Law school can be a jealous mistress, but sometimes you've got to take charge, give it a good bitch-slap and go home to your spouse.


Zuska said...

I think it really helped (this sounds weird) that I went through law school as a wife of a student -- to my EX husband. It just made me aware of how it feels to be on the other side, and so when I was in law school, I think I was able to watch for it, and not put my husband (new) through the same hell.

I went out for drinks with friends 4 times, max. In three years. I did not get into the social scene at all. I really didn't have time, with kids, a husband, housework and school work to do. I am not sure I would have been as successful in school, let alone in my marriage/relationship (we got married DURING law school, actually, but were together the whole time), if I'd delved into the social scene with the young ducks.

Sometimes it was lonely, but I did well, and I'm still married, and my kids and I know each other really well.

PT-LawMom said...

What a great, honest post. My husband is also blue collar (no desk, though) and has a very low level of education compared to mine. I sometimes worry about what law school will do to us, but he is my biggest supporter and champion. Although he gets a bit intimidated, he has promised to attend social events with me for law school (and has already been to one) and I, in turn, have chosen not to go to those that he cannot attend without his blessing. Between work and school, I spend enough time away from my family. I can't see the positive side of glomming onto the social scene. Fortunately a lot of my classmates are married and I was pleasantly surprised to see a ton of spouses turn out for a recent happy hour. I think that is a really good sign and I'm hopeful that we can find a way to have family-friendly (or at least spouse-inclusive) events going forward. Thanks for your great post!!

Proto Attorney said...

I agree, this is such a good post.

My husband works 3 nights a week, and has a guys' night 1 night a week, so we've never spent ALL of our time together, which I think helped a lot to ease the transition. When I started law school, I made sure to do the bulk of my studying on the nights he works that way when he's home, I can actually spend time with him. During the weeks leading up to finals, he very wisely left me alone to be a complete mess and simply brought me offerings of food and tea, and found something to occupy his time. :)

But what made things easier was finding a group of friends who are married/have significant others, and any activities we would do, were as couples. The only actual "law school" event I dragged Husband to was Barrister's Ball, and attended other events by myself on the nights he was out with the guys, or at work.

But, no, they sure don't tell you in the Law School pamphlet how tough it's going to be on your marriage, on the rest of your family, and on your friendships outside of school. Or how hard it's going to be on your self-esteem, and even your personality.

LawSchoolMom said...

I have never been able to find a middle, social ground in law school. I was part of the crowd during 1L and went out with my section mates quite often. Law school became very lonely once I stopped going out with them.

Kady said...

My marriage also suffered when I was going through LS, not b/c my hubby is blue collared, but because of the single minded devotion that LS asks of its students. I got very close with many of my LS friends - like soldiers at war, I'm sure - and at the exclusion of hubby. But I was also able to avoid the social scene, all my friends were basically also married with kids, and I spent all of my weekends with my family. So I came out the other end, still married. LS is only 3 years, and I promised my hubby a lifetime.

Thanks for blogging about something I'm sure many LS students across the country have faced.

LawSchoolMom said...

@ kady: You are so right about the level of camaraderie. I have often likened law school to military life because the experience is so unique and groups of friends tend to stick together to the total exclusion of newcomers.