Hi there! My name is Stephanie, and here's a post about me/us that I posted a while back.
The new school year is already underway. My husband, Andy (MS3), is currently on his OB/GYN clerkship. He is enjoying getting so much patient interaction, as well as the opportunity to learn directly from the residents and doctors by doing instead of just reading/watching. He's already caught a baby and been apart of a C-section!
Anyway, last spring he began studying for Step 1 in March. It was a really intense time. Since USC is actually pass/fail for the first two years, this was the first test that really mattered in terms of a score, and it REALLY mattered as you all know. He wants to get into orthopedics, so it is pretty competitive as well. It was a lot of pressure on him, and a drain on me to have him around, but unable to help out with the kids/home much since he was so busy with studying all the time (we have 2 toddlers, plus 1 on the way in Jan!).
From our experience during that crazy Step 1 prep time, I would say communication is paramount, but sometimes you just can't make your spouse communicate, as it were. Kind of obvious, right? Communication is key in marriage. But it is even more so as you begin such an intense period, where emotions for both of you can run high and you can begin drift apart just due to the circumstances, working so hard at your separate "jobs." It was also kind of a grieving period for me, in terms of realizing that this was the end of the strictly academic part of school (which is more flexible), meaning that he would always answer to someone else's schedule from here on out and actually be even busier than in school. Also, expectations are huge. If I expected that he was going to be home for dinner, or pictured our weekend in any way, but either didn't discuss it with him specifically, I was inevitably setting myself up for huge disappointment. But of course, even if you communicate your expectations, it doesn't mean that they'll be met.
At the same time in March, I had a girlfriend (not in medical school or tag-along) and fellow Christian that was going through the devastating near end of her marriage. I asked her if she had seen the movie, "Fireproof." She hadn't, but when I asked her if she'd be interested in doing the book "The Love Dare" from the movie at the same time as me, she said she didn't think she could get her husband to do it. But I told her that this book is just a one-sided thing. You just get to work on your marriage, not on "changing" the other person. She agreed, and two other wives (one a fellow tag-along) also joined us.
When you think of "what is the point of marriage," what do you think of? If you feel that it has primarily to do with making each other happy, then you are more than likely setting yourself up for failure. But probably some of you know that is empty, but what hope do we have for enjoying our marriages then? If our marriages are to glorify God, which in turn brings us joy, then we have hope that is bigger than us in a joyful, wonderful-not-just-ok, lasting marriage. To that end, what are you personally doing to work on your marriage? Last spring, my friends and I did The Love Dare," and it was such a blessing to both Andy and I. I was keeping it a secret (which you don't necessarily have to do), but I eventually thought that he knew and that he must be doing The Love Dare at the same time as well! Of course, it doesn't always work out that we see immediate benefits of our hard work in marriage, but is a perk when it does and it is not as uncommon as you might think!
I've wished before that we had money (and time!) to go to marriage counseling, not because we're on the brink or really unhappy, but so that we don't get there ever. Of course, we don't have the resources right now. I could definitely ask, what is my spouse doing to work on our marriage, but in reality, I don't have any control over that! What I (and you) do have control over is my (and your) attitude and actions.
By the way, my friend and her husband are going to make it in their marriage, praise God! By nothing short of a miracle, they are on the long road to recovery and are working toward a great marriage. Also, my fellow tag-along and I are going to start The Love Dare again. It is the kind of book that you could just cycle through repeatedly, especially in during these "special times" that we are in. (Also, she and I are going to re-read together the awesome book Prescription for the Doctor's Wife again, which I posted briefly about here.)
So, what are you doing to work on your marriage? I don't think this type of book is the only way to work on your marriage, but I hope you are encouraged to try something specific/different/sacrificial to improve your marriage, knowing that you are always either growing together, or growing apart.
Disclaimer: The Love Dare is written from a Christian perspective. It could be done by anyone, but it does presume that your perspective in marriage is one that your marriage is not just about you and your partner, rather founded on God.