The week before law school started the school had a big orientation just for the family members of the students. I attended eager to learn more about what was ahead for us, "Law school, I thought to myself, what an exciting new adventure!" They had provided us with lunches and I shortly found myself chatting away with another young woman whose husband would be in Trevor's class. Throughout that meeting, between bites of my delicious Apple Spice Junction turkey sandwich, my eagerness slowly turned into worry. They had counselors and spouses talking us through the law school experience and what to expect. Woman shared their personal struggles, and things they had learned along the way. By the time the orientation was complete, the smile I had walked in with had been wiped right off my face. I was scared. They made law school sound horrible. (The cool thing about blogging, is that I have those thoughts documented!) They didn't sugar coat anything, and I left with the impression that this whole law school experience was going to be a lot more challenging than I had originally anticipated.
In retrospect, I appreciate the honesty. I felt like I was better equipped for the changes that were going to happen after that meeting. Throughout the last few years I have had several e-mails and comments from other women entering the world of Law School with their husbands or boyfriends. They wanted advice, tips, anything to prepare them. I thought since now that we have officially been through it all, the LSAT, law school, the Bar, and officially becoming an attorney, that I would put together a post about our experience and the advice that I would give. I don't want to scare you, but I will be totally honest. With that said, this advice is based of what I have learned from others and our own personal experience. And just like anything, no two situations are exactly alike. Hopefully those who are going through this experience can take something from this! If I can help one law school widow out there then I have done some good in the world today, haha.
So let's get stated shall we...
YOUR HUSBAND IS GOING TO FEEL STUPID.
One thing I have learned is that anyone who goes to Law School is smart. Not that making the decision to go is smart, I mean that the caliber of people who attend are smart individuals. They are used to doing well in school. They typically have always got good grades, and for the most part excelled over their other peers in this way. Then they go to Law School with a bunch of other people who are just as smart, or smarter than them. It is a whole new ball game for them. They are not used to this kind of competition academically, and when you add the pressure to rank the best, it can truly break down their spirits. Because you don't have traditional homework in law school, there is no way for them to judge how well they are doing until after they already get their final grade for the class. This causes some major stress and anxiety. They start to question their abilities, and how smart they are, and that is incredibly hard to watch as a spouse. This is where your most important role starts and will need to continue throughout the next few years.
Your job is simply to...
LIFT THEM UP & SUPPORT THEM.
With the massive amount of reading, studying, and extra curricular academics (Law Review, Moot Court, etc.), Your husband is going to be stressed in a way you have never seen before. There will be moments where they are on the brink, and I can't reiterate enough how important it is to be their cheerleader. You are their number one. You have to be their shoulder in this process and lift them up. Remind them how smart they are, encourage them and build up their confidence, because the law school experience does the exact opposite to them. It is actually designed to break them down. Whenever Trevor would come home, I would try and make home as much of an oasis for him as possible. I was Trevor's number one fan at all times, encouraging him and cheering him on. You are going to be the only one in his life rooting for him. Everything in his life has become a competition, and with teachers and work breaking them down, they NEED your love and support like you have never given it before.
BE UNDERSTANDING & FORGIVING.
So far you have heard me talk a lot about all the things YOU are going to be doing for your spouse. There will be moments where you feel like, "Hey! Where is my support? This having a husband in law school thing totally SUCKS!" And guess what, it kind of does. Well your spouse shouldn't be totally off the hook, their priority and focus is in doing well in their classes. It can be hard to balance family life and the extreme stressors that law school places on them. The work load they give them makes it almost impossible to have a healthy balance. There were so many times when I was frustrated with Trevor because we couldn't do something because he had to study or read. I felt like it was all the time and that we were never doing anything anymore. One of the Christmas presents I bought him was a snow tubing session in Midway. I was SO excited about it, and had always wanted to go. I knew it was something Trevor would love too. It had an expiration date on them but we had months to use them. Months went by and we hadn't gone because every weekend Trevor was busy with law review, or writing a paper. When Trevor told me we wouldn't be able to go on the last Saturday we could I had a total melt down. Trevor just looked at me and said, "Alycia, don't you think I would rather go snow tubing with you then sit here and work on this paper and read? But I don't have a choice, I have to." I quickly learned that I was getting mad at him for basically trying to do his best in school. Why would I want to make him feel bad about that? I needed to be more understanding about the position he was in, and be more understanding of the situations he was being put in. Obviously Trevor would have rather gone out with me then stay home and work, but he was making a sacrifice for the BOTH of us and our future family... I didn't need to be making him feel worse about it all. But Trevor also understood where I was coming from, and when we did have time we made the most of it. He would plan fun dates and outings where we could squeeze them in so we weren't always doing the same thing like sitting on the couch and watching t.v. I would often meet him for just 20 minutes to eat lunch at the BYU creamery right by the law school. Getting in those moments really made a difference. Throughout the whole law school experience there was a lot of trying to understand where the other one was coming from, and forgiving each other. I wrote this post about that talked about remembering to be kind and supportive.
YOU'RE GOING TO NEED SUPPORT.
As you can probably already tell if you have read this entire novel of a post, is that you are going to GIVE A LOT to support your spouse. This can be hard to do because you will start to feel like this whole thing is one sided, because their energy is so zapped, especially that first year. So it is important for you to make sure you are understanding of that, as well as have a group of cheerleaders for yourself. BYU has a law partners group where we would put together fun activities and outings for those with spouses in law school. I also thankfully had my blog as an outlet, with lots of fun activities and events going on to fill my time. I also worked full time, which kept me busy. But it is also important to have a sounding board. I talk to my mom every single day, and everyone should have those close and dear friends to get advice from. Sometimes you just need to vent, and having those support systems is amazing. Even just blogging about my experiences and hearing back from readers was amazing! Just knowing you are not alone in the experience makes all the difference. Thank you ALL for your sweet comments and e-mails over the last three years! Social media is pretty amazing no? So, STAY BUSY, and have your own cheerleaders. Having that built in support system can really be vital if you spouse has to leave for internships and jobs during the summer. Because we lived off of my income, I couldn't go away with Trevor when he left for the summers. Long distance marriage sucks, but it was necessary for us. The first time he left I became a zombie for a whole month. I stopped hanging out with people, stopped blogging, and that is when I learned how important having my own support system was. The next summer he was away after that was much easier for me because I had learned that valuable lesson.
THE TAKE HOME.
Law school will challenge every aspect of your marriage, and relationship with each other. Your spouse will be going through one of the most grueling experiences he will probably ever have to go through and there needs to be lots of LOVE, COMMUNICATION AND SUPPORT. While the whole law school experience was rough, it has the ability to really make your relationship stronger than ever. That is true for Trevor and I. You go through so many things, that you have no choice but to become each other's rock. Our communication skills were super refined over the last three years. We really learned that we can count on each other no matter what, and when you know you have that kind of support in your spouse, your love deepens and blossoms in way that can only be described as magical.
If you are currently a law school widow and need or want anyone to talk to, just e-mail me :) OR Feel free to read any post I tagged about Law School over the years.
Karina is someone I was drawn to while blogging because she was going through the same experience! It also helps that her family is just beautiful. It was nice to read each other's posts over the years and relate to one another on the law school widow part of life. We thought it would be fun to both share our experiences and advice on our blogs today. She even had a child during this whole thing, so mad props to her! Head on over to gain some insight from her experience! How cute are these two?