Law school, for a spouse, can be as rough as it is on the student. Welcome to the world of living with a stressed-out, over-extended, cranky baby-lawyer. It can leave the law students and their spouses wondering if their relationship can last those three years. I was lucky enough to have a supportive partner during the process (thanks Axel!) and left law school with a JD and a marriage intact. After watching the series finale of Friday Night Lights (really one of the best shows ever, even if it is about Texas football), I realized how much marriages and partnerships going through the rocky road of law school could learn from the main couple of the show, Coach Taylor and his wife Tami. Here’s what law school spouses can learn from the Taylors (with spoilers).
1. Be supportive
Throughout most seasons of the show, Tami Taylor was the picture of the perfect coach-wife. Whether it was getting drinks for visiting boosters, going to games, or letting Buddy Garrity overrun her Thanksgiving feast with his own deep fried turkey, Tami did everything she could to support Coach Taylor. Now, I don’t suggest dropping everything to bring iced tea to your whiney baby-lawyer and his whiney study-group. However, be supportive. Recognize that your partner is embarking on a journey that can be the mental and emotional equivalent of a three year marathon. Let them off the hook when you can’t spend time with them because they’re knee deep in first year writing assignments. Give them a pass when they don’t take out the trash during finals.
2. But, have your own life
While, Tami Taylor was a supportive wife, she still had her own identity. Regardless of what was going on with the team or her family, she was always a pretty kick-butt administrator and educator. You need to have an identity beyond your relationship. You are not just the wife/husband/partner of a law student. Your baby-lawyer will not have the free time they once had. That means you won’t be spending every waking moment with your significant other. Having an identity that is not dependant on your baby-lawyer will keep you from feeling overwhelmed by loneliness and resentment when they can’t give you 100% of their attention.
3. Don’t spend based on a hope of what your partner might earn
One arc in the show was the lure of the high life. The wife of a wealthy booster/crazy-dad-of-quarterback, befriended Tami and tried to convince her that the Taylors needed a McMansion. Thankfully for the Taylors, cooler heads prevailed and they stayed in their three bedroom rambler that they could actually afford. That arc was revisited in the this season when the Taylors considered the living standards new job opportunities would bring. Your family, your friends, your new law school circle and your own preconceived notions about the profession may try to convince you that you and your baby-lawyer will be living the high life after graduation and you don’t need to deprive yourself now. That is wrong. You have no guarantee that your baby-lawyer will make big bucks, or even that they’ll find a job in the legal profession right away. Live and spend according to the adage, law students who spend like lawyers will be lawyers who’ll only be able to live like students.
4. Once you sign up, don’t hold a grudge
In the final episode, Coach Taylor gave up Texas football to head off to Philadelphia for the good of Tami’s career, her sanity and the good of their relationship. One of the last scenes showed him embracing his new job coaching a team of Pennsylvanian suburban kids. The fact that you have a baby-lawyer means that you had your own, race-down-the-escalator-and-interrupt-Santa, moment. Now that you and your spouse have signed on, don’t hold a grudge about all the other things law school brings.
Good luck on your journey. Here’s more tips on helping your relationship last during law school. Take it from me and other bloggers that marriages can survive law school. And for those that want to watch the final moments of the greatest show about Texas football, you’re welcome. Remember, “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose”.