When I was studying for the bar exam, my now-husband and I had been dating for about a year. He isn’t a lawyer (and is proud of it) and he didn’t know many lawyers until we got together.
Now I, on the other hand, am from a family of lawyers. My parents attended law school at different times and each was the spouse of the other when they took their respective bar exams. I grew up hearing the stories about each of their bar experiences and, well, frankly what it was like to live with someone who was studying for and taking the bar exam. The message was clear,
“This too shall pass.”
So years later when it was time for me to study for the bar exam, my parents were very supportive (not surprising). They came to visit a few times during the bar prep period which was great. But what struck me each time they came to visit was that they didn’t seem too terribly concerned about how I was doing, they were concerned about how my significant other was doing!
“How are you hanging in there?” my dad would say to my now-husband. “Want to go grab a beer?”
I wanted to wave my arms and say, “HELLO! I am the one suffering through the bar exam!”
My mom’s response (when I may have said something along these lines, although without the arm waving),
“You will be fine. But your dad and I understand what it is like to be with a person who is living through the bar exam. He deserves our sympathy and support.”
Once I got past my annoyance, I did start to appreciate what it must be like to be the significant other of someone studying for the bar exam. The person you love may be, well, temporarily absent and replaced with:
- Someone who only talks about the bar or what happened in bar review.
- Someone who can’t do anything without taking flashcards with them.
- Someone who is, let’s admit, less than mentally stable.
- Someone who has good days and bad days (sometimes good and bad in the same day).
- Someone who has more books than you thought possible that they are lugging around.
- Someone who you may not even recognize.
So what can significant others do to stay sane?
- Get away with your own friends! Thought about planning a girl’s weekend/guy’s weekend? Now is the time.
- Encourage your significant other to take breaks. And if they aren’t willing to take breaks, have them read this. And by break, I mean get out of the house! Or if you would rather not talk to them (completely understandable) take them to a movie. I went to a lot of movies during bar exam prep.
- Plan a bar trip! One of the best traditions surrounding the bar is the bar trip. Plan a fun vacation where you can take your significant other away and watch them return to the person you love.
- Find a community to vent to! Realizing that there are many significant others out there who may want a space to talk about their partners (without judgment), we are holding a Twitter Chat on Wednesday, June 27th at 8:00pm EST/5:00pm PST where significant others of bar takers can come together and feel the support of the community. Join us! Hashtag #barexamtools
I am here to tell you to stay strong, significant others! Your loved one will return to normal (at least that is the mantra my parents kept telling my now-husband). And I think he would agree that I did return to normal, that is, until bar results time (but that is an entirely different post!). Good luck!
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Thanks for sharing this, Lee. I guess it’s a good sign that your then-SO still married you after enduring your bar exam prep!
Very true… but he waited until I returned back to “normal” to propose! Ha!
Thank you so much for this! We are halfway through the studying and we just hit a wall (I’m a librarian). I was just thinking 🙁 errr how can I be supportive while staying out of the way. It feels a bit awkward being the girlfriend (we’ve been together a little over a year now). Thank you especially the … returning back to normal part. 🙂
Christina, of course! I think this is something that isn’t talked about enough. My now-husband and I too celebrated our first dating anniversary while I was studying for the bar exam. It is a bit challenging, but we made it through and I am sure you guys will too!
If you are on Twitter, we are having a Twitter chat this Wednesday about finding some balance during the bar exam study period (for those studying and those who love someone who is studying). Please come join! Wednesday June 27th @ 8:00pm EST Hashtag #barexamtools.
Wishing you and your boyfriend luck with the next few weeks!
I am in the same situation, my BF is going through studying to take the exam in less than 2 weeks. I need a support group from peope who either went though this or are the significant others.
Can we just talk in some way? like e-mail?
Hi Heather. I am so sorry your BF is going through such a hard time. Hopefully other folks who have posted here would like to chat with you about what you are going through. I am happy to connect people via email. Good luck.
A guy I like failed the bar. He is retaking it in February. We last spoke a month ago. I feel like he is mad at me. I’m being selfish. This is his dream. I’ve emailed, texted, called numerous time and get no response. Is it the bar or is it me?
I realize how ridiculous this sounds. I want there to be an ‘us’…
Although I can’t be sure, typically many people need a lot of space to study for the bar exam and that means that they are unresponsive to other people in their life. If I were you, I would give him the space to finish the exam this month and then reach out in early March. He is likely having a challenging time studying after a failure, so he may just want to focus on the task at hand.
I need a support group as well, this is crazy! I have never felt so alone.
My guy is a repeat taker and almost about to call it quits. I’m an emotional mess.
I am so sorry to hear you are having a tough time. At least there is just over a week until the exam, so soon he will return to normal. Just remember, this is a really challenging time for him and he will go back to the person you love as soon as this test is over. That being said, make sure you do something nice for you too! Perhaps it is time to schedule some nights out with friends or family to give yourself a break too. Hang in there!
How long does it take for them to unwind after the exam? My boyfriend is taking the exam today. I have not talked to him except maybe 2 or 3 times on the phone and we’ve exchanged a few text messages. I’m ready for normalcy!
I guess I left out that we have not talked in nearly 2 months.
I think it does take a few weeks to unwind after the exam. But he will return to normal though! Perhaps you can plan something fun for you guys to do to reconnect after he has recovered from the exam — perhaps a weekend away to one of your favorite places?
My boyfriend got his results, but never told me if he passed or not. I never asked because I was afraid just in case. Things were a bit off that whole week and he broke up with me nine days after he got his results. I haven’t talked to him since he broke up with me because I think he failed the bar and needs some space, but this is killing me! I want to talk to him, but I know he needs me to leave him alone. Help 🙁
Oh no! That is really frustrating. Where did he take the bar exam? Most jurisdictions publish results in one way or another so you may be able to look it up.
If he didn’t pass, he is likely going through a very challenging time that has nothing to do with you. You are smart to give him the space he needs, but I sure this is really difficult. Hang in there! I wish there were easier answers.
Thanks for the reply. We live in North Carolina so he took the bar July 30-31. I haven’t talked to him in three weeks and it’s killing me not knowing if he passed or not. I looked up the website with the names of people who passed and he’s not on there. However it says “There are a number of people who passed the bar exam but have NOT yet taken or passed the MPRE. These people are not on this list.” I just feel so bad if he didn’t pass, he studied so hard!
Eek! Well do you know if he took the MPRE? Most people take it well before the bar exam, so he may not have passed. Perhaps you can reach out to him now that you know to simply offer support? He is likely going through a hard time right now.
I started to date my boyfriend just prior to him prepping for the state bar exam. Now this week he is taking the exam and I am not sure what encouraging words to say to him other then sending positive vibes and energy and thinking of him…do you have any ideas of encouraging things to say over the next couple days? Know he needs his space but also want to make sure he knows I am here to support and cheer him on!
I found this article and forwarded it to my boyfriend. I am preparing to take the OR bar exam in July– I have told him multiple times that my insanity is not permanent– but it helps to have the assurance of a third party 🙂 He enjoyed the article a lot- I think we’ll be seeing more movies now.
Excellent! Glad you found it helpful. Just tell him to stick it out! You guys will be fine. Just a bit over a month to go! Good luck with your studying.
So I’m the girlfriend (or at least I still hope so) of someone taking the bar exam. We are in a long distance relationship. Our relationship is awesome – all we do is enjoy each other’s company, support each other and have an amazing time when we’re together. I am planning on moving down there in a year to be with him and he has been talking about marriage and a family as a sure thing for over 8 months now. We just get along like nothing either of us have felt before. We’ve been together for about 1 year and 3 months. This relationship started long distance and continues so. Anyway, 3 weeks ago he broke down crying, out of nowhere and says “I can’t do this any more” and tried to end the relationship. I talked him out of it by asking 2 questions “Do you love me and do I make you happy”, he said yes to both and 15 minutes later things were fine. I attributed it to a stress break down. In addition, he has test anxiety and has been taking medication for it since High School. The very next day I called him at night and he was completely shut down, and didn’t even want to look at me (in the camera) on skype. I told him that all he has to do is focus on the exam, don’t worry about anyone else, not your family, friends and not me for right now – that I’ll be fine. I am supposed to go down to spend all of August with him (flight is on august 1st) and his exam is on July 29th, but after that last conversation where he was shut down, I have given him space and haven’t called or texted him for 3 weeks. I know he loves me, and as much as 10 days earlier he was calling me on skype and asking me just to stay on the line for several hours as he studied because my presence made him feel better and less alone (this was the 2nd week of studying). I am chalking this up to extreme stress and anxiety and his need to just isolate himself and focus on this exam without feeling guilty about not giving his gf enough attention. For this reason, I am thinking of still getting on my flight and going down there on August 1st – even if he had said in that last conversation (the 1 the day after I talked him out of breaking up) that he didn’t want me to because there would be no point. To say this behavior is out of the blue would be an understatement to the extreme. He was professing his love for me (as he does often) and talking about our lives together a week earlier. Should I give him a pass on this and attribute it to the stress and isolation of this exam and go down there (it will be 2 days after the exam) and see whether he’s snapped out of it? Or should I wait, not get on my flight, and see if he calls me to make it better. As a lawyer who’s gone through this, I wanted to ask your advice. (mind you I told him I was there for him, that I loved him with all my heart and that I understood that this is the most important thing right now and that may mean only talking for 10 minutes a day and 2 weeks before the exam not talking at all – I have tried to be very understanding). Help/Advice?
This is a really tough situation. It does sound like your boyfriend is really struggling dealing with the pressure of the test (especially if he has severe anxiety issues). Sounds like you have been as understanding as you can be which makes you a great girlfriend. You know your relationship best, but perhaps it makes sense to postpone your trip by a few days to give him some space to recover from the exam before you show up. The few days after the exam are pretty much full of sleep and trying to get back into the real world. Then once he has had a few days to recover, you could travel down there and start talking about your future again. It does sound like the exam has more to do with what is going on with him than his feelings for you — so giving him space is likely the best thing to do. I realize though this must be very hard for you and I hope everything works out in the end once this exam is behind you!
I appreciate the reply! I just sent him a care package (15 minutes ago) with all different types of snacks (cliff bars, peanut butter cups) and some highlighters with a small note that simply said “Good Luck.” I think this is the most minimally intrusive way to let him know I am still here supporting him, I still love him and giving him space – it’ll get there 11 days before the exam. That is the only communication I’m going to have with him from now until the exam is over. I plan on not getting on any flight unless he asks me to – and hopefully he does. I really do hope this ends up strengthening our relationship in the long run because we make each other very happy and it would be a shame to lose out to the dreaded and all mighty Bar Exam Gods.
My boyfriend and I have been dating for around 3 months. he moved here early in year from another state where he is barred in but wanted to come to another state for economy and weather reasons. He went to a firm and worked there while studying for bar and ended up failing. His firm kept him and he was planning to take bar in February when he was laid off. Now he will not speak to me. the last few texts I received indicated that his life was a mess, this is the worst thing I have been through and my life has fallen apart. I do not know what to do at all. I tried to send him an encouraging text that everything would work out on Sunday but nothing. we have not spoken verbally since Thursday. I almost feel like I should check on him cause his behavior is strange but reading these posts (which is helpful) just indicate he is in a very bad place and wants to be alone. I am all about space but I am afraid if we don’t talk at all he will think i have given up on him completely and that is not it at all. Whats a girl to do?
Oh no! This sounds like a terrible situation. You might try sending him an encouraging email/text every now and then to give him some space but let him know you are thinking of him. Is he spending time with family over the holidays? The holidays might give him a bit of a break and allow him to get some rest (as long as the holidays are a relaxing time). I am sure this is terribly frustrating for you. Make sure you get the support you need while going through this time too. I wish I had more advice! Good luck.
Looks like its been awhile since ppl posted. Just need encouragement..husnand graduated 2013 may. Our first baby born 2013 june…she had colic and was super challenging bby…but now a gorgeous scary smart 2yr old. Anyway, my husband failed the 2013 Bar and is about to take it again (CA Bar july 2015). We got married 6mo before law school started – and he wss the kindest man id ever met…but after baby he just stopped being my friend. Now that he is “studying” which actually means he sits in starbucks all day then has his flascards in front of him while he watches Netflix…he’s turned into someone i dont know and dont want to know. Im a professional and have paid for EVERYTHING in our marriage…all i ask for in return is for him to treat me like a friend. We’ve been to counseling but his promises are empty. Hes nice for 2-3 days then back to being a jerk. Im afraid he will lose his mind entirely if he fails this time…and im worried he will. Giving him until the end of this year to b a better man…
Hi Brenda: I am so sorry you and your family are going through such a tough time. I hope that your husband is able to pass the bar exam this time! I can only imagine how hard it would have been to study the last time with a new baby in the house. Hang in there!
thanks Lee. Im clinging to the hope that the pressures of studying,failing,then studying again have induced temporary psychosis…that will resolve when he is done with the Bar and starts working…
Update: my husband who re-took the Bar failed…for the second time. Now expects me to pay $3,000 for Barbri…which im willing to : but it is so very hard living with an unpredictable, rude, angry guy. He’s dependent on me for 100% financially and REFUSES to get even a part-time job (even after taking the july Bar so he wasnt studying). Said he didnt go to law school to “flip burgers”…but he’s never even paid for ONE diaper since our bby was born almost 2.5yrs ago. Is it normal for law school grads to b “too good” for a non-law job??!!Maybe its not law school or the Bar. Maybe i married an asshole.
Hi Brenda. So sorry that your husband is still struggling with the bar exam. I can imagine that this is an incredibly stressful time for you and your family, especially when finances are concerned. I wish you the best of luck as you figure out your next steps!
So I know this is a super late response to this post, but I am the law student about to take the bar and I was wondering if you had any suggestions as to a present I can get my fiance to thank him for all the support he has provided during law school and soon the support during the bar prep period (not too expensive, obvs student debt haha). I see tons of suggestions on what to get the law student (aka me) but I want to get him something as a way to say thanks, but my brain just isn’t working in regards to creative thank you presents right now.
Hi Brittany. What about a gift basket of things you can do together during the bar exam? Perhaps you could put movie tickets in there, tickets to go to a museum, a hike you guys could do on a day off, some recipes you want to cook together — whatever you guys do to spend time together and be happy. Then you could pull from the basket throughout the summer and really make sure you take time for each other (even when things are crazy). Hope this helps!
Im so glad I found this thread… I too am suffering from dating someone whose taking the bar. We are long distant dating and Im definitely feeling the distance. We met while he was working on his Master of Law a year and a half ago. During that time, he took the bar twice. Now, hes moved back home to see if he can pass the bar in his home state of NY this Feb. After, visiting him in early Dec. I began to feel the distance between us. Typically while studying for the bar he would call me on his study breaks. Now, I may hear from him once a week. I complained about the distance immediately, because I already know what its like dating him while taking the bar.. But its never been this bad. He suggested that we go on vacay in March. But I cant help to feel that its something I did and not necessairly the bar to why hes being distant. Im set to fly to see him in a few wks but nervous that his distanct can possibly mean the end of the relationship? Did anyone else feel like it was the end, only after to see it was just the bar causing the extreme distance?
Hang in there! I think that extreme distance is hard no matter what — the bar just makes things much, much worse. I think the best thing you can do is just give him the space he needs while supporting him from a distance. Sending him a nice note perhaps a motivational quote or something like that to let him know you are thinking about him. Mail him a card to his parent’s house. Perhaps you can try to schedule more times to chat? He may be trying to be more intense this time around to make this his last. If he is planning a vacation with you – sounds like he is looking toward the future.
Failing the bar and studying again is a lot to go through. Just give him the love and support that you can and I am sure you will feel better once the exam is over in just 6 weeks.
My boyfriend and I have been together for about 5 months. He’s taking the bar exam in this Feb and since his first language is not English, I think he’s having more difficult time compare to native students. I know he’s very sensitive so I try my best to give him space. Usually he calls and texts during break or on the way to library or something. One day, I felt that he was having a very bad day so I tried not to bother him. We got to talk on the phone before going to bed, and his voice was all with frustration and irritation. I asked him if I did something bothering him and he said no but he was saying that this study is very hard and he was kind of raising his voice to me. I told him “you must have had a hard day today, go to sleep and hope you to have a sweet dream.” And that was our last communication. He hasn’t called or texted for two days now. I called him this morning to check if he’s doing fine but no call back or text back. Is this a sign of the end of our relationship? Should I wait or should I let him go like this? I am so sad…
Oh no! That is really hard. I think he is probably struggling and in a challenging place. Does he take time off on the weekends? If so, perhaps you can reach out to him then or suggest you guys get together to catch a movie or something. Remember his frustration is likely about the bar and not you. Hang in there.
So I got to talk to him for short time after one week of silence. I wanted to have time to talk but he said he really wants to focus on only studying and doesn’t want to think about others.
I told him I will be here for him and will see after the exam. I feel little relieved after hearing from him but it feels like I am not his one of priorities anymore.
Well it really can just be the exam. Hang in there!
I’m scared my boyfriend is going to break up with me if I don’t pass the bar the second time. It makes me sick to my stomach that he won’t be there for me through hard times. Idk what I should do
Hang in there! All you can do now is study and focus. The exam is just weeks away and this too shall pass.
Now that the bar is over the second time, my boyfriend asked me if I passed? Like wtf I have no idea. He wants to plan on moving in but I can’t!
Thanks for writing this Lee. My partner moved out and went back to his parents to study for the bar. It has put a huge strain on our relationship to say the least. I am going to hang in there and try my best. Planning to travel about while he studies. I hope we can have some sort of normalcy once it is all over. We were suppose to move to a new state together but I backed out because the relationship was getting rocky, studying for the bar is not helping but this article and comments put things in perspective so I hope I can hold on to that. Any other advice for the SO? Hoe can I be supportive while being so far away from him? It has obviously made me pretty sad but I’m trying to stay strong for myself, him and us.
I’ve been dating my bf for 8 years now (since high school). He’s taking the bar in July and I’m really trying to be supportive but it’s been super hard. I don’t get any attention and I’m doing my best to help him (cook, clean, run errands etc). Sometimes I get super frustrated and I can feel that he also is stressing about the exam and other stuff as well. I don’t think he’s focused as much as he should be. I try to not see him so he can study but he enjoys my company so I see him for few hours but all I end up doing is watching TV while he’s studying in a diff room. I think it’s super selfish and I tell him how I frustrating it is but now am feeling he’s feeling a lot of pressure.. not sure what to even do? Any tips?
It sounds like you’re doing your best! Studying for the bar may seem selfish, and it definitely can be, but that’s really what needs to happen in order to focus and pass. I would say try to find some things that you can do for yourself and let him handle this. It’s really only a few more weeks and then it will be over and everyone can move on!
I know I am replying pretty late in the thread but reading everyone’s experiences of supporting a boyfriend or spouse is comforting that what I am experiencing is not isolated. My boyfriend and I are long distance so being able to communicate via phone/text/ facetime in between visits has been key, but after his visit in mid-May and with the uncertainty of COVID-19, he has been next to impossible to deal with. We have spoken on the phone maybe 3 times and the last call was all of 4 seconds.
I have friends who have taken the bar in various states and have shared their experiences. Regarding his actions they agree he has been beyond rude.
I do realize the stress he is under and have done things like sent him lunch, positive texts, and care packages but it doesn’t seem that he appreciates any of it.
I am praying to be as understanding as I can be, but I am honestly feeling defeated.
I am sorry to hear how tough things have been. The bar study period is always stressful, but the pandemic certainly adds more to it. I hope you can hang in there!
Thank you. Are there any tips you may have that would allow me to be more supportive?
I think we have some great advice in the post! It might be a good time to focus on yourself and find some activities/friends that bring you joy and offer him some space based on what the dynamic has been.
Hi! Wow after reading this post I’m feeling not so alone as a significant order of someone studying for the bar. My boyfriend and I have been dating for about 4-5 months now and he failed for the 2nd time (last July and this past feb) so our relationship started off perfect for the first two months — he was giving me nonstop attention and always so communicative. Once he got his results may 11th he literally has turned into a different person. I’ve been very supportive and empathetic to the severity of the situation and the awful experience for him to have to study for a 3rd time.. however in the last 6 weeks he has had episodes of ignoring me, this last week being the worst! I’ve not spoken to him on the phone for a week now and several days he’s sent a text saying he’ll call tonight, and just simply hasn’t. I’ve sent a couple texts questioning why he can’t just give 5 min up of his time to at least say goodnight and no response. It’s killing me and making me feel inadequate and like he wants nothing to do with me. I’ve been direct in saying to him please just tell me if you need space but he just seems to get in these crazy moods where he can’t express his needs and instead ignores me. I see this is a common thing among those studying so I feel better reading others posts. Please someone who’s made it out the other side tell me things will be okay!!
We’re glad the post has been helpful. He’s in the home stretch now, so I hope you can get through it!
Well he ended up breaking up with me over text last Sunday and has not picked up the phone once to call and have an actual conversation. Absolutely insane to me that the bar puts people in this state of mind. 😔 Wish I knew how to feel better or what he was thinking or why taking the bar again means he can’t be with me. Most awful feeling.
I’m so sorry to hear that. Take care of yourself!