Three Ways to Survive Romance and Graduate School
by ChristianCrush Team
Learning and marriage usually go hand-in-hand, but grad school adds a completely different layer of education to a couple’s life. It means finding that tricky balance between being responsible where it comes to homework, and being present where it comes to your relationship. Unfortunately, many couples have to discover this on the fly. Some of them are lucky and find out that their values and living styles mesh very well with graduate studies. Others are not as lucky and have a difficult time sticking it out.
An extra few years of education can bring stress to a relationship because the world of master’s and doctorate degrees is very different from, say, an office of cubicles. It’s hard to bridge the gap between the water cooler and the quad, which means that communication is key when one significant other is in school while the other works. Focusing on gratitude for support is a great way to let your spouse know that you’re not only thinking about your dissertation (Banville 2014).
School is important, but marriage is arguably more important. Strong relationships are often those that face hard times as a team, not two separate entities. Being a team means being purposeful toward every moment shared. Some couples act like they’re dating again and even set a schedule for times to meet up and reconnect. Having one half in grad school is a lot like having a long distance relationship and it’s easy to feel like you’ve gotten lost in the shuffle.
Relationships take work no matter which stage of life you’re in, but putting a marriage through graduate school asks even more of everyone involved. Two of my best friends had a long distance dating relationship for about two years while she earned her master’s in one city and he worked in another. They met up every weekend to spend quality time together and talk about life. The most important thing for them during that time was knowing when they would see one another again.
If you really want your marriage to survive something as tough as grad school, here are a few secrets to getting through it alive:
The best way to feed a relationship – especially a marriage – is with time well-spent. This doesn’t mean doing homework while the other watches Netflix in the same room. It means setting aside time every day and every week to remind each other why you got married in the first place. The early Christians found that their numbers grew the most when they spent days together, praying, teaching, and sharing food (Acts 2:42), so why would it be any different for a married couple?
When one person is in school and the other is at work, sometimes even talking about the mundane drive to class can be a way to open the door to deeper topics. Whether the undergrad years were recent or rest in the far past, your lives now contain so many opposite experiences that the only way to successfully sift through them is to talk about it all. Communication was essential for the early church – without cellphones they had to pass along Paul’s letters from church to church, talking over them in great discussions. Colossians is only one of many letters that was written to help get everyone on the same page about things, which leads to the final secret...
Grad school is not the time to declare your spouse’s chosen profession is ridiculous, or that you suddenly want to have kids soon. Presenting a united front is the best way to come out of this strenuous time as an even stronger couple. In Ephesians 5, Paul reminds us that marriage is when a man and a woman become one. It’s the ultimate cohesion, where everything done with a common goal gets the best results. So be sure to discuss your educational and life goals together as a couple to become a unified front where both of your God given goals and aspirations are supported.
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What would you recommend to help couples stay close through graduate school?