Today is my 8th wedding anniversary.  (Well, actually it’s the 8th anniversary of our elopement; the ceremony and party with friends was that November.)  This has led me to think about how important my husband has been to my progress in graduate school, not to mention my sanity.

I’ve actually seen people recommend that you not get married if you are planning on graduate school, because the stress is too high and the restrictions too large.  That might be fine for a student going straight from undergraduate to graduate school, but non-traditional students cannot intertwine the two decisions in the same way.

What is critical to the non-traditional graduate student is the support of said spouse or partner.  My husband has always been (and continues to be) 100% supportive of my goals.

  • He has taken on many of the chores as I go from working a full time job to studying and writing at night.
  • He has agreed to commit whatever financial resources are necessary to support my goals.
  • He has been there to help me work through questions of goals and focus when I was struggling with why I was doing all this.
  • He has given me the needed reality checks when I was off on a tangent.
  • He has consistently reminded me that I am smart enough, talented enough and determined enough to do this.
  • He has read innumerable drafts of material that I am sure is completely dull to him, but for which I needed feedback or at least copy-editing.
  • He has allowed me to rearrange the house to make a comfortable, inviting office for myself.
  • He has brought me food when I was so busy I forgot to eat.

He has been my sanity, and frankly I could not do this without him.

Recently an acquaintance has been talking about starting graduate school, but with a partner who is far less supportive of the idea.  That seems like the recipe for disaster, both in terms of the persons graduate work and the relationship.

Graduate school is more than just a few classes.  The thesis/dissertation process is a trans-formative one that changes the way you think and look at the world, brings all of your deeply hidden insecurities to the surface and forces you to work harder than ever before.  It is not something that can be easily done in the presence of a disapproving or ambivalent partner.  Even professional degrees, such as an MBA with their less scholarly focus, require massive time commitments and focus that will impact how you spend your time.

If you are considering graduate school, spend some time talking to your partner about what you want to do, why, and what it will mean to the relationship.  You may find that the timing isn’t right, or that your partner isn’t quite ready to support your goals.  If that is the case, you will be more successful in the long run if you wait and work with your partner to establish a supportive environment.  You cannot be successful if your relationship is falling apart under the weight of the program.