How To Support Your Spouse in School

Our Story

My husband Sam has been in school almost the entire time we have been married. And I’m still learning the best ways to support him as he is in school.

When we met we were both in undergraduate school; I was a freshman and he was a senior. He took a year off school while we were engaged and I finished my AA degree, but a few weeks after we got married he began a Master’s program. I finished my Bachelor’s degree online after we got married, so for a while, we were both in school.

Sam completed his Master’s degree and graduated in May 2019, finishing his coursework in August 2019. 

He had a few months break from studying and writing papers, and May 2020 he went back to the books for his PhD.

Spouses in School

The percentage of married students in undergraduate school is low, but the number greatly increases in graduate school. I struggled to find any exact numbers or percentages, but high percentage of students in graduate school have spouses. 

Studies abound on the effects a spouse has on a graduate student. Does a spouse hinder or help one finish a graduate degree? Some studies show declines in completion due to marriage, while others demonstrate the value of marriage.

Why Does Graduate School Kill So Many Marriages?

This is the title of an article on The Chronicle of Higher Education.The author is struggling with the fact that so many relationships around her have failed, and graduate school was a large factor in the relationship’s demise.

She cites students saying graduate school “is a crucible that strengthens relationships and can expose unknown cracks in [the] foundation.” Another student explained that graduate school nearly destroyed his marriage, while another said graduate school was a never-ending loop of marriage issues and grad-school issues.

Women who get married in graduate school are often encouraged not to change their names, because the relationship likely won’t last.

Professors encourage their students to consider your work over your marriage, just until this next goal, then the next, then the next.

Must it be This Way?

I believe that it absolutely does not have to be this way. Starting a graduate program does not have to be the funeral for your marriage. 

Graduate school may be difficult on a marriage, but it also may be a blessing. Older studies report the definite detriment of a graduate school program to a marriage, but more recent studies show marriage may support a student to success.

We grow stronger by getting through hardships, and strengthening your marriage during graduate school will leave you with a better relationship than when you began.

Strengthening your marriage during a difficult time will not happen by chance. It takes intentionality.

5 Ways to Support Your Spouse in School

I am not an expert on this subject by any means. Even though Sam has been in school for over two of the three years we have been married, learning how to support him is still a learning process. 

There have been times in our marriage that school made things very hard, but there have also been times that our marriage has thrived. 

These are some tips that I have found to be helpful. These are things I am learning and trying to do to support my husband as he pursues his degree.

Have a Good Attitude

I asked Sam what was the best way I could support him, and the first thing he said was my attitude. 

It makes a big difference if I am happy for him and willing to help, or if I am constantly nagging him to stop studying. 

This does not mean I ignore the problem if there is one, of course. But I need to be positive and encouraging as I give Sam time to study.

Whenever I begin to resent Sam studying so much, I need to check my attitude. Am I truly in need, and I need to ask him for help? Or can I be happy for him, encourage him in his studies, and move on with my responsibilities? 

The outcome in certain situations will be different, but attitude is important.

Be Aware of Their Schedule

At the beginning of the term I asked Sam to send me his syllabuses so I could be aware of big due dates. I usually ask him at the beginning of the week what his schedule looks like, but every now and then I can refer to his syllabus to know when his papers are due.

Knowing these deadlines can help with attitude and understanding as well. I know when Sam’s two huge papers are due, so I am trying my best not to schedule anything for him on the days leading up to those deadlines.

If I am aware that he has Zoom discussions on Monday nights I can make certain preparations during the day so I will not use any internet during that time and I have dinner ready on time so he has time to prepare.

Some interruptions and responsibilities cannot be changed, but being aware of your spouse’s schedule can help things flow more smoothly, and it can be a way for you to support your spouse with their school.

Ask How You Can Help

In addition to being aware of what is coming up in their schedule, you can simply ask your spouse what you can do to help. They might need help, but it may not be related to school. 

Sam may ask me to proofread a paper or discussion post for him, but he also may ask me to run an errand for him or clean up his office.

I can try to be aware of what Sam needs, but the best way to know is just to ask.

Make Time to be Together

Sometimes a good way to support your spouse in school is to make them take a break. Be intentional about giving them study time and supporting them, but bring them away from the books every now and then.

Having purposeful time together will strengthen your relationship, and may also give your spouse needed time away from the books.

Sam and I try to have a date night every Friday. It doesn’t happen every week, but we still manage to find time together. We try to eat dinner together every night, and we like to go on walks together a couple times a week. Some evenings Sam studies until bedtime, but some nights he needs a break and we will watch a movie together.

It doesn’t have to be anything special or long, but intentionally setting aside time to be together will help both your spouse and your relationship together.

Conclusion

School can be hard on a marriage. But marriage can help a student, and you can both grow though a difficult time.

You can support your spouse in school by:

  • Having a good attitude
  • Being aware of their schedule
  • Asking how you can help
  • Making time to be together

Do you have a spouse in school, or have you had one in the past? Have you been in school while married? Let me know what worked for you or your spouse!

Our Wedding

Tomorrow is our third anniversary! Although it’s been three years, I don’t think I have shared much about our wedding here on our blog. I thought our anniversary was the perfect time to do so.

Four days before our wedding Sam came home from Romania! He left to go to Romania nine days after we got engaged. We were apart for our entire engagement, minus two weeks in the middle around Christmas. We were apart so I could finish my sophomore year of college and graduate with my AA while he began work in Romania, with the plans that I would move over with him after we got married.

So, he came back four days before the wedding! It was such an exciting day. I remember we kept saying, “we don’t have to be apart any more!”

Sam and I met on the cross country team at Florida College and we were both pretty big runners (well, Sam still is now), so we thought it would be a great idea to run a 5k the morning of our wedding.

It was actually Daddy’s idea, and Sam and I quickly jumped on board. Everyone else thought we were pretty crazy, and we were definitely pushed for time, but it was such a fun memory.

We ran together the whole time (and two of our groomsmen ran the first mile with us before taking off), and Sam let me finish a second before him.

Everyone thought we were so crazy, even the local news interviewed us! After we finished and spoke to the reporter, Sam drove me back to the hotel where the wedding party was staying and I showered and got ready in some of my bridesmaids’ room.

We broke the “rules” about not seeing each other before the wedding, but I was completely fine with it! We decided that we had already been apart enough and it was special enough to see each other any time. After the race though, we did not see each other until we were both dressed and had a first look. Sam had not seen my dress yet and it was still special.

My amazing grandmother helped me make my wedding dress in just a few days when I was home from college on winter break! It had lace from my Mama’s wedding dress around the hem, waist, sleeves, and around my veil. It turned out absolutely perfect to me, thanks to the expertise and help from Mims.

I loved our wedding party! We had all of our siblings and closest friends stand by us as we made our commitment to each other. These are still some of the dearest people to us.

Both of our families played such huge roles in our relationship and our wedding. Mama and her two best friends basically planned the entire wedding. I was in school the whole time we were planning and they were absolutely amazing. I made some decisions, but they made everything so easy for me. And the day turned out so perfectly!

Sam’s family also played a big role in everything and we are so thankful for them. Sam’s parents were in Romania with him, but they still did so much. His dad studied with us during our engagement over FaceTime, and he officiated the wedding.

Also, we share an anniversary with Sam’s parents! When we were first discussing dates we didn’t realize it was their anniversary, but they were excited and generous with sharing their day. Now getting to celebrate with them is wonderful and special. I only wish we could be with them this year!

Married at last! I remember the days when it seemed like this moment would never come. Now that it’s been three years I still can’t believe it when I stop and think about it.

We saved our first kiss for our wedding day and it was perfect.

I love thinking about this day, how exciting and joyful and beautiful everything was. But I love even more the life we have now, and the three years of growth we’ve had. I love the experiences we’ve had that have tried our patience and our faith, but have brought us close to God and close to each other. I love the family we are growing.

I can’t wait for many, many more years.