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Surviving Back to School… While Married!

Back to School…

Pursuing higher education is stressful, but sometimes, it’s a plunge you just have to take – whether it’s to finish something you started years ago and finally get that degree, or as a means to break through a salary ceiling and provide stability and a more comfortable lifestyle for your family.

It Will be Stressful, but Do-Able

As good as the intentions may be, going back to school after getting married can certainly bump up the stress level. Maybe this has been an ongoing discussion for awhile, but when you or your spouse finally decides that now is the time, the pressure is on. The thought starts to cross your mind: “Is this really the best idea for our family right now?” The idea of reducing or losing one income in order to return to school can be concerning, and one spouse shouldering more financial burden and responsibility at home can be a daunting challenge. Let’s not even get started on the possibility of student debt! The first instinct might be to give up on this terrifying thought altogether and just stick to the status quo, but what if it’s too important of a dream to let go?

In this blog, I’ll be sharing some tips on how to reduce stress, increase the marriage bond, and set aside dedicated time to furthering education as well as strengthening your marriage. Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds?

  1. Team Up & Face it Together.

    There is obviously a lot of pressure that married students have to manage since they are juggling school, their marriage, and their family and household. Instead of viewing school as a personal project that only one partner has to deal with, approach it as a team. Support and help each other out, knowing that this goal going to provide more opportunities, better jobs, higher salaries, and benefits for the both of you. Keeping in mind that you are both making sacrifices for a better life together will decrease resentment towards each other and strengthen the relationship.

  2. Create a Chore Calendar.

    To prevent household chores from falling out of balance or piling onto one person, it may be a good idea to draft up a calendar or schedule to follow. Include any activity that takes up time – school-related, such as studying, projects, homework, test preparation, as well as household-related, such as cleaning, laundry, meal-prepping, grocery shopping, watching the kids, etc. Then discuss with your spouse who is in charge of what. By listing all these activities out, it’s easy to see what work needs doing and how to prioritize tasks in a way that is acceptable to both of you.

  3. Schedule Quality Time.

    In addition to scheduling your daily chores and tasks, you should also use the calendar to set aside some good old quality time to spend together. This could look like a date night sometime during the week, sitting down to have certain meals together, or doing an activity together after chores/school work are completed. This gives you the opportunity to focus on your relationship and prevent it from getting buried underneath school, housework, and children. Short on time? Show each other love and appreciation in other ways, such as leaving thoughtful notes in each other’s lunch boxes, bringing each other treats (i.e. a snack while studying or after work), or sending messages when apart letting you know you’re thinking of each other. These little reinforcements go a long way in building a strong marriage. The stronger your marriage is, the easier it will be to get through school.

  4. Celebrate Achievements.

    Every semester comes with goals to meet and obstacles to get through. If you approach going to school as a team project, then it’s only fitting to celebrate each achievement together. Schedule to have a celebratory meal, grab a special treat, or do something fun after finishing an exam or submitting a big project. Then, when graduation finally arrives, throw a huge party or plan a getaway to celebrate this tremendous occasion – an achievement that was made possible by your support of each other. Always remember that this was a team effort!

While going back to school will reap numerous rewards and opportunities, married couples should be aware of the massive changes, shifts in roles, and strain it may place on their relationship. While it is a serious test of endurance, perseverance, and understanding, keep in mind it will not last forever. As long as you communicate, attempt to balance the work, and keep your relationship strong and supportive, then the victory that you celebrate at graduation belongs to both of you.

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Maigen Pham

Maigen Pham is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern and Certified Sex Therapist-Candidate at Amy Wine Counseling Center in Cypress, TX. She specializes in relationship-related issues and works with adolescents, adults, and couples.
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