Actually, I don’t really know. I mean, it can’t be an all-inclusive list — particularly because my experiences aren’t your experiences and my relationship isn’t your relationship. However, I’ve been through the ringer as a grad student spouse (and a grad student). My roles have changed over the past 4 years, so I’ve experienced being a grad student spouse from many angles.
That being said, it all boils down to one piece of advice: COMMUNICATE. For some reason, it’s harder than it seems to say what you need to say to those you love. And after being married for 8 years, my spouse and I are just getting the hang of it. I’ve done the passive aggressive attempts to try and get help with laundry and dishes, it doesn’t work and you end up with a lot of resentment. We now have a chore list that we divided up so that we know who takes out the trash and who cleans the bathrooms. It’s been hard for us to not fall back on traditional gender roles, too, since that’s what both of us grew up with. And it’s even harder with kids. However, if you can both be open and constructive with expectations and most of all, be willing to accept help, you will have a much easier time. If you need more time to work on a project or you have a deadline coming up, tell your partner — and be specific about what that means. You may need to be in the lab more or go to the coffee shop on Sunday morning to get some writing done. Just talking and making sure your spouse knows what is going on will help immensely. Same goes for the non-student spouse; maybe you’re stressed with a deadline at work, or your a stay-at-home parent who needs a night off.
My spouse and I rely on our Google calendars and cell phones to juggle who’s supposed to be where and who has the kids. We make a weekly menu so that we know what groceries to buy and what we’re eating during the week. We try to have a quick briefing the night before so that we have a game plan for the next day/week/month/year/decade.
Remember, you’re a team. You will enjoy each other’s personal and professional successes, and you will both have them – you just may have to take turns.
[Image by Flickr user Mr. Thomas and used under Creative Commons License]
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