Written by Jessie – a current graduate wife and student
Our marriage has survived a double dose of the graduate life. In our three wonderful, hectic, beautiful, crazy, blessed years together, at least one of us has been in school nearly the entire time. We were married the summer before my senior year of college, and after I graduated we decided to move away and both go to graduate school. We started grad school at the same time, in separate programs. We’ve had twice the books, twice the papers, twice the financial burden, and twice the stress. But, we’ve also had something that a lot of graduate students miss out on—a partner, a spouse, and a best friend who really understands what you’re going through: Someone who will stay up late and help you design your education module because they know tomorrow night you will quiz them on their Hebrew vocabulary until your eyelids droop; A partner in crime who will gladly ditch their paper too to go see a movie, and then pay the price with you later as you both scramble to the end of the semester.
After two of the hardest years of my life, I finished my degree in May (can I get an AMEN please?!). I often tell my husband that my degree is as much his as mine, because I don’t think I would have made it through without his constant encouragement to keep going, when all I wanted to do (and let’s be honest, even when all I did do) was sit in the floor and cry. Now, it’s my turn to do the same for him—to see him through in his last year of his Master’s program and then beyond as he seeks out further opportunities for post-graduate study. I’m actually tickled to death at the thought of being a graduate wife and not a graduate student! I know that this means we will probably move away from friends (again), put more distance between ourselves and our families (again), and live in a country where we don’t even speak the language (for the first time). I know we will likely live hand to mouth, that it will probably be hard for me to find work, and that I will miss the comforts of home terribly. But I also know that we can survive, because we are in this together.
People often ask me how we did it, as if there’s some secret formula to make your marriage and your academic pursuits work together. I never have a good answer; the truth is that we’ve struggled through it day by day, and in the end just made it work. But along the way, I have learned a lot. I’ve learned that marriage is much sweeter when you are both more concerned with what you can give instead of what you can get. I’ve learned that sometimes you just need a break. The paper will still be there in an hour or two (or the dishes, or the laundry…trust me, none of it is going anywhere), so it’s ok to take a little time and actually enjoy yourself. In five years, I don’t think I’m going to look back and remember all the A’s I got in my classes, or how good my GPA was. I do think that I will look back remembering fondly all the times I spent goofing off with my husband, escaping with him for a walk outside, or lingering and talking over dinner together. And most importantly, I’ve learned that even though I’ve doubted almost every step of the way, God has been faithful. My faith is smaller than a mustard seed, but God still moves mountains.
I constantly ebb and flow between gratitude for the opportunity to learn and pursue our dreams and despair at the sheer stress and burden of it all. I find comfort in the other women I know who share this same path, comfort in a God who hears my every cry (and whine, and pout), and comfort in a marriage that has only been made stronger by the graduate life together. The graduate journey is not an easy one, no matter which side you are on, but it is a treasured one. I know that everything I’ve learned so far is but a drop in a very large bucket, and in that way I am always a “graduate”—always learning, always failing, always trying again, constantly being refined and reshaped. This journey is not finished with me yet, and I’m thankful. Because, as it turns out, I’m not finished with it either.
In your journey through graduate school, have you been the one pursuing the degree instead of your husband? Have both of you? What are some tips you’ve learned along the way?