Written by Keeley, a current graduate wife
In the life of a graduate wife or husband, I think it’s typical to feel as though so many things are out of our control. “Will my spouse get the grant she applied for?” “Will his advisor be supportive of this new direction the dissertation is taking?” “Will we end up in the same time zone as our families?” Not to mention other worries about the educational and job-finding processes. As a result of this perceived lack of control, I’ve noticed that it’s easy to shift to micromanaging those things I feel I do have some say over. While there are undoubtedly books written on the topic and how destructive this tendency can be, I thought I’d just share a little bit about how it’s possible to turn this around for good. Just because there may be significant decisions with far-reaching consequences over which we may have limited input doesn’t mean that we can’t inject the everyday motions of our lives with intention, gratitude, and significance.
When I get up in the morning, or when I get home from a long day at work, I have decisions to make. I may feel that my day will be, or has been, nothing but a long string of hustle and bustle, none of which is particularly significant to me. But if I take the opportunity to choose how I spend the free time I do have, I am more fulfilled, and our marriage reaps the benefits. Nobody makes me turn on the television; I could just as easily choose to run by the library and pick up a book or two that look interesting or take my violin out of its case and play a few favorite songs (insert your skill here!). No one makes me sit down and waste an hour surfing the internet with nothing to show for it; I could have just as easily taken a brisk walk outside for a few minutes (or better yet, asked my spouse to accompany). I find that life is so much more fun when I see it as a series of choices to make, instead of something that simply happens to me.
I think (and hope) there have been several posts on The Graduate Wife about gratitude, but I’d like to restate the importance of this small virtue. I find it to be an excellent way to inject goodwill into my life and our marriage. In this specific context, I am talking about being intentionally grateful for the “small things.” For me, these include taking a few minutes to pet our cats, or even just notice how beautiful they are and how calming it is to watch them sleep. I love having a deliberate cup of chai and enjoying the sweetness and spiciness of the flavors. When the weather is cold, I take special relish in wearing my flannel pajama pants (with mugs of hot chocolate printed on them) for as much of the day as possible. It’s the small things.
There are certain tasks that we all have to do, or at least find ourselves doing frequently, so from time to time I look for ways to make them more meaningful. My husband and I enjoy cooking together, so I often plan meals in advance that are healthy, cheap, and easy to make. It’s so much more fulfilling than grabbing fast food or pizza (although I adore this occasionally!). There have been many posts on this site about home decor as well, and about making the most of the small spaces we often live in by refurbishing cast-off items or making something beautiful from something plain. When my husband and I kiss goodbye in the morning, it can be a regular old “Have a good day” peck, or I can think about it for two seconds and make it something we both remember throughout the day. A significant, free way to make the day better.
Obviously, there are ways to live with deliberation and significance through the work we do and through caring for our spouses and children (and cats) in more overt ways. However, I have been surprised to find how much little adjustments like these can add meaning to my life and make me less anxious and/or resentful when I am feeling as though so many decisions are out of my control. Marriage, under any circumstance, is a three-legged race that one person cannot run alone, and I have found the Graduate Wife experience to mirror this illustration aptly. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share with one another on this website, and to encourage each other to fight for peace and significance in our lives and marriages, even when the going gets tough!