Marriage

Seasons of Change

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written by Jennifer, a current graduate wife

It has been three years since my journey as a graduate wife began. One master’s degree and two cities later, here I sit in my new home in Texas, surrounded by boxes and stacks of picture frames, ready to embrace this new season, and all the joys and woes that it throws my way.

When the hubs and I first decided to embark on this adventure, I really had no idea what to expect. He had been accepted to school in our hometown, but was offered a scholarship at a school halfway across the country. “What will we do?” we constantly asked ourselves. I think deep down we always knew the answer; it just took some time to admit it out loud.

We moved from Arkansas to Boston just two months after our wedding. I was excited for the adventure, but terrified at the same time. I was eager for the journey, but little did I know then, I was naïve and unprepared. Being a newlywed is already sometimes hard enough, throwing in a cross-country move, full time job, and a master’s program into the mix didn’t help things much.

Though we loved life in our new city, it took some time for Boston to feel like home. I worked as a nanny, so I wasn’t making any friends at work (unless three girls under the age of 13 counts…), and it took us way longer than I would have liked to get plugged in to a church. For the first several months, my only friends were my husband’s, and as much as I grew to love them, I needed some more estrogen in my life. I became desperate and started browsing websites like meetup.com and chatting with strangers in our apartment hallway.

I call this chapter the “season of loneliness.” By the time Christmas rolled around, I had had enough. Our trip back home was refreshing and inspiring. I soaked up as much time with those nearest and dearest to me, and returned back to Boston full, ready to conquer this challenge.

Eventually, I learned to become more outgoing, something that I always thought I was. Though I have never been shy, I learned that making new friends requires a great deal of vulnerability. With time, friendships started to form. I met people that I could now not picture life without, and created memories that will never be forgotten. On our first Easter there, I hosted dinner for all those friends who couldn’t make it home for the holiday. Our apartment was packed, and my heart was full. Finally, Boston was starting to feel like home.

While things were finally shaping up on the friend front, it felt as though nothing else was staying constant in our lives. As a graduate wife, I have learned that things are always changing, and just as soon as life feels comfortable, it’s time for it to feel uncomfortable again.

I’ve experienced many challenges on this journey, some that I am not proud to admit. I was really jealous and bitter when we first moved to Boston, for one, something that caused way too many fights during those first few precious newlywed months. I’ll go ahead and call this the “season of grudge”…

Though I loved it in our new town, I was having a really difficult time adjusting to our new lifestyle. As we were married just out of college, I had yet to know the joys of working a full time job. City living came at a high expense, and even though the hubs worked when he could, he was really only bringing home the wine money. All other expenses were covered by my paychecks. “Why do I have to pay all of the bills?” I would spit at him. “Why can’t I be the one in school,” I would whine. Going to school was easier than working and paying bills, right? Only now do I see how absurd that sounds…

Though now I see how petty my behavior was, then, I was legitimately upset. I thought that I deserved something more. I was working hard and hadn’t quite accepted the whole “what’s yours is mine” thing just yet. I knew that my behavior was ridiculous, but I wasn’t quite sure exactly how to get it under control.

After much patience and grace from the hubs, I finally learned to cool it. I learned that it was OUR journey, and in a way, I was working on a degree as well. If you are a wife to a husband in any type of schooling, you know that it’s a two-person game. It took us both to get him through it. I’m not saying that a single person can’t do it on their own, but I am saying that if you’re married, it’s certainly about you both. The wife’s role as a supporter and encourager is as equally as important, and once I finally realized that, I was able to do what I was meant to do all along.

Realizing this made the journey much smoother, but it wasn’t long until I found a new challenge to freak out about. As the time grew near to move away from Boston, anxiety became my new evil to kill. “Where will we go?” I would always wonder. “What will happen next?” Let’s call this the “season of anxiety,” shall we?

I asked “What if?” way too much and have now banned that phrase from my vocabulary. It ruled me, and ate away at me each day. I was controlled by the unknown. Boston finally felt comfortable. God forbid life feel uncomfortable again…

We eventually decided to move back to Arkansas so that the hubs could focus on applying for PhD programs. While I thought this would help things a bit, I suddenly had new problems to worry about. “What if he doesn’t get in…,” “Where will we go from there…,” you know, that sort of thing.

Eventually, I think I just grew tired of worrying and accepted that things were out of my control. Once I finally decided to embrace it, the whole process actually became kind of fun. We were nervous and worried about some things of course, but I think my contingency plans helped me relax a bit. I decided we’d just be nomads in Europe for a year if he didn’t get in. That’s realistic, right?

Once our first acceptance came, we nearly cried. In fact, I think I did a little bit. We went to lunch to celebrate, happy and comforted to have to worry no more. We toasted and were merry, dreaming about what life in our new potential city might look like.

After all of the acceptances and denials finally reached our hands, we made our decision to move to Austin, and I vowed to not worry so much this time around.

So far, I’ve done pretty well with that. Though I am jobless once again and don’t know anyone in town, I know that this is just all part of the journey. I’m choosing to embrace this new season, and accept that it likely won’t stay the same for long. I know that the hubs will quickly settle in at school, but where will I fit in, exactly? What will this chapter look like?

For now, I don’t know those answers, but I know that change is bound to come. Change seems to be the theme for my journey as a graduate wife, because really, when do things ever really stay the same? It’s an adventure though, and isn’t that what adventures are all about? People often assume I am ready for a different lifestyle, one that’s a bit more predictable and offers more stability, but where’s the fun in that? I am learning that change isn’t always such a bad thing. In life, we are always having to adapt to what each new season brings, and you know, I can finally say I that I am okay with that.

What is your theme as a graduate wife? What kind of challenges do you face? What challenges have you overcome?

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Moving · Sacrifice

Our Little Adventure

written by Emily, a current graduate wife

My journey begins probably much like many others who have, along with their spouses, made the decision to attend graduate school.  John and I were college sweethearts and had the wedding of our dreams soon after we graduated from Samford University.  After our honeymoon, John and I fell into a wonderful rhythm of living and working in Memphis, TN, and enjoyed a season of sweet friends and family there.  We bought a house and spent months renovating and decorating it, planning on staying there until we had a few children of our own.  Well the Lord had different plans for us and a fire was ignited in John’s heart to pursue his dream of going to graduate school to earn his MBA.  We prayed, and prayed, talked and talked, cried and cried (ok, just me), wondering if this was the right decision.  We decided to uproot our comfortable lives and move twelve hours away to North Carolina.  We left great jobs, great friends, our first home, and a wonderful church, not knowing what the future might hold.  We did know however that we were in this together.  Our little adventure, we liked to call it. Something so ‘out of the norm’ and something so challenging, exciting and new.

 

Here we are 1 1/2 years into business school, and we are very much still living in our adventure.  We have gone through the ups and downs that come with moving and going back to school.  Such as: John staying at school until 10pm every night, only to come home and do more work, adjusting to a tiny apartment where we can hear our neighbors sneeze, me finding a new job and having to work for 52 straight weekends in a row, the we’ve suffered through the stress of being apart for an entire summer as John went away for an internship.

 

Spending the summer apart might have been one of the hardest things we have done together as a couple.  Since I wasn’t able to pack up and leave my job here in NC, John had to gather up his things, his side of the sink, his pillow, and drive 10 hours north to Philadelphia…without me.  For eleven full weeks.  I still remember the day he left, not knowing how I was going to make it without him.  We had never been apart over the 7 years together (3 1/2 married).  Could we survive with just phone calls and skype dates, and only 2 visits over 2 1/2 months?  I seriously contemplated hiding in his suitcase and just quitting my job all together.  The first week was definitely the hardest.  Going to bed alone, cooking dinner alone, and seeing his face on skype brought tears to my eyes every time I saw him.  BUT, the first week came and went…and so did the next two.  each day, I felt stronger and my love for him began to grow in a new light. I could DO this! Our conversations were deeper and more meaningful.  Our skype chats were long and mushy.  My trip to visit him in the one of the following weeks was one of the sweetest times we’ve ever had together.  They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, and I am now a 100% believer in that.  Being apart made us cherish our time together so much more, and although we had to face trials and frustrations, I am so grateful for last summer.  If I had to give any advice to someone who is gearing up for time apart from their spouse (whether it’s an internship, or residency, etc.) I would say these 3 things.

 

1. Start a new “tradition” with each other for that time (whether it’s calling to say goodnight, a “good morning” text, a weekly piece of snail mail, or sharing a daily scripture verse).  Having something to look forward to each day together is fun and exciting and it will bring at least some form of consistency to your life.

 

2. Listen to each other.  Phone and email conversations are probably not what you are most used to in the daily communication with your spouse.  It’s really easy to misunderstand or mis-communicate when you are not sitting right in front of each other.  Sarcasm is sometimes very hard to interpret in a phone call.  Listen well and make it a point to let each person talk about his or her day.  Ask questions.  It’s a new and different way to communicate so treasure learning these new ways to share and grow.

 

3. Enjoy the present.  It’s very easy to just mark off the days on the calendar until you are together again, and constantly look towards the future, but try to enjoy the ‘in between’ phase.  Spend time with your girlfriends and watch “the notebook” 15 times in a row.  Light candles and eat popcorn for dinner.  Take long baths and buy yourself fresh flowers.  Sometimes it’s the little things that make you enjoy the day.  Take time and do that for yourself, trust me you’ll be glad you did.  You will be refreshed and happy when you have your phone call with your spouse later that night, instead of feeling isolated and alone.

 

Through our entire graduate journey, we have learned a lot and have grown in so many ways.  We have learned to never take a single moment together for granted.  We have learned that our cozy little apartment makes us cuddle that much more.  We have been reminded of the importance of encouragement and unconditional love in a marriage.  We have re-learned our love languages and have strived to put them into practice every day.  We have learned how necessary it is make decisions together and for us, to pray together.  We have been through weeks at a time where a quick meal at the dinner table was the only time we had together that day — and have learned to turn off our phones and tv’s during those times.  We have been shown that having friends that are in this same phase of life can make such a difference to your sanity.  And, we have learned what it means to be TOGETHER every step of the way.  Homes may change, friends may come and go, doors may close, and dreams may change, BUT, no matter what — it’s our little adventure. It’s one of support, sacrifice, and unconditional love.  And as long as we are together, there is nowhere else I’d rather be. 

Have you had to live apart from your spouse for an extended period on your graduate wife journey?  How have you handled the transition?