The Dating Game


-written by Elissa, a current graduate wife

It’s fall and academic life is in full swing. For the scholars, the season means new writing, tutorials, seminars, book reviews and job applications. For the partners, this season means a wide variety of things but specifically for now, new relationships. You may have thought casual dating was something you would never do again after committing to your scholarly sweetheart. You were wrong.

Life as a graduate spouse, especially around this time of year, can feel like a never-ending speed dating escapade, first impression after first impression. People are exchanging numbers, fretting over coming on too strong and awkwardly engaging in conversation as they try to meet friends in their new environments. Few are particularly comfortable at this stage in the semester.

If you recently left home or your last version of it, I feel for you. The ratio of strangers to familiar faces is daunting. By the time you settle into life’s new patterns, you may not even have the energy for the friend dating game. That was my experience when my husband and I left Vancouver, and landed in St Andrews, Scotland back in September of 2011.

The first few weeks stretched our little family and we became insular to cope. We spent nearly all our time together. We listened to Bon Iver on repeat for days, consuming an impressive amount of wine and comfort food, and binge-watching Arrested Development for the third time. Eventually Steve and I realized that as much as we adored each other’s company, we had to start seeing other people.

Now, you need to know this. I’m an extrovert and a social connector to the core but the move shook me up. In those early days, it was a great accomplishment if I managed to have a conversation – any conversation – with another breathing human, let alone a peer. Eventually, I was invited to an event designed to link women who were connected to St. Andrews’ Divinity school. My husband was studying Medieval History, so I was technically outside the fold. I felt a bit uneasy about it, but I knew it would be good for me and I chose to attend.

It was the ultimate speed dating experience. We sat in a circle and introduced ourselves. I wore a name tag and perched nervously on a cold plastic chair, nodding and trying to smile. It sounds uncomfortable because it was.

Finally, it was my turn.

“Hi. My name is Elissa. I’m from Vancouver, Canada.”

Each woman shared what pulled her to the Scottish seaside town. I remember listening to another person introduce herself and all at once her words cut through the static in my head and rang like church bells.

“Hi. I’m Andrea and I’m from Seattle.”

At last my thoughts were discernible- “Seattle? The other Vancouver?! Thank God!” We had common ground. I got butterflies in my stomach and hoped she was the One.

When the event’s formalities were over, I pounced with a pick-up line. Andrea and I discovered we shared a mutual fondness for yoga pants and happy hour nachos from a tequila bar in Ballard. We exchanged numbers and set up a date to do what west coast people do best: walk in dismal weather conditions while drinking a hot beverage. Thankfully, Andrea and I hit it off.

I steadily made more friends in the weeks that followed but, as expected, the honeymoon period ended. I realized how deeply I missed my close relationships at home. I longed to share history, to be known. Sometimes I felt like I was counting the days until I could visit Canada. Recovering from a displaced social life is painful and exhausting. It’s so hard to leave your comfort zone and go on dates with new people when all you want is to process the pain of isolation and loneliness with long-distance friends at home.

The beautiful thing is that feelings of isolation abound in graduate circles. Many of us were experiencing the same pain. It took time and vulnerability but eventually acquaintances became meaningful friends and we found solace in each other.

Time passed. My new friends and I endured the cold Scottish winter and the stresses of academic life side by side. When our spouses were knee-deep in work, we were graduate widows together. We enjoyed the long days of summer, the quirks of life in a tourist town. We shared knowing glances and inside jokes.

When I finally visited home in July, I treasured every minute with my long-time friends. Absence did indeed make my heart fonder for my girls at home. I also realized, though, that part of me was completely unknown to them and that part of me became lonely. I experienced the same longing to be understood, for someone to say, “I’ve been there. I get it.” I found myself missing my St Andrews community.

When we returned to Scotland, I got out my little black book and got in the game again. It felt surreal to be perceived as a veteran. Had it already been a year? What’s more surreal is that as I write this, I am playing the field for the fourth time in St Andrews.

Currently, I am discovering the tension in making friends as someone with an established community. I certainly want to make people feel welcome and help them get connected and yet a part of me almost doesn’t even want to meet them because if I enjoy their company, it means I’ve got one more friend to say goodbye to when I leave. Saying goodbye is rough. The other sad reality is that every minute I spend investing in a new friend is one minute away from girlfriends who will soon depart and before long, I’ll be the new person all over again. This damn dating cycle never ends.

I’ve found that being a veteran graduate wife puts me in a unique position to help new arrivals and to be honest, I feel a sense of responsibility to help them connect. I cannot and will not befriend them all but I do earnestly long for them to find their own community. I empathize and want to see them happy and understood.

I’m no relationship expert, but after doing this for so long, I think I have some tips worth sharing.

Get uncomfortable. You won’t meet people if you’re sitting at home with your partner. Go on, girl. Get out there.

Do what you love. Find a book club. Join a gym. Sign up for a class of some sort. Go for drinks with your new co-workers. Take your kids around town. Hang out at a community center or local church. You’ll have some common ground to build on.

Be the friend you seek. Get clear on what you value in a friend and be that person. Like-minded people flock together.

Make the first move. If you meet someone that you click with, don’t be afraid to ask for their number and plan a date. A phone number doesn’t obligate you to be best friends, so why not take the risk?

Harbour your expectations. Each person defines friendship differently and social norms vary. Trying to build bridges in unfamiliar territory is difficult and it could take some getting used to.

Be vulnerable. You may be surprised at the impact this will have on your relationships.

Explore Facebook. Hopefully there are some local public groups worth joining. You may meet others who are share your status as a graduate wife and are also looking for friends.

Try to make friends with locals and expats and everything in between. You’ll be happy you did. Variety keeps things spicy.

Go to The Graduate Wife Facebook page and share where you’re from. You may be spending time alone when you could be getting to know another reader in the same town. Go find yourself some new friends.

What has helped you make friends on your graduate journey? Would you add any tips?


Seasons of Change


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 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?


Depression is a Jealous Mistress

                                                                                                        written by Becky, a former graduate wife

When I was asked to write about my struggle with depression during my time as a graduate wife, two thoughts came to me. One, I’m not going to do it. And two, I have to do it. Depression rears its ugly head at far to many to be allowed to remain a silent killer of marriage, family, hopes, and dreams. It is my goal in this snippet to expose it and hopefully encourage some of you to pursue healing.

For as long as I can remember I hid my struggle. I was so ashamed that I didn’t have it all together and that I wasn’t really the outgoing bubbly Becky everyone knew and loved. I was so dark, angry, hurting, and no one saw it.

No one except my husband.

In his second year of seminary, my husband had to pick up the phone and call the seminary’s counseling department because I was suicidal and wouldn’t leave my bed for three days. He helped me when my depression brought me to where I had no voice. He was my voice.

A year of intense counseling later, I thought that I was free.

My son Nolan was born one year after Graham graduated from seminary, and the joyous time that should have been wasn’t. Tainted with extreme weight gain, exhaustion, crying everyday at 4 o’clock on the dot, anger at everyone, and isolation, my son’s first months were shrouded by a cloud as dark as those Floridian summer afternoon thunderstorms. I thought it was the baby blues and normal issues brought on by moving across the country, trying to put down new roots, buying a home; all those things associated with a major relocation. Yet, six months passed and I was still a mess. Finally, a friend suggested I see the doctor to ask about medication.

Meds, I thought, were for the truly insane. Not for me.

I was so desperate, however, to get better, I went and was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety. In a weird way I was relived.

I wasn’t crazy.
Just sick.

Oh sweet, sweet meds. I had found myself again. The medications took three months to really start working but once they did, I didn’t know how I made it this long without them.

Am I healed? Is life perfect? No way. Depression is a jealous mistress that fights for your attention daily. You carry it with you like the diabetic carries their diabetes or the cancer patient carries their cancer. But how I choose to carry and deal with my disease makes all the difference in how I do life in the uncertainty of being married to a man whose direction in life turns on a dime. I could choose to go back to my hole of hiding and shame, and sometimes in my weakness I do go back, but most days I put on my boxing gloves to get out of bed, take my meds, and live life to the fullest, squeezing every drop of beauty and love out of every moment. I don’t try to be that fake outgoing bubbly Becky anymore; I try to be the truest and most raw and real me.

Beautifully broken.

If there is one thing a graduate wife is, without a doubt, it is strong. Sometimes, however, if any if my ramblings are hitting you and you’re thinking, “Yeah, that’s me,” being strong means getting the help that you need to be able to be your truest and most raw and beautifully broken self.

Don’t let depression kill you.
There is hope.
There is help.
There is healing.

All you have to do is ask, or in my case, have your already stressed, stretched, academically overflowing husband ask. That’s what marriage is all about. Holding each other up. There is no shame in your struggle. Be free to pursue healing and get the tools you need to control that mistress. Be free to be you and all of you. After all, isn’t that why most of our husbands are in this? To bring hope and healing whether through academics, ministry, medicine, or law to a world that is in need? Allow that hope and healing into your heart and soul.

After all, doesn’t the graduate wife deserve it?
With a smile on my face and warmth in my heart to you, the graduate wife reader, I say a big resounding…

YES! :)

As a graduate wife, have you struggled with depression?

Conclusion from Mandy –

I asked my friend, Becky, to write about her struggle with depression during (and after) her time as a graduate wife. Even though we were friends while our husbands were in school together, I had no idea she was going through this, until our last 2 weeks of living in Florida. Let’s be honest: depression isn’t something really talked about among graduate wives, and in my opinion, it’s often because we think other people might view us as weak.

I have been there.

I, too, told people I was fine, while I suffered silently. It was only after I reached out for help did I truly understand how much I needed it.

My challenge to each of you: talk to each other. Be willing to be vulnerable to someone, even though it may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. If you think you need help, pick up the phone and find someone to talk to. DON’T do this journey alone. And, by reaching out, you are being ridiculously strong and brave. As Becky said above, “…being strong means getting the help that you need to be able to be your truest and most raw and beautifully broken self.”

MC and I are also here – feel free to contact us at if you feel like you need someone to talk to. This is why the blog was created.

Faith · Inspiration · Patience · Trust

My Mantra, My Prayer

During the season of our lives that was a Master’s degree, I struggled daily with where God had placed us. Because of my faith, I never doubted that we weren’t supposed to be there, but I did doubt that God was around, walking the journey with us. I smiled through my frustration, cursed through my fear, and let my heart cry silently as life moved ever so slowly by.

For my birthday, I asked my husband for The Message Bible. (Secretly, I wanted it because of the psychedelic 3D cover. I have strange taste in art…..ask any of my friends).  He granted my wish – hooray! – and as I read through the New Testament I stumbled on this verse:

So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it. 1 Peter 4:19

I literally felt the verse lift off the page, as if it had been written for me. I made several copies of it, placing them in my car, my bathroom, and my office. It became my mantra, my prayer.  It encouraged me.  My head and heart repeated constantly, ‘Trust Him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.’

I have walked around with that verse for the last 5 years.  It will always be meaningful to me, even when this season we are in passes.

What verse, quote or book has carried you through this season of your life?