From a career and earnings perspective, the decision to pursue a degree is a smart one. When it comes to your family, on the other hand, no one will tell you it’s going to be easy, but studies show that you might just see a payoff as well.
A 2015 Pew Research Center study shows that the more education you have, the longer you’ll stay married. That holds true for women and men. The National Center for Health Statistics finds that 78% of college-educated women and 65% of college-educated men can expect their marriages to last for at least 20 years. That compares to 40% and 50% for women and men, respectively, with high school educations.
College can bring about a few tense years for your family relationships. Anticipating the challenges of a lifestyle change and responding accordingly will help you create a happier home life in the interim and over the longer term. Here are some strategies to try out:
- Stick to a Budget – Finances can be a major trigger of discord between partners, and adding the cost of graduate school can place significant strain on even the strongest of relationships. With some careful budgeting, you can afford periodic date nights and occasional splurges that will help keep your relationship on track to graduation day. Here are some budgeting tactics that could prove helpful no matter where you are in your education.
- Set Aside Time Together – Whether connecting on the fly or for orchestrated date nights, time is a common challenge for many couples, particularly for couples that are juggling a job, family and graduate studies. Schedule a study session together to bond and expand your intellectual horizons. Setting aside just 20 minutes a day to connect, address looming issues, or talk about your day will solidify your relationship.
- Keep the Lines of Communication Open – Make a point to talk and constructively discuss the challenges your family members may be experiencing with this new routine. Communication will set the tone for your relationship over the long term.
- Develop a Support Network – Your partner may be your best friend and confidant, but a shared load is one that is most easily carried. And sometimes your partner may not always relate to your experiences. Check for graduate student groups in your area of study or a support organization for spouses. You’ll not only relieve the pressure on your relationship, but also expand your circle of friends at the same time.
It’s important to remember that graduate school is temporary. Forging a relationship that survives grad school will give you the ability to handle the stresses of life beyond graduation.