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 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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Making Room for Date Night

Date Night-Written by Jackie, a current graduate wife

I don’t know about you, but it took me a while to figure out the importance of date night. All of my friends with kids kept stressing the need of a date night, but I just didn’t think my spouse and I needed it. That is, until a couple of years ago when life got really busy. We had just completed our first year in our new city and also moved a little bit further from city centre. We wanted to prove to ourselves that the move wouldn’t impede on our new, and fragile, social life. But it was too much. We were exhausted and felt like we hadn’t been able to spend quality time with each other in weeks. Enter in, date night.

It took a while for date night to take roots and really make a place in our schedule but it eventually did. We started to see the value in setting a night aside to focus on us and can see the difference it has made in our relationship.

Of course, being in the “postgrad stage” we don’t really have the budget to go out to a dinner and a movie every week. So, I’ve listed out some of the things we have done for our date nights that keep the wallet, and the heart, happy:

Go out for just dessert/drinks only.

You don’t have to go out for the full meal. A little treat can be just as special.

Cook a meal together.

Pick a fancy-ish meal, something you’d find in a 5-star restaurant, and make it together. And then enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Put a ban on the computer.

I don’t know about you, but I can get just as easily sucked into the computer as my student husband. So, we’ll make sure that the computer stays off unless we’re both using it to watch a movie. Sometimes we’ll put a ban on electronics and we’ll play games or work on a home project we had been meaning to complete.

Go outside.

Go on a walk around a different part of town or a sunset hike. Or you can take dinner outside and have a picnic. If you both enjoy sports, you can toss a football or pass a soccer ball or play catch. This one’s great especially if you’re both stuck indoors 40+ hours a week.

Night Trip.

Is there another city/town close by? Not all trips out of town need to take up a whole day. Arrange to meet at the train/bus station and check out a neighbouring city/town for a few hours.

Research.

Groupon, Livingsocial, and Itison all have deals for restaurants or outings every week. There are websites like 5pm.co.uk that offer weekly deals or lunch specials. Also, take advantage of the student life by asking if there’s a discount for students. A lot of venues will offer 10% off. Scan your local cinemas’ websites or your mobile phone plan. Sometimes cinemas will offer deals during specific days of the week or for certain movies. Or maybe the local pub hosts a quiz night, or the comedy club has a deal on nights when they’re showcasing new talent. There are always things going on but you have to dig.

I hope these ideas help you guys out some. Remember, the whole point of date night is to have intentional time with your partner; to hang out with your best friend. That doesn’t look the same for everyone, but it is important for everyone.

Do you have any ideas for date night?

Grad Life Voices: Living in the Moment

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– written by Tash, a current graduate wife

I am a planner; not a meal planner – that would be helpful, but instead, a crystal ball planner. I know I want to build a family home, and although it will be years before we can finance such a project, I feel like I am already intimate with every nook and cranny of the design. I knew how our wedding would look years before our engagement, and what we would name the family dog. I’m so goal driven and outcomes based that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of our current situation and feel an inner desperation to settle, to relax, and to take a breath.

My husband has been my very best friend for a very long time. He is incredibly intelligent, loyal, and loving. He is deep, intuitive and the most incredible thinker. Like most of us, if he isn’t following his passion, he is simply a shadow of himself. Our children are 3 and 5, and, quite frankly, amazing human beings. It’s so important that my children watch what my husband is going through, because, dare I say it, I believe they are wired in a very similar way. It’s so important that my significant other is at university, because he is happy and healthy and smiling!

And then there is me. I am 27. I am a Mum and a youth worker, but most critically, I am the wife of a post grad student. I say most critically because my children deserve the stability of a strong and connected Mum and Dad. Given the pressures of the grad life, I’m okay with my order of focus.

Looking back on my past plans, it seems my crystal ball lead me on a defunct path. Where I once thought I would be a stay at home mum, I actually work. With living in a small country township, and with extended family members who could have that magic time at home with their own children, I was initially resentful.

Eventually I came to an understanding about the gift of our circumstances. My young children have genuine and incredible friendships, built through their time at preschool. They have an understanding of the outside world and a light, but clear belief of the importance of societal contribution. Through the work opportunities I have had, I’ve discovered more about myself and my abilities in the last few years than ever before. My husband’s return to university has pushed me to discover who I really am, and the gifts and talents that I have to offer. Interactions and progress within my career has given me a personal confidence that positively impacts my parenting. The intensity in which we as a household live drives us to be conscious about getting quiet time out in wide open spaces. Grad Life is a gift that has allowed for self development and enriched family life.

Despite this, I still fall into patterns of fear and loss.

I’m lucky in that I know my home is ‘home’ until The Engineer finishes his PhD. But where is home base for the long term? What if I have to let go of the community I’m so attached to, of the friends and neighbours that have been behind us during such an intense time? What if my children will have to learn to let go of their real world relationships and substitute them for Skype and Facebook as they go about making new connections in another town? What if this path isn’t leading us to the security that we convince ourselves it will, and if the husband doesn’t find work that meets his emotional, social and intellectual needs?

It’s a big, scary, wide world out there.

We can plan until the cows come home, until we’ve got the future colour coded, alphabetized, and listed. Then, when plans don’t come into fruition on our time line, it can be a lonely experience, and it can hurt.

So, we have to consciously rewire our brain. We have to push against ourselves, and we have to settle. Because as morbid and as cliché as it sounds, we get to be alive today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. What works for one may not work for another, but I highly recommend reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchin Rubin, to help get the inspiration flowing. Listed below are some of the wee baby steps that are helping retrain the way I approach this stage of life.

I began a gratitude journal. It’s where I slow myself right down, and take note of how good I’ve actually got it. My children are healthy, my husband is healthy, and my life has purpose. Some days, it’s simply I found the energy to make my morning coffee – that’s okay too. It’d be far worse a day if you didn’t have the energy to make your morning coffee!

Photography is therapy, it simply changed my outlook on life. I by no means sing my own praises, but I am fortunate to have a camera, and a great local camera club to learn from. I have slowly become aware of natural beauty, the colours of the sky, the shapes of the clouds, and the tranquility of water. I think my children are having a hard time with our lifestyle, but then I look back at the photographic memories and realise just how much mood and attitude can mess with our outlook and opinions. It turns out my kids are having an incredible childhood, and I’ve got the images to prove it. I have amazing relationships with my children’s teachers and they reiterate the balance in our children and the stories they share. So actually, as far as parents go, we’re doing just fine.

I’ve created shrines in my house. A ‘happy place’ shrine has little mementos of time with my family, and a bunch of my favourite flowers. I walk past it and smile, regardless. A shelf in our bookcase has been dedicated to our wedding, with the photo album, a shell from the beach we had our photos, the communion cup and a few other little extras. These things remind me that I am loved.

When I finish work early, I head to the university. It means the hubby and I get to travel home together and score a few minutes down time in one another’s company. Friday nights are simply not work nights. Sure we both want his PhD, but we want our marriage more. We have a jar with about a dozen washi-taped sticks. I googled ‘in-house’ and ‘budget’ date ideas, wrote them on the sticks and the stuck them in our jar. On date night, we don’t have to think about what to do, the jar will tell us. It doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive, but it means I’m not waiting for the day I get my husband back.

I accept where I am right now, in this moment. If I’m happy, that is okay. If I’m sad, that is okay. If I don’t feel up to entertaining once a month, it is okay. I am me with my strengths, weaknesses, dreams and desires and there is nothing wrong with that – in fact, it’s perfect. There is a reason I am the way I am, no justification required. There is a roof over my head, so therefore I need to love it. This is my home, and I am blessed to have one. It’s a time consuming but incredibly rewarding project to make it the best darn home I can, spending as minimally as I can. The future house loses its lustre when it means I have to leave the one I’ve created!

I haven’t nailed it, I still struggle with the concept, but living in the moment is certainly one of the key and most meaningful lessons that is emerging throughout our journey. Rest assured that if this post resonates with you at all you’re not alone, and that supposedly, one day we’ll look back and realise just how awesome we all really are.

Graduation day will come, for our significant others, and for us.

 As a graduate wife, how do you live in the moment?

REPOST: Sharing Worlds

I studied interior design and art in undergrad.  My husband is pursing his D.Phil. in the philosophy of physics.  I like jam…good homemade jam that my lovely friend Kat makes at the beginning of summer and then gives to me all year long.  My husband likes peanut butter.  It is his staple food and he literally eats it on toast every single morning of his life.  He communicates through writing, being incredibly friendly with bullet points and annotations.  I‘d much rather show you a painting or play you a song to communicate something and I don’t even punctuate when I write.  We are opposite.  We are incredibly opposite, yet incredibly attracted to and curious about each other.

When we were dating long distance before we got engaged, I gained a new level of appreciation for the magic of Wikipedia.  Late at night as I sat curled up on the phone chatting with him, I was frequently online trying to figure out what on earth ‘quantum mechanics’ is, but better yet, all the philosophical implications that come with it.  It was a trying time in our relationship.  Many times I confessed to him that I thought I might not be the right person for him to marry since…..well, since I couldn’t help edit his papers because there were more equations in them than words.  I worried that we were just too different.  Thankfully, by the grace of God and a wise roommate, I was able to look past these fears and insecurities and began to see the beauty that is the diversity of gifts / strengths / and interests in marriage.

We’ve come a long way.  Almost every single night over dinner I hear about Einstein and Lorentz’s theories of relativity and what the true definition of a scientific explanation is.  I listen as my husband explains the quirky guy in his physics lecture or how well done the Powerpoint presentation was (since he knows my love for good design).  Because honestly if he didn’t, we’d be on different pages.  Not just different pages, different chapters.  It’s an effort.  I lose focus and start daydreaming about another cool image design for this blog and then I have to ask him to backtrack and share again.  He gets distracted when I share about my newest passion for the arts or tell him about the lecture on architecture that I just attended.  We know we are different.  As different as peanut butter and jelly…but how great we are when we share our worlds together.  What a good combination we are when we actively pursue unity and strive to share our differing worlds with the other.  I’ve seen far too many well-respected and admired marriages fall away, because ‘worlds’ weren’t shared.  One spouse had work or a dream that took so much of them that there was little energy left to share with the other about it or invite them into it.  One spouse dedicated themselves to their kids and then when they were all grown up and gone, there was such a massive gap between relating and sharing worlds with the other that they almost didn’t make it.

We aren’t perfect at this.  Heck, we’ve only been married three years, but I’m thankful we are trying.  On this graduate wife journey you almost have to.  To actively engage and share in your spouse’s world as best as you can.  So I need to mention one more thing:  backing up to the nightly dinner conversations about my husband’s day.  Before he shares his day, his reading, his world with me…he asks about mine.  He asks about how it was today with our 16 month old.  What did she learn, what did she do, how was her nap.  He asks how my time alone was, what did I get to read (if I found time), what was going on in my head and heart, what the status of the few part-time projects are that I am working on.  After all of that, then he begins to share.

It makes all the difference to me that he consciously reminds himself every day on the way home to ask about my day first, to validate my work as a wife, mother, and artist.  He knows that deep down it’s hard for me at times to be at home while he is studying, pursing his dreams.  He knows that sometimes I get cranky and sad and have pity parties because I feel like we are doing all of this for him and that my dreams are on the back-burner.  It would be incredibly hard for me to jump into, share, or even honestly care about his ‘world’ if he didn’t equally care about mine.

I know this isn’t always the case and we, like many, have learned the hard way, through tears and confusing discussions and misinterpreted emotions. I think in the end it was actually my idea that he asks about my day first and thankfully he took it to heart. We’ve learned that although we are incredibly different people, we are so much more beautiful people when we are unified together, more beautiful than we could ever be alone.  I just want to encourage you on this journey through graduate school, however distant at times you might feel from your spouse’s work, engage them.  Share your day with them and ask for them to share with you.  It’s challenging at times, but ever so enriching and fruitful.

-M.C.

In your journey, how have you and your spouse tried to “share your worlds”?

{disclaimer: So, I know peanut butter and jelly aren’t opposites per say…but I really liked the imagery and decided to go with it.}

REPOST: Pockets of Time

-written by Keeley, a current graduate wife

It was Valentine’s Day of the first year in our marriage, and we were living in Cambridge, Mass. in a little apartment halfway between Harvard and Central Square. I was scheduled to work the closing shift at Au Bon Pain, a bakery chain that’s very popular in the Northeast. Instead of having a fancy dinner, I decided we’d do a special lunch before I went in to work, composed of meatloaf, green beans, and mashed potatoes (incidentally, the supper my mom fixed on my husband’s first visit to our home while we were dating). It wasn’t until the phone was ringing did I realize how silly I was being, calling my mom at 7:30 in the morning to ask her how to make a meatloaf. It was one of those dinners I had made about four times growing up, on those nights when my mom was coming in late from work and I had to pinch-hit, so I couldn’t remember the details but could have sworn it took 3 to 4 hours to cook. Fortunately for me, she was awake, she is ready any moment of the day to share how to make a meatloaf, and it doesn’t take nearly that long! We will never forget the Valentine’s Day morning we spent watching a movie and enjoying our home-cooked lunch before walking to work through a snowstorm.

That Valentine’s Day, and that year, will always be special to my husband and me, partly because it was our first year of marriage, but partly because we made such an effort to spend pockets of time together whenever we could. Finding these pockets is a skill which only grows more valuable as time passes and a temptation to take one another for granted subtly sets in, particularly once children arrive, so I’ve heard. I remember our Monday afternoons, especially. I had work at Au Bon Pain from 7 a.m.-3 p.m., and Jason had work at City Sports, about a block away, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. We decided to meet in the middle and spend the hour together, sitting on the grass and enjoying the occasional treat I was able to mooch from work, sometimes a scone or a “practice” sandwich I had learned to make out of the extensive lunch menu. We were creative and resourceful about our time, because for whatever reason, we felt compelled to make the most of every moment.

Our rhythm has lost some of the urgency of that first year–we’ve moved and are now in the fourth year of Jason’s PhD program and have settled into something of a routine. But I am grateful for the habits that we formed so early, particularly sharing meals together. Breakfast, dinner, and the occasional lunch will find us at the little round wooden table we found at Target the summer we were married, one or both of our cats looking on curiously. We both are great appreciators of food anyway, but it’s also a time when we are completely focused on the conversation between us, looking directly at one another as opposed to having a computer or two in the way, as is so often the case!

My work schedule is odd because I work retail, so my day off is Monday. Just this week, we packed a simple picnic lunch and found a new hiking trail that led to a small pond, where we enjoyed skipping stones and looking for frogs. I haven’t had regular Saturdays off since we first moved to Massachusetts six years ago, but it’s fun being able to have a special outing on an otherwise nondescript Monday. Because Jason is at the writing stage in his program, every day is pretty much the same–full of writing with a few breaks!

Another tradition we have is to take a day trip sometime around our anniversary. This doesn’t have to be expensive, although it will of course depend on where you live. We’ve enjoyed getting away and seeing some of the sights around where we have lived, whether it’s to the mountains or the beach, or to Amish country. A few times we’ve saved up and stayed in a bed & breakfast, but other years we’ve just taken a day off to spend together in a different setting.

One thing that I hope we never forget is the reality that we will always be busy. We will always (hopefully!) have work to do, other friendships and relationships to pursue, and chores to get done. But for us, finding a moment here and a moment there has made our marriage a lot stronger than I think it would otherwise be, and has made us a family, operating with a sense of unity and a mutual rhythm in how we live our days. I am grateful for a husband who values this as much as I do, and pray that we will continue to find ways to take advantage of these pockets of time as we grow and pass through the seasons to come in our life together.

What are some creative ways that you make the most of the time you have with your spouse? Do you have any weekly/monthly/yearly traditions that you feel have especially enriched your marriage?

REPOST: Caretakers of Hopes and Dreams

Written by Amy, a current graduate wife

The first four years of our marriage have largely been defined by our identity as grad students. In that time, Z got a JD, and I got an MA and began a PhD in philosophy. In the summer of 2008, we clasped hands and promised to nurture and nourish each other’s hopes and dreams. We promised to be partners, lovers, mutual supporters. From that moment, our lives have been shaped by the constant conversation of how to balance our two careers.

Since he was a sophomore in college, Z has been planning to be a lawyer. Since I was a bright eyed highschooler with far too many questions, I knew instinctively I was supposed to be a philosopher (on Xanga, I went by “Gadfly”).

We got married, and three weeks later Z started law school. I nannyed and went to lots of free lunch talks at the university. As planned, I then I applied to MA programs. The idea was to do a terminal MA while Z finished law school, and then apply to PhD programs at schools near large legal markets. My best-funded and highest ranked offer was in another state. Nearly 100 miles away. Rather than turning it down, or buying a car, like most sane people would do, I accepted the offer and commuted by train, bus, foot and willpower 200 miles a day for two years. It was 5-6 hours round trip. On the bright side, I mastered the art of grading papers while standing at a bus stop.

At this point, people usually gasp in horror. And they should. It was mentally and emotionally debilitating. But I loved my studies. And Z loved his studies. And we loved sharing our learning. Our dinner conversations ranged from Bankruptcy law to the norms of rationality. While Z and I flourished intellectually and as a couple, these were two profoundly isolating years. Because I did not live near school, I couldn’t socialize with my cohort. Because I went to school in another city, I didn’t have time or energy to invest in friendships at home. I felt like a pingpong ball, going back and forth but never coming to rest. Our whole world consisted in Z and me, his school work and mine. And waffles on Sunday mornings.

The lawyering process, for those who don’t know, is quite intense. For his first summer, Z worked in his home city. We lived with his parents to save money. In retrospect, there are more important things than saving money, and maintaining a healthy relationship with your inlaws may be one of them. It may be impossible to maintain a healthy relationship with your inlaws (or your spouse) if you live with them. We lived with Z’s parents for not one but TWO summers!

At the beginning of Z’s third year of law school, he was offered a job in a fancypants law firm in a Big City. We breathed a sigh of relief. Law school debts would be paid, he would have his dream job. And it was my turn to apply to PhD programs.

I applied to every program within a reasonable distance from Z’s job. And half a dozen other programs. It seemed like every conversation revolved around what we would do if I didn’t get in near his Dream Job, or how he would leverage his job to another one near my school of choice.

Everything seemed to go according to plan. Z had his dream job, I was accepted to a number of programs in the area (and across the country). I would get to pursue my dream of being an academic. It seemed that our hard work and sacrifice had paid off. Living with inlaws, commuting absurd distances, countless weekends and late nights working away, exam stress, job uncertainties, future uncertainties. . .

But then it happened. I always thought that it would be the soul-crushing effect of rejection and disappointment that would deal the death-blow. That we would dream big and fail. Instead, it was notification that I had been accepted to Dream School. Dream School. I had been dreaming of going there and studying with Famous Philosophers ever since I got the cockamamie notion of becoming a philosopher. My love of dream school wasn’t just a school-girl crush, either. Of all the schools in the world, Dream School offered the opportunity to study exactly what I wanted to study.

I sat on the campus of Dream School, sobbing. I had been accepted at the eleventh hour, and had to decide before noon on the fateful fifteenth of April. I had an impossible choice. I couldn’t ask Z to move to Tiny Collegetown and give up his Dream Job. Given the “on-call” nature of his job, he couldn’t commute to the city. We couldn’t live in separate states. I did not have the strength to commit to five+ years of commuting 200 miles a day to another state and another time zone. And I could not turn down Dream School. It would have been disappointing to fall short of my goal. But to arrive and have to exert the willpower to turn it down!

Z was a hundred miles away, and the cell reception was abysmal. And I was crying so hard I could hardly hear what he was saying.

Click. My cell phone battery died. I had less than an hour left before I must decide. It was crazy that in a world of modern gadgetry, we would be unable to communicate about such an important decision. But there I was, forced to act. Alone.

And then I thought back to the decision we made years earlier. His deep blue eyes looking into mine, his hand holding mine reassuringly. We promised to tend each other’s’ dreams. We promised to be partners, to encourage each other, to be a team. He as a lawyer, me as a philosopher. I felt a wave of certainty wash over me: I made my decision about Dream School when I made my decision to become Z’s partner. We are a team, and what we do, we do together. We couldn’t be a team commuting crazy distances or living in separate states.

With a deep breath, I turned down Dream School and accepted Compromise School.

Post Script: Life has a way of keeping Z and I laughing. I mourned the loss of Dream School for a summer, and then started at Compromise School. It turns out, Compromise School is a wonderful fit for me as well. I am thriving in my program. Z, on the other hand, no longer thinks that Dream Job is much of a dream job. I keep telling him that he can try something else, if he likes. Whatever he decides his next step is, we will do it together.

Have you had to make sacrifices for your spouse/your career and only later had the hindsight to realize what a blessing the sacrifice turned out to be?  Or, have you  had to make sacrifices and find yourself still grieving over what was given up?  

An Alternative to Micromanaging

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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.

Intention

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.

Gratitude

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.

Significance

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!