The Rewards, Challenges of Your Spouse Returning to School

in Marriage Talk

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You never expect to find your future husband or wife in the summer after you graduate high school. What you do expect is to head off to college, and spend the next four years studying, partying and discovering the person you’re supposed to be.

Little did I know how wrong I was, when, as I began to embark on this next chapter in my life, a man named Matt showed up and flipped everything on its head. He was handsome, warm, intelligent, and one of the funniest people I had ever met.

And while I started my undergrad career at a neighboring university, after a year-and-a-half, I transferred to his, cementing a courtship that would continue to grow and evolve over the next eight years. I was head over heels when, in December of 2010, he proposed to me on the steps of our alma mater, and we were married the following May.

The Next Steps

But let’s back up for a moment. Before the engagement became a reality, Matt was already aligning his chess pieces in order to give up his well-paying, full-time job and go back to school to earn his MBA. He took the required GMAT and earned the type of competitive score that would allow him to apply at the top 10 schools.

I could see the writing on the wall that a move from Michigan — and lots of major life changes — were on the horizon. Flash forward to July of 2011, when we had packed up all of our possessions into a U-Haul and rental car, bound for New York City.

For me, I knew it would be one of two scenarios, and nothing in between: Either I would embrace this experience 110%, for better or for worse, or I would simply curl up in the fetal position, counting down the days until we could return to everything we knew and loved in the Mitten state. Of course, I was praying it would be the former.

New City, New Network, New Demands

There aren’t a lot of positive things written about the ways in which a relationship changes when one person decides to go back to school, and business school poses its own set of unique challenges, especially if it involves a relocation. For us, specifically, it meant giving up a car (which, in our world, meant a certain amount of freedom), and, even more importantly, adjusting to a living space that most people would consider closet-like.

It also forced us to re-evaluate many things when it came to our finances: our cost of living had skyrocketed, and we were reduced to one income. And because b-school is all about the lifetime network you’re forging, that translates into more dinners, get-togethers, trips and happy hours than you can shake a stick at, so budgeting for these costs was imperative as well.

The topic of money is a tricky one for even the most centered couples, and I’d be lying if it didn’t cause a fight (or three) during the first year. The only way to be proactive and avoid anger and resentment is to keep the lines of communication clear and open, as cliché as that sounds. It was important for me to articulate when and where I didn’t feel comfortable spending our hard-earned money, and my husband also was able to help me see areas in which it made sense to invest a little more up front for a larger return down the road.

And on the subject of investments, we also had to adjust to the extra strains on Matt’s time. Every outing, every get-together, every potluck is a chance to bond with classmates, who will eventually become the next batch of entrepreneurs, visionaries and Fortune 500 CEOs. These are the people who will offer an outstretched hand when you least expect it, and it’s important to foster those relationships to glean the most out of the experience.

Eight out of 10 times, I’m able to stand side-by-side with him during these encounters, but I also have a life of my own, so it was crucial for me to be able to establish my own set of priorities and learn to make decisions about what I could commit to and what things were better left to only him and his peers.

Moving Forward

To say there were a lot of lessons learned during the first year of business school in a new city would be the understatement of the century. But I can also confidently say that it has enriched our lives in ways we never imagined possible. I found a job I love working with a world-class team of people, and he has cemented his passion for finance, with a full-time job ready and waiting for him upon graduation.

Both my husband and I have done a lot of growing up, and in doing so have evolved as a couple with the common goal of creating the best possible life for ourselves that we can. And while it certainly could be considered a bit offbeat, it’s hard to imagine it any other way.

I’d love to hear from significant others who have found themselves in similar situations. How have you adjusted to life as a b-school better half?

Erica Moss is the community manager for Georgetown University’s online graduate nursing programs, offering one of the nation’s leading ACNP programs. She enjoys blogging, TV, pop culture and tweeting @ericajmoss.

photo credit: hannah karina via photopin cc

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