What’s Love Got to Do With It? A Discussion About Married Graduate Students

Photo:  Adobe Stock

Photo: Adobe Stock


Life as a graduate student is rife with glorious complexity. I wholeheartedly believe in keeping things simple while in school, because you literally need all the bandwidth you possess to navigate your program successfully. Why would you throw a monkey wrench in? Well I don’t know, but my husband and I did. We must be gluttons for punishment. We are both in doctoral programs and have been for almost our entire marriage. 


We’ve been married 10 years, and in our programs for 9 of them (yes, 9 years).  We have experienced many joys and weathered many storms including:

  • having three children (all c-sections)

  • miscarriage

  • house renovation

  • buying a new house and moving

  • switching jobs/losing jobs and income

  • mental health challenges

  • marital stress/strain


These circumstances weren’t and aren’t exclusive to us; obviously these are life matters that can occur regardless of your educational status. Yet somehow, the impact of these occurrences felt different because of the weighty responsibility of being in school and not always having the option to stop and handle things when we needed to.


What does it look like when both spouses are engaged in graduate study simultaneously? It is very interesting. Both of you are up writing papers/dissertations, both of you have edits and feedback to review and return, both of you are scheduling residencies and attending them (while trying to manage childcare), and both of you are stretched thinner than a razor’s edge. Then, there are twice the frustrations, twice the over-caffeinated brainstorming sessions with your chair and committee, and don’t forget it that takes twice the time to recover from flu season (because you are both working off of a lack of sleep and possibly mild dehydration from the caffeine). Just as you find yourself ready to throw in the towel, there are the precious jewels of multiplied victories, doubled motivation, added gains, increased connection and understanding, and infinite compassion.


One thing that has sustained us through this journey is our faith. It too has been tested, but it has kept us afloat through all the “hell and high water” like the old folks used to say. Also, let me sing the praises of having a village. Village for us includes a legit personal and marriage counselor as well as “framily” who babysit our children so we can go out. Don’t ever be too proud to seek out and ask for help or a break when you need it - assuming your spouse knows you need a break, when they are also in need of one is tragic.  


Here’s what I know to be true. Supporting a spouse that is working through a graduate program is challenging. Supporting a spouse that is working through a graduate program as you voyage through your own, takes special stamina and groundedness. *Looks in mirror, pats self on back* 


If this is your life too (even if it isn’t), and what I’ve written stirs something inside, know that you aren’t alone. Keep unearthing the diamonds in your relationship as you complete your work. Some are buried deep, but they are worth it. Graduation will eventually come, and what you’ve built over that time frame will be what remains. My husband and I have worked hard and we are almost done with our programs. We are looking forward to enjoying the fruit of our labor. I hope you are looking forward to doing the same. Keep at it.


About the Author

Quantrilla is a personal development writer who lives in the DC Metro area with her husband and three littles. In addition to being a dedicated wife and mother, she is a entrepreneur, doctoral student, and curator of all things lovely.  She writes as The PhD Mamma about things she knows to be true in both personal and professional areas, hoping to encourage others to do the same.

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