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Back to School Survival Guide for Newlyweds


Going back to school – to complete an unfinished college diploma or to earn a master’s degree – is an option for some newlyweds. Besides the obvious sacrifice of money (tuition can cost upward of $50,000 per year at some universities), the couple must make certain compromises while one of them returns to school. Here is how you can cope if your husband or wife is returning to college or university:

Communicate concerns about going back to school.

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Before your husband or wife begins the application process and as he or she is going through with it, the two of you must openly and honestly discuss the reality of the situation. How will you handle the financial burden? Will you have to move to attend the dream school? If so, what will you do for work? Will this mean putting off family planning? How will you deal with the long hours apart while your spouse is studying or working on projects? Ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to disagree or offend the other person. This decision is too important, so don’t worry about being polite.

Be part of the application and decision making process.

The person who is going back to school should keep his or her spouse in the loop about the application process, deciding where to go, and planning his or her education. You should both talk to current students, alumni, and administrators at the schools to which your spouse is applying and seriously considering. Find out what it’s like for other couples and families. Ask questions to discover what your life would be like at each of these colleges or universities.

Visit campus.

While doing all the research you can – online and by talking to people in each school’s community – is important, you can only understand the culture and realities of the living situation by visiting campus. If money is tight, you can wait to visit schools to which your spouse was accepted or is seriously considering. Determine where you might live should your spouse attend this program. Figure out where you could work, what you would do for fun, and whether you’d fit in and be happy. If you’re planning for kids or already have them, ask about health care, childcare, and schools for them.

Get involved at the college or university.

Once your spouse has been accepted and you’ve chosen where he or she will enroll, you should start considering how you’ll become part of the community. Many colleges and universities allow spouses to audit classes or participate in a club that creates activities for partners and families of students. Creating your own life on campus, especially if you’ve moved from somewhere else, will help you carve your own niche and feel connected to your spouse while he or she sets off on this new chapter in life. You’ll also have an outlet for meeting new people and making friends.

Create a budget and live like students again.

College costs lots of money, and the financial burden of having a spouse back in school can wreak havoc on a relationship. If you’re working and most of the financial burden is on your shoulders while your spouse is in school, you might feel angry and stressed. One way to ease some of the tension is to create a plan for paying off student loans and devising a reasonable budget. Living like a student – eating in, purchasing only necessities, clipping coupons, and forgoing luxurious vacations and the like – will help you make ends meet and avoid arguments about money. You must both make this sacrifice and live like students for this plan to work.

Make time for one another.

Certainly, you and your husband or wife will have less time together once classes begin. You might have to skip date nights during exams. But you should still try to spend some time together. Carve out 30 minutes for breakfast at your kitchen table. Make sure to always say good night to one another. Send each other text messages or e-mails. Do whatever you can to stay connected to one another.

Show support for your husband or wife.

Your husband or wife is likely going back to school as an investment in your future. Studying and taking tests is not easy. Even if he or she is not yet bringing home a paycheck, he or she is working hard. To show your support, tell your spouse that you are proud of his or her accomplishments. Wish your spouse luck when a test or presentation is looming. Leave love notes in his or her book bag or in the middle of a notebook. Offer to help your spouse study or proofread a paper. Be your spouse’s number one cheerleader.

Pursue your own dreams.

Every married person has to make compromises and sacrifices. But you should not have to completely give up your career or goals or personal satisfactions for the other person. That will only breed resentment. To prevent this, state how you feel from the start and make sure that wherever your spouse is going, you’ll be able to pursue your own goals and interests. Then, put forth the effort required to find your happiness and fulfillment, too.
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