How to Emotionally Support Your Partner Through School

Jason is about to start his masters of business program. His school did something unreasonably cool and hosted a “partners panel” where previous students and their romantic partners discussed how they survived the two year haul. It helped me a lot and when I left I felt so extra-proud of the adventure my partner is about to embark on.

J will be working full time and going to school part time meaning that most of his free time will be filled with studying. Here’s what I learned from the panel.

Set expectations

Set expectations up front and try to be realistic. Working full time is already a lot of work, but when you’re in school, it’s like working two full time jobs. Your partner might space out sometimes, they might not feel or be total present. They may need to change plans last minute or bail completely. There may be an adjustment period where they’re more tired or more stressed out at the start.

Take on more than 50%

Relationships aren’t always 50/50. It’s hard to be in a relationship that is always one hundred percent egalitarian. It’s important to recognize when your partner needs more than 50% or when you’re taking more than 50%. That way you can prepare to gather than energy, or you can prepare to find ways to give appreciation. I think that understanding that things aren’t always 50/50 is important in setting expectations.

Keep busy with your own hobbies

While we do a lot of things together, and like to spend a lot of time together, I also feel pretty comfortable saying that we have our own separate hobbies that we really enjoy. He has nights where he goes and plays poker or goes and plays music with friends, and I have girls nights or stay in and write. I like to think of this as a positive in that while he is working on his school work, I can use that time to sit and work on my writing.

Be patient

Whenever there is a significant change in your life, expect there to be a period of transition. You may both experience some turbulence as you find your footing. Be kind and patient to each other, but also to yourself.

Speak up

School and work aren’t excuses to be a shitty person or a shitty partner. If you feel like expectations aren’t met (on either end) sit down and talk about what’s not working and figure out a way to work together to fix it.

Create a shared calendar

All the partners in the partner panel said they had some form of shared calendar (google or otherwise) that they used to know each other’s schedule. Jason and I have been doing this for most of our relationship and it’s super awesome for keeping everything straight. If you’re in a committed relationship and you don’t already share a calendar, give it a try! You can also include events of interest, special holidays, or little shared reminders.

Understand why it’s happening

Why is your partner going to school? To better themselves? To give themselves more opportunity? To get the right credentials for a new career? Either way, keep coming back to that starting point in your head. School isn’t forever, but the impact of the program can impact your partner and your relationship forever.

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