If your partner or you are thinking of going back to school to complete an undergraduate degree, this can be a great thing for your relationship in the long run. The person going to college will create more earning power as well as the potential for a fulfilling career. However, in the short run, this can be tough on the relationship. The student is going to have a lot less time and money than usual and perhaps some additional stresses. These tips can help you navigate this exciting but challenging time.
Cost is the reason many people delay college in the first place. It’s not getting any cheaper, but it may actually be easier in some ways when you are a bit older. First, one partner might have a job that pays enough to ease some of the financial burden. Second, if you’re in your 20s or older, you may be more likely to qualify for private student loans with a low interest rate since you’ve had time to build a credit record. These loans can help you continue school if you took some classes in the past or start fresh if you’ve never been to college at all. Sit down with your partner and make a budget. Talk about how you will manage expenses and if the student will need to work part time. Discussing money can unleash some complicated feelings, so be patient with one another’s concerns.
You and your partner should also talk about how one of you going back to school will affect your relationship and how to handle it. If you have children, this could be an additional challenge although it will be more difficult if they are younger. Older children can pick up some of slack from chores that one parent can’t do, and it is also easier to talk with them about one of you needing quiet time to study or do remote classes. You may want to make sure you carve out family time or date night to stay connected during this busy time.
One way this could strain your relationship is if one person becomes both the main breadwinner and takes on the bulk of the household chores because the other person is so busy with school. This can be particularly difficult if this person was not the breadwinner before and you are substantially tightening your budget, and it may not be sustainable. You both should talk about how you can divide up household tasks and responsibilities so that no one feels too overwhelmed and agree on regular check ins to see how things are going.
You already know that communication in marriage is critical, but you must also understand how that communication needs to shift and mold to each new and different phase of life. This can help prevent growing unspoken resentment. Another option couples may consider is taking turns with support through big life changes. For example, once one person has finished their degree, they can then support the other in an endeavor of their choice. That might be also going back to school, or it could be something like starting a business, training for a series of ultramarathons or making a big career change.