Is Going Back to School Interfering With Your Relationship?
Are you or your partner currently in school or job training? Or are either of you thinking about going back to school or seeking additional job training? If so, this post will help you identify common problems and get some ideas on how to solve them.
Issues around School and Job Training can have many forms – which fits your relationship?
External Stressors, such as going back to school or seeking additional job training, can cause significant problems for relationships: “Now now” and “This Balancing Act Is Killing Me”
Below are common cycles couples experience around external stressors such as school or job training as well as tips for breaking out of these cycles. Because every couple is different, it’s important to read through each cycle. You might find that more than one applies to you or your partner’s behavior.
Partners may not agree on how important the advanced education or training is or whether the timing is right. If one partner already has a degree or advanced training, seeking further education may seem excessive or unnecessary.
The Partner Wanting School/Training
You may feel caught between wanting to advance your career and contributing to your relationship right now. It might seem that this investment in yourself may not pay off in the long run. Tips to change these situations:
1. OPEN UP
If you’re feeling really certain you want to go to classes/training despite the barriers, there are likely some strong emotions you’re feeling – be sure to share these hidden emotions with your partner. For example, you might be feeling unappreciated at your current job or like you’re letting yourself / your family down by staying in your current position. If this isn’t your core issue, we suggest you first do the Speaker-Listener conversation in the Strengthen Phase before doing the Problem-Solving conversation activity (also in the Strengthen Phase). If this IS your core issue, then you’ll already follow this pattern.
2. ASK YOUR PARTNER
Chances are, if this has become a problem in your relationship, your partner likely has some strong emotions as well. You may be aware of some but not others. So, be sure to ask about your partner’s feelings! If this is hard for you, consider using the Speaker-Listener activity in the Strengthen phase of the program.
3. PRO CON LIST
Together with your partner, create a pro/con list about going back to school / getting additional training. You may find that doing this together gets you and your partner on the same page – regardless of the decision. For example, ask: What does tuition cost? Have you saved for tuition? How long would it take to pay back loans? What is job availability like out of school? How much income will you be giving up in order to attend school / training? If this isn’t your core issue, we suggest you use the Problem-Solving conversation in the Strengthen phase of the program.
4. CONSIDER ALL THE OPTIONS
Sometimes our first idea isn’t the best one. Consider:
• Could you go to school part time? Although it may extend the time of the degree, working part time during school could help offset some of the financial burden on your partner.
• Could you find an option that would cost less money or take less time? There are a lot of resources online that can help you find free / low-cost training in your area.
• Are there extended family members that could help out during this period (e.g., with childcare or money)?
The Partner Against School/Training
School and job training are sometimes seen as a luxury, one that may feel outside of your financial or time capabilities right now. Or, you may not see the need for additional education/training if your partner already has a good job. Tips to change these situations:
1. TALK IT OUT
You probably know by now that we’re big fans of making sure you understand a problem before you try to solve it. If this is a core issue you’ve been working on in the program, you’ve already developed a DEEP understanding. If not, consider using the optional activities in the Strengthen phase to develop a DEEP understanding of this issue. At a minimum, use the optional Speaker-Listener activity in the Strengthen phase to make sure you both share your hidden emotions around this issue.
2. MAKE A PLAN
When your partner wants to make this kind of big change, it can feel pretty scary! Try making a long term plan of what school or job training would look like so you have a better idea of what is involved and less is unknown. When are bills due? What major deadlines will your partner have to meet? When are exams? Getting a better idea of when the stressful or “crunch times” are could help you both plan accordingly.
3. RELATIONSHIP GOALS
Consider sitting down with your partner to jointly discuss what your goals are together for the relationship. Do you want kids? Do you want to travel more? Do you want to move? You can then together discuss whether your partner’s goal for training/ education in line with these relationship goals.
4. CONSIDER ALL THE OPTIONS
If your concern has to do with the type of training / education your partner is considering, take a look online to help your partner locate other possibilities for training or education in your area. There may be options (e.g., free, part-time) that would reduce some of your concerns.
THIS BALANCING ACT IS KILLING ME!
When one partner is in school or seeking further job training, the other partner is also affected. Figuring out together how to handle these extra stressors can be challenging.
The Partner In School/Training
You may feel overworked trying to do training, keep your relationship strong, take care of kids, maintain friendships, and somewhere find some time for yourself! This is when you most need your partner there for you. Tips to change these situations:
1. NOW VS LATER
Try to prioritize what has to be done now versus what can wait. Assignments for school/training, taking care of the kids, and paying bills are “now” tasks. Even though other things on your plate feel important, ask yourself if they are really priorities.
2. DIVIDE AND CONQUER
Sit down with your partner and make a chore list to decide who does what. Figuring out what works with your schedule so you can help with while in school could help ease the weight on your partner. Also, be sure to figure out which times during the day (or which specific tasks) your partner really needs your help. Knowing that can help you make sure you don’t let your partner down when he/she needs you most.
3. SAY THANKS
Recognize that when you are in school your partner is picking up extra responsibilities so that you’re able to focus on school/training. Find a way to thank him/her and show your appreciation for all they are doing.
The Partner Supporting
When your partner is in school or training, extra burden falls to you. This may be financially, childcare, or responsibilities at home like housework and paying bills. It might feel like you are working harder than your partner who is getting the degree! Tips to change these situations:
1. NOW VS LATER
Try to prioritize what has to be done now versus what can wait. Your job, taking care of the kids, and paying bills are “now” tasks. Even though other things on your plate feel important, ask yourself if they are really priorities.
2. DIVIDE AND CONQUER
Sit down with your partner and make a chore list to decide who does what. Also, be sure to figure out when you need the most help from your partner and be sure to prioritize that time / task. If your partner has a lot on his/her plate, it can be helpful to know which items to drop and which to make sure get done.
3. THIS IS HARD
Let you partner know what you find most difficult about the situation. Maybe you feel neglected and that he/she don’t have time for you. Maybe you find grocery shopping really stressful! Try to work together to make this difficult time as positive as possible for you both.
Learn how to improve your relationship!
We have free programs available for eligible couples, find out if you qualify: