To be the spouse of a grad student is one of the hardest things, yet one of the most rewarding.
As many already know, my husband is in the DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) program at Duke University.
To give you a picture of what our current life looks like:
Nathan wakes up SUPER early (I hate his alarm haha!) in the mornings to have time with the Lord, begin studying and has breakfast. He leaves for school no later than 7:30 most mornings. He gets home anywhere between 3:30- 7:30 most days. He brews a pot of coffee. He opens his books and is studying again. He takes about a 20-30 minute break for dinner with me. He resumes studying. Around 10:00-11:00, he gets ready for bed and goes to sleep. Essentially, his day is study-eat-study-eat-study.
My day is a little more of the normal work day for the average person.
This season of our lives is one we tried to prepare ourselves for but definitely did not understand the weight of what was to come. As you can imagine, grad school is HARD. Being the wife of a grad student is HARD. I am sure right about now you may be thinking something like “what the heck is wrong with her? Doesn’t she understand that his work is beyond tough? It’s only three years, Hannah, come on!”
Sure, I have had those thoughts. This was a huge transition from our previous season of undergrad and school. In our previous season, I worked about about a 60 hour week with undergrad classes & Nathan worked a regular week with undergrad classes, and was a president in a campus club. But somehow, we still had time together and with our friend. It was tough, but nothing too hard. Transitioning to this new season, was/is HARD.
This season is only three years, but we refuse to give up three years for school. No way are we willing to put our marriage on hold for school. Absolutely not. Instead we work harder. We find ways to be together. We speak our problems or hurts out loud. When I start withdrawing, Nathan starts pursuing me. When Nathan is filled with worry, I start encouraging him. This season has been tough. It is just the beginning. BUT, this season is what has brought us SO MANY lessons that have benefited our marriage. Nathan has had to learn how to balance school and still devoting time to his relationship with Christ and with me. I have had to learn how to understand that I cannot have time with him every single day, but the time we do have I must focus on enjoying it. I have had to learn how to have a good attitude no matter the circumstance or time of day. I have also had to learn not to withdraw from him when I feel hurt because he never intends to hurt me. He has learned to focus more on my feelings even with his focus on school (which is simply incredible). We have learned to create magical moments in the extreme stress of grad school. We have always been firm believers in setting boundaries in all areas of our lives, but this new season has called for learning, creating, and altering boundaries as necessary.
A couple nights ago, Nathan was asking me to go to a Duke Basketball game with him. To be quite honest, I had a sorry attitude about it. In my mind I was thinking “seriously, I work all day long and get up at the crack of dawn. I don’t care to go stay out all night and be around people I don’t even know. Let’s do something I will enjoy” or something like that. Yes, I realize how snobby that sounds. I was exhausted, no excuse. I apologized to him and changed my attitude. This is something Nathan wanted to do. This is a break he deserves. This is something that will give my husband joy. Speaking those words, my attitude changed and I was excited to have a day with him. Boy was it worth it!! This ballgame was the first event we have been to together in ages. It was the most magical evening. I got off work early, went home, had a cup of coffee with Nathan , got ready and we headed out. We had dinner at Chick Fil A where we witnessed a manager praying with an interviewee which thrilled the deepest parts of my soul. Chick Fil A even has mouthwash in their bathrooms. Like this is seriously the Lord’s restaurant. Anyways, we went to the game. We had to park across campus which gave us a 20 minute walk just the two of us. It was even dark and raining, making it feel like we were the only two on our walk. It felt just like we were dating again. Nathan held me close, sliding his arm around my waist, whispering in my ear. He was snapping pictures of us throughout the night. Nathan was so excited, he was like a kid at Christmas. Seriously, it was the most magical day. I will forever treasure the feeling of him holding me close, being proud that I am his wife, and his kisses on my head.
But guys, it is all about perspective and attitude. You have to choose your spouse. Choose how you are going to feel. I want this to be a day filled with magic, so it will be. You have to be on the same page with each other. See each others needs and meet them. It is never about 50/50. You do what you do because of your love for that person. You choose to love them. You choose to find joy with them.
This season, is tough. This season is worth it.
My hopes are that this blog will encourage other grad student spouses to keep up the good fight because it is SO worth it.