My Spouse Wants to Go Back to School. Now What?

So your spouse wants to go back to school. Maybe this comes as a shock to you: College? Graduate School? Now? Or maybe this has been an ongoing conversation for a while, but now your spouse says it’s time.

The pressure’s on. You’re not sure your spouse going to undergraduate or graduate school is the best idea for your family right now. The thought of reducing or losing your spouse’s income makes you sweat buckets, and you’re not sure if you’re up to the challenge of shouldering more financial burden and responsibility at home–not to mention the possibility of student debt. Quite frankly, the idea of your spouse going back to school (or staying in school after an extended period in college) is terrifying.

Your first instinct is to say, “No way.” But this is important to your spouse. So what do you do?

Are your values in sync?

When it comes to the question of pursuing a college education at any level, values are a huge deciding factor. Do you and your spouse share values when it comes to education? Expressing your God-given talents? Take a step back to reevaluate–objectively–whether you’re actually on the same page.

College or graduate school usually means you’ll need to delay your gratification in certain areas and put things on hold that one or both of you might want badly. This can be incredibly difficult; for example, we didn’t own a home or have children for over ten years after we married. But we believed in what we were trying to achieve. And if one or both of you is determined to pursue a degree, having shared values around education will make that delayed gratification easier to manage.

Visualize your life in 10 years

If you’re having doubts about your spouse’s continued education, visualize what might short-circuit in your marriage (and your life, in general) if you were to keep him or her from pursuing this degree. Would you be stunting his or her growth personal and professional growth?

Now, think about what your life might look like in 10 years if your spouse earns this degree, versus if they do not. Better yet, think about the person you’ll be married to 10 years from now. How might this change your spouse? If you keep them from pursuing further study, how might that change them?

Remember, sometimes paying a price now creates a greater payoff down the road. Further education could help your spouse continue to grow into the best version of themselves, and he or she won’t be the only one to reap the benefits; you and your family will, too.

Be open about your dreams, too

If you’re feeling ambivalent or apprehensive about the idea of your spouse beginning or continuing their education, perhaps it’s because you have some dreams of your own you’d like to pursue. If that’s the case, get those on the table. You don’t have to sit back while your spouse is the only one to achieve their dreams.

Be honest with your spouse about the specific things you’d like to do. Chances are, your spouse will be supportive of your aspirations, too. The trick will be working together to come to an agreement about the strategies you’re going to take to get where you both want to be.

To create a game plan for your individual goals, try this:

  1. Make separate lists of your major educational and/or career goals and other big dreams (travel, entertainment, hobbies and passions, etc.).
  2.  Make note of the items on your list that are of highest priority, then combine your high-priority goals on a separate sheet of paper.
  3. Discuss these goals openly, talking through the pros/cons of each.
  4.  Then, carefully consider timing; which goals are most pressing? What kind of timeline makes the most sense?

Try to look at the data you compile as objectively as possible. No doubt you’ll both feel strongly about your respective aspirations. It may take time (and multiple discussions) before you come to an agreement.

Not all seasons are created equal

It’s obvious that education is very important to your spouse. As a part of career development, education can help us to more fully manifest the God-given talents we long to share with the world. After all, a career is about expressing the sense of calling you have in this life.

Providing for a family is both a blessing and a burden–and it’s a burden that should be shared if your family needs it. But it’s important to remember that the burden of provision doesn’t always have to be shared equally in every season of life.

In some seasons, we will give more than we receive. And in others, we will be the recipients while our spouses shoulder the heavier burdens. Seasons come and go; even though you might feel apprehensive at the thought of your spouse going back to school right now, you may find that it is simply your time to give.

Did your spouse go back to college for an undergraduate degree? Did he or she attend graduate school for a Master’s, PhD, or other advanced degree? How did you work together to shoulder the burdens? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments section!

7 Comments

  • Irina says:

    I began my Master’s degree a couple of months before my husband and I got married in 2017. He’s always been supportive of me going back to school and pursuing my dreams. Now he, too, wants to go back for an MBA. And honestly, it terrifies me because I’m almost 4 months pregnant. When the baby comes, I’ll be wrapping up my degree and settling down into Mom-mode. My fear with him going back now is that he won’t be as available as I will need him to be during the next couple of years while the child is young. We both work full-time jobs as well and will continue to while going to school. I’m trying to see the best in the situation and I know he wants to go back… and that I need to be supportive. It still frightens me. This article gave me a little bit of peace but I need to focus more on giving him this, because he’s given so much to me…

  • Kris says:

    I have two classes left to finish my degree and have worked full time. It has not been easy, but the craziness is almost finished. When I started this journey, I sat down my family, pointed to all the hours on top of my job I spent doing household, bills, and yard stuff, and begged for help. Although my husband has never complained about the state of disarray of our house, I did not get that help and so have done the best I can. It has been hard still being responsible for everything I was, working full time, and keeping up my grades, but with God’s help I have done it. In today’s world, I do not think it is feasible for one spouse to completely quit working, but if you are reading this, it would mean so much to that spouse if you shouldered the household, bills, and outside or at least split the chores to help make it a little easier for them to succeed. Asking, “I know you are working on a big project, but are you hungry and can I get you something?” or “Is there something I could help you get done this weekend or take off your plate?”would go a long way to them feeling supported. It is possible to make it without much support or shouldering household duties I am proof, but it has not been achieved without a certain amount of sadness and feeling unsupported and uncared about.

  • Victoria Lemke says:

    My husband starting working on completing his Associates degree 2 years into our marriage. We both worked full time, and had one child at home, in high school (his son). For the most part I took over grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning and yard work. We agreed that I could not handle everything alone, so our son did his own laundry, cleaning his room and bathroom and mowing the lawn when he was with us. We agreed after that to hire a lawn service, freeing up time for us to just weed and work in the landscaping as we both enjoy that. It helped us as a couple, to acknowledge that his going go school was not easy on either of us, and I had to ask forgiveness many times for being selfish, sorry for my self or whining about being lonely. It made me realize that I would not want to be the one working, coming home and going right to his homework assignments. The student loans now will become due. Make sure you have a plan for budgeting and paying off the loans. Communication and praying is key to getting thru this season!

  • KL says:

    I had to research if what was on my heart to go back to school for was a godly career change/choice. The devil pushes us into things too that helps ruin a person/family, discern, yes. I didn’t want to fall victim. Knowing it was godly I then prayed for God’s time and to be obedient whether starting soon or waiting with great reason. He provides. I graduate in 2 weeks from college, praise God!

    • Lianne says:

      What degree did you pursue!? I myself am in a similar boat.

      • KL says:

        Hi Lianne, I went for Behavioral Health to use towards biblical counseling (more side classes there – required) to use at rescue home ministry of trafficked individuals. I’m excited for your future, prayed for you!!

  • Lexi says:

    My husband has always been very supportive of me being in school. Since him and I started dating I’ve been in school (at that time I was working on my bachelors degree and graduated about 6 months later). After graduation, I jumped straight into my MBA. It was going good and steady for awhile, but on our honeymoon in October 2017 he got very sick and has since been diagnosed with crohn’s disease. He has been in so much pain and tried many different treatments but none are working for him. On top of that stress, we are building a house and have been living with (difficult, to say the least) family members with little space of our own. I’m just over half way done with my MBA, but with all the extra stress that has been added to our plate school was not a priority anymore. As of this last Monday I decided it is best to put my degree on hold.

    I am looking forward to the day I am able to go back once our life kinks have been sorted out.

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