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Moving to graduate school with significant other

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I was wondering if anyone here is also moving with a significant other, or having experience with doing so.

 

I am currently an undergraduate senior, have been dating my boyfriend for two years (we currently live together), and I am moving across the country for a PhD program and our plan now is that he is going to come with me. I feel like it may be important to say that our relationship is very stable.

 

Is it difficult to maintain a relationship while in graduate school? How has this panned out for anyone else? 

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I am in the same boat as you - cross country move with an S.O. for my graduate education.  We've been together many years and have been through moves together before.

 

Although I can't yet speak to maintaining a relationship in grad school, I found that with moving the toughest part is just finding a new job (in this case, my SO will be the one looking since I have my stipend from school).  Once they get re-settled in terms of employment, the "on edge" feeling tends to disperse.  The rockiest part is always right at the beginning of a move, I think.  Moving is stressful, so is finding work!

 

But given that we've done it before, I think it's doable.  Good luck to you both!

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First of all, congratulations, and good for you! :) I've heard a lot of negative things about long-distance relationships (and some positive, too). It can be especially hard to switch to long-distance after living together, or so I've heard. Besides, you're guaranteed a (hopefully good) roommate this way! :)

 

I'm in a similar boat. I've been with my SO for 3 years now he's moving across the country with me, though not until January since that's when his job ends.

 

I agree wit Munashi: your SO will probably want to find a job ASAP. There are lots of guides on how to start searching for a job before moving. I haven't tested any yet. :P But it's definitely something to look into before the move!

 

Until your SO secures a job, you may consider cheaper housing. For example, I want to live in a 1BR with my SO until he finds a job. After that, we're going to find a more permanent 2BR apartment. This way we can plan to live somewhere near both my school and his work. (He's sick of moving and doesn't want to bounce between apartments any more than necessary when we get to California!) I'm also trying to trick him into getting his master's while we're out there... But that's a different story. XD

 

Anyway, good luck, and I hope it goes well! :)

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I did this twice -- in 2010, moving across Canada for a MSc program with my then-girlfriend of 5 years, and in 2012, moving from Eastern Canada to Western US for a PhD program with my now-wife. The moving part is tough because we wanted to find places that were great fits for both of us (my SO is not a student). Fortunately, in both moves, both of us were able to visit the cities/schools during prospective student visit days so we were both able to make informed decisions. Luckily for us, both times, when we compared our top choices, we had the same one! Although maybe this wasn't so lucky because we both had veto power in the application stage (I only picked schools that were good fits and then we removed all schools/places that my SO felt that she did not want to live in / would not have opportunities in). So, even at the application stage, all of the possible schools were places that were exciting for both of us!

 

I also agree with Munashi about the finding a new job for the SO. This was extra stressful for us because we had to go through a long process with US Immigration in order to get her work authorization so it was almost 8 months before she felt settled and even longer before she had a permanent position. I have not yet to experience being "between employment" myself, but from her experience, it's definitely true when people say that not having a job is way more stress/work than actually going to work full time every day!

 

I don't think it is especially difficult to maintain a relationship in grad school, and this is year 4 of grad school+relationship for us. You definitely need to plan your time better, but this works for me. I know some grad students prefer the flexibility of working whenever they want / feel the juices flowing and this is not as possible when you want to sync your schedule with a partner that does not have a flexible schedule. That is, I mostly maintain a 9am to 6pm workday, which currently matches my wife's 8:30 to 5:30 workday. Unless I am feeling a lot of pressure or am behind, I usually try to keep my work at work and not think about science at all during the evenings. I do a bit of work on the weekend sometimes. 

 

To me, I always want to treat grad school as a "9 to 5" job, not continued perpetual stress/work that was my undergrad experience so this works really well for me. 

 

Another difference between being in a relationship in grad school vs. my single friends is that while my SO is friends with most of my colleagues, and we do a lot of things together with our SOs, the students in relationships will also have a different social circle because of their SO's friends etc. Or, the attached students may have other arrangements that don't match up well with our colleagues' social plans. So, ultimately, my SO and I don't always go to every social gathering of my grad school friends. This is okay of course, but we are sometimes worried that we are the "boring married couple that never hangs out". I think a good strategy is to make an extra effort to prioritize going out with new people when you first start a new program and making new friends for the first time. I think the first few months is critical for forming new friendships since everyone is in the stage of "looking for friends". Afterwards, it's easier to settle down into whatever balance of spending-time-with-just-SO and spending-time-with-SO-and-grad-school-friends that the two of you are comfortable with. In my opinion, if you decline too many invitations at the start, people will stop asking you to do things!

 

Although it is some "work" to maintain a relationship while in grad school, all relationships need time/effort in order to stay healthy and fun! I don't think it's any more or less work to do this as a grad student vs. any other job. And obviously, there are tons of great positives about being in a good relationship (whether in grad school or not). I am 100% positive that the amazing support I have from my spouse is a big part of all of my past successes and it's something I can count on to help me feel confident about whatever challenges and crappy days that grad school throws at me in the future.

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I will be doing the same thing next year with my fiance (will be my husband then) for phd programs. We will be compromising on locations by me only applying to programs that are good areas for his field as well.

 

I am working on my masters now and he is working on his MBA (while working full time) so I can speak a bit about relationships in grad school. I take 3 classes a semester plus do around 30 hours of research a week since I am a research assistant. It is really hard for us to find time together because often times we seem to be super busy with exams and projects at opposite times. It seems that one of us always has something huge to work on. We try to schedule one evening a week where neither of us picks up a book and we just spend time together. This goes a long way in keeping us connected. Another helpful thing is that we have a study set up with huge chairs for reading and desks for more hardcore studying. When we study, we usuaully study together in there so even though we arent talking, we are still sort of spending time together. Relationships in grad school take a bit of extra work since it is hard to find time to spend together but they are dfinitely doable if you work at them!

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I did a sort of "staggered" move: my S.O. works from the start of March through late October, so he joined me here when he was off for the season. Prior to that, we'd informally lived together; I all but moved out of my work-provided barracks, & moved in with him in his apartment.

 

To put it very simply, I think living together was one of the absolute best things I could've done. His seasonal income is very comfortable, & because neither of us have changed our state residency, & the nature of his field of work, he received some unemployment that covered all of his expenses plus our groceries. Having a lot of time on his hands made him a bit homesick, I think, but he always did the laundry & cleaned the room, helped out with meals, & so on. We both really like it here, though, so he got to experience something new & enjoyable, & I had — & still have! — an amazing support system. :) Like any other relationship, there are always small bumps (car problems, budgeting, "inertia"), but it's never been a problem to maintain. I think it's actually helped us grow individually & as a couple; it's made me far less worried than I'd normally about him having to move back for work again (we'll be a few states away for a good number of months now).

 

As others have said, finding a job is crucial for your S.O. Mine has been in his field of work for about a decade, so he's used to the cycle of on season wage/overtime to off season unemployment/nothing-doing & back again. He's not the best with money, but he always has enough to get by, & he is more than happy to kick up his heels for a few months. If there's any downtime before your S.O. is employed, I would suggest going the extra mile to make sure they've got something to do that they enjoy to fill the time, rather than just focusing all their energy on moving, chores, & applying for jobs.

 

Also, in my case, it was a pretty big life change for me: new program, new to grad school, new city full of strangers. Ditto my S.O. So, basically, it was a bit of an adjustment, although not a particularly stressful one or a big to-do. Our relationship grew & matured a bit, I guess, but all for the better. So, to recap: finances are a big deal, adjusting to new schedules (more time or less/no time) is important, & don't go in with the expectation that everything will be exactly the same as it's been (although it can rekindle a sort of "honeymoon phase" for sure!).

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I was in the same boat as you. I was dating with my boyfriend for 5 years before I am going to another country to do graduate school. We get married before I move, because it is quite unimaginable that both of us are separated for several years in two different countries. He then came along with me and found a job here.

 

I would normally object to long-distance relationship for too long, say more than 1.5 years. To deal with it, I would suggest either he comes along with you and tries to search a job in the nearby location, or even nearby city (like within 2hr driving distance so that you two can be together at weekends). Or you two get married if you are very sure that the other one is your significant other. The marriage ring can alleviate the insecurity towards the relationship among two of you while you're far away from each other for too long.

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I am about to do this, and I feel like it's a great position to be in-- I almost feel bad when I see other people here who are dealing with the two-body problem in comparison.

 

My partner is awesome and his company wants to keep him even if we move. His boss is also married to someone who just finished med school, so he's very supportive and understanding of being the partner who's willing to move for someone else's health career. However, my partner definitely wants to move to a different area of the company (he's in software support and would like his next move up to be to project management or testing), which it's obviously easier to do if he stays rather than working remotely. We're trying to stay in Chicago for at least the masters due to a combination of partner's career, friends and family nearby, and finances. I only considered schools outside the Midwest if they were dream schools that obviously merit a cross-country move-- and ultimately I excluded a lot of those myself because I didn't think they were worth it.

 

The hardest part for me has been making my partner comfortable with it all, and not getting offended and taking his worrywart nature as meaning he didn't support me. I probably won't have an income for at least a semester, and I know that worries him even though we can afford it. After 4 years of being an adult with a job, it bothers me to need money from someone else, too, regardless of the relationship. Sometimes I feel guilty that I am basically getting my way on every aspect of this.

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Wow!

 

This is all such great advice - and it is so relieving to hear that a lot of people have gone this route! So basically, it seems like everything will get less stressful when my SO finds a job. I feel a lot better now :) Thanks guys! 

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Why must you rain on everyone's parade when they talk about family life and dating? It's possible to just not read these topics, you know. 

 

To the OP:

 

My wife and I had been married a bit over 2 years when we moved. It was definitely an interesting experience, but we'd already been living together. She didn't have work the first year or so we were here, but we were able to live off my graduate stipend pretty well. 

 

As TakeruK mentioned, I try to be fairly consistent in my work so that we can have regular time to do things together. In general, most of my department is very understanding of trying to keep a work-life balance- we have a lot of dual career academics. 

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Why must you rain on everyone's parade when they talk about family life and dating? It's possible to just not read these topics, you know.

To the OP:

My wife and I had been married a bit over 2 years when we moved. It was definitely an interesting experience, but we'd already been living together. She didn't have work the first year or so we were here, but we were able to live off my graduate stipend pretty well.

As TakeruK mentioned, I try to be fairly consistent in my work so that we can have regular time to do things together. In general, most of my department is very understanding of trying to keep a work-life balance- we have a lot of dual career academics.

... You didn't have to address me. I do it for the same reason I'm sure you made that comment.. Because I FELT like it. :) at least I said good luck. People just deserve to have their parade rained on. That's life. Just as easily as you could have ignored it so could these other people. ;) Edited by LittleDarlings

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My husband and I moved from California to D.C. so I could pursue a PhD. We had been married exactly one year (we arrived to our new home on our one year anniversary!). I can imagine it's tough to weather a relationship when one partner is fully committing to an outside path, but it's definitely doable. I'm gonna echo lots of what has already been said, but here are some things that have helped us with the transition:

  • Our life priorities are clearly defined. My relationship is obviously my number one priority. He has a M-F 9-5 job, and I try to keep my study/research schedule aligned with his. That way, we have dinner together most nights, and enjoy our weekends together. I am very proactive in setting aside quality relationship time, and so far it's working. I even missed a day of class (gasp!) for a weekend trip to Spring Training (Cactus League!) for his 30th birthday. Totally worth it. 
  • While our relationship is both our number one priority, my success in graduate school is also high on both of our lists. My partner is invested in my success. He is my number one cheerleader and understands when I can't go out and play on a Sunday because I have to read a billion pages/write an abstract/prepare for a conference. 
  • His career is also a priority to him, so it was great that he was able to transfer offices. He has the same job he had before and is able to continue advancing in his career. At the same time, he understands that he needs different things from a career than I do: I crave constant evolution, he craves stability. This complementary dichotomy helps to balance us out, and he is on board with the reality that we may end up in Bumfuck Nowhere, Middle of the Country once I finish my degree. He is a software engineer, so he has more career options than I ever will, which gives me the freedom to look broadly when I am on the job market. 
  • My partner is like another member of the cohort. While he doesn't come to all of our social events, he comes to many, so he has a sense of my work environment and cohort. He's made buddies with some of the other partners of my cohort. 
  • Toward the end of last semester, I lost myself in my work. That's okay. It's gonna happen time and time again. But as soon as I turned in my last paper, I made sure to acknowledge all the awesome support my partner had been providing me: he walked the dog, prepared dinner, reminded me to leave the house and see the sun every once in a while. We then took each other out to a nice dinner, which served two purposes: I thanked him for his support, and he celebrated my accomplishment. This is a frequent pattern in our relationship: every promotion of his and every academic achievement of mine, we celebrate with a night out and plenty of expressions of gratitude. 

I think, in general, it's healthiest to think of grad school as a job. Work/personal life balance is critical, no matter if you are in a relationship, parenting, dating, and/or really devoted to fantasy baseball/dogs/cooking. I know I am a better scholar when I'm happy in my personal life, so I work hard to maintain a fulfilling life and relationship outside of academia. 

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Guest Gnome Chomsky

.... Yeah ha good luck with that.

You sure know how to make friends.

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Guest Gnome Chomsky

... You didn't have to address me. I do it for the same reason I'm sure you made that comment.. Because I FELT like it. :) at least I said good luck. People just deserve to have their parade rained on. That's life. Just as easily as you could have ignored it so could these other people. ;)

Did your meds come in yet?

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Did your meds come in yet?

Haha nice you like to make fun of someone who might suffer from depression. You aren't going to shame me for possibly having depression or having to take an anti depressant, I came on the forum and talked about it so obviously there is no shame here. It is a shame you would make a joke out of such a serious issue though. Very sad, shame on you. To answer your question, nope. I haven't gotten them as of yet.

As far as friends, no too concerned. We all know the only friend I am looking for!! As for the other kinds, no don't need those much. My actual friends annoy me enough right now don't need more. Anyways at least I wished this person luck.. That was pretty nice :)

Edited by LittleDarlings

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My husband and I got married while I was working on my undergrad degree. Five and a half years, two kids, and 1500 miles later, things seem to be working out for us so far!

 

One thing you may notice in grad school is more stable, long-term relationships than in undergrad, including people who start families during this time. One person in my cohort is getting married this summer, and two others had kids during winter break; I think it's about a 50-50 split in this department between single people and people in serious, committed relationships. It takes some extra communication on your part (call if you're going to be in the lab at 11:30PM on a Friday night), and some extra understanding on his part (if you call and say you're in the lab at 11:30PM on a Friday night, he needs to know that's not grad student secret code for barhopping). It's definitely doable, if you both put in the effort. Congrats!

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Our life priorities are clearly defined. My relationship is obviously my number one priority. He has a M-F 9-5 job, and I try to keep my study/research schedule aligned with his. That way, we have dinner together most nights, and enjoy our weekends together. I am very proactive in setting aside quality relationship time, and so far it's working. I even missed a day of class (gasp!) for a weekend trip to Spring Training (Cactus League!) for his 30th birthday. Totally worth it. 

 

I think, in general, it's healthiest to think of grad school as a job. Work/personal life balance is critical, no matter if you are in a relationship, parenting, dating, and/or really devoted to fantasy baseball/dogs/cooking. I know I am a better scholar when I'm happy in my personal life, so I work hard to maintain a fulfilling life and relationship outside of academia. 

 

Proflorax has lots of great points here, but I especially wanted to reiterate these!  Making an effort to ensure your schedules line up at least part of the time is huge.

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  • My partner is like another member of the cohort. While he doesn't come to all of our social events, he comes to many, so he has a sense of my work environment and cohort. He's made buddies with some of the other partners of my cohort. 

 

You just inspired me! I am so setting up my SO on play-dates with my peers'. :3

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The hardest part for me has been making my partner comfortable with it all, and not getting offended and taking his worrywart nature as meaning he didn't support me. I probably won't have an income for at least a semester, and I know that worries him even though we can afford it. After 4 years of being an adult with a job, it bothers me to need money from someone else, too, regardless of the relationship. Sometimes I feel guilty that I am basically getting my way on every aspect of this.

 

This is exactly what's going on with me right now, too. My SO tends to be the planner/worrier, and I'm the "happy-go-lucky we'll figure it out as it comes along" type in these situations. We ground each other in that respect, I think. I'm also going to school after working full-time for two years... it seems viewing grad school as MY full time job will help me a little, but not having a real income will definitely make me a little self conscious.

 

It is SO awesome to see other people making the same transition!

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You just inspired me! I am so setting up my SO on play-dates with my peers'. :3

Play-dates with peers.  I LOVE that!

 

And I figure if my SO stayed with me through the hell that was applying to graduate school, we'll be just fine with everything else.  :D

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My husband and I got married while I was working on my undergrad degree. Five and a half years, two kids, and 1500 miles later, things seem to be working out for us so far!

 

Congrats.  Distance isn't as impossible as some make it seem.  It's no fun by any stretch of the imagination, but it's definitely doable, and in my experience, a viable option - especially in the short term - if necessary.  

 

The biggest thing that helped us was to set milestones (when's the next time we see each other; we usually had it planned before we left the current one) and what do the long term options* look like.  Options needs to be plural because life throws curveballs and things may not work out according to the initial plan.  Having viable contingency plans will help maintain sanity.

 

Reasonable and up-to-date expectations on communications will help as well (ie, don't expect to hear from me next week because I have a ton of work, or vice versa, I'm off next week, are you are to talk?).  Not meant to be depressing, but communication is (almost) all you'll have; take care of it, because it will make or break the relationship.

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Well, millions of people do this kind of thing every year. Married people in the military (pretty much any military in the world) are told where they will live, usually without much input from them, and they can either leave their family behind or take the family with. Most bring the family along. Now, the military does help with moving expenses, and there's enough income from one salary for frugal people to do fine with (or more, depending on rank), so the problems the OP will face with family are different, at least economically.

There are some social issues that you may or may not have problems with. He gets all of these looks whenever he talks about how we moved here for me to get my PhD. Sure, he's proud of me (his buttons are busting), but people find it very weird that a man will just give up everything and follow a wife's ambitions. They always ask him what he does. She's getting a Phd, what does he do? The men I know that drag their wives along to grad programs, post-docs, or professorships? Their women don't have this. He's getting a Phd, but what does she do?

The moving with the SO thing is problematic, no matter who follows who or why anyone moves. Moving is stressful. Jobs, schools, daily life: all stressful. The key is to make sure the relationship stays healthy. I could tell you what my guy and I do to maintain a healthy relationship, but we're not the same people. Making time for each other, communicating clearly when there are issues, actually listening (thinking about what the other person is saying empathetically, rather than planning what to say), and so on are the obvious things. But what works for you? You know.

It can be done, and it can be done well with satisfaction for everyone in the relationship.

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Im at the point of doing this myself. 

My SO and I have been living apart during Undergrad in two different countries. Mainly because he has a job in our home country and I went somewhere else for undergrad. It is very doable and we speak to each other every day keeping each other up to date about the most basic things in life. 

But now we will be moving together for grad school. This is mainly because the time difference will be 7 hours which makes it a lot harder to actually speak to each other and visiting isn't easy either. 

I have to say Im a bit nervous because we havent really lived together even though we have been together for 6 years now.
And I know he is nervous about giving up his job while he has been the provider for the last 6 years. But we are also very exciting to be making this move together :)

Im glad to see other people are going through the same 

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I'm moving with my long-term partner (6 years) across country, too. This is our second move together, but I feel bad that he is sacrificing to move this time. However, there are many more opportunities in Ann Arbor than where we currently live, so hopefully it will be good move for him too.  I'm definitely going to make sure that we have time to hang out together, but also that we have time to oursevles, which is equally important.

 

Best of luck to everyone with their moves!

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