You have spent years nurturing this, getting to know them and you know that this is the one. Sometimes they frustrate you, sometimes you just don’t want to see them, but you know that eventually you will make up and all will be well. You spend all day thinking about them, and you even dream about them. But enough about your thesis , how do you go about maintaining a relationship when you have to complete your PhD?
Firstly, accepting that it is going to be difficult is a very helpful first step. Relationships or degrees can take up the majority of your time on their own, so maintaining both whilst also finding even the briefest amount of time for yourself is near impossible. However, it can be done, with some openness, some honesty and a whole lot of understanding from both you and your partner.
If you are about to begin a PhD, or even if you in the midst of one and are finding either your relationship or your work slipping, the first thing you need to do is talk to your partner. Explain the situation in as much detail as possible. Tell them exactly how much you have to read, how much you have to study and what months or weeks are going to be ‘no-go zones’, when your work is going to have to take precedence. The earlier they know exactly what your degree is going to entail, the less anger and resentment they can hold later when you cannot see them during certain times.
In fact, this idea of a ‘no-go zone’ is also worth reversing. Just as there will have to be times when you can’t see your partner because you need to concentrate on your work, so too should there be times when you focus exclusively on spending time together completely away from your studies. Set specific times aside when you will see them, impose a no shop talk policy and do an activity together. Naturally, see each other at other times too, but keep these date nights as a separate time where no one is able to discuss their degrees or their work. Not only is this good practice for during your PhD, by the way, but it is also a great tip to maintain a relationship in general.
If your partner is a fellow student, or works in any job that requires some study, try studying together. As long as you genuinely study during this time (just having the books open around you whilst you make out doesn’t count), then this can be a great way to balance both. It also means you have someone understanding there to vent to when it all gets a bit much and you want to throw your laptop out of a high window. Unless, of course they're at a different university entirely, in which case you've got the added difficulty of a long-distance relationship ! Have hope though, because at least you won't be getting on each others nerves when it all gets too much.
For those whose partner works rather than studies, you might find a serious imbalance in your finances. They want a mini-break to Barcelona, you can barely afford a bus ticket…there’s going to be some frustration there. Again, talking it through is hugely helpful, but so too is really being on top of deals, offers and tricks to save money. Get over your fear of using coupons when the two of you go out for dinner, make the most of student deals, and learn the important life hack that some of the world’s most romantic dates (walks in the park, gallery visits) are almost some of the most free. After all, if ‘Lady and the Tramp’ taught us anything, it’s that being really poor is kind of romantic sometimes. Just not when you have to live off past-sell by date meats and basics bread.
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