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Anyone married before/during grad school?

  1. Sep 14, 2015 #1
    This is just a curiosity question for my own sake. I was wondering if it's a smart idea to marry before graduate school. Let's assume Ph.D for a minute.

    1. Extra source of income if the spouse gets a job
    2. Stress relief because of their presence
    3. It probably wouldn't be any easier to manage during a postdoc/assistant professorship

    1. Extra person to pay for
    2. Marriage could be difficult to keep up during such a busy time?

    For a master's degree, the extra income would probably be even more helpful, since many master's degrees aren't fully funded. Of course, I could be missing other points.

    Thoughts? Experiences?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2015 #2


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    This will have a different answer for every single person, there is no point. But if people want to discuss their personal situations and people want to make decisions based off of someone else's experiences that have no relevance to their own situation, hey why not?
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2015
  4. Sep 15, 2015 #3


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    Consider the well-known "two-body problem": if your spouse works, how easy is it likely to be for both of you to find jobs in the same city after you finish your Ph.D.? New Ph.D.'s don't usually have much choice in job offers, at least in jobs that actually use your Ph.D. This obviously depends on the field your spouse is in, and on whether s/he even intends to work after you settle down in your new position. If you have to go through a series of post-docs or visiting assistant professor or even adjunct faculty positions, this problem will come up more than once.
  5. Sep 15, 2015 #4


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    As has been pointed out, marriage is a very personal matter, and the decision to marry is one of the most important decisions one will make in one's life. Is one presently in a committed relationship and considering marriage?

    Certainly, the financial situation is a consideration in getting married. The two parties should discuss such matters up front, as well as goals and aspirations regarding careers, children, etc. Having a spouse who is financially dependent on one can be problematic when one is of limited means.

    Starting a career is also a busy time.

    Ostensibly, one's potential spouse is or would be self-sufficient (ideally), otherwise he or she being supported by parents, family, or some benefactor.

    Living together would seem to be more economical than living separately, although if both parties have roommates, then there may not be a necessarily significant economic benefit being together.

    One should perhaps talk to one's parents and grandparents, and perhaps aunts and uncles, about marriage.
  6. Sep 15, 2015 #5
    If you care about someone enough this won't matter. There's always a way to make it work, and if giving up some job opportunity sounds worse than being with the person, then you probably shouldn't be getting married.
  7. Sep 15, 2015 #6
    That's a lovely ideal, but if another person feels pressured to build his or her career on what is acceptable to their spouse, that sounds like a perfect way to lay the groundwork for resentment. Especially if one of you is planning to start working while the other takes a few more years to finish your education (ie she starts working right after getting her Master's, but you need an extra 4 years in school for a Doctorate).

    Plus, marriage is the career-killer for women. I think it's only fair to her that you at least wait until you guys graduate.

    Either way, it's not a stress I think it's wise to subject yourself to while also dealing with the demands of graduate school.

    But I'll just put to the side for sake of concise response my cynicism about marriage as a cultural expectation (seriously, when you think about it, given a 50% divorce rate and the fact that we currently live in a world where one of the worst things you could possibly do to yourself and everyone else is plan on having children, what exactly is the point?) and say that if you're undecided about such an important decision, it's best to not do anything either way until you feel more certain.
  8. Sep 15, 2015 #7


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    None of the pros or the cons you have listed actually require you to be married to your partner. It is perfectly possible to be in a committed relationship without being married.* This is 2015.

    Planning a wedding is pretty stressful though, I'm not sure you want to do that and do grad school, though it's not like postdocs are less stressful than grad school.

    Then again, being married to your partner does help with visa issues. So that's a pro.

    *In many places in the world, anyway.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2015
  9. Sep 16, 2015 #8
    I got married midway through my undergraduate studies, and in fact welcomed my first child only a month or so after graduating. I worked for two years, during which time I did a year of online study for a graduate program that eventually was axed due to budget cuts. I ended up quitting my job and moving across the country to attend graduate school on the east coast. Only a few months prior to moving, we had our second child and my wife resigned from her job to be a stay-at-home mom. I ended up doing a dual masters program at a top-10 school in my field and took 12+ credits every semester for 2.5 years, while holding down a full-time job. I won't sugar coat it: it was a brutal experience. I averaged 3 hours of sleep a night and saw my family about 15 min a day during the week. My relationship with my family was definitely strained throughout. I had to take on a hefty debt load and spent the first few months with my family on food stamps. I also never really gelled with my cohort, since I was older than most of them and one of only two with kids--while they were out partying at night or at the football game, I was either working or trying to see my kids before bedtime. Toward the end, when I was taking some doctoral courses to test those waters, I came near the point of a mental breakdown. But my wife and children were very supportive and we made it through (with a high GPA to boot). My third child was born on the day of my graduation ceremony. My wife continues to rock at being a stay-at-home mom to three-soon-to-be-four kids, I have an awesome job that I love, and I wouldn't trade any of the experiences I've had thus far, even the ones that made me feel like I was going to break.

    I have many family members and friends who were married young and had children either before or while pursuing graduate studies. I live near a campus currently and have several friends who are seeking phds while being married with 3-5 kids. Other friends with similar family situations have received their doctorates and moved on.

    I think the most critical factor to consider is your relationship with the individual in question. If you love this person (and the feeling is reciprocated) and you're willing to make sacrifices for each other, you can make almost any situation work, if not all situations. Obviously there is a great deal of reality that must be dealt with, but love and sacrifice will be the foundation upon which you do so. If you find that person, why wait? Successful relationships are built and fortified through trials. Graduate school is but one of those trials, and in the grand scheme of life, is one of the smaller ones.
  10. Sep 16, 2015 #9
    You are making the same mistake every other miserable person does - that a "career" is somehow the source of ones happiness and worth. Maybe for someone like you who (or at least I assume this is you, based on your post) wants to walk the straight and narrow path that they think they're "supposed to", then a career is super important. To someone like me, who values above all else the freedom to live their life on their own terms and not sacrifice happiness for "success", then spending my life with someone I love far more important than job opportunity.

    I'd rather flip burgers and live my life the way I want to, then sacrifice my freedom of lifestyle and put on a suite and tie. Ideally, I will one day have my cake and eat it too, but I guarantee you that if I don't, I'll at least be living my life in the way that best pleases me, given the resources available. And this means, in part, being with someone who makes me happy and excited to share life with.

    There's a huge difference between having kids in grad school and just getting married. I can't think of any good reason to have a child until you have a stable income. I don't think your experience is relevant to this thread.
  11. Sep 16, 2015 #10

    George Jones

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    As folks have already noted, each story is highly personal. Here is the story of Shazia and George.

    When we got married, my wife was doing a Master's in engineering and I was unemployed. My wife worked as a TA, had a grad scholarship. and worked as in intern at GM during the summers, and I did some private tutoring. This gave us enough to live in a basement in Toronto. Two years after getting married, I was offered a year-long contract in Manitoba, and I moved. Two months later, after defending her thesis, my wife joined me there. At this time, she gave me an ultimatum: "Time for a family!" At the end of my contract, I was offered and 9-month contract in New Brunswick. This turned into five good years, about which all three of us are nostalgic. Three? A month after moving to New Brunswick, our daughter was born, and my wife wanted to stay home with her. After a few years, my wife registered for a B.Ed., which she finished just as my five years of employment in New Brunswick came to an end. I was offered an 8-month position in British Columbia. This position led to something permanent. My wife is a substitute science and math teacher at the five high schools in our small city, and she usually gets three or four days of work a week. This allows her to take an extended summer vacation with her family in Toronto, during which our daughter can interact with her eleven cousins. My wife also teaches the occasional course at the local community college. Our daughter is now nine.

    Maybe a little too "traditional", i.e., my wife did follow me, but she is the one who demanded a family during a time of great uncertainty, and she also now has substantial employment. Not easy; lots of stress.
  12. Sep 16, 2015 #11
    The OP asked for us to share our experiences. I think my response is relevant to the question. Whether the OP will derive any benefit from my experience will be determined by the OP. Why bicker about this?
  13. Sep 17, 2015 #12


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    Nah, polyamory. :p
  14. Sep 17, 2015 #13


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    But a career _may_ contribute to one's happiness and self worth , independently of whether one wants to walk the "straight and narrow". Good luck living the life you want while/by flipping burgers, if the life you want includes healthcare, what many would consider reasonable living conditions (crime-free area, basic entertainment , reasonable working conditions) and lets see what happens if you get laid off. Many people get meaning in their lives from their jobs, from doing a job well. And there are careers like Medicine, Teaching, Research where one can derive meaning. Career ## \neq ## joing the rat race.
  15. Sep 18, 2015 #14
    No, my happiness and sense of self-worth come from my generally positive attitude and fundamental belief that life is worth living. The importance of a career to me is of a more existential nature. At the same time, it's an entirely practical concern, because I'm profoundly lazy and therefore seek to follow the advice that if your job is what you truly care about, then you will never work a day in your life.

    What you're "supposed to do" is graduate, get a job, marry before 30, have 2.4 kids, mortgage a house, work an increasingly soul-grinding job to support a lifestyle imposed on you by society whether you want it or not until you're literally too old to continue, retire, then die.

    The way I see it, one way or another, you're going to need to do something to pay the bills, and when you have the financial constraints of having to follow the "marry-kids-mortgage-retire-die" life plan then the job you need to have isn't going to be the one you want to have. You're going to spend at least 8 hours a day, at least 5 days a week on this for at least the next 40 years, so I think you've got every good reason to do everything you can to make sure it's something you care about.

    Exactly, that's my whole point. That's why I'm extremely skeptical of this allegedly all-important social and legal institution called marriage, because it's something that everyone expects and it's considered such a taboo to question or criticize it. That doesn't sound like the freedom to live life on your own terms.

    If you say you don't think it's wise to tie yourself down to a single person in your 20s, then you're immature and a "player". If you're concerned about that whole 50% divorce rate, you're called morally suspect for being the sort of person who would get a divorce. If you're a man and you're worried about how marriage and especially divorce law is strongly biased against men, then you're called a misogynist (in fairness, that being an MRA bullet point is actually really irritating). If you say you don't think you can be comfortable not having any personal space, people say your'e psychiatrically damaged and need therapy. If you say that it offends you that marital rape is still effectively legal in almost 2/3 of this country and therefore supporting that institution goes against your conscience, or you're offended by how often both men and women become victims of domestic violence or you're afraid of that happening to you (especially as a man, in which case you'd effectively have no recourse, despite the fact that nearly half of all domestic violence is female-on-male), you're just outright told to ignore that.

    And, in general, if you express any sentiment of skepticism towards marriage based on concern over the fact that no one ever questions it, then you're a miserable, passionless, money-grubbing, frigid, lazy, sleazy, emotionless misanthrope. Virgin-shaming, jokes about dying alone, jokes about having emotional problems, etc.

    If that's true, then what do you need married with her for? Serious question. Success means different things for different people.

    That's literally what I've been trying to say. When you stop looking at marriage and children as an inevitably or a requirement and instead as just one of many options, you get a lot more freedom in the life you decide to lead. Having your cake and eating it too requires that you be flexible and willing to make the decision most in line with what you care about, rather than one of a tiny handful of options that are just given to you.

    And my point, to wrap that up, is that if you rush into building your life around marriage because you assume it's just a given, then you're going to cut off other possibilities that are worth considering.
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