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Dating and graduate school

  1. Dec 29, 2014 #1
    I have been dating a girl for quite a while, we are both on our 2nd year of college majoring in maths. The other day while we were talking about ourselves I mentioned my intention to go study abroad for my masters and phD. I have really good chances to do that, I have very good grades and I am already involved in some REU type programme so I think things are going well in this sense. However it hit her as she realized our relationship was in some kind of countdown.

    She understands my ambitions and supports me, but we suddenly realized that what we have is most certain only temporary. Then she became doubtful and doesn't know if we should continue, because long distance relationships never worked for her (she has had one), and began thinking whether it would be better if we stopped being togehter because that way it would alleviate the suffering when the time comes.

    I tried to tell her that we would make it through if we truly loved each other, and that we should not worry about something in 2 years time which we don't know much about yet. She accepted it and we have a normal relationship again. But now it's me. I really considered the situation and if I go for graduate school, it will be a long time and we are most certainy bound to drift apart. I want to have the best of both worlds. She is truly special for me and I think I wouldn't find anyone like her for how much I searched.

    What advice do you have for overcoming this eventual barrier? Is this relationship bound to fail? Can we do something in the future to save it? Or should I just seize the moment and start convincing myself that one day sooner or later it will end?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 29, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    I think you summed it up quite well. There is no magic spell that can allow you to go to grad school and to preserve your relationship. Only the both of you can decide that. There are many people who have successfully done this. Sometimes couples will forego their career plans to be together with one waiting for the other to complete schooling but its always better for each one to pursue their career separately and at the same time.

    The old chestnut of "Loneliness makes the heart grow fonder" is true if you both love each other the same but if one isn't as committed or as patient or as trusting then your relationship can possibly fail.

    I know you will think hard on it. You can't have a rocky relationship while you're apart and expect to do well in grad school but with a trusting and patient one you can.

    What are your girlfriends plans for the future? Is she going to grad school too? or is she going to start working?
  4. Dec 30, 2014 #3
    She is a good student, but has no interest in devoting herself to research. She is planning to stay and do the masters degree in applied math at our current university and then search for a job.
    I also believe it is possible if we truly like each other. But it's virtually impossible to guess how we're going to react to long distance dating, especially at our young age. So all of this is very uncertain to me, but I guess I'll have to live with it and don't worry much about the things I can't control.
  5. Jan 4, 2015 #4
    I know one engaged couple where one did a MSc. degree in a different state then moved in with him (phd). I also know of another couple with a kid where the girl is applying to grad schools for a phd and the guy (already in the labor market) is going wherever she is going (she only applied to places where he can get a job, apparently something government-related).

    It is probably easier if one of the two stops at the MS level and enters the job market, as she'll be able to more readily move to wherever your phd is going to take place. 2 phd's seems like a considerably more difficult 2-body problem.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2015
  6. Jan 4, 2015 #5


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    Communication is a key factor in a long distance relationship. Of course, that's no guarantee in the long run, since other factors include careers and location, as well as family matters, and so on.
  7. Jan 4, 2015 #6
    Have you two had to spend the summer apart, yet? Three months away from a person you love is no simple matter, and I think could be indicative of how a more prolonged long-distance relationship might go. Try to use that as a gauge for how well you two could get along when the time comes.
  8. Jan 4, 2015 #7


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    This is a typical case of "crossing a bridge before you come to it."

    Two years is a long time. If the relationship is going well now, concentrate on that. At worst, if the two of you decided that a long distance barrier is going to be too much for you, you will have had at least a few good years together and you will have ben able to enjoy your relationship for what it was. Not everyone gets even that, so when you have a good thing, it's important to hold on to it. Additionally, what seem like clear plans now may not be so clear in the future. Right now you want to study abroad for a PhD... but you're in your second year. Over the next couple of years you'll gain more experience and begin to look at graduate programs from a different perspective. You'll focus in on topics and project that interest you, weigh the potential career implications of certain paths, and ultimately confine your choice to places where you get accepted.

    Even then, if you still chose to study abroad, as far as the long distance thing goes, it's not insurmountable. She may have had a long distance relationship in the past that didn't work out, but (a) it was not with you, and (b) she's (presumably) matured since then. If the relationship continues through graduate school and beyond, what's known unofficially as "the two body problem" will face you just as it has every other academic who has a partner. It can be tough, usually because it requires one person to make sacrifices for the benefit of the two. But people survive it.
  9. Jan 24, 2015 #8
    Thank you so much for your insights. I think that even if this doesn't work out, I would not trade a single moment I share with her for anything in the world. I'll need a few more years to settle my life and gain independence, perhaps that will be asking too much for her to wait, ALONE. But that's a risk I will have to take. I don't even want to think how it would be for me if we broke up because of that. I would always feel that sense of guilt for having left behind an opportunity to establish a family with the person I love. At this moment of my life, it would be quite an ordeal that I would not be able to overcome.
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