Tips from the Wife of a PhD Student

     We are just a few weeks away from the end of Mark's first academic year here at Oxford, and while I will never consider myself an expert on maintaining sanity as the wife of a PhD student, I have picked up a few tips here and there during this first year.

1. Have a life
    This sounds a lot harsher than I mean it to be, honest! Just bear with me...
Find things that you can do that don't necessarily involve your spouse to allow them the time they need to study and research. This could be anything from volunteering to discovering a new hobby.
I never want Mark to feel guilty about not spending time with me because of his work, so I keep myself busy doing other things. I have also surrounded myself with a community of women (some of whom are in a similar situation as me) who I can spend time with and lean on for support.  

2. Intentionally set time aside for one another
     It's all well and good to keep yourself busy and occupied while your spouse studies, but it's even more important that you intentionally set time aside for one another. Schedule in a weekly date night, or even plan a weekend away every month or two. These times are essential to allow you and your spouse to reconnect, catch up, unwind, and spend some quality time together.
     For Mark and myself, it's usually dinner at the pub, or a night in catching up on some of our favourite TV shows. Another place we like to hang out is coffee shops. Often we will both bring something to read or work on and we'll just enjoy being together. Find what works for you and your spouse and intentionally schedule it in. 

3. Be interested
     Try to be genuinely interested in what your spouse is doing / studying. Don't feel you need to extensively read up on the subject or know as much as they do, but when they talk about their area of study, be open to learning about it. I believe this will help them feel like their work is valued and appreciated, and who doesn't like that? (I have also found it helpful to have a 'party answer' ready for anyone who asks what Mark is studying!)
4. Celebrate the little things 
     Your husband completed his first paper? Celebrate. Received that scholarship he applied for? Celebrate. Your wife passed that exam she spent weeks revising for? Celebrate. She had a successful meeting with her supervisor? Celebrate. Term is over? Celebrate. Every success deserves to be celebrated - even if that just means picking up a cheap bottle of wine to enjoy after dinner, or going out for a celebratory ice cream. Don't forget to celebrate even the littlest things - it's worth it! 

5. Don't be afraid to ask for help
     There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help, whether it be seeking advice from another couple in your life, or seeking out professional counseling. I think it's easy to neglect the option of asking for help out of the desire to seem like we have it all together, but the truth is sometimes a little help is just what we need in our marriages. We all go through rough patches and often having someone else there to help navigate the situation can be just what we need to make it through.

    Anyone else out there experiencing life as the wife (or husband) of a PhD student? What advice would you pass on?

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