If you think life as a PhD student is so hard, you’re absolutely, 100%, unquestionably, RIGHT!
The truth is, it’s super hard it makes the life as his/her partner is NOT easy either! 😄
I’m writing this not to complain about my current situation. Among all, I’m sincerely happy and grateful for whatever happened in the last two years since the day my husband started his PhD journey in Lund University, Sweden.
But, I feel like this is another level of relationship I’ve been dwelling in, by far. So I think it’s a good idea to write it down for a self reflection and to shout out to all PhD student’s partners out there:
I feel you! 😉
For me, being a partner for someone who’s doing PhD means you’re the ROCK of the family. You’ll realise from the very beginning that PhD’s life revolves around thesis: a very particular subject which can turn your life upside down for a very tiny reason.
And if you think your bachelor or master thesis is a high tide, believe me, this one is a tsunami! It’s way more difficult and time consuming it can easily drive you nut! Imagine yourself devoting your life to a very narrow topic for at least three years (in my husband’s case it’s four to five years). This is either boring or isolating. Seriously.
So don’t be surprised if you see your partner’s confidence is frequently in crisis. Sometimes it’s quite high, at other times it’s in the rock bottom simply because she/he had a revelation moment after reading an article or a book.
There’s also a constant worries lingering in the air as PhD students need to be super cautious. They have to be really careful with their statement. They need to keep questioning about their argument. And this takes a long route and even a re-route. I witnessed Zaki reading more than three books just to realise that the books are not relevant for his thesis even though they discuss similar concept, but he got to read them anyway otherwise he’d never know. As someone who once worked in academic environment, I understand how important it is. But still, that left me speechless. 🤦🏻♀️
A PhD student can be really sensitive also. From something you watch on a movie or current affairs you read in the internet, there will be these things that make he/she wonders: “Why did I do this?”, “What’s my contribution to society?”, “This is all wrong,” “I’m not good enough,” et cetera.
So, there should be someone who become the pillar of strength for the family. The one who is strong and sane enough to keep whispering encouragement and affirmative sentences: “You’ll be fine”. “You’re doing great.” “Look again, this is not the end of the world,” “This too shall pass”, and so on.
I also think that being PhD student’s partner means you’re the CLOWN of the family. Why? Well, during the times when your partner’s mood really depends on her/his relationship with the PhD life, you’ll be the one who cheer them up. You got to see always the bright side. You even need a new definition of joke. You got to make peace with the fact that phrases like “literature review” or “theoretical standpoint” will make their way to emerge on your partner’s jokes. 😆
Then, in my case, I feel like being the SPARRING PARTNER as well. My partner and I have similar area and background so he expects me to be his first reader, his editor, his sidekick. This makes my way out from his research topic is barely available. 😅
What happened if you had enough?
Of course there are times when I feel completely overwhelmed with how things are going. Even as a silver lining person by nature who tends to think positively (and naive!) most of the times, I can feel really exhausted.
Thankfully, Zaki understands me, as much as I understand him. He understands that once in few weeks I need to recharge myself and find my solitude. He knows that I have my things too and I need my own time to work on them. Even though I’m (just) doing freelance works now, I got my own deadlines and I have my own life. Not to mention that we have our kid who needs full attention too. So he supports me just like I support him.
Do we ever fight? Yes, of course! Many times to be honest. Haha. But, we keep telling ourselves that in every phase of relationship, there will be something that take it to the next level. For us, one of those is this PhD’s life. This is not easy. Either for him or me. But we believe that at the end, everything will be paid off. After all, education is an investment. It may not give us everything but it surely won’t leave us with nothing.
We both know, this, whatever we’re going through right now, requires synergy more than ever! It might be quite cliche, but I think every accomplishment in relationship is never a sole action. It should come from both sides. It’s a teamwork. It’s not all by myself kind of thing.
So by the time your PhD’s student partner reach the finish line, you know it’s not just his/her achievement, it’s YOURS too. And maybe you should get yourself a “diploma”, “sash”, “tiara” or whatever it is to depict your winning. Because trust me, I, YOU, WE, deserve it!