I am married to Grad School

I could totally go for one of Jamie’s Situational Boyfriends.

My dating life has been practically nonexistent since May 2007.  I made the decision to be  single for a year so I could get my priorities in order, focus on getting into grad school, and discover who I really am.  Also, I wanted to figure out why I was making such huge errors in judgment when it came to men.  I decided to get back into dating once I started grad school, but it has not gone well.  I went on a few real dates, I asked out a guy last year who said no, and the last guy who asked me out apparently had a girlfriend already.  Dating in grad school is hard.  For some of us, it is almost impossible.  Not that it isn’t always hard work, but there is an added dimension of “dating fail” for us grad students.

First dates

First dates are sometimes awkward. I value my education, but don’t want to come across as snobby. It is awkward for someone who hasn’t completed a higher degree because he doesn’t know what to say to someone who is more educated.  It doesn’t matter that I have a life outside of academics. All they see is a bubble with “PhD” floating above my head.  And all I see is someone who I’ve dated a million times or someone who is apathetic about setting goals for his future. Maybe he wants a girl who is ready to settle down and have kids, someone who will be a remarkable homemaker and mother.  Maybe I want to find a guy who is not turned off by my brain. It isn’t that there is anything wrong with either of us.  It is not that we want the wrong things in a partner. We are just not right for each other.

Where I (don’t) meet guys

Dating within your program is usually frowned upon.  It is difficult to date within a program because it is a professional environment so the rules of dating a coworker apply here.  In addition, we spend so much time together in class, in our labs, or in study groups that we become more like a family.  It is hard to think of even the cutest guys in the group as dating material.

I spend most of my time at home, at work, on campus (in class, in meetings, in my labs) or commuting. That does not leave much time to go out and meet other singles. I am also over that phase of my life where I want to spend every evening dressing up to go clubbing and partying.  I enjoy a glass of wine, but don’t want to get smashed every night.  If I have free time, I would rather spend that time with my close friends or decompressing somehow.

Saving the best for last

Some of my best friends are married couples.  It is inspiring to see people I love who are married and have good relationships.  (You know who you are!)  For awhile I felt a little self-conscious hanging out with married couples as a third wheel, but now I savor every moment. I not only get to hang out with amazing friends, but I am exposed to models of what a healthy, happy relationship should be.

Most of my friends are married or are in a long term relationship.  Of all my high school friends, I can count on one hand how many of us are still truly single.  My college friends who are single? Again… one hand.  What’s more… many people my age have already been married, divorced and have kids.  I stumbled upon this article in Jezebel about the detriment of settling for a guy too soon:

Just because you settle down doesn’t mean you marry a good man.

It is true that many people stay in the same place their entire lives and end up marrying their high school sweetheart or someone they meet in college.  A lot of women go to college with the intention of getting their M.r.s.  In my case, I have moved roughly every 5 years since I was born.  I almost settled down with my high school sweetheart after an on again off again relationship.  Sure, we could have gotten married, but we would not have stayed married.  It doesn’t mean we didn’t love each other, but we were too young to make decisions about our futures.  I look back now and know with absolute certainty I am better being single.  I have only recently discovered who I am (and still learning, by the way), what I am made of, what I need in life.  How could I have known what kind of man is right for me until now?

The good news

There are amazing men out there. I have met them. Sure, they are already married because a woman found them and snatched them up immediately!!! But I will meet more intelligent, handsome, mature, kind men in my future.  And they will be single. And they will ask me on a date. And it will go splendidly.

So, if I’ve been single this long, why do I want a man?

Ultimately, I want a companion. Someone with whom I can share the good times and the bad times.  I want to come home after a long day to see a man with whom I am head over heels in love.  I don’t need a man to “take care of me.”  I need a man to hold my hand, kiss me, and tell me everything is going to be OK when I feel overwhelmed.  I need a man to make me laugh out loud. I’ve found that some of the most successful people in grad school are those with a secure family life at home. Having someone home to do the dishes, take care of finances, and run errands even for a few days of the week can be a grad student’s saving grace. It is nearly impossible to balance everything, so having that support system in place is crucial.

Life is so much better when we can share it with someone.  It doesn’t matter how successful I am in the future if I am traveling the world alone. My life is complete.  I am content.  I love my life and where it is going. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to share my life with another human being.

So, what is your experience being single in grad school? Or your experience being married?


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34 thoughts on “I am married to Grad School

  1. I know this post is a year old, but I’m compelled to comment because …. those first date conversations. !!! Wow. Awkward indeed. Anyway, it sounds like you have thought a lot about know what you are looking for and what you are NOT looking for, which are both so important. Good for you. I do want to say that, if you find the right person, you will definitely be able to keep the single person pros. :) I

    (Btw — Your comment about dating internet friends made me think about how the author of Orangette met her husband — he emailed her because he liked her blog, they started a long distance relationship, and they eventually married and opened a restaurant together! I love that story.)

    1. Haha no worries! This is my second most popular post actually (the first is about applying to grad school). I get emails every once in awhile about it. You are right that finding the right person will not mean I lose all the single person pros. :) It’s just finding the right person that has been tricky.

  2. haha… hilarious read.

    not to forget that this is an important article for all those slogging out in grad school. soon i’ll be in to a doctoral program and can only live through what you have described here as I’m single as well!

    at one point i hated fiction but soon that changed and I’m more in to fiction these days.

  3. Hi there, I’m new here, obviously as I comment on this a year later.
    I am here to tell you though that I was married to grad school AND had a boyfriend. It wasn’t pretty.
    Note: My boyfriend is the love of my life and we will be together forever. The proof of that is we survived my 10 month accelerated master’s degree program together.
    But at one point, I didn’t think we were going to make it. As someone else in my grad class said, “This program has the make or break it effect on relationships.”
    You will know when you find the right person – as he will truly embrace the fact that grad school is a big part of your life.

    And I have had those awkward conversations with people who I wasn’t trying to date. Some just don’t get it.

    1. Thanks for reading. :)
      I’ve seen relationships flourish and grow in grad school. People get engaged, get married, find love. Most of those relationships were strong before grad school or they started towards the very end of a graduate career. The whole dating thing is that weird in between.
      I’m so happy that you are still with your boyfriend and that your relationship made it. It breaks my heart to see relationships crumble in my program.
      I think I will be ready by summer to start dating again. I’ve gained 30 pounds in two years and just really want to get my health back in shape. I work two jobs and am in a doctoral program full time and when I had some family issues come up, I just lost myself. I’m on the right track now and I’d rather be OK with myself before I try to be with someone.

      And seriously… I LOVE meeting people who’ve been in grad school or who are in grad school. It’s hard for others to related. <3 Thankful for meeting you on Twitter.

  4. Two things: One – I love what you said about hanging out with your married friends. I have some really solid examples of strong, loving relationships I hope to mimic in couples like Michelle and Chris, my sister and her husband, and other friends.

    Two – while I should be able to talk about how I started a relationship with a guy I met initially on 20sb… it really was born out of a friendship, like most other relationships I’ve started, so I don’t think there’s a formula other than pursuing friendships first and getting to know other like-minded people, or those that make you laugh (as was my first draw to my manfriend here).

    Come visit us out here?

    1. It is funny that most of my best friends now are married couples. Chris and Michelle. Melissa and JD (they live here). And Tamara and Jonathan (they live in DC). They are so amazing. They are all SO different, too, which makes it even more rewarding. They all have different goals, lifestyles, interests, etc.
      And as for meeting someone online… I think right now it has been INCREDIBLY rewarding to meet so many wonderful men since I’ve been on Twitter. Some of them are married or in relationships, but they give me hope that there is a guy out there for me. I have met a couple guys that I think of as more than friends, but since we live in different cities, friendship is where we have to start. So what you said it great.
      I am thinking about coming up your way this summer. June or July?

  5. Haha, I loved reading about your conversations. I completely agree that first dates are totally awkward.

    Thanks for your comment on my guest blog at Ashley’s. Glad I found your blog through it.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. I am also glad you found my blog! I loved your guest post and I think it will be helpful for people who are in the process of moving. Nice to meet you!

  6. Dating aside, these are the very reasons why I have trouble making friends right now. Either people are way too intimidated by my “smarts” (what they can’t imagine is how stupid I feel most of the day) or they are also in academia and so pretentious I can hardly stand it!

    Also, I appreciate what you said about not minding being friends with married folks, as one of those-I totally hate the fact that single people are bothered by it, and exclude me from things. Just because I have a partner doesn’t mean I don’t still need friends. I love my husband, but he certainly doesn’t fill every need that I have.

    That being said, don’t sell those single pros short. Although most things I miss about being single are really mostly things that I miss doing before I had a kid. I envy single people almost everyday, and I’m happily married – so enjoy it while you can! Married people aren’t really getting all those warm and fuzzies that you listed. Most of the one’s I know are simply cohabitating with someone who annoys them a large percentage of the time. :)

    Sometimes I think that a relationship is just finding someone whose neuroses mesh with your own. The main thing is making sure that they will continue to mesh well as they change.

    1. You are so right.
      It is amazing how I have become so close to my friends now that I am single. I have made new friends that are worth more to me than I could ever imagine!
      I also know what you mean about making friends in your program. Thankfully, there are a handful of people in my program who are balanced and wonderful friends! :)
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. <3

  7. Thank you for blogging this! I can totally relate. It’s a relief to hear that there is someone out there who’s gone through similar dating incidents. It’s not that easy to date when you have set priorities for grad school/your future. I can imagine trying to juggle that with getting to know someone off the bat can be difficult. I’m working full-time and I’m preparing to take some pre-reqs this Fall before I take the plunge to reapply to a program for a Masters in Education. Your post is comforting to know it’s okay to not settle just because…
    I hope you find your companion! =)

    1. Aw, I am so happy you can relate to this post. Honestly, I have been relieved to find others who identify with this! Sometimes it seems like I’m the only one in the world who is single in her twenties and going to school full time! 😀 Good luck with grad school applications! It is an exciting, but stressful process, but you will do great! I also you you find your companion. :)

  8. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated reading this post. Can totally relate! I also made a conscious decision to not date anyone before going to grad school (law school in my case), and it’s been not as easy as I would’ve liked to get back into it. Granted, I haven’t put myself out there as much as you have. But doing so can be scary… Especially coming from a place where you’re comfortable with your friends, your job, your environment, and then transplanting yourself into a different world (and different city). It’s hard to get your bearings.

    Looking forward to reading more about your grad school experience. It’s sometimes reassuring that there’s [hopefully] at least one good guy left out there, somewhere. But at the same time, that idea makes the whole process more antagonizing!

    1. Happy to hear from another single female blogger in grad school! It is tough putting ourselves out there. And trust me, I have not put myself out there nearly enough. It is scary and antagonizing, as you said. I have met some wonderful people by blogging, but we live in different cities! Talk about a double whammy… long distance dating in grad school? Yikes. I hope you are able to find a wonderful man! <3

  9. Yes. A resounding YES! You’ve totally typified the kinds conversations that happen on dates…wow. I agree with your post (it’s tough while in grad school…time-wise, and being-able-to-relate-wise). And the last couple of paragraphs. EXACTLY.

    1. I am so glad to hear from other single ladies in grad school that I am not the ONLY one who has these types of conversations on dates. whew! :) Thanks for your comments! <3

  10. Blergh. I’m totally with you. I’m working full-time and I’m in an online Grad. certificate program in Children’s Literature. So I definitely understand not really having the time to date, but that guys don’t understand? Tell me about it! I don’t know how many times I’ve told a guy that I study children’s literature and he’s like, Wait, like you write papers on Dr. Suess? So frustrating because then I can’t even explain that there’s a purpose behind it because he’s so belittled my education choices.

    I’m starting my Master’s in Publishing in the Fall, while also working full-time. Plus I live at home with my parents. I’m debating putting up a sign on my bedroom door that just says, “The Convent.” Ideas?

    Also, welcome to blogging!

    1. That is great you are working so hard in school, especially to do something you enjoy. School is tough and that is why everyone doesn’t do it! I totally understand the Convent thing… haha… as I’ve been toooootally single for three years! Online dating is meant for people like us, I think. :)

  11. Single guy here, a professional and a musician, incidentally. But I have a degree (BA in English Lit. + IT certified), and even I know that intelligence is nothing to lord over people. It’s poor tact.

    It may be because I had a job at a bar and had to interact with all sorts of people, but I’m finding that there’s a pretty obvious divide between intelligence and wit. The smart guys you listed here have spent all of their time honing their intelligence that they hadn’t considered social context…!

    Lastly, I am offended by that guy who claims you can’t learn anything from fiction. Maybe he never learned what symbolism / metaphors / allegories can do.

    1. I thankfully know more people who DO understand the purpose and benefits of reading/watching fiction, but the TV/fiction thing has come up numerous times with men in my life. I also get dogged for using Twitter and other forms of social media by people in my program. (I hate to mention they are all alcoholics, while I have a social network I can rely on when things get ugly.)
      It has been difficult to find a guy who is comfortable with me being in school and who knows I am more than the degree I am working toward. It is a huge part of my life, but not all of it. I love that I am able to find balance in my life. I can read for work and school 10 hours a day, but I can also get a manicure and watch Bravo and read Harry Potter. You are SO right when you say these guys spend all their time trying to be so damn smart and now lack some basics of human interaction.
      Again, I just haven’t met the right guy for me. He’s out there somewhere. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  12. I loved this post, I had the opposite issue – when I moved to grad school, tons of boys to date. No girls to hang out with (I’m in Computer Science). But in my undergrad it was like this, non-geeks were all “why on earth would you study Computer Science?”, and the geeks thought I wasn’t geeky enough.

    My boyfriend is great but dating in grad school is hard too, weird schedules with late classes, and because those days where you’re like, “I’ve done enough, I can hang out” are so rare ours pretty much never overlap so that we end up hanging out together and going to do something fun.


    > I can go to a coffee shop to work without a problem, but I
    > do not like to eat at restaurants alone, see movies alone
    > or go to a bar alone no matter how many times I have
    > tried.

    Yeah me too. I don’t mind lunch at a (low-key) restaurant but dinner is no go.

    1. I can’t really even imagine having a boyfriend with my schedule. But I would do my best to make it work if he was a great guy.

      Iknow a lot of people break up with their significant others because if the other person is not in school, he or she does not understand why it is so intense. Others get divorced or have major rough patches.

      I won’t be finished with school until I am around 32, so I hate to wait THAT long to meet a nice man! :)

  13. I’m so glad you’ve started a blog. I know all of this about you, but it’s so heartwarming to be able to sit down at the end of a long day of code slinging and read something you’ve written.

    Does that make me a dork? Probably. Whatever.

    Anyway … Doni blogged late last year about what she called “The Cocktail Question” [1], which opened some interesting insights in that ice-breaker that you ask people in an effort to get to know them.

    She took the standard “What do you do?” question and blew it out of the water with a brilliantly comprehensive answer. I tried to take a similar stab at the same old, boring question in her comments.

    Then, several weeks later, I found a blog entry by a guy named Aaron Swartz, who was trying to find a new ice-breaking question to ask potential employees. [2]

    His final selection is so brilliant that I wish I could claim it as my own.

    1: http://doniree.com/2009/09/14/the-cocktail-question/
    2: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/smalltalkq

      1. oh and all the squishy stuff about reading my blog after a long day? totally dorktastic. but that is one of the bazillion reasons you’re one of my favorite married besties.

    1. I read Doni’s awesome post. I tend not to start my date conversations about grad school because I know how they will end up. But usually the guy asks me “What do you do?” So maybe I need to just tell them that I do not answer such questions so it doesn’t come up until we’re on 3rd base? :)

  14. As one of your ‘count on one hand’ single friends, I lol’d at those conversations. Especially the “i don’t watch tv, tv is shit. why read fiction blah blah i’m so smart and am gonna show off how smart i am by pretending i only engage in intellectual pursuits” gaaawd i hate that 😛 My favorite conversation is the ‘why aren’t you seeing anyone?’ which I never really know how to answer. Like there must be a hot perfect smart funny guy that i just keep turning down over and over again and that’s why i’m single.

    I just had a conversation with 2 of my married guy friends and they both agreed that where we live, it sucks to be a single woman because there are no good guys left that aren’t taken. They both couldn’t think of any single guys they thought were good people but could think of like, 10 single women who were totally rad.

    But anyway, i’ve grown so used to being single, that i almost can’t imagine sharing my space and life with someone other than my dog 😛 Having a roommate helps with about half of the cons on your list (mainly having cooking/cleaning buddies and movie/bar/restaurant buddies), the rest suck. And the pros are pretty great too.

    1. :)
      Maybe when I move this summer I will just get a roommate. You are right that it would help cut back on the cons. I am also so used to being single that it is almost hard for me to imagine another person in my bed, or bathroom, or kitchen. Remember that conversation we had with your parents at dinner a few years ago about not waiting too long to get married because we will be so set in our ways?! Man were they right. Hah.

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