Relationships are an important part of life: friendships, romantic relationships, family relationships, and professional relationships. If you’re partnered at all, you might find that things get rocky at times while you’re in grad school. Graduate school is a world of its own, with relationships of all kinds, obligations, and lots and lots of work. It is an added stressor to the relationship, and sometimes the source of tension. Don’t panic, though – you don’t have to sacrifice either one for the other. There are things you can be mindful of that might help to reduce strain on your relationships.
If you’re not partnered, you might notice that relationships with your friends or family become strained because of graduate school obligations and work. It’s still important to nurture relationships of different kinds while in grad school. You are more than a grad student, and I know it feels like your time is constantly in demand with school and work – but making the effort to spend some time with others can nurture your soul, recharge your brain, reduce negative emotion, and more. (Check out our blog post on why it’s so important to stay connected).
Communicate. This might seem like a no-brainer, since communication is key in any relationship. But it’s easy to let it slip when you have 4 papers due in two weeks, research to do, meetings, and a job to keep up with. Pulling late nights and getting out the door early in the morning can lead to a lack of face-to-face communication with a romantic partner, especially. Make time to really talk with your partner – meals, weekend times, nights – whenever works best for both of you. Engage in honest and open communication about what your expectations are, what you’re feeling, and what’s going on in your life. Be sensitive to their feelings and receive their communication openly. A shared calendar can help keep both of you up to date with changes in plans or who-has-what-when.
Compromise. Sometimes things come up, especially with work or school. Unexpected meetings with your Chair, make-up classes, cramming for a final, or a work demand can all throw a wrench into one’s plans. It’s important to remember that you/your partner/your friend are likely to have unexpected situations arise from time to time, and that’s okay. But make sure you find time to set your work or school obligations aside and spend some quality time together. It’s important to make time for relationships despite academic or job expectations.
Schedule! With so many obligations that you, your partner, and your friends have, the days of spontaneous activities might be limited for a bit – and that’s okay! Scheduling a date or scheduling a time to hang out doesn’t take any fun out of it. Just the opposite: it ensures that both of you can make it and makes the time spent together a priority. However, once it’s scheduled, do not bail. Don’t reschedule because “It’s just socializing, it’s not as important as X.” Make it a priority.
Pay attention. When you’re with family, friends, or a partner, be present. Pay attention to them. Don’t get distracted with thoughts of your research, all the things you are behind on, or things coming up at work this week. Put your phone away and really be with the person.
Don’t forget about YOU. Spend time with yourself, too. Self-care is important and that doesn’t always mean you should go to a spa or have a candlelit bath. It can be as simple as taking an hour or two to have you favorite coffee drink at a café, while reading a book. It could mean taking a nap when you start to feel run down, instead of pushing yourself to exhaustion. Our blog post about self-care has some good ideas here.
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