Marriage and Physician Assistant School

a couple

By far I get the most emails, comments and questions about marriage and PA school.  I am having a hard time keeping up with all the questions, so I am creating this follow-up post to help answer more of those burning questions.

I love questions! So keep them coming!

Okay, here we go…

  1. How do you and your husband work out possible feelings of neglect since you are at school all day and when you come home you have to study?

I think  one of the best ways to prevent any feelings of neglect is to make sure your spouse or significant other is busy.  The couples that had the most trouble were ones where the spouse wasn’t working and was at home bored all day.  Then when the PA student came home from school, their spouse was really needing attention.  If the spouse can’t find a job, they should definitely get a hobby.  That is actually the reason I started blogging 4 years ago–my husband was working and I was at home bored. Dennis is very busy with his work, so most of the time I am studying he is still working.

Another way we prevented those feelings of neglect was that I worked hard to plan an hour  with the hubs each night.  Often that consisted of eating dinner together and going for a walk, but some nights it was watching a TV episode together and eating dessert.  I decided my marriage was worth losing a point or two on a test.  Being perfect isn’t always as important as being healthy.  I never failed/remediated an exam…so I think it worked out.  Maybe those breaks were beneficial to my academics.

As a student, one of my favorite things was that Dennis would get his project or book and come into the same room with me while I was studying.  It just felt good to share the same space even though we weren’t talking.  Sharing the same room didn’t work for some of my classmates because the spouse kept talking…so you have to figure out what works for both of you.  Another of my classmates had her husband quiz her all the time…I figured Dennis would die of boredom if he had to do that, but again…figure out what works for you.

2. Some schools talk a lot about having “cohort” events and such. Does your school have these? If so, how do you manage that while also being married? 

My school did have a few social events, and often spouses were invited.  I am naturally very introverted so we had a discussion before each of these events on whether or not he should come.  The decision usually revolved around the purpose of the event.  If it was an event where it was important for me to be socializing with classmates or professors I would often go by myself because I knew I would just hide in a corner with Dennis if he went with me to the event.  

However, if it was a “fun” event, like a movie or grilling out, Dennis would go with me if he could get away from work.  He is way more extroverted than me, so once I introduced him to people he helped carry on the conversation.  We make a good team in social settings, so when that was appropriate I asked him to come along with me.  I also made sure that I only had him come to events where I could be with him most of the time or where he knew quite a few people.  I hate going to socials for his job where I get left sitting at a table for long periods of time in a room full of people I barely know.

If you aren’t sure if bringing a spouse to an event is appropriate…ask!  Dennis has to ask all the time with events for his job.  It is far better to ask than inappropriately show up with a spouse.

3.  Do you have advice on how I can encourage/help my spouse while they are in PA school?

One of the biggest things is letting them know you support them, 100%.  Keep encouraging them and try to stay as positive as possible.

Dennis was so supportive.  I would often ask him, “would you mind helping me study for a minute?”  And his instant reply was always to drop what he was doing and say, “whatever you need.”  That meant so much!  He has had his ears examined more times in the last year than should be allowed and his blood pressure taken until I am sure he thought I was going to make his arm fall off.  He also recognized that the week before exams was my hardest and most stressful week, so he would buy me flowers or do all the household chores.  I tried to return that favor the week after exams by helping him out for a week.  Balance.

My mom was also a huge support during PA school…and this idea may work well for a spouse or partner who is long distance.  She sent me a card every week with little words of encouragement and often $5.  It may not seem like much, but $5 in PA school really helps with the coffee addiction and little things that come up where you need cash.  Plus, the thought that she was thinking of me and supporting me was just a constant reminder that I wasn’t doing everything alone.  And who doesn’t love getting mail?

4.  What about money?

One of the top things married people fight about is money.  Fortunately Dennis and I almost never have a disagreement about money because we are both savers and occasional spenders, but I wanted to address this topic.  Talk about money!  Have a tuition plan and budget in place so that you and your spouse are on the same page.

 I would encourage you to have as little debt as possible, however, don’t skimp on loans in a way that makes you miserable.  You can’t function if all you are eating is PB&J.  Find a good balance.  A budget is a wonderful way to create that balance.  We allowed enough money for us to eat out nice 2/month or fast-food (pizza) 4-5/month.  Leave room for some fun…  

Whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.  -Proverbs 13:11

I have no idea how we have been able to pay for so much of school except by the blessings of God and storing up little by little.  PA school is very expensive! At my school the full cost of tuition is about $80,000 for two years.  Each month we  have a couple dollars here or there in the budget leftover and I roll it into the tuition budget….and every semester when it is time for us to pay tuition I am shocked at how much we were able to save.  We still need to take out loans, but we have been amazed at how much we were able to pay out of pocket, far more than we originally anticipated.

I could talk on and on about budgets and money, but the biggest thing is just to have that discussion with your spouse to avoid any future fights, especially fights about it during PA school.  You definitely don’t want to be stressing about money while you are trying to study.

(if you have more questions on this topic email me or leave a comment)

5.  Do you think date nights are a good idea?

We had a date night every Friday night.  It often consisted of homemade pizza and a movie or a TV episode.  It was as beneficial for Den as it was for me.  It gave me something to look forward to and work towards each week.  I also think your brain needs a mental break too.  We didn’t do this at first, and I wish we would have started sooner.

6.  Everyone seems to mention divorce and I have heard stories of affairs, how did you prevent those temptations?

Be wise in who you study with during PA school.  Affairs don’t start overnight.  It usually begins with a casual conversation or repeatedly studying with someone, who even though you may not think of them in that way, but after you spend a lot of time with someone it is easy to feel an attraction.  I almost always studied in groups or with my female classmates.  I am definitely not saying you can’t study with other people in your class, but I am throwing out that cautionary warning.  I’ve seen it happen…

This book is actually great at seeing how how affairs happen in a marriage.  It was interesting to read how innocent friendships and conversations led people down the road to adultery and discontentment with their spouse.  I will say this book isn’t perfect, so some advice can be left in the book, but it does provide a greater understanding of how easily affairs can happen and I think awareness is half the battle.     (check out other marriage books here)

I also told Dennis all about my classmates and who I was studying with.  I know it may seem silly, but it was my idea and I think it just helped to remove any temptations.  We never threaten one another with divorce, and divorce is never mentioned in our home.  We decided early on that divorce was not an option in our marriage, and I pray it always stays that way.

On to a lighter note….

7.  Final words of wisdom.

Talk about everything….expectations, goals, plans.  In advance!  Before any situation arises.  For example, what would happen if you got pregnant?  Or how do you plan to replace the car that is getting along in years?  When will we visit family?  Are we going to take a vacation this year?  Who is responsible for sending out birthday cards for the family?

The more you talk about things and discuss issues as they come up, the better your relationship will be.  PA school can make your relationship even stronger if you are committed.

Hope that helps!! 

All of these answers and opinions are from my own personal experience and relationship…these are meant to be encouraging and informative.  Take what you want from the post and leave the rest behind.

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