Can dating and postgraduate studying ever really mix properly?!


I've started seeing this guy who I really like, and the feeling appears to be mutual. I've known him for a while but we've only been romantically involved for the past two weeks - I'm really not looking for a serious relationship at the moment as I'm so busy with my MSc (hopefully soon to be PhD!) and my part time job that most of my evenings are spent working, I don't see as much of my friends as I would like to so I wasn't really looking for a boyfriend. But then he came along, and he is lovely. Despite coming from a different, non-academic background we have a lot in common, shared values etc, and he is so caring etc, it is very early days but I think this could go somewhere, he is exactly what I'd been looking for.

The trouble is though, he is 6 years older than me (nearly 28) and I think he would want to settle down, and I'm nowhere near that stage in my life yet. I also hardly ever have any time to see him, he doesn't live too far away from me but we have conflicting work schedules and I'm at university 2/3 days a week, which is a 120 mile round trip, with the horse as well that takes my day up and I'm always so tired by the time I get home at the end of the day I can't really be asked to doll myself up again to go out. I've had to cancel on him a few times and he's fine with that at the moment, he has loads of mates so he just goes out with them, but I think he's bound to get pissed off sooner or later. And I want to see him as well, not a lot maybe like twice a week, but I just feel unable to at the moment. I'm hoping to do a PhD at the same university so I guess I'm going to get even more stressed and busy, but surely I can have an ok relationship as well - how do you all make it work with your boyfriends/girlfriends? If they don't come from an academic background, do they understand how much it all means to you, does it cause any arguments?

Thanks, Natassia xx


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Hi Natassia! Well I am probably not the best person to advice on guys given all the hassle over my 'guy problem post' during the last few days, but I will offer you my thoughts anyway! Personally I haven't really been seeing anyone seriously since I started my PhD- I broke up with my last serious boyfriend about 18 months ago. To be honest, I would like to find someone but I am so busy that I often think that I wouldn't have the time at the moment. However, I do think that if the right guy came along, I would find the time because it would be special and it would be worth working out. So I think that you need to be honest with him about how busy things are for you at the moment but also be honest with him about your feelings for him, and see if you can come to some sort of agreement about whether you want to give things a shot and if so, how you will work it, e.g. you'll take it slowly, keep it casual to start with, or whatever suits you both. As long as you start off by being honest about your situation and how you would like to be involved with him then I think you have a good chance of working something out. If he genuinely seems like the right guy for you then I would definitely persevere and get to know each other better. You have nothing to lose by trying! I wouldn't worry about his age or the different background thing- there are more important things in life! And sometimes it is nice to hang out with people who don't have their heads full of research questions and statistics! Good luck with it, let us know what you decide & how you get on! If it is meant to be, it will work out. and there are a lot of people I know doing PhDs who are married/in a serious relationship and they manage to work it. I'm not saying that it isn't stressful now and again but I think it's perfectly doable with the right person! Best, KB

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Until you mentioned he lived 120 miles away I was thinking about a stable boy haha! Seriously though I think relationships are totally doable. I got married in my 2nd year PhD. However, new relationships probably do need a bit more maintenance, especially if the other half isn't academic. I guess the best thing to do would be to have a serious chat about expectations. You never know, it may suit him REALLY well to only see you on sat/sun afternoons for a few years. If not he can decide for himself if you give him the option.

I don't think you should give up your life for academic work, just be aware that both sides will need work at different times. There have been whole weeks where I've had to stop study to 'work' on my marriage i.e. go out with hubs to town/cinema etc (so difficult! :p ) I spent the last 2 days working on his thesis with him for example. My thinking is that it would be better to finish my PhD, maybe a month or so later with a great husband, than right on time with a grumpy one!


Hi Natassia
I would agree with the others that it's entirely possible to have a relationship during a PhD, many people (esp on this forum) seem to have the idea that the Phd is this all encompassing rite of passage that takes over your life for 3+ years, but it's not really like that, or at least it doesn't have to be. It's all down to how you work as a person. However, as you already have other committments, as well as doing your masters/PhD, then it's a bit more tricky. If you are still planning to keep your part time job, you will have much less time. You can still see him once or twice a week I'm sure, and if you are both ok with that then great. Just be upfront with him at the start, and if you arrange a time once a week, then you can't cancel or he could get fed up then.
Personally, at the start of my final year of uni I met my boyfriend and he lived in a different city to me so we had to travel to see each other. At the start we didn't see too much of each other, only every other weekend or so because I had a part time job in my home town, which i had to travel home for. After a few months when I realised I had very little spare time due to final year exams etc, I decided that it was either part time work at home or seeing my boyf, and I chose to see him, the money didn't really add to my pocket much anyway! It's been fine ever since, even doing long distance for past few years where he's lived in a different country and we see each other 2 days a month. So I guess it's really up to you, if you are ok with setting aside one night a week and he's ok with that then great. If he's not, then you have to decide if there is anything you can change to see him more, and if he's really great, then he will do his best to understand where you are coming from. :-)


Thanks for the replies ladies...

Sneaks - he is not a stable boy haha - my university is a 120 mile round trip away he works near me and lives about a 20 min drive from me, so not that far!

I am actually really pleased that he doesn't come from an academic background, to be honest I would rather date someone that didn't, I think that sort of difference is quite good for a relationship. He is a very practical person, and he has a very business-like attitude, which I like. He asks me loads of questions about my work though and doesn't seem to get too bored...not yet anyway! He's really supportive and sweet when I'm nervous about something university-related though, and he asks me for advice about his work situations as well - I try not to be too high-maintenance! Age gaps don't bother me at all - I've always been out with guys who are a few years older than me, I'm not really attracted to men my own age to be honest.

We had a phone conversation tonight and he really seems to understand how busy I am at the moment, I'm definitely going to see him this week though, so we can have a chat about expectations etc then. I really don't want to lose him at this stage though, so I will make some time for him. My friends have commented that I seem happier lately, I think that is definitely good for my work as well, so hopefully making time for a bit of romance won't be too detrimental; I think it could teach me to not feel too guilty for spending time away from my work as well. Its difficult because I'm so used to being such an independant person, I've been single for a while so its strange to be thinking about someone else again, but in a totally good way. Nxx


Good stuff Natassia! If you are happier now that you have this guy in your life then obviously he means something to you and that's important. No point being the smartest, most successful person in the world if you're miserable along with it! I really hope you can work it out with him, he sounds like a good 'un!


My answer to the original question is pretty easy. Since women seem to go for one or more of money, looks, and status, and I (1) am a PhD student, so have none, (2) am on antidepressants which make me look bloated and fat, and (3) am a student, I don't think I'm likely to be troubled by the potential pitfalls of dating while doing a PhD, sadly. :-(

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Aw 4matt :-( My husband doesn't have any status (apart from being my husband - which is obviously a saught after position ;-) ), no money at all - I spent it all. he does have good looks, but its not why I married him. Have faith, women aren't all that shallow, maybe just the ones you have your eye on :p

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Yes 4matt, I'll second that: just search through 'eska' and 'inappropriate crushes' for evidence.

Confidence, wisdom, maturity, purpose (which you clearly have in spades), humour and being nice, along with cleanlinees and santy, are, I think, the most attractive characteristics in a man, for most nice women.

Avatar for EV

Hehe Eska, santy made me giggle!! I guess you're right though - what lady wouldn't appreciate a good-humored, generous and extremely efficient gentleman (I mean getting all of his work done in one night must leave plenty of quality time spent with Mrs Claus) :-x


Hi Natassia,

I thought I would put my two cents in, if you are interested. I met my partner six months into my masters and six months from the end of his PhD (he is five years my senior too). It seemed unusual for us to start a relationship, especially since one month into us dating he received a job offer for after his PhD was completed, but it just felt right. We dated properly, seeing each other occassionally on weeknights, but most of our time spent together was on the weekends. We have been together now for over a year, he moved for his job and we travel back and forth on weekends and we spend all of our holidays together. My masters is complete and I found a job at the University, but I am looking to start my PhD soon, and he fully supports it. We know that my PhD will be very different from his, as I intend for my PhD to incorporate life, not put a hold on it like he did with his. I plan on moving over to where he is when my PhD starts and I will commute, as I will be the one with a more flexible schedule. I think despite your new love interest's non-academic background, he should understand the level of commitment you have to your programme, as I am sure there are things in his life that he is full committed to and would want you to understand if he became occupied by them. I wish you the best of luck in your new relationship... they are always so much fun, even if they are stressful, they are worth it for the right person.


Hi Natassia,

I thought I too would give my two cents. My situation was quite different to yours in that my partner and I were together long before i even considered doing my PhD, but I still think it's relevant. You seem worried that you're not going to have the time to see him and make a go of your relationship. Like Algaequeen, I've noticed that several people on this forum believe that the PhD/ masters must take up your whole life or you will inevitably fail / take a million years to complete. This doesn't have to be the case.

I finished my PhD in 2 and a half years. I was also  able to maintain my relationship, spending quality time with my boyfriend several times a week, keep up my social life, work part time (2 full days a week) and maintain my training which averaged about 4/5 times a week. The key is to know when to stop thinking about the PhD. My first year I spent quite a bit of time in the evenings doing work, and it made me miserable. I couldn't see anyone or do anything I wanted to do and that's no way to live. So from about the 7 month point, the PhD became like a job. I worked on it for the 3 days I had available in the week (9 - 4:30) and after that point I stopped and concentrated on my life. It remained that way right up until submission, although I will admit that 6 months before submitting I left my part time job to focus on writing up 5 days a week.

Basically, all I'm trying to say is that it is completely possible to have a life (including boyfriend) outside of a PhD/ masters/ anything. You have to be able to switch off and do other things or you'll go crazy and regret what could have been. Obviously different people work in different ways, and you have to take that into account, but don't think that you have to spend 3 years locked away in a room, isolated from the rest of humanity because you're doing a PhD.

In direct relation to your original post, I think you need to just explain your situation to your boyfriend, so he is aware of it allowing you both the opportunity to discuss it openly. Good luck with it all and I hope it turns out for the best! :-)


I agree with the others - doing a Phd doesn't have to take up ALL your time. It really scares me when people post that as I have to fit mine in with running a household and looking after three children - people assure me it can be done so seeing your boyfriend a couple of times a week sounds a doddle!


Thank you for the new replies to a very old post! Unfortunately I'm not seeing this man any more, for various reasons, but I think my busy schedule made finishing with him easier. Technically I suppose we're on a break, but I can't see anything else happening between us. I'm kind of involved with someone else now, but have no idea where that's going at the moment! The thing is he's as busy as I am so I guess it is easier in a way, but will see how it goes....