Doing a PhD while in a relationship


Hi, this is my first time on this forum so I'm not certain about what forum would be most relevant to this thread. I'm on here because I really need some advice from people like yourselves. :-) My boyfriend is in his first year of his PhD and it has been quite difficult for us to adjust. I am genuinely supportive and patient with the situation but sometimes it feels like we're in a long distance relationship. I recently finished a MA but unfortunately can't get any relevant work where I'm living so I'm feeling a bit 'bogged down' and feeling like my life is on hold. I want our relationship to work as I love him deeply but I don't know how to make it better. Sometimes it's fine but then it quickly reverts to feelings of annoyance and upset. I was planning to wait until he completed the PhD before moving country since I am a few years younger than him but now I'm thinking that 3 years is a long wait- alas, I don't want to try long distance if I can help it. I haven't said much to him about how I'm feeling as I don't want to push him away and make him feel any more stressed than he is now. Please help!


This is an unanswerable question. It depends on the people, the relationship, the PhD. I will say though if you think it's stressful now, imagine what it will be like when he's writing up, or waiting for a viva date, or looking for work afterwards.

If you're young, you want or need to move somewhere else for your career - regardless of your partner's situation, whether they are doing a PhD or whatever, then you need to seriously consider what's important to you. Relationships always involve compromise, but when you have to give up something that feels like a part of you it can make you resentful and be quite poisonous. You really need the will to make it work.

Take my post with a pinch of salt, though. I'm currently in the middle of a messy relationship which has sort of broken up and feeling quite mixed up about it all. One of the contributing factors is the fact that I graduated in November and I am still out of work - I have to apply all over the country, too.


Thanks for the reply. Sorry to hear you're having a tough time at the moment too. Being fully qualified yet not being able to get work is very frustrating and damaging to some relationships. I hope your partner is being somewhat supportive of your feelings?
I'm in my mid 20s so in one way I'm thinking that I'm young and there's no rush but on the other hand I think lots of experience is essential if I want to become successful in later years. I may look into doing another course or an internship to keep me occupied for now.
He seems to handle stress well but, as you said, it's only going to get worse. I even dislike the fact that he spends more time with his colleagues than with me; it just seems unfair..I guess that's like most employment situations though so I shouldn't have a problem with that.

Avatar for sneaks

So you're not working now?

I'd definitely get a job, the market is tight now, and having holes on your CV is not a good idea if you can help it. Why do you have to move country?


Oh I'm working, it's just not relevant to my studies- I've handed out many CVs in my city and neighbouring areas but there are literally no vacancies- as in employers have stopped taking in CVs! I don't want to give too much detail incase my partner is on this site too.

Avatar for sneaks

Is it conceivable to get a job relevant to your studies elsewhere, but be able to see your other half 3-4 days a week (e.g. you could mon-fri it somewhere and see him at least on fri, sat, sun nights)


That would most likely mean renting two places out simultaneously but yep I'll probably have to do that if I can afford it. I'll bring it up with my boyfriend and let you know how it goes :-) I guess we only see eachother 2 to 3 days a week anyway..

Avatar for sneaks

People do offer mon-fri accomodation in most cities, so you lodge/rent from them only for the days you actually want it, and it would just be a room, so cheaper than a whole flat.

Its a tricky one, sensible me would advise you not to compromise your career for your other half, because one day you may resent him for that. But then I also know what's its like to want to spend time with them!

Avatar for Pjlu

======= Date Modified 12 Feb 2012 10:37:27 =======
I'm going to add a bit of a different spin on this. I do understand the feelings, gave up some really big aspects of myself for a relationship that lasted years but ultimately ended with me walking away with nothing but the memories.

So yeah, I did make a choice that saw me making sacrifices for my relationship (and sacrifices for my children from a early ill-fated marriage) and while I never begrudged the things I postponed or adapted for my children, I certainly got a bit frustrated and fought hard against being bitter about what I perceived I had given up for my second partner and that particular relationship. However, viewing it all from a distance, I don't regret it. Study, career, all of these are important but nothing to compare against people and real, living, supportive relationships. Even if they don't last forever.

The other thing I would say is that all through a marriage, partnership or real relationship there will be times when one partner makes an adjustment for a time, so that the other can achieve a dream. Not forever, it needs to be clearly delineated and timebound, and it needs to be reciprocated. In other words, this time it might be one partner's turn, in a couple of years, it might be the other partner's turn to support their loved one in a different dream or undertaking. Phd's are not the only reason to make an adjustment like this- people get dream jobs and the other partner moves and has to wait for a while before their dream job comes get my drift. It never really works out perfectly for both at the same time but in the long run
you have to weigh up whether your relationship is more important than your present circumstances ( not forever-you do need careers, identities, self-fulfilment as well) but just for a short time. And as Sneaks pointed out, you can (and people do) manage distance relationships, so long as they are not too long and too distant.