How to support a PhD during writing up


Hi All

I finished my PhD (social sciences) last year. My new-ish boyfriend (5 months) is on the brink of going into the writing up phase of his PhD (hard sciences). I want to support him, but our experiences are quite different because our fields are so different. I want to find out if you guys can share some tips on how you like to be supported, or what I can do to help/encourage - keeping in mind that I do not reeeeally understand the challenges specific to his study. I try to listen as best I can, but he withdraws when he becomes really stressed. My main obstacles are that we don not live together (or even close together - in fact I'm about to move quite far away - think a 2 hour flight) so small things like making tea/coffee/dinner etc are not that easy/simple. Being a post-doc also means money is quite tight for me at the moment - making lost of gifts/surprises a little difficult as well. Oh and because we haven't been together that long, I guess there is that struggle of trying to not take it personally when he is stressed/distant/just being weird.
Anyway, any advice would be fantastic and much appreciated. Thank you!


For me personally I just wanted to be left alone to get on with it and I asked people not to contact me or invite me anywhere, and I booked time ahead to see people on my one day off a fortnight... This was easy for me as I didn't have a partner though.

I'm not sure anyone but him will know what he wants.


I am writing up at the moment. This isn't really helpful to you but I really want someone else to do the shopping and make dinner. In fact, if my husband is reading this - MAKE THE DINNER! Other than that, I think you have to take your cues from him.


I would second above, make dinner and do the cleaning! Also, occasionally, take me out for dinner and don't hassle me or distract me from writing!


If you are not living together you don't have to do anything in my opinion. Just be understanding and not pissed if he is busy or generally spends less time with you. That's it.
Writing is part of every PhD and I think you can still manage to prepare your own food and clean at least a little bit from time to time, so your place is not a complete mess ;) I know tons of single people who wrote their PhD theses without additional support. He will make it ;)


When I was writing up my partner basically did all the housework, cooking, and generally stuff that I'd do around the house. He used to tell me that even though I was at home all the time - he worked from home as well but he worked in his study upstairs while I did my writing downstairs so we stayed out of each other's way - it was as if I wasn't there because I was so absorbed in my writing. To make it up to him I'd go out to a late night movie or just eat out one day in a week.
I agree with Dunham though, if you guys are not living together I don't think there is much you can do. Just be there when he calls you to chat/moan or whatever. You calling him and checking up on him will be nice but again, I think the timing is crucial as the last thing you want is to distract him when he is in the middle of writing! Best of luck!


Hi all,

Thanks very much for the helpful replies - I think it is so easy to forget what things are like when you are writing up. :-) I stopped by his place the other night, with dinner already mostly prepared, cooked while he went for a run, quickly ate with him, took the dishes with me and left him to get right back into it - and I could tell he really appreciated it. It really is the little things. I'll try and do more practical stuff like that, and for the rest just not distract him Thanks again to all of you and all the best with the PhDs!


Sounds perfect Ellebelle :)

Avatar for Pjlu

Being supported for me is when family or friends provide an opportunity for a break. I tend to think along the lines of what Dunham was saying with regards to cooking and cleaning, I know things get hectic and its nice to have people do things for you, but I believe it is important to continue to do some of the real things in life sometimes (even when writing up), even if you don't do them very well or dinner is just instant rice, tinned chilli tuna and packet frozen veggies microwaved together.

So the best way people support me is by allowing me to take a break from the work when I do need one by being happy to just laugh, socialise, enjoy a drink or some food or a movie or Netflix together. The other thing is being understanding when yet another weekend involves lots of writing. Having said that, I think it is important to make some time for the people you love, even if it isn't as much during the final stages.

It sounds like you made your boyfriend very happy though Ellebelle, with your support and care. :)