Relationship vs PhD (time management)


Hello all,

I've been thinking whether to write this or not but thought why not share what im going through. Im 22 yrs old, started my PhD last October and I've been in a this current relationship since December... going to be 3 months by this Friday. Sometimes i feel as if i have time for everything but not my thesis and its bothering me a lot. I spend week days reading some articles and organising my scholarship fees filling out forms etc... and going to the gym and have badminton practice twice a week... then during the weekends i spend all days either sleeping or out with my boyfriend. Basically i meet up with my boyfriend during the weekend only and sometimes he insists on meeting during the week... he works 9 - 5 job .. i tried working during those times so that in the evening i could meet up with him but as i spend all morning contacting the university as everytime something crops up with my scholarship thing either to fill a form or something... and therefore i spend the entire evening on research and dont have time to meet my boyfriend as id rather then spend all weekend with my boyfriend... however i feel as he doesnt understand the pressure im in as for instance this week i need to hand in my first chapter.

i dont know if im wasting his and my time in this relationship or should break up and focus on my studies only .... I've had many guys asking me out but turn them down as im afraid of failing my studies thinking that eventually into the relationship he wont understand how much time research takes and id give up time for him rather than my studies. I would like to get married and have a family but also have a PhD and a successful career .. or maybe its true as they say... you cant have everything in this world :-(

sorry for all this but im really stuck :s

ecas0002 :-(


I think you can have both - but it needs good time management. Why don't you work from 9 till 5 just as he does, and then spend the rest of the time however you wish, whether that be with him, or going to the gym/badminton practice (in fact why don't you ask him to come along to that?) Also, why is filling forms taking so much time of your time (it shouldn't)? I don't think you should give up your personal life, it isn't healthy.

It might help if you explain to your partner the pressures you are under. Maybe you should agree with him to spend two weekday evenings and one day on the weekend together, so that you are spending time together equally across the week. Thats just a suggestion - the best thing to do is to sit with him and come to some type of comprimise - some schedule that works well for both of you. All the best :)


Hey Ecas, I can really relate to what you're saying here- I'm final year and got engaged to my boyf about a month ago, although we've only actually been seeing each other for about 8 months. So we started off whilst I was in the middle of second year and was very busy, and at the time he was unemployed and wanted to spend every minute of his life with me. Now, he's just about to start a 9-5 job. It's tough, but I think you have to lay down some sort of guidelines and stick to them. Like you, I'm off to the gym every evening too, so it does make things tricky. But I sort of lay down the rules right away- I just said my PhD is extremely important to me and I'm at a busy time in my life, I need to exercise every day or else I feel rubbish (I'm bipolar), but around that I will do everything I can and bend over backwards to make sure we see each other and that we have enough time for it to work. We did go through phases where he would ask if I could meet him on a weekday for the day, and I had to explain that even though I'm a student, it's really much more like a job and that I needed to work Mon-Fri, and I had to stick to that even though I felt really mean. So now we usually see each other once or twice in the week and spend a full day together at the weekend. It's not really a lot, and I know he wishes we were together more, but he knows that I do everything I can to make time for us to do things together, and we will be moving in together before too long anyway. I also make sure that when we have a day together, we do something special and make sure it's a great day- we don't just slob around watching dvds all day or whatever. So if you like this guy, then I think you can make it work- but be clear (and honest) about when you can see him, and obviously you need to take into account his preferences and needs as well. And make the time you have together special...have cool days out, try new things together, random things that neither of you have done before and that you can laugh about. As long as the time you have together is good quality time then I think you'll be fine!

I absolutely believe that you can have a family and a career. My sup is strongly against marriage and babies and completely opposed to anything but working towards your career, but there are some very good examples of successful female researchers in our department who have kids. So it is do-able, definitely. Hard, but do-able.

Goos luck with it! KB


In my experience, I think the two are incompatible. While I am in the office 9.15-5, it's usually more like 6.30. Added to this is the unpredictability of work, meaning that I might have to go in on weekends, although this is unlikely, planning anything for any free time is very difficult, certainly if it's for a relationship.

Add to this the fact that I feel most people don't understand what a PhD is, and think that you're "just a student", and it means that, unless you have a relationship with another PhD student, they're very, very difficult. Certainly, the only time I've been anywhere near a relationship in the past 18 months, she couldn't understand it, so it ended.

Just another nice part of life which a PhD closes off to you.


I think this is largely something related to the particular couple. I have been in a relationship for 5.5years and we have somewhat gotten through a lot. The most important thing I think is that your partner is as heavily involved in stuff as you are (perhaps you could meet at the gym? Therefore you have some time together). I have managed to make a relationship work (with hard work) whilst working full time and doing my masters by research part time (meaning many weekends/evening spent in the lab/writing/sampling). I would bring him with me to sampling, he would come to the lab to bring some food or just keep me company on long weekend days. Some days whilst writing he just came to my house for an hour or so, and we either go for a walk, or else he comes in to say hi, and spends the rest of the time chatting with my family, cos I am in no mind to talk to him. Yes it was not quality time, but better than nothing. But then when he had an activity for his stuff (he is involved in youth work, so he might have a camp or something, I would be there helping him and his group in cooking, organising etc, and he started playing the same sport I played, just to be there). Not really quality time, but that was all there was. Now I am a 4 hour plane ride away. Some days we only communicate through a message, and most days it is a Skype call. I think that if your partner does not have his activities (not necesarily a Phd, but something which he is involved in, so that he could understand if it is Saturday and you need to be in the lab). I wish you all the luck. Having someone there to moan to is always a bonus. I guess yess, a relationship is hard work, but you can make it work. What is important is that he is on the same page as you.

Best of luck

Avatar for Batfink27

I think it's true that it relates to the particular couple, but I also think it takes some discipline and time management to be able to do everything you want. Otherwise the danger is that arranging time to see your boyfriend becomes yet another item in a long list of unmanageable tasks with too little time to achieve them, and that just leads to resentment and frustration.

I got together with my boyfriend five years ago, and after we started seeing each other I started a Masters degree part time while working. Now I'm in the second year of my full-time PhD. So for most of the time we've been seeing each other, I've been spending a lot of hours studying. It does mean that we don't see each other as much as we'd like - generally, we don't see each other during the week, but I go to his place on a Friday night and stay til Sunday, morning if I have a lot of work to do or late afternoon if I have more time spare. Sometimes we do meet mid-week, though, and sometimes it's completely spontaneous, we just fancy spending time together or going out for a drink or whatever. The key for us that we do have a regular routine, but that we also have flexibility - we see each other more often when I'm free, and less often when I'm busy. But he has to be totally understanding of that - luckily he is, despite not having done a PhD himself - he knows how hard I work. But we also text each other every day, sometimes dozens of times a day, so we rarely don't know what the other one's up to or what's going on in each other's day.

I think the hardest things for you might be that it's a new relationship so you're still developing your patterns and naturally want to be together much more (it's always more intense in the first few months...), and also that you and he have such different routines. I think time management on your part may well be something you need to look at - it should be possible to do the PhD work more or less 9-5 Mon-Fri - but also the two of you need to come to an agreement on how the time will work. (And also, I agree with whoever else asked this - how on earth can form filling be taking so long?! That's crazy! Is there any way you can limit that stuff so it doesn't take up so much time?)

There's really no reason why someone doing a PhD should not also have a life outside that PhD. We're not robots! And a PhD doesn't involve putting our lives on hold, it's part of the experiences that build up our whole life. That's ho I see it, anyway.


hello all,

thnaks for sharing your thoughts really helped me thinking others can do it .. so can I :-) i'll start doing schedule and focus on my stuff much more. Regards to form filling .. yes .. up till this morning i was called in by the secretary claiming ive got an envelope addressed to em in her office.. I went... to find a form i had filled in last week about my reimbursement stating i did not attach a receipt.. therefore i had to go to the finance office to show them that they either need a pair of glasses or a course in reading because the said receipt was there attached !! .. having to fly within 3 weeks i sent my purchase form for flights 2 weeks ago.. yesterday the finance office phoned me telling me that they received the form late that id have to re do the whole thing from scratch since flights would have changed in availability and price. Seriously the staff at my university are all just sitting pretty doing nothing .. another thing.. i work from home .. because due to lack of space.. the faculty cant give me a desk space but promised me a desk space once a new floor within the department will be available for post grad students the works started last August .. up till now... they'r still working or better still sleeping..

but keeping to the original message... many thanks for all your help guys :) its kind of sad when people do not understand what a PhD is ..not even my friends! most of them have jobs and can travel and go out etc.. and i constantly have to remind myself that im no longer an undergrad student but now have a much more important position in academia. Maybe it just takes time to adjust .. from my undergrad i went straight to doing my MSc abroad then after finishing a month later i started my PhD

i find this forum very interesting for me to know that im not alone ... considering ive got 3 more years to go

thanks lots and wishing you a productive week to all :-)

ecas :-)


This is a very helpful thread. Thanks for sharing!