PhD Spouse Support Group

Discussion in 'Random Ramblings' started by Xtina, Jun 5, 2011.

  1. Xtina

    Xtina Songster

    Jul 1, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    Does anyone know of a support group for spouses of PhD students? I generally come here to the BYC community for all my marriage counseling needs, but I would really love to be able to meet with a real group of people who are in the same position as my husband and I are in. Since I doubt there is a group (Google didn't turn one up) I'll post the problem here. We've gone through some ups and downs in our ten years of marriage and since he's started graduate school, it has definitely been a big down. He is about to get his Master's and then he'll go on to his PhD, and I'm concerned about the stress it's putting on us.

    In a nutshell, we timed the birth of our first son to coincide with him graduating with a bachelor's degree. We're getting on up there in age and felt like even though we weren't totally settled in life, it was time to get going on the child front. BIG mistake...don't get me wrong, I love our son SO much, but when I was 4 months pregnant with him, my husband's advisor pegged him as being intelligent and driven (both true, he's like a workoholic genius) and decided to sponsor him through his Master's degree and PhD with a full ride scholarship and a graduate stipend to work as a research assistant. Great, right? Not so much. My whole life's ambition was to be a stay-at-home mom. The kind of mom I had, with the sole goal of raising my kid as best as possible, with as much of the benefit of mom's attention as he can have. Well, despite the loss of this dream (which was personally devastating to me), God has blessed us by giving me a fantastic job with good pay and all the flexibility that I need. Our life still isn't easy. I work really late to get the job done, I have a lot of responsibility at work, and we don't make enough money to cover our expenses.

    But the real problem is the level of stress my husband's under. Since pursuing this degree wasn't his idea, he isn't happy. He just wanted to get a job and we'd go about our lives however things turned out. Now, he seems like he feels emasculated because he couldn't deliver on that. The opportunity was too good to turn down, but now he's stuck working under a professor who gives him no guidance and his task, as with all graduate students, is to contribute new knowledge to the universe, which as you can imagine is not just as easy as deciding one day that you're going to make a big discovery and then doing it. He's completely lost that spark of personal drive that he used to have. All he ever does is laze around watching ridiculous things on Netflix. The only thing he ever does around the house is to cook, which I greatly appreciate, but it's like watching the most driven person you ever saw have the spine yanked out of his back and start sitting around like a useless lump. He comes home after something like a mere six hours at work (when my dad was studying for his PhD, he was there from morning till midnight), and then basically he sits around on the computer for the rest of the day and night, pausing for dinner. Oh yeah, he also is part of a ham radio club that has lots of long meetings. As far as I can tell, he wastes a huge amount of time and then complains that he can't get stuff done at work/school. He also refuses to exercise so his chronic overweight problem is just getting worse, which is giving him lots of aches and pains, especially in his bad knee. But God forbid I try to talk to him about it - he gets angry and defensive. He shuts himself up in his office on the computer all evening long and when I come to bed, that's the only time all day I've seen him without having a screaming baby on my hip. If I don't successfully resist my natural urge to simply ask him how his day went, or anything related to school at all, even as non-threateningly as possible, he flies off the handle and asks me why after ten years of marriage I still don't know that he doesn't like to talk about his day when he's trying to fall asleep. I know he doesn't like to talk before bed, but we basically don't talk at all. I got so mad when this happened last week that I decided I just didn't care about being in a relationship with him and that if he just wanted to live parallel lives with me then that's how it would be. I barely spoke with him all week, just responded to his petty baby talk that he's so fond of in like kind (Hi, yes, I love you too. No, I love you, YOU'RE cuter. Yes, our son is the cutest. Hi. Hi. Hi.) like I wasn't angry at all about the last fight and about never being allowed to have a real conversation with him. I didn't take out any of my frustrations on him at all and our relationship was as "surface" as possible. Then tonight, feeling great after having accomplished so much today, I made the mistake of asking him if he was able to get any work done and we got in another big fight that turned into him saying he was going to quit school but that I wasn't going to be happy with the money he can make without the PhD and that he hates the program and it's like tiny little daggers stabbing him all day long and I can't possibly know how hard this is for him. I'm sorry, but I'm the one who works 40 - 50 hours a week, sometimes until midnight just to work around our kid's schedule. I'm the one who's in charge of running a million dollar company. I'm the one who's climbing the corporate ladder when all I really wanted was to be a housewife. He works as far as I can tell about 24 hours a week and then bellyaches about how stressed he is and sets up walls about when I'm allowed to talk to him, which when practically applied result in "never."

    He says all I ever want to talk about is ways to change him, which I have to admit is true...there's a LOT in our lives that needs changing. He's completely not focused on his health or on the maintenance and improvement of our home and garden. His body and our house are both deteriorating badly, but he sits around watching movies. But I try not to bring these things up because it just causes a fight. If I try to talk about something else, he says I just want answers to questions he doesn't have answers for (like what will be your job title when you finish? when will you finish? how much money will you make? what will your job be like? will you be able to get a job at all? If so, will we have to move to make that happen?), which was true until the fight that killed my desire to question him about any of that anymore. I just have given up and turned off my brain. Decided not to think about any of that because it's obviously too much to ask. Now tonight I wasn't even going to ask about any of that, but he somehow perceived that that's what I was asking and the resulting fight ruined my good mood and my ability to fall asleep.

    Listen to what happened today: A neighbor offered to mow our lawn since it was getting out of control. My husband said I should let him do it because he'd have to work all weekend and he wouldn't have time to do it. So I hired this man. My husband then spent all evening watching movies while the neighbor mowed and edged the lawn. I felt like a total jerk paying someone to work while I wasn't doing anything so I went out and weeded while my mom watched the baby....and while my husband watched a sci-fi TV series. We're broke and I just shelled out $40 to pay someone to do something my husband could and should have been doing. Then my mom has to rant to me about how my husband's been acting this way the whole time she's been out here (three months, helping watch the baby so we can save on childcare costs), and she's totally right. It's all stuff I think too, but don't bring up because over the years, he's conditioned me not to nag him to help out around the house. And it's worked because I'd rather let things go to crap than get into another fight about why he doesn't repair the fence to the chicken run or mow the yard or lift some weights or SOMETHING productive. So now I have my mom on my back too, saying he's turning out just like his dad who never worked a day in his life and that I'm turning out just like his mom, who supported his deadbeat dad by working triple just to make ends meet. I don't want her to be right, and the situations are totally different, but part of me thinks she's spot on. I'm bringing in more money, my family is supporting us more than his is, I'm doing more around the house, the baby doesn't let me sleep all night (and now I can't sleep because of another fight)...yet somehow my husband says I'm wrong to bring this stuff up. I didn't even make one peep about how unsatisfactory it was that I did yard work while he sat around upstairs, even though I could have, but somehow I'm in the wrong tonight.

    I guess what I want to know from you guys is if I'm totally off-base here. Is he right that I shouldn't talk to him before bed? Am I being completely insensitive about the burden of being a PhD student? Is he right that I should never ever try to motivate him to change his bad habits, get some exercise, and focus on his schooling and on working around the house?

  2. kstaven

    kstaven Crowing Premium Member

    Jan 26, 2007
    BC, Washington Border
    My opinion from a male perspective:

    Anything to avoid dealing with the real world. Self sabotage to justify not getting on with the responsibilities of life. Feel sorry for me and take care of it for me. Hitting the proverbial wall is the only way he will stop this cycle. You want to fix it all thus enable him in this.

    Your heart is in the right place but some tough love is in order unless you want this to continue.
  3. pdsavage

    pdsavage Sussex Monarch

    Mar 27, 2008
    Sounds like your carring a heavy load and its wearing you down.
    Your going to have to sit down with him and divy up what needs to be done.You can start it by saying you need help getting things done and ask him to write down a list of things he can do.At the same time you write your list of thing you can do.
    Then have him help you with a scheduel of when these things get done.Write them down and post it on the fridge.Make sure the chores are equel.
    I see no reason for your mom to watch the child when your husband is at home.
    Don't expect any less from him then you do yourself.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2011
  4. Xtina

    Xtina Songster

    Jul 1, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    Thanks for the insight, Kstaven. I think you're totally right.

    pdsavage, those are all good ideas that have each individually caused fights for us before. Recurrent topics of fights during our marriage have included organization, lists, schedules, division of labor, and chores. I just resort to expecting less of him than I do myself because I can't under any circumstances (reasoning, challenging, begging, pleading, cajoling, insisting) get him to do anything. ANY request by me for him to do ANYTHING is met with a huge fight over the mere mention of "Can you please." That's the way it's always been from the start.

  5.'s all about choices. He made the choice to be dragged into a PhD program when he said that he wasn't interested in that route. There are always consequences to our choices, both good and bad.

    I don't suspect anything will change except your relationship unless he has an ultimatum...and generally I despise them. Sometimes, however, they are necessary. Reality can be a b*tch, but in an adult world, it's necessary.
  6. Xtina

    Xtina Songster

    Jul 1, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    I hate ultimatums too...I've always said that no one who is given an ultimatum should comply, but I was thinking more along the lines of the, "It's me or the dog/cat/sister/mother," ultimatums. This is different.
  7. SallyF

    SallyF Songster 9 Years

    Jul 5, 2009
    Middle Tennessee
    Look for support groups for spouses of depressed people maybe? Or see if your job has an employee counseling service; that could help by giving you someone to talk to about the situation without family relationships/emotions getting in the way. Good luck.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2011

  8. chikky

    chikky Songster

    Jun 13, 2009
    Glenmont, Ohio
    Another perspective to consider - You can't change others, only yourself and your reaction to others (the old Serenity Prayer comes to mind). Sounds to me like you are basically a single mother with a difficult, full-time job and a new baby (and a non-person inhabiting your house). Focus on taking care of yourself and the baby - the house doesn't have to be "clean", laundry doesn't have to be done all the time, etc etc. Essentially, lower your standards for awhile- the cleanliness of the house and of your husband.

    Babies are exhausting! Having Mom over to help isn't bad as long as she's ok with it.

    I started my Bachelors while in a new relationship with a man and 2 kids (and my son). I worked by rear end off; homework never got started til 10pm, then back to work at 7am. Then along came the MBA (different relationship).....We went to counseling and the lady basically totally left him off the hook, saying that fighting over the housework was a fight I'd never win. She suggested to hire a housekeeper - which I did for a bit, with shaky results. Then I decided to only do what absolutely HAD to be done. I graduated in May and haven't cleaned the bathtub for months (ha ha, seriously).

    I realize this is the other side of the coin, in a way, but I truly think that women will always be primary caregivers, cleaners, bill payers and such- all while working full-time demanding jobs. Just a new baby alone is enough to stretch you too thin. If you can swing it at all, take a day off of work here and there for a "you" day....and spend it sleeping and regenerating. The rest of the stuff will wait.

    I feel for you - reach out to any nearby family or friends that you can to help you out and help you to keep your sanity. Your husband will work out his issues in his own time and forcing him will probably just drive you both crazy.
  9. Dunkopf

    Dunkopf Songster

    Sep 24, 2010
    Kiowa, Colorado
    You need professional counseling. You are in a whole different world than most people on here and most can't really relate to your situation when they are just trying to survive much less have a good life. Like was said get some help through the services your job offers. You mentioned God maybe you have a pastor that can help.

    My way or the highway doesn't work in marriages where the highway is an alternative.

  10. Xtina

    Xtina Songster

    Jul 1, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    I really appreciate your insights, especially yours, chikky. It's good to know what would be likely to happen if we went to see a counselor. I've wondered if they would take that tack. Part of my problem is my mother constantly nagging me about the things that I would nag my husband about if I hadn't totally given up. She's dragging up all these issues that I have with his non-participation and just decided for my own sanity to pretend like they're not real problems. I can't change him, so I change my attitude and my expectations. And there's mom constantly reminding me that I shouldn't settle for so little. I shouldn't let her inflame the situation since she's here to help. Anyway, she's leaving in a little less than a month. I guess I'll see if that helps, but I doubt it will very much, because mom is just bringing up the things I see and know better than to try to bring up with him.

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