Marriage and Academia: Finding the Balance between Marriage, School, and Life
University of Wyoming
College can be a personally and intellectually rewarding experience; however traditional college students face many challenges, including increased risk for mental health problems (American College Health Association, 2008, 2011; Eisenburg, Gollust, Golberstein, & Hefner, 2007). Similarly, while marriage can be one of the most personally fulfilling experiences in one’s life, students who choose to marry during college years will face additional obstacles increasing vulnerability to stress, mental health issues, and decreased academic performance. Marriage responsibilities can strain effective time management and can significantly increase stress. This article will address both the challenges and benefits of being married as a college student, while highlighting strategies for successfully overcoming the challenges, as well as techniques for capitalizing on the benefits. In this way, the aim of this article is to assist married college students in maintaining the balance between demonstrating commitment to a spouse and achieving academic excellence.
Challenges of Marriage
Time management skills are associated with improved academic performance and decreased stress in college students (Macan, Shahani, Dipboye, & Philips, 1990), and the importance of effective time management is compounded for students who take on the challenges of marriage in addition to the demands of college. Despite the rigorous demands of college curriculum, you will need to intricately balance the individual, relationship, and college demands and needs, so that you are available to support your spouse in their own pursuits while still facilitating your academic success. Squeezing in personal time to your already hectic schedule may seem like a nearly impossible task whilst balancing marriage and college. It is common for married students to allow their personal needs to fall through the cracks; however, your personal physical and psychological well-being are fundamental for reducing overall stress, and replenishing the emotional resources you will need to cope with the demands of married life and college. Therefore, to be a successful student and spouse simultaneously, it is essential to be successful at self-care. Spend time figuring out what self-care means to you, whether it involves spending time in nature, exercising, or simply spending an afternoon binge-watching Netflix. Whatever it may be, you deserve it!
Keeping a daily planner to assist in scheduling time for each of these areas can be very beneficial. Even with effective time management skills it can be difficult to predict the often chaotic schedule of student—and married—life. Work schedules are prone to frequent change, class schedules can fluctuate, and the incorporation of a spouse’s schedule can produce additional challenges. It may even be beneficial to schedule “school time”, “marriage time”, and “me time” into every day, or at the very least, into every week. Finally, regularly scheduled date nights can be a great way to ensure that you are not neglecting your marriage, and they can serve as a great opportunity to reward your spouse for their patience in being married to a college student. To summarize, your motto in learning to balance these competing demands should be: “Schedule, schedule, schedule!”
Benefits of Marriage
There are also several benefits of being married in college, and capitalizing on these benefits will not only increase marital satisfaction but can also benefit academic performance and stress levels. First, marriage affords the opportunity for a stable, meaningful relationship, and this intimacy can help reduce the emotional stress of college. Social support is a protective factor against a variety of life stressors (Rains & Young, 2009). A (healthy) marriage provides this kind of full-time, readily accessible support, which can be useful in a variety of college-induced stressful situations, including managing workload, time management, and even simply venting about a stressful day. In addition, your souse can help increase academic performance in a number of ways. A spouse can aid in studying, help brainstorm research ideas, provide critical feedback of academic work, and provide encouragement to persist in endeavors. Use your built-in support system—after all, the vast majority of college students do not have this luxury!
The responsibilities of being both married and a college student are difficult to balance. While marriage can pose additional challenges to the day-to-day life of a college student, including placing additional time constraints and detracting from self-care, it is possible to overcome these challenges by developing time management skills (e.g., using a planner to schedule personal, marriage, and school time). Additionally, do not be shy about taking advantage of the benefits of marriage, including access to your own personal built-in support system, study partner, and feedback-provider. Capitalizing on these important benefits of marriage will help you to maximize your academic success, emotional well-being, and, last-but-not-least, martial satisfaction.
American College Health Association. (2008). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment: Reference group data report, Spring 2008. Baltimore, MD: Author.
American College Health Association. (2011). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference group executive summary, Spring 2011. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Hunter, A., Laursen, S. L., & Seymour, E. (2007). Becoming a Scientist: The Role of Undergraduate Research in Students’ Cognitive, Personal, and Professional
Development. Science Education, 91, 36-74.
Eisenberg, D., Gollust, S. E., Golberstein, E., & Hefner, J. L. (2007). Prevalence and correlates of depression, anxiety, and suicidality among university students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77, 534–542.
Macan, T. H., Shahani, C., Dipboye, R. L., & Philips, A. P. (1990). College students’ time management: Correlations with academic performance and stress. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(4), 760-768.
Rains, S. A., & Young, V. (2009). A meta-analysis of research on formal computer-mediated support groups: Examining group characteristics and health outcomes. Human Communication Research, 35, 309-336. Doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2009.01353.x
Austin Mullings is a Masters candidate from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. He has held the position of Vice President of Psi Chi as well as participated in reviewing research proposals for the APS Student Grant Competition. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.