10 Signs You’re a PhD Spouse

photo-1453799527828-cf1bd7b2f682You guys, it is FINISHED. Over. Done. At last. At loooooong last.

No, I’m not talking about the area road construction (ha!), the nasty election season (grooooan…), or even some cosmic Jesus-y thing.

I’m talking dissertation.

Not mine, since I’m not in the mood for a PhD (now or possibly ever). My hardworking, faithful, diligent husband’s. He submitted it a couple of weeks ago and defends it in September.


If you heard a loud rendition of the Hallelujah chorus blasting from somewhere unknown, that was just us celebrating that his long years of study had come to a close.

So in honor of the man I love and all of you toiling away at advanced degrees or supporting those who are, here are 10 Signs You’re a PhD Spouse

  1. You haven’t had a non-working vacation in years

Your partner takes a break now and then, but always, always at the back of their mind is Freud or St. Augustine or quantum physics or the botfly. Niagara Falls is merely a backdrop to the inner workings of their thoughts on Beowulf. Disneyland suddenly becomes a treatise on unreality.

My husband brought a book called On Being on a freaking cruise ship. As our friend Ted so rightly asked, “On being what?”

2. Your preschooler has the vocabulary of a twelve-year old

My three-year-old has asked me to “define” my “statement.” I doubt he knows what it means, but it sure showed what he’s hearing around the dinner table these days.

Poor kiddo.

3. You basically fund your area coffee shop

Same said preschooler tells everyone he knows that “Daddy works at Starbucks.” I’ve had to explain to more than one confused person that my husband isn’t actually a barista. Because the coffee shops pay baristas.

4. You look forward to graduation like you look forward to the second coming of Jesus

Maybe not quite as much, but a heckuvanawfullot.

5. You aren’t getting a PhD, except you sort of are

I could tell you a metric ton about St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Freud, none of whom I’ve studied on my own extensively. Their works have been littered around my house, office, and dinner table for the past seven years. So yeah, we’re tight.

I have an honorary doctorate in “moving all the giant obnoxious hardback books off the table so we can eat.”

I earned that sucker.

6. You’ve researched entry-level professor salaries and cried

“Well, at least all these years of back-breaking work will be worth it someda—WHAT? Assistant Professors often make less money than Etsy crafters, make-up artists, and phlebotomists? Siiiiiiiigh…

7. You’ve bonded with the partners of other PhD students for life

No one understands the irritation of seeing a giant book in your husband’s hand while the kids are opening their presents on Christmas Eve like they do.

No one celebrates that the grant came through like they will.

No one commiserates over the difference between a stipend and a salary like they do.

They get it.

8. The library fines make you nutty

When we graduated from seminary, I lugged a rolling suitcase of overdue books back to the library on my husband’s behalf.

Do you know what $0.10 a day for forty-six books for an entire semester adds up to?


9. You’re crazy-proud of your almost-doctor

You were there for the initial dream. You’ve seen all the early mornings and late nights. You’ve witnessed the self-doubt. You’ve noticed the courage to push through when an intellectual problem seemed unsolvable.

An advanced degree is a marathon, and you’ve cheered for your runner all the way.

10. They dedicate their dissertation to you and you cryyyyyy

When it’s all said in done, this is your (plural) work. You may not be getting the PhD, but you helped. When they put that into words–some of the same beautiful words they used to compose a thesis, craft an argument, and solve a problem, you realize anew that being married to a brainiac is an incredible gift.

Hardback books and all.

Are you partnered to a PhD? What would you add?

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