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Phoenix Forward magazine

Going back to school? How to tell your partner

Going back to school

The decision to get your degree ultimately is yours. But as thrilled as you are about your education, you might be realizing that you need your partner to be on board with your plans.

“Obtaining emotional buy-in from your partner is critical,” says Carol Gegenheimer, an instructor in the counseling program at the University of Phoenix Main Campus, “because your drive and enthusiasm will be difficult to sustain if you’re getting no support at home.”

Here are five steps you can take toward that end:


Prepare for specific questions.

Before broaching the topic of going back to school, make sure you can provide details of your plans.

“Knowing what the costs are, what the time commitment is and having ideas about how you are going to handle those demands ahead of time is helpful,” says Gegenheimer, a marriage and family therapist. “If you’ve given some thought to how you might respond to potential challenges [from your partner], the discussion will go smoother.”


Schedule a talk.

Tell your partner that you’d like to make an appointment for a detailed conversation about your decision. Choose a time when neither of you is likely to be distracted.

“Important conversations require dedicated time,” Gegenheimer says, “not just a quick chat while you’re both running off to work in the morning.”


Be honest.

“Speak openly about why you want to take this step, and talk in terms of your own personal growth,” Gegenheimer advises. Let your partner know how much your education means to you and the specific ways it will help you achieve your goals.

Take time to explore your loved one’s needs, too, she suggests, and consider ideas he or she may want to pursue in the future, such as also going back to school, or taking up a new hobby.


Discuss the effects.

Gegenheimer recommends emphasizing both the immediate impacts of going back to school, such as having to reduce work hours and bringing home less money, versus the potential payoffs, including the chance to compete for better jobs or eventually being able to afford a new home.

“I think it’s important to talk to the person to help them understand that they have something to gain from your education as well,” Gegenheimer emphasizes. “You can highlight how your education can help you both achieve long-term goals for your family.” For example, if earning a degree can help you land a higher-paying job, you could more easily pay for a child’s college education or a family vacation.


Nurture your relationship.

It’s key to acknowledge how going back to school could cut into the time you’ll have for your partner once classes start, Gegenheimer notes.

Offer creative ideas on how you can still find time for one another, she suggests, such as date nights twice a month, or regular participation in an activity you both enjoy. “Work on ways to find balance between the time dedicated to school,” she suggests, “and the time dedicated to the relationship.”

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