The balance between life and study requires meticulous management, a reduction of leisure time, and weathering periods of immense stress. The same could be said for any romantic commitment. Combining the two, unsurprisingly, can make for a bit of a challenge.
But such is life. If you’re lucky enough to have a romantic partner – a spouse, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or even someone special you’ve just met – they probably want to feel like they’re high on your priority list, sitting high above the case studies, webinars and assessments.
To that end, we’ve jotted down a few pointers to help balance your energies between your grades and your better half.
Give small tokens of affection
One potential remedy is to provide a meaningful gift to remind your partner that they are important, and that your future together is a big reason why you’re hauling yourself over the academic coals.
It doesn’t need to be flashy or expensive. One idea is to give something that represents your future goals. If you’ve talked about holidaying somewhere tropical at year’s end, maybe buy a special beach blanket you can share, or some coconut smelling candle.
Don’t forget that your attention is also a wonder gift and showing that you are putting in extra effort during crunch time, is another wonderful reminder of your affection. Perhaps take them on impromptu mini-adventures during a study break to get an ice-cream or make them a fun a fruity drink at home (still on that tropical theme). You need the study breaks, and this is a great time to show them you care as well.
Just remember, present the gift at a quiet and unexpected time to remind them that despite the immediate focus on your studies, they’re beyond the textbooks, assessment deadlines, and research papers, and at the forefront of your mind.
Be mindful of their experience
Chief among risks is that your long-term partner feels alienated. It’s not hard to see why. You get home from work, scarf down dinner, your mind is in another plane prodding at a question related to the evening’s coursework, before you move to the study, close the door, and leave your partner alone on the two-seater watching Netflix.
Now imagine that lasts for an entire year... or more.
Even if you don’t live with your partner, it’s easy to become so engrossed with your coursework that your relationship is thrown into the deep freeze. Try and remember that they are going through this study time with you as well, and don't discount their stress just because you are experiencing your own.
Share a calendar
This is another strategy to tackle that sense of distance that can crop up between you and your partner during study – get them in the know.
It can be disconcerting for your partner to feel beholden to the influence of an unknown but dominating study schedule. How are they to know if you’re free next Friday night, or for Sunday lunch? Such ambiguity can lead to a sense of them feeling uncertain about when they comfortably make plans. So, make your study schedule open and transparent. Most people use a calendar on their smart phones or computers, and these can be shared and synced online. When you add an assessment due date, for instance, it should automatically appear on your partner’s calendar provided they’re online.
Work around these key dates by setting immovable date nights where you treat yourself to a fun indulgence, like an evening out for a steak dinner. And it goes without saying, when exams or assessments are complete, head out to celebrate.
Sharing your schedule has the added advantage of allowing your partner to set up social events with their friends well in advance, preventing them being stuck at home when you’re nose down prepping for your marketing exam.
Beware of Parkinson’s Law
Parkinson’s Law is an abominable concept we are all familiar with through experience, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. In other words, a project with a long deadline tends to become a massive one just because you have the time.
When balancing study and romance there’s a tendency for conscientious students to unnecessarily allow an entire evening, for instance, to be dedicated to study, eradicating any chance of spending time with their partner. If you have a massive assignment with an imminent due date, then so be it. But Parkinson’s Law suggests you may be taking more time than you need to get regular tasks done, often by working too slowly, floundering about tweaking unnecessary detail, or being easily distracted.
How do you do it? Put yourself on the clock! If you’re interested in teeing up a binge watch at 8:30pm with your partner, set an alarm for yourself to finish by 8:15, then keep that date.
Show them they’re needed
This is the ‘star recruit’ strategy that, again, is all about countering that sense of alienation a partner may feel while you’re in the study squall. Rather than distance them from your coursework and assessments, recruit them to come to your aid.
We’re not suggesting they write your assignments, however you can ask them if they’d like to prepare a favourite meal the weekend before an exam or critique your latest essay. Your partner will have skills in various areas and harnessing these to help you through a testing period isn’t a sign of inadequacy or neediness, but teamwork - the blood and bone of any lasting relationship.
Be prepared for the strain
It’s easy to overextend yourself. Not everyone can juggle undertaking a full-time job and working on a law degree at the same time. While you may be bright and motivated, to mentally manage these intense workloads without sudden meltdowns, it’s critical you’re honest about the emotional requirements of your partner.
Some partners are can flow with the high-content lifestyle, but others require a consistent level of intimacy and attention. A partner’s needs are something that should to be assessed at the outset of your studies, then managed throughout. Know ahead of time if deadlines are likely to interfere with your relationship and be honest about how you and your partner can manage those obstacles.
Strike the balance
Balancing work, life, study, and love can often feel like an impossible feat, leading to broken commitments, stifled relationships, and emotional exhaustion. Part of mitigating these issues is by acknowledging what you’re up against, and instigating measures to try and keep the important relationships in your life healthy.
Study is only for a short period in the greater scheme of things, but don’t underestimate this passage of time; it can create a lasting effect on your relationships and life. Practice conscientious time management, keep your priorities in check and your lines of communication open. Good luck! And as we’re coming up to Valentine’s Day, it seems like a good time to clear the calendar and book in a date night.
Want to take some of the strain away from your study experience?
Have a look at Upskilled's Guide to Financially Assisted Training. This informative article outlines the Australian Government's wide range of funding initiatives, at both a federal and state level, to provide eligible Australians the access to affordable, good quality education.