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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hey all,

I've been lurking around for a bit and finally decided to make a profile and ask a question of my own, as I can't seem to find a similar situation like mine in past threads regarding this matter. As the title suggests, my husband wants to get his PhD and I have some serious hesitations about it. I need some help gaining a new perspective about my situation. I'll provide you with some background info, but I'll keep it relevant.

We started dating during the last few months of our senior year in high school, and it was very much that "love at first sight" crap. A few weeks after graduation I went off to basic training (I joined the military before we met and he knew this when we became friends) and we assumed a long distance relationship. For 5 months we exchanged letters and phone calls, until we decided to go for it and get married. We were both 19. Our marriage has sadly never been what I would describe as "happy." My husband had a nervous breakdown after we were sent to Germany 3 months after we got married, and some experiences I had in the military left me with severe PTSD, which I happily report is much better now. We've been married for 7 years, and 6 out of the 7 have been difficult to say the least. My husband has been verbally and emotionally abusive from the start and I engaged in an EA with someone I met in class back when I was in college. One day we just sort of had an explosion and we fought like we've never fought before, we got everything out and finally started to own up to what we both have done to each other. I could go on, but needless to say we traumatized each other and it's been a huge struggle to forgive each other and move on. But this last year has been downright amazing. We've both made serious changes, we fight less and we've never been this happy.

Now on to the issue at hand: college. I have never understood the problem, but my husband cannot work and go to school at the same time. I don't really know why, and I don't want to press him because I don't want to make him feel bad about himself. I held a full time job and went to college full time and graduated in 4 years, unfortunately my husband still has an additional year of his undergrad to get through, and he's been at this for almost 5 years with 1 more to go. Last year he came home and one day announced that he had quit his job and will be only pursuing school until he's done. This sadly isn't the first time he's chosen to stop working. It's getting difficult to respect him and that scares me.

A few months ago my husband approached me with the idea of going to graduate school for a masters degree which I fully supported because it would only be an extra 1.5 years. A few weeks ago he said the masters program was done away with and the only alternative is the PhD program which will add an extra 5 years on top of the remaining 1. I agreed to the idea on the premise that if our marriage goes south or I become unhappy then he will drop out instantly, and those are the terms he came up with. I really like seeing him so full of passion about something, but I'm having trouble backing him 100% on this.

So I guess my biggest issue here is two fold. I have really come to resent being the breadwinner. At one point in time I used to feel proud and capable, but now I feel used and angry. A PhD student gets paid a monthly stipend of $1,000 a month for his particular program at his college of choice. That's better than zero, but I've been craving stability for 7 years and have gotten no reprieve. Part of me resents him for the things he's done to me in the past, and now he's asking me to keep supporting us for 6 more years. The very thought of it makes me sad, but the things that I've done to him weigh me down with such guilt that I can't bring myself to ask him not to do this.

My second issue with this is my husband cannot tolerate stress well. He becomes very mean and angry and has a hard time controlling his emotions when stressed. For some reason my husband thinks this program is going to be easy. He thinks that the hardest part will be learning how to write exams. I don't know what's given him this idea, but I certainly think the opposite is true.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know what to do. I don't want to be one of those wives who forbids their husband from following his dream, but we only recently got on track and I've been patiently looking forward to him being out of school.
 

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I have seen undergrad and grad work combined into a 5 year program before, but not a 5 year PhD.

Also the stipend seems rather low.

Is there a big pay off on the other side of this? I mean is he going to be a teacher or a Doctor? You may realistically need to look at the expense vs salary and job prospects on the other side.

I have a BA. I am returning for a BS. A masters just won't get the job prospects and stability I am looking for.

Most people work full time and do the 7 year plan for school if they have to.

I know the military is quite a commitment and living on your salary alone probably isn't easy. I do think you need to find a way to ask questions to mutually work something out to help with finances if that is a major point of stress.
 

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Given the way you have described your husband's low threshold for stress and his inability to focus on one thing longer than 3 seconds, I would urge you NOT TO ENCOURAGE HIM TO STUDY FOR A PHD.

Here's why. A PhD is a rigorous academic research programme that requires a sharp and lengthy focus on a very tightly agreed subject matter. For example, 'An analysis of William Shakespeare's use of punctuations between 1600 and 1610'. This could even be peeled back further to focus on a given type of punctuation. You then spend obsecene amounts of time pretty much living in a library and hoping you have supervisors who give a damn about you and your research. These guys can make or break you. It is not unknown that some will just frustrate the hell out of a PhD student as a way of proving them pr simply because they can.

I haven't even come to time spent lecturing or working with undergraduate students on their thesis. I looked into it and shelved it. I have a few friends who have PhDs and majority of them advised against doing one. One friend put his family through so much cos he had to put in the time to conduct, observe and record findings for experiments. His wife nearly went mental. Job security wasn't great afterwards neither.

Anyways ALL of them spoke about how supervisors treat students and how arrogant or difficult they can be. So if your husband ain't cut out for such kind of concerted effort and constant bashing from others then he should stick with doing a masters degree. PhD is not for the faint hearted.

I would however ask you if YOU are really willing to take on this extra load cos you won't have much of a husband if he does do a PhD full time. It seems things are a little stretched for you both at the moment so not sure how this will make things easier.

Question: do you guys have children? Is your husband the type of person who is often full of good ideas and rarely executes or completes them?
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I think you've got the question all wrong. I don't think it's that you don't want him to get a doctorate, I think if he pulled his weight more, and didn't use the excuse that he can't work and go to school, you'd be fine. I think your question should be, "Am I selfish for wanting my husband to work while going to school for his PhD?"

You said that he says that this PhD program is easy, so why can't he work? Many many many people, including you and me, worked full time and went to college full time. Has he be interested in a while in this PhD program or is this a new thing? Will it pay decent money when he graduates or he'll be struggling for a while once he graduates. Will he ever be able to support you if you want kids and want to be a stay-at-home mom?

I think it's BS that he gets so stressed from school that he can't work. There is something that he can do, even part-time, to help out. I bet lots of kids in college would like to tell their parents, "I can't work - it stresses me out" but that doesn't fly. Unless he's in some full time, exhausting, medical program, he should be working, too.

I've read several threads here of spouses who are permanent students. One husband was exasperated, that for the 2nd time, 6 months before graduation, his wife changed majors, which added on a few more years.

Good luck to you. If your husband absolutely refuses to work and go to school, I guess you need to decide if you think the marriage will last another 5+ years if you will be resentful of him.



Given that your marriage is on shaky ground - well stable for a year - I don't think it's good for the marriage for him to be saying right now that he's not going to get a job for at least 5 years.

Why is it taking him 5+ years to finish a 4 year bachelors degree? Is he really interested in this PhD program
 

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Just to add a few more thoughts. I would strongly recommend you ask him why he wants to do the PhD. Some people take it on because they like the title that comes with it or they think people will respect them more. Soon enough, they then realise that such a mentality will only see them drop out after yr 1 or 2. Also, unless I am mistaken, I am not sure PhD requires you to sit exams as such. Rather, you have to pass stages in the writing say the refining of the research brief, introduction section etc.

How would you rate his self
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Thanks for all the replies everyone.

He wants to go into the PhD program to be a college professor, but I think he's either gotten false information or is trying to make this idea foolproof. He thinks that with a PhD he will be starting out at 65k a year teaching at the university. I haven't really looked into this, but I have to say it doesn't really sound right.

Another component of research is also taking on an associate professor role by teaching 1-3 classes per semester. I can't believe he can't work during his undergrad, but for some reason think he will be able to teach college courses and do research for his PhD. I'm confused by the situation to be honest, but I strongly fear a blowup on his end.
 

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A 5-yr. PhD program is not at all unusual. Most students in most fields in the US take a bit longer, but many don't. The stipend he is quoting is low, though. Many PhD students teach at the same time and can make more money doing that. His studies in any case should take up most of his time. I'm sure it's easy for the very few, but usually it requires intensive focus and time commitment. The pressure to perform at the expected level is ever present & comes not just from professors and mentors, but other students.

I think you're in a fix here because if you put the kibosh on this, he will probably resent it for a long time. If you don't, you are taking a chance that he will respond well in such an intense environment. If it were me, I would take a deep breath and let it happen, but I understand your concerns.
 

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What subject matter is does he want to get a PhD in? This can make a huge difference. Is the field saturated with wanna be professors? Or is a field where there is high demand?

Who does he envision paying for all this education? It’s very common for a person who obtains a higher level degree than their spouse to then dump their spouse. They get to feel superior, like they have become better than their spouse.

I went through this after I supported my husband through medical school. What I found out later on is that something like 98% of people who get higher degrees divorce their spouse.

The risk to you on this scenario he’s offering is high, very high. You put out the $$ to support him and he walks away with a degree, half your pension and maybe even you paying him alimony because he’s just starting out in his career and you, in an established career earn more than he does. I’ve seen this happened as well.

After what I’ve been through and seen others go through, my suggestion is that you tell him that first he has to finish his bachelors. Until he does that you will not discuss anything else. Right now anything beyond that BA/BS is a pipe dream.

If, after he has his BA/BS, he still wants to get an MA/MS or a PhD, he has to do it with student loans. And he has to being in some money, enough to support his half of the household.

The reason I suggest that he was to take out student loans is that if you two end up divorced, student loans are his sole debt. You are not responsible for them. If you help him pay expenses, tuition, etc then you are out that $$ if you divorce. And you get no benefit from it. If he has student loans, then he takes the debt with him and you are not out as much. Whether you two stay together or not, he can pay his loans off with the $$ he earns from the degree. Let the degree pay for the expenses of getting it.

From what you have said here, he’s looking to become a student and use you to support him. Don’t go for that. He’s just using you.
 

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Let me add a few paragraphs here, from the "been there, got the t-shirt" department. Both myself and my dear (?) wife are PhD's, Cognitive Psychology for me and Applied Mathematics for her. We both had our Masters degrees in our fields, and worked in industry for a while before we went back to school. We found a good opportunity to do part time work / part time PhD for most of the program (all but 1 year of residency) and we finished in 5 years while raising one child and having another.

The environment is intense, as the fellow poster above said. Thankfully we had understanding employers and understanding schools that offered the option. But it's hard. Not the classwork. That is the easy part, even the post Masters classes. The hardest part is the politics of getting the degree. Find the right topic, find the right adviser, committee members, qualifier exams, etc etc etc.

$1k after taxes + tuition waiver is a bit on the low side, but it depends on course load and type of assignment. If you have to teach hapless undergrads, it's a lot of work. If you do research for a PI, even more work. It also depends on what the area of work is, if we're talking cutting edge research for $1k versus grading Calculus I exams... Then the research, the analysis, writing the dissertation, publishing, blah, blah. It's not for the faint of heart and not for someone who can't control their anger. It is all a politics game far more than it is a learning game. You have to be stoic. Look up the word.

He may be offered a lecture-ship type position where he teaches 1-2 classes a semester for decent money while he's PhD'ing. Some places offer that. That would add to his time to finish tho, but provide experience for later on. I only taught one semester and absolutely hated it. My wife never did (lots of math students don't at our school).

Then, one day you, your committee, and a few of your closest friends show up in a lecture hall and you defend your work. Pfeh. Duh. Hopefully you haven't made any enemies during the last few years, or else they'll all show with their hand on the FAIL buzzer.

And then you graduate. Puppies, unicorns, rainbows, and so on.

What next?

That's where the real big question comes into play. Getting the degree is NOT all that difficult. In my case and my wife's case we actually both continued to work at our current employers in industry. Me as a research scientist and her as an analytics consultant. Neither of us got a huge raise or promotion. It was, "ah, from tomorrow it is Dr. John, duh". We got some, but not enough. Industry does not necessarily value PhD's as much as one may think. They want the title and the gravitas but not the paycheck. If you're willing to play the quit - work - quit game you can actually make serious money but ultimately, the industry cares about results, and what-have-you-done-for-me-lately trumps degrees in most companies.

That leaves (drumroll) teaching.

Here's where it gets ugly. Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of people with doctorates around. There is a pecking order of sorts. Those who graduated from top schools (Ivy, top 20) have a credible chance of getting hired at, say, state universities or similar. So, to teach College Algebra at University of Wherever, you better have some nice pedigree. And that's as non-tenure, and good luck getting hired over adjuncts. Gooooood luck indeed.

If you do get hired, you have to publish or perish. An equally stressful proposition. You have to bring in funding, or else... You have to supervise grad students, or else... Money, money, money.

If the OP is PhD in engineering, he could start with good money. If he's into humanities or liberal arts or basic sciences, well, I would not be throwing away that IKEA couch just yet. College salaries are mostly a bunch of people making bad money, a bunch of superstar profs making serious money, and few people in the middle. That's an inverted normal curve, or a bathtub, as the lovely Dr. Mrs. John would observe.
 

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Let me just point out that anyone struggling to make it through their bachelor's degree will have difficulty with postgraduate work.

Pursuit of a Ph.D should be based on a clear rationale. Jobs in academia are not easy to find and are dependent for the most part on the ability to get external funding.

You need to have a hard conversation about what YOU want..
 

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I agree with KanDo. If you are struggling with getting an undergrad degree you should not pursue a Master's or a PhD. I got my undergrad and master's and worked at the same time. However, during my master's degree the work load was twice that of my undergrad and it meant I had no time to socialize. If your husband cannot hold down even a part time job during his undergrad, he probably wont make it in an advanced degree. I don't know what his undergrad degree field is, but he is way better off to start working and then go back to school later if he wants to make better money. However, as some mentioned, not all jobs really care if you have advanced degrees, and value experience just as much. I teach English, so I would have to have a master's eventually. Honestly, its the only reason I did it.
 

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Let me just point out that anyone struggling to make it through their bachelor's degree will have difficulty with postgraduate work.

Pursuit of a Ph.D should be based on a clear rationale. Jobs in academia are not easy to find and are dependent for the most part on the ability to get external funding.

You need to have a hard conversation about what YOU want..
I agree with this. Maybe he can try finishing college first, working for a while and saving some money, and THEN considering whether grad school is the the right path.

It sounds like, "oh, hey, professors only teach a couple of classes and then have a lot of time off, plus they get tenure, woohoo, that's the job for me!" is his primary rationale for getting a PhD.

As his wife, by the way, you have a right to express how you feel instead of just smiling and nodding. Discuss your concerns and reservations with him.
 

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It really boils down to the following questions which I would ask my own children if faced with the same dilemma:

1. Solid academic record - probably 3.4 or better from a decent to good school. No online only outfits...

2. Demonstrated love of learning. Not just do the minimum.

3. Does demand exist for his field outside academia? Big question.

4. Does he understand the politics involved? Politics to get in, pass quals, research, etc.

5. Does he understand the odds of graduating, of finding a suitable academic position, getting tenure, etc?

6. How about the very slow progress in academia? The research monster that needs to be fed, publish or perish, etc?

If he understands all that, go for it, otherwise rethink. I got an excellent understanding of how tenure works as a grad (masters) student and did not even consider academia. Likewise my wife...
 

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I'd like to retract and rephrase my opinion because I hadn't read all of your posts on this thread before I commented and was, therefore, missing some information.

If your only reasons for not wanting to support his desire to go to graduate school are that it would be inconvenient for you to be the breadwinner and that you wish he was home and going on a track that you prefer instead of staying in school, then yes, I do think it is selfish of you. However, selfishness is not always a bad thing; you should not have to selflessly accept everything he wants to do if it takes your joint life on a course or path that you didn't sign up for when you both decided to marry.

It sounds like in addition to your fear that not supporting him is selfish, you are genuinely concerned that this would be a bad idea for him and for your marriage -- and also that it would be asking a great deal from you without good reason. If he's struggling in school now and thinks he can get a cushy job by sticking it out a few extra years while you support him, not only will he be in for major disappointment, but it will be a risk undertaken on your dime and your energetic support without much cost to him. If your concern is that this sounds like a half-baked plan that would be detrimental to you both, then whether or not it is selfish for you to hold back on your enthusiastic support, you're right to voice your opinion about it.

Given that you both have a great deal of turbulence and turmoil between you two -- emotional breakdown, emotional abuse, emotional affair -- it sounds like you two should talk to an objective outsider about what all this emotional stuff is doing and whether or not your marriage is working or simply needs to be worked on. Whether or not your resistance to his idea is selfish, whether or not you're afraid you're being selfish, you should tell him how you feel about where your marriage is headed. I do think you guys probably need to talk about what your individual and joint needs are and that you need to talk about what you guys expect and want out of a marriage. Both people will have to make compromises, but to compromise all the time out of guilt or some other reason is unhealthy and won't work in the log run. Neither should you stop him from self-development that is reasonable, nor should you be expected to set aside your own needs for a desire of his that has not been properly considered in terms of its value to your lives.

Again, I am not trying to put you down or simply to rehash what's already been said. I guess what I'm getting at is that while you may have initially started thinking about this thread because you wanted opinion or approval about action, it might also be time to think figuring out what core issues in your marriage (and your selves) need to be addressed. This could be a good opportunity for you. And, also...selfishness is not always a bad thing, just as selflessness is not always a good thing; you have to look at the bigger picture and the context.

Grad school is straightforward, but it's a big commitment. It sounds like you're maybe hoping he might be showing that kind of commitment to your relationship instead of just to himself? If it's the latter, you shouldn't let yourself just become his meal ticket and home base. And, if there's already disrespect and emotional abuse, then maybe you do need to be more "selfish" about expressing your needs and looking for ways to meet them that aren't EAs or other avoidant tactics which will just pull you back into negative cycle, but some healthier ones like marriage counseling and active discussion about where you two expect things to go for you as a couple. I wish you both good luck and a solution that makes both of you happy.
 

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Thanks for all the replies everyone.

He wants to go into the PhD program to be a college professor, but I think he's either gotten false information or is trying to make this idea foolproof. He thinks that with a PhD he will be starting out at 65k a year teaching at the university. I haven't really looked into this, but I have to say it doesn't really sound right.

Another component of research is also taking on an associate professor role by teaching 1-3 classes per semester. I can't believe he can't work during his undergrad, but for some reason think he will be able to teach college courses and do research for his PhD. I'm confused by the situation to be honest, but I strongly fear a blowup on his end.
65k a year seems a very small salary for this kind of commitment.

What is his field of study?

Personally I would not go for this idea either.
 

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As I said, university salaries defy reality. If OP wants to see what public universities around him pay, many schools have a salary database that he can look up online. $65k is a nice salary for academia outside engineering, law, or medicine.

In some fields one can have a "side" practice, i.e. consulting, if the field is useful in the practical sense. I am collaborating with a university research professor right now (he has expertise that we need for a few months...) but this is in a science field. If he wants to teach Italian Literature or Anthropology or similar, research grants are far and few as are consulting assignments. The music teacher of my girls is a university professor...

What is also interesting to remember is that in academia, like in the jungle, nice guys usually end up dead (figuratively). A few a-hole profs I had decades ago are now department heads or deans while the nice guys toil away. The politics of publish or perish, of bringing in funding, grad students, and the like ultimately may not be worth it.
 

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Just to expand on what john said, there have been tons of articles published lately about all the people coming out of grad schools and law schools to compete for a very limited number of jobs. In the olden days those degrees virtually guaranteed a great job, but that is no longer the case.

I've also read that people who already work in academia are in a bubble- a professor or advisor may tell a student they should absolutely go on to get an advanced degree or teach, but they don't have a realistic concept of the actual job market.

Don't a lot of people who get PhDs to teach end up having to go anywhere the jobs are? Like you live in California but you have to move to Indiana because that's the only place that called you back.
 

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I got an excellent understanding of how tenure works as a grad (masters) student and did not even consider academia.
John, I taught for five years at two different state universities. I find your description of the academic job situtation to be very accurate.
 

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Part of me resents him for the things he's done to me in the past, and now he's asking me to keep supporting us for 6 more years. The very thought of it makes me sad, but the things that I've done to him weigh me down with such guilt that I can't bring myself to ask him not to do this.

The others have given good comments on the education issue so I am going to comment on the relationship issue.

From what you described above I would address the resentments and guilt that you mentioned first. If you do not get that improved the relationship will not last and the decsions on the education will be a moot issue.

If you get the resentment and guilt resolved then you both will be much better at coming to an agreement on the education issue. I am not saying that only you have an issue in this marriage I am sure that he does also but you printed yours.


When there is resentment and guilt in a marriage, decisions and conflict resolutions never seem to work well.
I have never seen a successful marriage when there is resentment and guilt, have you?


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