So your spouse wants to go back to school. Maybe this comes as a shock to you: College? Graduate School? Now? Or maybe this has been an ongoing conversation for a while, but now your spouse says it’s time.

The pressure’s on. You’re not sure your spouse going to undergraduate or graduate school is the best idea for your family right now. The thought of reducing or losing your spouse’s income makes you sweat buckets, and you’re not sure if you’re up to the challenge of shouldering more financial burden and responsibility at home–not to mention the possibility of student debt. Quite frankly, the idea of your spouse going back to school (or staying in school after an extended period in college) is terrifying.

Your first instinct is to say, “No way.” But this is important to your spouse. So what do you do?

ARE YOUR VALUES IN SYNC?

When it comes to the question of pursuing a college education at any level, values are a huge deciding factor. Do you and your spouse share values when it comes to education? Expressing your God-given talents? Take a step back to reevaluate–objectively–whether you’re actually on the same page.

College or graduate school usually means you’ll need to delay your gratification in certain areas and put things on hold that one or both of you might want badly. This can be incredibly difficult; for example, we didn’t own a home or have children for over ten years after we married. But we believed in what we were trying to achieve. And if one or both of you is determined to pursue a degree, having shared values around education will make that delayed gratification easier to manage.

VISUALIZE YOUR LIFE IN 10 YEARS

If you’re having doubts about your spouse’s continued education, visualize what might short-circuit in your marriage (and your life, in general) if you were to keep him or her from pursuing this degree. Would you be stunting his or her growth personal and professional growth?

Now, think about what your life might look like in 10 years if your spouse earns this degree, versus if they do not. Better yet, think about the person you’ll be married to 10 years from now. How might this change your spouse? If you keep them from pursuing further study, how might that change them?

Remember, sometimes paying a price now creates a greater payoff down the road. Further education could help your spouse continue to grow into the best version of themselves, and he or she won’t be the only one to reap the benefits; you and your family will, too.

BE OPEN ABOUT YOUR DREAMS, TOO

If you’re feeling ambivalent or apprehensive about the idea of your spouse beginning or continuing their education, perhaps it’s because you have some dreams of your own you’d like to pursue. If that’s the case, get those on the table. You don’t have to sit back while your spouse is the only one to achieve their dreams.

Be honest with your spouse about the specific things you’d like to do. Chances are, your spouse will be supportive of your aspirations, too. The trick will be working together to come to an agreement about the strategies you’re going to take to get where you both want to be.

To create a game plan for your individual goals, try this:

  1. Make separate lists of your major educational and/or career goals and other big dreams (travel, entertainment, hobbies and passions, etc.).
  2.  Make note of the items on your list that are of highest priority, then combine your high-priority goals on a separate sheet of paper.
  3. Discuss these goals openly, talking through the pros/cons of each.
  4.  Then, carefully consider timing; which goals are most pressing? What kind of timeline makes the most sense?

Try to look at the data you compile as objectively as possible. No doubt you’ll both feel strongly about your respective aspirations. It may take time (and multiple discussions) before you come to an agreement.

NOT ALL SEASONS ARE CREATED EQUAL

It’s obvious that education is very important to your spouse. As a part of career development, education can help us to more fully manifest the God-given talents we long to share with the world. After all, a career is about expressing the sense of calling you have in this life.

Providing for a family is both a blessing and a burden–and it’s a burden that should be shared if your family needs it. But it’s important to remember that the burden of provision doesn’t always have to be shared equally in every season of life.

In some seasons, we will give more than we receive. And in others, we will be the recipients while our spouses shoulder the heavier burdens. Seasons come and go; even though you might feel apprehensive at the thought of your spouse going back to school right now, you may find that it is simply your time to give.

Did your spouse go back to college for an undergraduate degree? Did he or she attend graduate school for a Master’s, PhD, or other advanced degree? How did you work together to shoulder the burdens? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments section!

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