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10 Ways to Survive a With a Spouse in School

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My husband has been in school since the day we met (six years ago!) And guess what?  He’ll be in school for maybe 5-7 more years.  Here are a few things I’ve learned from this experience so far and what has worked for me!

1.  Accept the fact that you will not have your spouse at your disposal whenever you want
When I first met my husband, it was blissful summertime.  We got serious pretty quickly, and then school started.  My husband got extremely busy with school, (trying to get into dental school is difficult!) and suddenly he wasn’t giving me all the time with him that I wanted.  I was young and immature, and this was hard for our relationship.  Slowly over time, and a lot of serious discussions, we figured it out.  And then we got married, so I was in it for the long haul.  I learned slowly that my relationship with my husband was not going to be so much long walks and candlelight dinners as long nights and warmed-up dinners.  But my attitude of acceptance has really helped me to find creative ways to still enjoy our relationship.
 

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2.  Discover Yourself
This can be very testing for a young couple who decides to move away for the spouse to attend graduate school.  You may be left at home while your spouse goes to school all day.  You don’t know anyone in your new area, you may not have a job yet, you may be a stay at home mom.  But regardless, your spouse in school will be busy morning, noon, and night with school.  There will not be a lot of time for togetherness, and you will have a lot more time to fill.  Don’t just sit in front of the boob tube, go discover something that you really love doing.  Try a new skill, take a night class.

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3.  Take Shortcuts and Ditch the Guilt
When you have kids and a spouse in school, it’s something akin to being a single parent.  Your kids will wear you out.  Now is the time to save your energy and not make life harder than it needs to be.  Don’t feel like you need to be Martha Stewart, Betty Homemaker.  You don’t need to have organically grown home-cooked meals every night.  You don’t need to can everything in sight and grind your own wheat.  Your kids don’t even need to be in cloth diapers.  And your house doesn’t need to be spic and span.  I love those Clorox Wipes for everything.  I try to cook two big meals a week and eat left overs the rest of the time.  And you better believe that my desserts are store-bought cookie dough and boxed mixes.  I’m not ashamed of it!

4.  Get the Kids to Bed Early
When your spouse doesn’t come home from school until 9:00 (or later!) at night, you will be doing nearly 100% of the child care.  That is exhausting.  If you can muster up the energy at around 5 pm to crank out a dinner, feed and bathe the kids, and get them into bed by 7:30-ish, you can have the rest of the night to crash.  Plus your kids will be better rested and less whiny.  Have older kids?  I heard of one woman who told her kids that she was “off duty” at 8 pm, so if they had any questions or things she needed to do for them, they had to do it by then.

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5.  Get a Support Group
One of the best things about a spouse being in school, especially graduate school, is the fact that there are so many others just like you.  Attend school events to meet other school spouses, get phone numbers and start planning group hangouts.  That could be in the form of a kids play group, crafting night, or just a night out together.  Forming bonds with people in the same situation as you is essential in survival.


6.  Keep Two Eyes on the Budget
The word “student” is basically synonymous with the word “poor.”  Now is an excellent time to learn how to manage your money.  You may even be living exclusively on student loans.  Sit down with your spouse and decide how much money you need to dedicate to each area and set a monthly budget.  Then discuss your finances each week with other and see what is working and which areas you need to watch more carefully.  And if your budget allows, try to give each other a small personal spending budget that you can use to spend money on whatever you want.

Money Saving Tips:

  • Shop for clothes, especially children’s clothes at thrift stores and garage sales.  Buy new clothes when they are on clearance.
  • Use coupons and price-matching at the grocery store
  • Buy furniture from Craigslist and re-finish it yourself.  Buy paint that is “Oops” paint
  • Try doing a Joy School for your preschooler instead of paying for preschool 
  • Negotiate rent with your landlord each contract period to see if you can lower your rent.  
  • Research various power programs in your area to see if there are programs for lower-income families or programs that enable you to monitor your own power usage.  
  • Lower the heat on your water heater during the hot summer months.  Try to shower just after being outside or exercising so you don’t need as hot of a shower.  

7.  Schedule Time with Your Spouse
You will have to make a bigger effort to maintain your relationship with your spouse.  Arrange for a babysitter on the weekend so you can go out.  Agree on a time each night when you can talk and re-connect, away from distractions (phone, TV, and computer!) Discuss your children and plan family activities together.

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8.  Just Do It
As hard as it may be to accept, and as much as it goes against present-day equality in marriage, you will probably have to just do most of the housework.  This is a hard one for me still, especially when my husband is at home while studying.  However, our lives are always a lot happier and less stressful when I take care of most of the housework.  My husband helps out when he has more time, but during those busy times, asking him to do additional work only stresses us both out.  And like I said before, if there are nights when you are just too tired to do the dishes, just leave them for the morning.  No one will know.  No one will care.  The Domestic Police are not going to raid your house first thing in the morning and arrest you for a dirty sink. 

9.  Connect with Your Community
This has also been something I’ve struggled with.  During the time we’ve lived here in Arizona, I always had the mindset that this was just temporary.  Therefore why should I bother to get to know the area or form connections with residents?  But the more I discover new fun places to go and connect with people here, the more at home I feel, which helps you to forget somewhat that you are still in the student phase of life. 

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10.  Remember That It’s Not Forever 
This is a sacrifice that you will have to make for now, for hopefully a better future for your family.  Frequently it doesn’t really get less stressful, per se.  My sister told me that when her husband was in grad school it was more of a break, since his jobs are very busy and demanding.  However, you will have an income, which always helps things.  Hopefully that income can help you purchase a house and establish more comfortable and stable lives. 

I’d love to hear your tips on surviving school!!
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36 Comments

  1. Rachel Holloway says:

    My husband has been in school our whole almost 8 years of married life and is finally nearing graduation before starting residency. It has definitely been a hard road, but at the same time I know I am going to MISS these days. There has been so much growth that has come as we got married, had 4 children, and learned to make due while getting through school.

    I love the tips you gave…one more I want to say specifically is to love where you live like it were your home. I frequently hear other student families comparing their home state to where we are now–and making such derogatory comments about here…about the weather, the people, the mail system…you name it, I've heard it. The truth is, there is just as much good in the very place you live (whether noticeable at first or not) as there is in the place you came from….if not MORE! πŸ™‚

    I found that embracing the place I live, LOVING it for the things it has to offer, and brushing off the things that aren't so good have TRULY helped me get through the past few years of busy schedules and being 2,000 miles away from family. We have grown to love it here, and are kind of sad that we have to move on in a few months…

    It may be hard, and it may take time, but loving where you are and giving it your best attitude really does change the way you can feel about the whole school experience in general.

    (sorry that was a MASSIVE book…never have commented here, but always love what you post! πŸ™‚ Thank you for your talent and sharing so openly! πŸ™‚

  2. I know what you mean. When I met my husband he was only 1 semester into school. Six years later we are still in school and he still has one more year to go. We have 3 little girls all under the age of 5 and I am super busy. I just make sure there is one night for me and the hubs that we can just be together. It is hard but worth it in the end.

  3. Brandy@YDK says:

    thanks for a great article – my husband works full time and is working on his master's degree. i definitely feel like i'm going it alone.

  4. I am so glad that you posted on this subject! My hubbs just went back to school last year (we will have been married 8 yrs in may) and it has been a MAJOR adjustment for me. He was unemployed for a year before that so I went from having him home all the time and helping me with everything to never having him around! I love these tips and it makes me feel good to realize that there are lots of others out there struggling with the same thing! Love ya and your blog!

  5. Bethany Lotterman says:

    LOVE this post. I recently admitted to myself that I need an attitude adjustment about this whole situation!

    We're newlyweds of 7months and we've been dragging lately with being so busy and never seeing each other. My husband is in school for computer engineering and has 2-3 more years to go. Thanks for the great tips and down-to-earth advice!

  6. banclothing says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I am not in the same situation however, I know there are many couples who one of them wants to go back to school but neither of them think they can make it work. I think the financial aspect is huge especially if there is no income and hearing someone do it is really inspiring. When I was in university one of my friends was married and her husband kept saying 'I can't wait to get my wife back'.

  7. I am glad you posted on this. My husband works full time and is an engineering student at the University of Louisville full time. I stay at home with our children and also attend school at the university. I think my biggest struggle has been the loneliness. He works and then goes to school 4 nights a week until about 9:30 at night and when he comes home, he does homework until 1 or 2 in the morning. God love him. He works so hard. I do too but in a different way. I used to get mad because I was practically a single parent. After 3 years of this I have come to terms with it and I just pray that it will all be worth it in the end. I have had issues feeling like I have been pushed to the back burner. I no longer feel this way and I understand that he is doing all of this for our family. This situation has added extra stress to our relationship. I think the most important thing that I have learned is that no matter what, we need to keep our relationship strong. We don't get a lot of intimate time, but I try to keep in mind that it isn't about quiet dinners and cuddling and constantly saying 'I love you'. We are showing our love in our hard work. If we can keep our relationship strong, everything else will fall into place.

  8. Landon and Kylie says:

    I love this post! We've been married for 3.5 years. I graduated 1 month after we were married, and I've been supporting my husband ever since. πŸ™‚ He's in his second semester of grad school — we have about 4 years left to go.
    It is definitely a mindset. I had a hard time deciding to have kids, because I knew the majority of the work would fall on me, at least for now. But once I realized that it was take on the challenge or wait until I'm 30, I finally concluded that we could make it work.
    One thing that works for us – my husband is really good about working as hard as he can at school, and then, for the most part, being HOME when he's home. Some evenings he has homework, but he tries really hard to use his time wisely and finish things as early as possible.
    The other huge thing for me was realizing that, as you said, I don't have to do it all and be like the super-women on the internet. For most of them – their job is to sew and cook and make a beautiful blog. And there's no reason I need to feel guilty because my time is spent working full-time, being pregnant, and trying to keep our house together.
    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Heidi
    I love these, they are just what I needed! Whats funny is my husband is about to start dental school in Az too! This might be really personal..but what school are you guys attending!?) I might have to ask you for advice about the area. Would you mind? We have 3 kids,our oldest is 7 and I am sort of freaking out since I have lived pretty much my whole life in Utah and Idaho. πŸ™‚ Congrats on almost being done!

  10. My husband and I just graduated in May. That’s right. We both did. Same day, with our four-year-old by our sides. I’m moving on to Master’s while hubby works for a while and then moves on to his MA. Best advice: accept sacrifices as they come.

  11. Very well said.I wish all married people and also those who will marry in near future should read this.

  12. I. needed. this. I’m kind of on the other end of things. We’ve been married for six years, and my husband is only in his second year of school. His first degree was linked to the economy and just wasn’t working out, so now he’s pursuing something in the medical field. But it’s SSSOOO hard because I know what it’s like to have a normal family life. I know what it’s like to have him home at five every night. Our lives were structured. I had help. I had HIM! And it was glorious. Now? Not so much. Now we have a two-year-old and a nine-month-old and while being a homemaker is a dream come true, I’m kind of losing my mind. We only have one car, and he has it all the time. He’s also working full time, and so he’s never ever ever ever ever ever home. And since I don’t have a way to get around, I never leave. My children and I all have cabin fever most of the time. My mom has been my savior, though. She drives half an hour to come get me and take me out every week. Being here is tough, but we can literally count down the days to when life can get back to being blissfully normal…provided that he doesn’t fail.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Oh Alexis, I’m so sorry this is such a rough time for you! I remember being with only one car and that definitely is SO hard, especially with kids! We finally just HAD to find a way to fit another car in our budget (even after buying a bike that my husband couldn’t ride due to his bad knee and then having to sell it.) And actually that car has made a HUGE difference for me. I can’t imagine being without it again. I hope that you guys can stick out this rough time!

      1. Yes it’s a hard situation and is so draining in the moment. Ladies, please don’t ignore there could be an unhappy ending to the story. My husband, who is on year 4 of a doctorate program, just served me divorce papers. He took all the stress personally and blamed me. Now I am 5,000 miles from my home state and trapped with the kids here because of his filing. If your marriage is rocky and you are exhausted, really probe into what he may be contemplating and make a plan B.

  13. Oh thanks so much for this article! My husband is applying to grad school this year and I have been worried about how it is going to change our marriage. So many websites encourage for couples to wait to get married and especially have kids until after graduate school. I was becoming so discouraged. I love being married and can’t imagine waiting another 5-6 years to be married to my sweet husband. Thanks for the encouragement and hope.

  14. Melissa T says:

    I’m so glad I found this blog and everyone’s comments! I was starting to lose my mind and my patience. My husband has just started grad school for engineering after being unemployed for 2 years. Needless to say, I was SO used to having help. I was the main bread winner for that time. Then we only had one son, which was hard enough. But now we have 2, our oldest is 3 and our youngest is just 2 months old. I feel like the house is a disaster, I’m lucky to get them bathed each day and he is never home and never helps when he is home! I really feel like I’m doing this alone like you said…a single mother!

    But it truly to helps to know that I’m not the only one feeling this way. Thank you SOOOO much for writing this. It really takes a huge weight offmy shoulders to know that I’m not alone and should just relax about the house being ! Good luck to everyone else. I for one am going to try to give myself a serious attitude adjustment and get on board with the choas that is our new life! πŸ™‚

  15. Im struggling so much with this topic right now! My hubby is almost done with school he is in his last year and we are both stressed to the max. We have a lot of family and friends but no one understands our struggle so I’m glad to hear there are others out there who understand. We have 5 kids and I work full time and so does he plus school. I just can’t wait until he is done I’m sick of suffering as well as he is but I know our plan will work out in the end and we will have him back again and things can start getting better. I hope my kids learn from this that getting an education is hard work but very much worth it. My heart goes out to everyone who is going through this it’s very hard. But we will make it I have faith just got to keep being strong. Thanks for the tips I’m definitely going to use these!

  16. I’m feeling kind of alone here. Does anyone work full-time with 2 kids and a husband that’s 5 years into a monster PhD program? Been together 11 years and we hardly even connect anymore. He’s so neck-deep in his research – a topic I have zero interest in – and I feel like I’m just getting lectured all the time, like my little life stories are insignificant compared to his new life approach. But what else are we going to talk about when that’s where his brain is 24/7? I feel like grad school ruined my husband, but he’s so proud of who he’s become. At a total loss.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      I’m so sorry Val. I can’t relate to that fully, although there was a time when my husband was taking a class that interested him so much he practically studied the subject 24/7 and couldn’t talk about anything else. It was driving me crazy! Thankfully the class ended and things returned to normal. As for your husband, I can only encourage you to be patient and continue to wait until he’s done. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t express your feelings to him also and try to set up fun things for you and him to do just the two of you. I know this advice is probably stuff you’ve heard before, so I just wish you the best and all the patience in the world. Women have an amazing ability to be patient–with their husbands and kids and I’m really surprised at how much patience I’ve gained over the years (coming from being the worlds more IMPATIENT person ever!) XOXO–Heidi

  17. Stephanie says:

    I Didn’t think anyone else did this…my husband is about to take on two jobs so I can finish Nursing school. I am completely overwhelmed with fear that he will overwork himself and become resentful of me. I cry when I think of the love it must take toward me to work such long hours…just so I can have a career that will help our family grow in the long run. This is a huge long rocky road were about to walk down..I am not gonna lie I am really scared!

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Every marriage requires sacrifice, but it is hard. Good luck!

  18. You all have no idea how glad I was to find this post! I have been married for almost 10 years and my husband decided it was time to finish his degree. We have a 3 & a 5 year old, and he’s in the military. Granted it’s not full time school, he’s at work 8-9 hours a day comes home eats and locks himself up in the room (he’s doing online school this semester). Last semester he was going to school on campus twice a week.

    Pretty much one semester is online and one semester on campus. I’m blessed to be a stay at home mom, but holy moly it’s hard. There is absolutely no time for him and I …. He gets frustrated when the kids are loud, when I get mad because we’re home on the weekends. I feel like it’s not fair to the kids, they don’t know daddy is busy. Or do they ?!

    I feel like it was his decision to go back to school so he needs to know how to make time for family. I just don’t know how to address it without it sounding like I’m whining. Sometimes I feel like it’s all about him, so I have to cater to him. The first 9 years of our marriage he was gone all the time because of his military job. We moved, he is now home everyday but he’s in school. I want to support him, I really do!!! But it’s taking a toll on me. :/

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      It’s a hard time for sure! Just remember that while he probably feels that he is doing what is best for everyone in the long run, no one is going to be happy if your relationship falls apart in the meantime. Your needs are still important. However, during this time he just won’t be able to give as much time, period. Just adjust your expectations a little. Don’t nag him about the things bothering you, save it for a serious conversation when he can give you his full attention. And definitely plan to get out of the house while he’s studying because I know how hard it is trying to tiptoe around! Good luck!

  19. Thank you so much for posting this. I recently moved with my long term boyfriend to a small town not too far from my home town. We have only been here 3 months and it seems like ages. The first month was extremely hard for me and I started to deal with the lonliness and stress of the entire thing with drinking. Good news is I am feeling a lot better and have even found myself a job full time. I am very grateful that my s/o helps out around the house as much as he can and even more than I do sometimes. I have currently given myself an attitude adjustment, and have started to focus more on what I can do for him to help ease his stresses. I am currently looking to take on full responsibility for the house now that I am out of my rut. My s/o is so kind and generous with his time and reading some of the other posts I now realize that. He makes time for us as much as he can. He takes my son to school every morning and picks him up in the afternoons. He makes his breakfast, he cooks dinner most nights (because he likes to cook, he says it is relaxing after a long day at the office.) He takes the garbage, etc.,, there is nothing this man doesnt do. I have really taken him for granted while I wallowed in my own pity party. I am now over it and looking to make the next 2 1/2 years very easy for him.

    I wish there were others that I could relate to here in his program, but there are not. There are other students he is in school with that have the attitude of “just get over it, it was your choice to move here in the first place, you didn’t have to make the move.” I heard one of them saying about another “wife,” (whose husband was in the program.) just last Friday evening at a dinner with a few of them. I felt so left out because honestly, I could care less about the gossip and office politics and I have nothing to input into their conversations. There were one or two questions directed toward me, but overall no interest that I was even there. Just because I am not a PhD. student in their field does not mean that I am illiterate or incompetent and have nothing to say. I try to not go around them very frequently, because they make me absolutely nuts!!! One other instance was a get togther at one of the professors homes, I was told that no children were allowed because the professor was very wealthy and she had very nice things and we couldnt risk my son breaking something. He is 7 and a very responsible and very good, intelligent kid. That really made me ANGRY and I felt so entirely excluded and my feelings were very hurt..

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      I’m sorry about all that. It’s hard when the spouse’s patience and troubles are so overlooked because YOU are not the one ‘working hard’ in school. But holding down the fort as basically a single parent is very difficult and often lonely. It’s helpful to find a good support system who understands what you’re going through.

  20. Seriesofdreams4 says:

    My wife is starting grad school in a couple of weeks and I have been scared all summer. Scared, but supportive. I just don’t know what to expect. I’m an athletic trainer and I’m gone late several times a week. Now, her night classes are only on Monday but this is only the first semester. We’re both going to be working full-time and it’s going to be a very stressful time. I’ve communicated it to her that I have been feeling very anxious and nervous about this decision, but we both agree that it’s in the best interests of the family if she moves out of her current field. During the fall/winter I can have some pretty busy weeks. Oftentimes I’ll put in 50-55 with a couple of Saturdays but usually it stays around 45. I’m glad that there are people I can relate to. I love her to death and I just don’t want this to come between us in any way. I’ve been frantic the past couple of weeks showering her with gestures of love because it’s been my way of getting closer to her knowing that we have this challenge coming up. She’s moving back to first shift and we have 2 kids. It’s going to be difficult. I just hope I hope I can handle all of the pressure. Any advice would be appreciated. I’m trying to stay positive but sometimes it’s very hard. Thanks.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      I think your anxiety is probably coming mostly from fearing the unknown. Just take it one day at a time, and you’ll slowly get used to the new schedule. Big life changes are always nerve-wracking…I’m about to move into my first house and even though I’m over the moon excited, I’m still incredibly nervous to be a homeowner, to be tied to a mortgage. I would recommend finding some sort of group to talk to about your anxieties so you don’t constantly dump them on your wife, who will probably feel guilty and see it as a lack of support. If you don’t want to talk to strangers, just write in a journal. I’m a classes over-thinker so having a journal sometimes is the only therapy I can do. But one thing is for sure, you will get through it! It won’t be easy, but you will be able to do it. Best of luck!

    2. How did it turn out? I have an extraordinary amount of anxiety about my husband beginning grad school in a distant city. In part because we have a mortgage and a toddler that my parents have helped me with since he has been in school. I also have a very well paying job that would be foolish to leave. But I am lonely and I have many demands that my husabnd cannot meet right now. And I am frustrated. I thought at this time in my life (I am 34 & Husband 37) I would have 2 or 3 children. I feel like I am working myself to death and resentment.

      1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

        I can’t pretend to understand that starting school when you’re young versus going back to school after leaving a good job are the same thing. That is a very difficult transition. For what it’s worth, just remember that it’s not forever and your husband’s ultimate happiness (hopefully because that is why he is going back to school right?) is worth the sacrifice you have to make right now. I understand waiting to have more children, and that really is hard. But no one’s life is the same and our plan usually doesn’t turn out the way we want it to. Try to find other wives who have student husbands to have kind of a support group–friends can be your biggest lifeline right now! Good luck!

  21. Thank you for this! My husband has applied to a very good online program because he needs a different degree in order to advance anywhere. We get by okay on his current salary but in order to get a house and support more kids we really do need a bigger income. I am pregnant and will deliver our first child in under two months and although I knew the right thing to do was support him I bubbled over the other night with all these fears and insecurities about him not being there for me and the baby over the next few years – worries about the baby being neglected or something where particularly irksome πŸ™ But reading your post I realized my main issue was the fear that somehow his desire to go back to school means he doesn’t love me or our life now. Which, (by his own admission!) could not be anything further from the truth! And I guess there *might* be some effect on a young kid to not have a ton of daddy time, but that’s what family is about – everyone makes sacrifices for each other – and better to get this done now then to wait until there are 2 or 3 little ones running around! <3

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      I’m glad I could help! It’s a hard time of life but it’s totally doable. Good luck!

  22. I am glad I came across this blog post. I met a wonderful man and we’ve been dating for almost 3 months, but have known each other for 3 years. We want to get married a year from now, however the time we will be married he will still be in school. I have a full time job and I try to be frugal. However, I am having a lot of anxiety at the thought of marrying a student and having to be the sole provider for that time being. My family suggests we wait until he finishes, but we’d like to be married before then. I know we can make it work, but how is the question. The economy is making it impossible to have just one income coming in. Thanks for sharing those tips for being in that situation. I am just concerned on how I can take on such responsibility and better prepare myself for the sacrifices.

  23. (((dr_mack @ yahoo. com))) … restored my relationship and my boyfriend came back to me………………

  24. I am having a very hard time (have been having a hard time) with my husband being in grad school. He’s in his 7th year of getting a science related PhD. And he keeps missing deadlines. He’s burnt out, refuses to talk to a therapist, unloads all of his gripes on me and makes me feel like he’s gaslighting me. He’s more emotional than I am, and that makes for explosive stress related tantrums (best word I could think to describe it). We’ve been together for 10 years and he is not acting like the person I’ve known for the first 8 years of our relationship. I am trying to be as supportive as possible, but I’m getting burnt out too, and my biggest concern now is will he go back to normal once this stressful time is over? I know we’ve both changed over the years due to the high stress of grad school, but I want my best friend back.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      That sounds hard. It really is such a trying time in a relationship, especially if you have young children (which you didn’t mention so I don’t know if this is the case.) I’m sure it will get easier once it’s over, but it sounds like you might need to have an honest conversation with him about how to make it through the rest of the time. People who are high stress (like my own husband) tend to always be that way in any circumstance, so while I feel like it’s gotten better with time, we have still had a lot of hard and stressful moments. Good luck! I feel your pain!

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