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Chicago Booth | Mr. Whitecoat Businessman
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How to Survive Your Significant Other’s MBA

How to survive your significant other's MBA

Betsy Ryan and her husband, Peter. Peter is a second year MBA student at Carlson School of Management.

So your significant other is starting an MBA. Sure, you’re supportive … but also a little nervous about this new challenge.

A little bit about me: I am married to a second-year MBA student who will be graduating from the Carlson School of Management in May. I am also an academic advisor for MBA students at the Carlson School, so my husband has the privilege (or curse) of having my guidance at home and at school.

From this perspective, here are some best practices to keep you and your partner happy, healthy, and closer than ever.



Core Competencies: Cheerleading & Housekeeping

The most important thing your partner needs from you is your complete support: both emotional and physical. A hard truth is your significant other’s needs will be the priority, and it can be tempting to be resentful of the situation. The upside is that your student is going to be extremely appreciative of your efforts.

Be ready to offer words of encouragement and cheer your student on through the wins and losses. Certainly, you can count on positive achievements to celebrate, but there will also be days when your student might feel very dejected—even well-intentioned criticism might be best kept to yourself.

If you have a good division of household labor prior to starting school, anticipate the majority of the load will fall to you. However, running the unavoidable errands and keeping the pantry well-stocked with coffee will contribute to your student’s success.

A Win-Win: Time Spent Together

Your MBA student will not only be investing hours in the classroom; other obligations will seep into most weeknights and weekends. This packed schedule is a part of the experience and should be encouraged, since so much of what contributes to the value of an MBA is found outside of coursework.

We found it helpful to keep a 120-day wall calendar of all the various events of the term posted at home; I always knew when it was a good time to make date night plans or to plan to stay in. You would also be surprised how routines like going to the grocery store together can feel romantic after you’ve only seen your partner for a few waking hours the previous week.

Try to seek out other couples in the program and accompany your significant other to as many school-related events as possible. I am particularly grateful for the number of Carlson social events that include partners of students. I look forward to seeing the significant others of my husband’s classmates as much as my own circle of friends. They can completely empathize with your struggle.

Value-Add: What Is in It for You?

Additionally, take some time to invest in yourself. This is the perfect time to pursue personal enrichment, be it a noble cause or as simple as finally organizing your photo albums. Your student needs you to care for yourself, too. You are going to have time and freedom in abundance, so take advantage.

And the last piece of advice I can share that will get you through it all: The days can be long, but the time goes fast.

Betsy Ryan lives in Saint Paul, MN with her husband/student Peter. She holds a Master’s in Counseling from Mount Mary University and counts herself supremely honored to advise Carlson School’s talented MBA students.