Students balance married and student life

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(Sam Smith)
Sam and Sierra Smith pose with their son. (Sam Smith)

Amid planning wedding colors, venues, and flower arrangements, the BYU students who get married each year may not realize just how different their life will be after the big day. Marriage can change the way students balance their emotional, spiritual, academic, professional, social, physical and romantic health.

This shift in balance poses new challenges single students do not face. BYU graduate student Sam Smith said he has struggled to find the right balance between spending time with his spouse and going to school since being married.

“I struggle deciding how much time to spend at home versus at school,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, it’s probably one of those situations where if I felt I was spending adequate time with either one of them, I would probably be neglecting the other.”

BYU student Anna Affleck, who got married in December, said the hardest part for her and her husband are the differences in their schedules.

“I think the biggest challenge for us would be that as we are nursing and accounting students. Our schedules are almost opposite,” Affleck said. “We sometimes joke that we had more time together when we were engaged than when we got married.”

According to BYU alumna and current Columbia University student Eve Whitlock, single people see married couples as separate and exclusive, but that’s not the case.

“Married people are seen as super weird and introverted,” Whitlock said. “We are seen as total outsiders sometimes. I’m not introverted.”

In spite of this new marital balancing act, married students are quick to point to their spouses as their biggest sources of support in their academic pursuits.

Newlyweds Anna and MJ Affleck at their wedding in December. (Anna Affleck)

Affleck said she and her husband both agree studying became easier and more fun after marriage.

“We motivate each other with study breaks to bake cookies, watch an ‘Office’ episode, walk around or whatever else,” Affleck said. “He always encourages me to try new things and challenge myself.”

For students whose spouses are not students, Whitlock said a partner can alleviate academic stress in other ways.

“(My husband) works multiple part-time jobs to put me through school, including being a manny (man nanny),” Whitlock said. “He does all the grocery shopping, is an amazing sounding board for my ideas, and of course, gives me immense emotional support.”

Smith’s wife, who already graduated, supports his academic goals in similar ways.

“My wife is a powerhouse of support,” Smith said. “She works full time and supports our family financially. This helps me focus on getting good grades and not needing to earn a steady paycheck. She even brings me dinner on campus when I have to stay late.”

Despite the mutual support that can come through marriage, maintaining a healthy relationship can be difficult because of the demands of school, work, friends and personal health. These couples suggest actively setting aside time to deepen the relationship.

Thomas Whitlock supports his wife, Eve, who is a student at Columbia University. (Eve Whitlock)

“We go on a date and go to the temple once a month at a minimum,” Smith said. “We trade babysitting with other young couples in our ward. (We) also read a lot of books from the library about the things that could or do cause us stress: sexual intimacy, communication, mental health, politics, religion, etc.”

Affleck said she and her husband stay united through regular temple attendance.

“We have made a goal to go once a week and we have loved it,” Affleck said. “‘Come Follow Me’ has been a great strength in our home, and of course (we) keep dating.”

Whitlock said she makes a point of spending time with her husband — even when time is limited.

“We take time to do fun things together,” Whitlock said. “Even if we are just taking a walk to explore our neighborhood.”

Whitlock also cited “Marriage Minutes” by the Gottman Institute as a way she and her husband keep their relationship front and center in their lives.

“We get emails about tips and talk about them together,” Whitlock said. “We’re constantly evaluating our relationship and how we can improve.”

While marriage can have a significant impact on many aspects of a student’s life, young husbands and wives are finding that by maintaining a healthy relationship with their spouse, marriage can become one of their greatest sources of support.

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