An Open Letter To All B-School Spouses & Partners

An adaptation from the new book Case Studies & Cocktails by Carrie Shuchart and Chris Ryan

Dear S.O.,


After what has probably been an agonizing period of watching your loved one study for the GMAT or GRE (or maybe even both), scour the Internet for information on schools, write draft after draft after draft of silly essay after silly essay, and then wait for a decision, your loved one has finally been admitted to business school!

No doubt, you have played a part in his or her success. You both deserve kudos. Whether you are married or not, you are involved. It’s important that you know what you and your partner are signing up for if you want your relationship to survive business school.

We are here to tell you all the stuff that your beloved B-school admit needs to know but a) either doesn’t know yet or b) doesn’t know how to tell you. Please recognize that everything here is said with the best of intentions. Relationships do survive B-school, and we want yours to be one of the triumphant ones.

1) The next two years are not about you.

One key lesson that your partner will (hopefully) be learning in business school is that all partnerships are about compromise. Sadly, you will probably have to learn this first.

Your partner’s focus is going to be all over the map for the next long while–classes, activities, recruiting, travel, etc. He or she will have a very erratic schedule. Projects will take longer than expected and involve other people whom you will hear about constantly and sometimes see at your home. Abilities will be doubted, career plans will change. In all likelihood, you will have to bear the brunt of the frustration and anxiety that your partner experiences.

Thanks for having your partner’s back through this time. You will be asked to provide any or all of the following: financial support, emotional support, life-management support, and even bodily support (after a night out). It will be an unbalanced relationship during this time, and the best you can do is accept it as such, trusting that in times to come, your partner will be there for you. If it helps, have a discussion with your B-schooler about how you will balance things over the long haul. And, ideally, the haul will be a long one.

2) Your partner is not picking other things over you.

Business school, done right, is all-consuming. You may be thinking back to your own college or graduate school days, when you had a few hours of class, a few hours of work, and plenty of time to participate in whatever activities you wanted.

MBA programs, while seemingly similar, are actually very different. While classroom hours are limited, class projects can extend far beyond normal working hours. Having to work around the schedules of five other people often means that a business school student has to make sacrifices within his or her personal schedule. Moreover, things that feel like recreational activities, from clubs and company presentations to social events, are integral parts of the MBA experience, and attendance should be considered mandatory.

The last thing you want to do is make your partner (already super-worried about debt burdens and job prospects) feel guilty for having to choose between you and school priorities. He or she may not realize all that you are giving up now but you will be thanked aplenty later. (We’re insisting on it.) On a related note, prepare yourself to hear a lot about various classmates and learning team members. Don’t assume that any of them are a threat to your relationship.

3) Happy Hour is a class.

It’s Thursday night at 10 p.m. Do you know where your B-schooler is?

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