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Marriage is a recurrent topic in the lives of most PhDs. The meagre pay and the burden of responsibility could make marriage in the middle of PhD look like a terrible idea. But on the positive side, marriage gives one an intimate companion in a long and bleak journey. The pay hurdle could also be overcome if the partner finds a job.

While eventually it is a personal decision for the couple based on their commitment and readiness, what are the points to remember when one thinks of getting married in the middle of a PhD?

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    Can people explain the close votes either here, meta, or chat. I think the question can be answered in an objective manner and the discussion can be kept to a minimum. I think it is one of the most prominent social questions PhD students have. – StrongBad Apr 7 '13 at 13:34
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    @DanielE.Shub Every close vote automatically comes with an explanation why. In this case, at this moment I and one other person (and hopefully soon three others) have voted that: "As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, see the FAQ for guidance." I think that's pretty explicit. – EnergyNumbers Apr 7 '13 at 14:48
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    Marriage? PhD? You will have hard times my friend – seteropere Apr 7 '13 at 16:05
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    I think marriage is a highly personal issue and nobody can give a definitive answer to this question. – user4511 Apr 7 '13 at 16:31
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    @Bravo: Then I think retitling it would be a very good idea! The current title says the question is about whether it's a bad idea. I can imagine it might be more acceptable to some people if it were called something like "Points to consider when deciding whether to get married during a PhD" or something like that. – Tara B Apr 8 '13 at 13:21
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If you've found the right person to marry in graduate school, what's the alternative? Getting married as a postdoc or tenure-track faculty member is also difficult, since you still have a lot of career pressure and uncertainty. It won't go over well to say "I love you, but let's wait until I have tenure to get married," since that's way too far in the future, and I don't see any real advantage to saying "let's wait until I'm a postdoc."

Before marrying a non-academic, it's important to make sure they understand some of the basic parameters of academia:

  1. The job market is incredibly competitive. Harvard probably won't hire you even if everyone agrees you're really smart, and getting a job at a less prestigious university is not a form of career failure. Indeed, just the opposite is true: any career progress in academia is a success that should be celebrated.

  2. There is a national, and even international, job market with universities in many locations, but that doesn't mean you can choose where you want to live. Instead, it means you need to apply everywhere and take what you can get. Unless you are really lucky, having an academic career may require living somewhere you do not consider desirable, and you won't even be able to predict in advance where that might be.

  3. Having a successful research career requires a lot of work, but it's a little different from many demanding jobs because the work is mostly self-imposed. You need to do it, but nobody is specifying what, when, or how. This can lead to resentment since everything you spend time on seems like a choice, rather than an externally imposed requirement. So you need a partner who is not inclined towards jealousy over time commitments.

If these issues are not an obstacle, then it's reasonable to get married whenever seems appropriate.

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    "It won't go over well to say "I love you, but let's wait until I have tenure to get married," since that's way too far in the future, and I don't see any real advantage to saying "let's wait until I'm a postdoc."" Exactly right! Do industry workers wait until they are in a high position before getting married? – Jack Bauer Aug 27 '15 at 21:44
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    Anecdata: my father says he finished grad school faster because he was married and had children. He worked harder during the day because he didn't want to stay around working at night; he wanted to go home and see us! It also gave him a more long-term-oriented sense of pressure/drive: I can't goof around and take eight years for this degree! I have to graduate and get a job and take care of my family! Now he has two PhDs and seven kids. :) – MissMonicaE Nov 22 '16 at 18:04
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For the actual question (“ what are the points to remember when one thinks of getting married in the middle of a PhD?”):

  • If you are a woman, and live in a country where you are expected to take the surname of your husband, make sure that doesn't interfere with other people's ability to keep track of your publications. (Some women I know, though they use their husband's name for daily life, use their maiden name for academic purposes. That or using both surnames.)

Honestly, that's about the only academia-specific or PhD-specific real advice I could think of. Everything else is just, well, the usual stuff:

  • Planning a wedding can become really time consuming. Organize efficiently, or delegate, or simply choose to do something simple. (Elope?)
  • The honeymoon may be tricky to arrange, especially if your spouse has high expectations (some people would expect the happy couple to take a 3-week vacation starting the day after the wedding, which might be hard to schedule).

And obvious reference:

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For the rest of the question, the only thing I have to say is: oh man, you've got to get your priorities straight!

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    What do you mean exactly by the final comment? – Tara B Apr 7 '13 at 13:26
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    About the honeymoon: How is this going to get any easier after the PhD? – Tara B Apr 7 '13 at 13:28
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    @TaraB I recently married and aiming to do the honeymoon after finishing the PhD but before starting a post-doc. – gerrit Apr 7 '13 at 15:11
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    @TaraB regarding priorities, I was reacting to “on the positive side, marriage gives one an intimate companion in a long and bleak journey”… I never heard someone thinking of getting married because that would help their thesis :) – F'x Apr 7 '13 at 17:31
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    @gerrit: Yes, every situation is different. It seems that waiting a while for the honeymoon is not at all unusual, but I think it defeats what was originally the main purpose of the honeymoon. Often these days couples will have been living together for quite a while before getting married anyway, so then it's different of course, but since the OP is from India, I think there's a high chance his situation would be closer to mine. – Tara B Apr 7 '13 at 18:19
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Having gotten married more or less exactly in the middle of my PhD, I would say emphatically no, it is not a bad idea at all! (I expect you just meant 'during' by 'in the middle of' though. =] )

Regarding the 'meagre pay': at the time my PhD scholarship was about twice as much money as I had ever had in my life before, so I felt comparatively wealthy. We were not interested in having a lavish wedding anyway, but we did manage to afford a very nice wedding with 80 guests, paid for out of money saved from our PhD scholarships.
Of course PhD students might not be similarly well-paid in many countries (we were in the UK).

As for the 'burden of responsibility', I'm not quite sure what you mean by this, so I'll ask a question in a comment and wait until you reply.

Points to consider:

  • You will potentially need to lower your expectations about what kind of wedding you can afford, but if the point is to achieve the state of being married, I don't think that's a big problem. You can always throw a big anniversary party at some point later when you have more money.

  • Potential name change (as mentioned by F'x): If a name change is going to be involved, it can be very convenient to have this happen before one has any publications, which is a lot more likely to be the case during the PhD than afterwards. (I did change my surname, and had no publications yet at that point, so there is no problem with using my new surname for academic purposes.)

  • Honeymoon: There's a lot more chance of getting enough time off for a proper honeymoon during a PhD than once you have a job, although this is going to depend completely on your supervisor, of course. [Added because of F'x thinking the honeymoon could be a problem: My supervisor allowed me a month after my wedding.]

  • Companionship, as you mentioned: This is obviously especially relevant if you are from a culture/religion where living together before marriage is not usual. Definitely having 'an intimate companion' during the PhD journey (not that mine was that long or bleak - but my husband's was more so) can be a huge help, and I don't see any reason for a couple to wait until after a PhD to get married if they are ready now.

I may add more later if I think of anything else. There is more I would say if I wasn't trying not to stray too far into 'discussion' or 'off-topic'ness.

  • Thanks for the answer Tara. By 'burden of responsibility', I referred to the extra bit of responsibility which comes with marriage. For example, as a bachelor, you could choose to go hungry for a night. After marriage, it is not your decision alone and if you cannot go hungry, you need to spend time on cooking. There are additional things which could eat one's time after marriage - or I supposed so (I don't know for sure myself :P) – Bravo Apr 8 '13 at 13:22
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    @Bravo: "There are additional things which could eat one's time after marriage..." you mean one of these? :-) – Willie Wong Apr 8 '13 at 13:55
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    @Willie: Wow, after Bravo's discussion of hunger and cooking, I mis-parsed the quote as "There are additional things which one could eat" and it made your link rather... startling. – Nate Eldredge Apr 24 '14 at 19:38
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Love is nice and all, but you want to make sure your career decisions do not result in resentment for either you or your partner. There are two big issues with marriage/relationships that I think are unique to academics and especially relevant for PhD students since they are just starting down the academic road. It is critical that your partner (whether he/she is an academic or not) understands that as an academic we often chose to make substantially less money to take a high stress level, time-consuming job. Many people find that a difficult decision to understand and it can lead to stress/resentment. The second is that until tenure, academics often have a series of one or two year jobs with periods of unemployment in between and cross country/international moves. Rarely do we get to decide where we get to work.

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    "Academics often have a series of one or two year jobs with periods of unemployment in between and cross country/international moves." This is true, but it is also unfortunately true that most tenure-track jobs are in places with limited 30+ dating scenes. – Anonymous Apr 7 '13 at 13:53
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    @Anonymous good point. I left out ALL the good points of getting married (academic specific or not). – StrongBad Apr 7 '13 at 14:08
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Marriage is only a momentary distraction of what one might presume to be a state of cohabitation both before and after. There may be some ancillary health coverage and/or tax benefits as a result. Other factors would dominate the decision.

A baby or babies on the other hand would likely either significantly slow down the completion of the Ph.D., or put a big strain on the relationship. That perhaps would make for a more interesting question.

Cohabitation could and should be a benefit while pursuing a Ph.D. with lower living costs and reduced time spent on mundane things through the sharing of chores (cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, etc.). But you don't need to be married for that. Of course, the significant other would need to be tolerant of the time not spent with them.

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    One might not reasonably presume, actually. – Tara B Apr 8 '13 at 9:45
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    "A baby or babies on the other hand would likely either significantly slow down the completion of the Ph.D., or put a big strain on the relationship." - More than during a postdoc? Or when you're a fresh PI? I've already written elsewhere, I decided for a PhD baby exactly because I don't see that it gets easier later. And I certanly haven't experienced work or relationship problems from it. – Ana Apr 8 '13 at 11:59
  • @Ana: Agreed. The deciding factor isn't whether one is in a PhD or PostDoc or TT position. It is whether one expects to do one of those positions outside of the United States. – Willie Wong Apr 8 '13 at 14:00
  • @WillieWong - Ah, indeed. My contract got extended for the duration of maternity/parental leave and the dad got time off as well. – Ana Apr 8 '13 at 14:11
  • Like I said, the baby thing would make for an interesting question. I'm sure that there are a lot of opinions and varying experiences on that. – Mark Adler Apr 8 '13 at 16:09
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First of all, I do think, this is a boat question. Aren't those concerns about career and pay valid for all early-career knowledge workers (i.e., people in non-manual occupations)?

But to answer your question, as somebody who married in the middle of PhD, I think I have evidence, a sample set of size 1, which allows me to conclude that doing so is a good thing.

Many young people nowadays ask questions (as you do) What are the reasons to marry/have kids/etc. in my situation? When is a good time to start a family? There is never the right time and there almost never is a good reason to change your life in whichever way. You should ask differently. What are the reasons not to marry/start a family now? Why not to start family right now? Things will never be better than right now. You think that being a post-doc you will have more time and less stress in the career? Or when you will be assistant professor? Or associate? Or full? Yeah, you can wait till the time when the waters calm down. Good luck starting family when you are 80 (if you will be lucky).

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Better ask your to be wife/husband, if he/she agrees with your thoughts?

No matter how well we justify, if your partner does not agree to a thought! no one on the earth make him/her agree to the same(with some exceptions).

Take his/her consent in detail with all possible conditions after marriage with PhD.

If he/she approves than follow the same as receive approval(I believe it will have some conditions)

Neither PhD is easy nor marriage, both requires good amount of efforts for success.

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    actually life in PHD and life after marriage is not easy :P – Grijesh Chauhan Apr 8 '13 at 17:59

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