For the 3 months before I graduated from a top business school, I frequently found myself playing the role of marriage counselor. It was not something that I had imagined.
The time before graduation was supposed to be time to relax a little bit, say good-byes to classmates, and plan for the promising future. But, a good number of my classmates were having serious relationship problems. They felt sad, painful, and desperate at times. For those married ones who had issues, most of them ended up in divorces. Many wished that they had known more about the pressure, stress, and temptation in business school when they started the MBA program.
I want to share this information with present and future MBA students because there haven’t been a lot of information in this area. I think some of the divorces could have been prevented, while others were inevitable even if the student didn’t attend business school. But, for both cases, the students and their spouses could have a less painful experience if they were more informed and better prepared.
I’ll share with you 3 case studies. Today, I’ll talk about the first case study.
Case Study 1
A has been married for 7 years. She and her husband met in college. They both were trained in science and had been working in technical fields. But, A wanted to transition to business — she found business to be much more exciting and lucrative. Her husband was very much a scientist, smart, shy, not very social, and liked to work in the lab. Their relationship had started to deteriorate before A started business school.
It went downhill afterward. For the first winter break after starting business school, A took a vacation trip with her classmates, and only went home for a few days for the Christmas holiday. The next Summer, she did her internship at a city 3000 miles away from where her husband was. At graduation time, she even didn’t invite her husband to attend her commencement ceremony.
A was very stressed and sad before graduation — she had gotten a good job offer. But, she finally had to face her relationship problem. Business School had been an escape for her — she tried to focus on school and had as much fun as possible. But, sooner or later, she had to find a solution for her relationship problem. It would not go away. A few months after graduation, she divorced her husband.
Could the marriage be saved if A didn’t go to business school? I’m not sure. I think that when A started business school, they already had some issues. However, they still loved each other at that time. Having a long distance relationship didn’t help their communication. What they needed was honest communication about their own career aspiration and their expectation for the other person, and trying to resolve the differences. To certain extent, A "escaped" to business school and used it as an excuse to put the marriage issue on hold.
For me, the key takeaway is if you have a relationship problem before you start business school, talk to your partner openly and have a plan to resolve it. Don’t use business school as an escape and put the problem on hold — the problem will still exist and you still have to face it.