Finding the Love: Learning how to love my PhD again

by Anna Blanch on February 18, 2011

Following along this little – writing a PhD is like being in a relationshipmetaphor i’ve had going the last couple of days, I wondered if there was some relationship advice out there for long-term relationships that might be applicable for my little out0of-love with my thesis conundrum…

5 Tips for Rekindling Romance in Your Long-Term Relationship
Billingham offers the following tips for couples who want to rekindle the romance and improve a long-term relationship:

Don’t Take Your Long-Term Relationship for Granted
“The mistake most couples or one person makes is they’re so much in love with their partner that they assume the relationship will last forever,” says Robert Billingham, an associate professor in Indiana University Bloomington’s Department of Applied Health Science. “They don’t think it is something they have to work on.”

Well – duh. My present, slightly delirious state is pretty much an example of trying not to take it for granted. I guess the struggle is that I’m trying to figure out how a thesis isn’t like unrequited love. I guess it could be like a Mary Shelley-esque writing experience – but i like to think the move love I give the more it will love me back with it’s sweet lines. That, and i’m listening to a special Miriam Jones track “Don’t throw your words away” from her Solitary Songs project – which means my mood is improving a little.

Date Your Spouse or Partner 
Find ways to spend time togther and enjoy each other.”Individuals change. The relationship changes,” Billingham says. “This core behavior (regular dating, emphasizing the relationship) says, ‘No matter what happens, we find time for ourselves, find time to celebrate the relationship.’”

So we need to find each other’s good qualities again – the things that made me fall head over shiny patent ballet flats for the project in the first place and move to my third continent in three years….Well, let’s see – Nesbit is seriously quirky and hard to pigeon-hole – she’s a challenge that I won’t ever fall into the trap of idolising…she’s too obviously flawed for that; I get to write about poetry and children’s lit and supernatural novels….and call it work. People are still adapting her plays now which means her work still has currency…

…maybe she has some sweet qualities after all….

Make Sure Your Children See Your Love for Each Other   
mmm…could this be conference papers or blog posts or the chapters themselves. Maybe, it’s really about feeling some of the love back – would it be dorky to read parts of the chapters i have written aloud in the hope that there are some paragraphs that remind me that on the odd occasion I can actually write.

Start Today
It’s never too late to rekindle love and romance in a stale long-term relationship, Billingham says. Start from where you are, and begin doing things together that emphasize and celebrate your relationship as a couple.

Mmm…does this mean starting with my outline or trying to read beginning to end what I have got – and going from there with specific goals in mind interms of reading? maybe it does.

Should You Quit or Recommit?
Obviously, rekindling romance is much more difficult if one of the partners has fallen in love with someone else and is experiencing a new surge of attraction hormones that is pulling them away from their core relationship. It really comes down to conscious choice and commitment. If both people in the relationship can honestly say “I want to get this back on track,” then there’s hope. 

As much as i want to yell, “NOOOO, there’s no way i’m quitting, i’ve put too much time and effort into this” – i think it’s actually healthy to sit, or stand, or walk along the beach, and pray about whether or not I should continue. Because this needs to be a choice still – it’s too onerous if it’s not and the pay-offs (why do we use that word when it’s so not about money) are just not there unless you’re viewing this as a big picture deal.

I want to recommit. But, I think, like the grieving process i’m also going through, i’ve actually got to be open to the possibility of walking away. Only then can I truly come abck and give it my all. Right this second though, i don’t feel like i have much to give at all.

PS: I wonder if it’s only women who entertain this whole thesis personified deal? any men out there with names for their Phd’s? i mean you name your cars, and rifles, and baseball bats….why not a piece of writing?

  • @jovanevery

    There are some interesting parallels there. Quit or recommit especially. I think this post is evidence of the fact that you are making that choice consciously which is always better than staying in a relationship because you think you have no other options.

    I'd interpret starting where you are differently. When we start out in a dissertation we have an idea of what it will be. It becomes something else, but we often look at it in comparison to that initial fantasy. Evaluating it for what it is and figuring out how to make it better is different from evaluating how to make it that initial thing. Does that make sense?
    My recent post How I help with writing

  • Goannatree

    mmm…you make a good point about remembering to assess where the relationship is at and not always rely on the fantasy of what you thought it might be. It does make sense.

    I'll need to ponder exactly how that relates to where i'm at with things right now…

  • Bethany

    Very helpful post, Anna. Something I started recently–I suppose it would qualify as a way of "dating" my dissertation–was to keep an tumblr blog as a kind of online commonplace book. I use this blog ( to post anything related to my dissertation–most often quotes from my primary readings, along with pictures and special interest links (adaptations, etc.). I don't provide any commentary or analysis because that would turn the blog into work, but I like to think of it as a way I could introduce people to the person whose work I am studying.
    My recent post Life Undivided- We Are Made for Love

  • Goannatree

    Bethany, it's interesting that you mention that – because i've realised that i could do that a little more here on this blog. I love what you've been doing with your tumblr. I've been finding it inspiring!

    I find what you say about not turning it into work interesting too….that could be helpful! Thanks for your comment!

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