Episode 105

Episode 105: Will Your Marriage Survive CRNA School?

Feb 22, 2023

Cover Photo Will Your Marriage Survive CRNA School

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Will your marriage survive CRNA school? This question brings about a lot of anxiety for newly accepted students. Their mind starts racing and they start listening to naysayers or people on social media saying, “You’re going to get divorced if you go to CRNA school.” Is CRNA school really that bad? Or is there something that a lot of struggling couples are missing? In this episode, Jenny Finnell gives us her take on the issue based on her own experience. Jenny went to nurse anesthesia school back in 2012 as a relatively newly married woman. Join in and learn what problems they encountered as a couple and how they solved it!

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Will Your Marriage Survive CRNA School?

In this episode, we’re going to talk about, can your marriage or your relationship survive CRNA school. Let’s get into it. We’re going to talk about a topic that I feel brings about a lot of anxiety for newly accepted students when their mind starts racing and start listening to some naysayers or some people on social media that maybe say, “You’re going to get divorced if you go to CRNA school.” I’ve heard this more than once myself. When I went to CRNA school back in 2012, I was relatively newly married, a couple of years into our marriage at that point. I remember hearing the same statistic and being like, “We’ll find out how this goes.”

Granted, when I got married in 2010, I had been with my then-husband since 2004. We had been dating for six years prior to getting married. We went through college together, which was college. That being said, I remember feeling very confident that we had a strong relationship. We’ve already been through some ups and downs. We’ve already navigated some really difficult situations. While I was still very unsure how this was going to work out, one of the things that I know retrospectively I did well, but there are other things I didn’t do well, and we’ll get to that, too, is that we talked about it.

Number one, when you are planning for CRNA school, you have to include your significant other in that planning. You have to include them in your dreams, hopes, and ambitions. Very early on when I was in nursing school and dating my boyfriend, now husband, I talked about CRNA school all the time. I shared and poured out my passion and my desire and maybe the fact that I was scared and unsure. He knew from the very beginning when he started dating me that was my mission and my goal.

For the most part, when we first met, I didn’t know about CRNA, but probably a couple of years into our relationship, I started getting obsessed with CRNA. He understood very early on when we were dating that this was the path that I was going to take, that he’d be along for the ride if we were to stay together. All that being said, it was a very long conversation. That was in 2006.

I started school in 2012. That’s a big window of knowing what’s coming. I know not all of you probably have that large window because maybe you just started dating someone or you only have a few years of history, and now you’re married. Maybe you’re starting to share and open up about some of your career ambitions or maybe you decided on CRNA, so it’s a brand-new thing, but you want to apply soon and get the ball rolling. Not everyone’s going to have the luxury of a six-year buildup, essentially, prior to applying and getting into CRNA school.

Start The Conversation Early

The number one piece that I want you to be aware of when you’re trying to prepare your relationship to survive CRNA school is you have to start the conversation as early as it comes to mind. Even if you’re not sure, talk about the fact that you’re unsure. If anything, your significant other knows you better than anyone for the most part. If you’re not sure about CRNA, they’re going to give you a lot of good insight as to whether they think that you’re right or you’re wrong as far as whether it’s a good fit for you.

A nurse anesthetist charting information on a clip board with an operation taking place in the background

CRNA School: When planning for CRNA school, start the conversation with your significant other as early as it comes to mind. Even if you’re not sure, talk about the fact that you’re unsure.

Talk about your whys and why you think it is a good fit. They would give you loving advice to help guide you down the right path. That being said, I’ve also heard other conflicting things when it comes to relationships in pursuing CRNA. I’m not trying to be sexist, so please don’t take it that way. I’m speaking from myself being a female and also equally navigating this with my own husband in the sense that sometimes male counterparts, or maybe depending on how your relationship is structured, your other counterpart may feel threatened by you becoming “the breadwinner,” someone who’s going to make more money in the relationship.

I hate this, I hate that it’s a stigma that has lasted for generations and generations. To me, it’s silly. I didn’t grow up in a household like that myself. In fact, I grew up in the opposite household where it was my mother who was the breadwinner. For me, I was like, “I’m going to nail this. I’m going to make money.” It wasn’t about making more, but it was about feeling secure and feeling like I would be able to support the family if I wanted to.

My ambitions were always to work part-time and be more present as a mother, which is what I always wanted. It wasn’t about money, but I equally knew that if I had to, if we were in a situation where we were hurting, I could work full-time and overtime and make a substantial amount of money. All that being said, have these money discussions because money makes people do weird things.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet in your life, but I’m sure you have. Money’s a weird topic for some people. Some people don’t like talking about it. This could be cultural. This could be how you grew up. For me, some of my money issues are 100% because of how I grew up and how I saw my parents argue over money or struggle with having enough money for what I’d call necessities and being told, “No, we can’t afford to buy new school clothes or we have to go to the dollar store or the Goodwill to find things for your school supplies because we can’t afford to go get them.” If you struggled with money growing up, know that you probably have some psychological money issues that you’re going to have to deal with and significantly deal with them if it comes from your significant other.

Maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s how your significant other or your husband grew up, and that’s a fear. It’s a huge entire fear that is grounded in the fact that maybe they struggled as a child in that family dynamic relationship with money, and now they’re terrified of you taking on all this debt because they have an experience that left them with an icky taste.

Have these money discussions early on about, “What it’s going to take to go back to CRNA school as far as financial obligations? What it’s going to look like after CRNA school?” I’m speaking for myself only, but I’m sure others can relate. My husband felt, not intimidated, and I don’t know if that’s a good word, but I remember him more than once saying how he felt bad about himself, knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to make as much money as I could.

At the time he told me that, this was I don’t know if we were even married yet. I was like, “Where is this coming from? We need to dig into this psychology.” It turns out that’s how he grew up. His dad was the sole breadwinner. His mom was a stay-at-home mom. She cooked, cleaned, and kept a nice house. She was always there and present, and his dad brought home the bacon. That’s what he grew up with. That’s what he thought was expected of him as a male, as a figure in the household. We had to dig into that type of psychology. Like I spoke to, I grew up in an opposite situation where it was more my mother who was the glue of the family.

While my dad did contribute, he went through several years of issues, so he wasn’t necessarily making money. In fact, he was probably doing the opposite. He was spending the money inappropriately. That being said, family dynamics are huge as children and what you grew up with, and you bring that into your future marriages and relationships. You have to discuss this openly and hash out all the fears, worries, and concerns. Equally, if it’s a threat, more of like, “I’m not going to be the breadwinner,” talk about that.

This is speaking from my own experience, but for me, it was about reassuring my husband that it didn’t change the way I felt about him. It didn’t change the way I valued our love and our marriage. This was a partner relationship that I saw as a win-win, 50/50 situation where we were both equally contributing no matter what the number was. It didn’t matter. It mattered that we were both trying to contribute. It’s having that conversation that wouldn’t change your affection, your love, how much you value them, and how much you view them in the relationship and the family.

Having that conversation can alleviate that fear of, “What if I’m not seen as enough?” That’s ultimately what it comes down to. That’s a fear of not being enough. Those can be tackled by good communication and having heart-to-heart with your significant other from the very beginning. I don’t know if you’ve got that vibe, but the number one step when preparing your marriage or your relationship to survive CRNA school is open communication. Sometimes money tends to be what a lot of people are scared of.

Secondly, ask them how they feel about it. Not in the sense that you need their permission for the most part, but in the sense that you care about their opinions. I’m not saying that you need to ask for permission. I sure as heck don’t like the feeling I need to ask for permission because I should do what I want. It’s not about that. It’s about, “How do you feel about this?” Dig into if there are any limiting beliefs that they may have about it. That’s when you can have these open discussions and alleviate those fears right in the open. How do they feel about it?

Having open communication is the first step when preparing your marriage or relationship for CRNA school. Click To Tweet

I’ve also heard of situations where maybe they’re not super supportive of it. I don’t know why. Maybe they’re like, “You can do it, but you’re going to use your own money to do it.” It’s like, “But we’re married.” These discussions need to be open and discussed from the beginning. Why is that? It probably has to do with how they grew up and how they saw their own parents manage money.

If that requires you to go to therapy or counseling, that’s maybe what it’s going to take. You need to have a very good game plan and support system. If your marriage or your relationship was not going to support you going back to CRNA school, that could be a big problem. That could be an icky thing that you deal with during CRNA school. The sooner you start having these conversations and understanding where this is coming from and how you could try to handle it, the better.

Discuss Your Relationship Dynamic

The next type of open communication piece that you need to have to ensure your relationship survives CRNA school is a change in responsibilities. This is huge for those of you who have children or who maybe are in a relationship and have a very specific role that you play. I equally had a classmate who was in that type of marriage. This is how you were raised. This is usually how this stuff forms, just letting you know. As a woman, that marriage dynamic, which was complained about on many car rides to and from school, was that the woman cooks and cleans, and the man comes home, puts his feet up, and watches TV while they run the household.

That was what was expected. While it was never a problem prior to CRNA school because equally both of them grew up in situations like that where they thought that was the norm, and they were okay with it, they embraced it. That was what they felt like love was between a man and a woman. I’m not saying it’s wrong or right. I’m saying that was normal for them. Once CRNA school started, there was a lot of tension there because she needed more help, and she couldn’t go home and make dinner all the time. She couldn’t go home and clean up and tidy the house. She got annoyed by it like, “You need to help out and do more because I don’t have the time, and I need your help.”

That was a piece of conflict during their time in school and their marriage. They didn’t have any kids. If you can imagine throwing kids into the mix, if that was dynamic when the significant other gets home from work that they relax, and you do a lot of the household things to take care of the kids, maybe outside of school that’s completely fine, and you can tolerate that. You’re not going to be able to tolerate that in CRNA school.

You need to have these relationship dynamic discussions prior to starting and try to figure out how you could rearrange your responsibilities. If you have to rely on family to do that because your significant other is only willing to go so far, then you’re going to have to go that route and discuss it with family and say, “I’m going to need some childcare help because we’ve discussed this as a couple. This is where we feel like we’re going to reach our boundaries with what we’re both going to be able to tolerate in school, which means we’re going to need some extra help.”

Two healthcare employees discussing information on a patient's chart

CRNA School: You need to have relationship dynamic discussions prior to starting CRNA school and try to figure out how you could rearrange your responsibilities.

Having these discussions early on is where I don’t think I did a great job because a lot of it is you don’t know. You have an idea of how much time it’s going to take, but you don’t know until you’re in it. You’re like, “This is a lot.” That being said, I remember asking my husband at the time to step it up, to vacuum, clean, grocery shop, plan, do the laundry, and put away the laundry. I asked him to do all those things, and it was never a complaint, never a peep.

I thank the Lord, he’s still like that. Even back then, we didn’t have any children. We had a little dog. I had him take my car and get it tuned up for me from time to time, like, “Do this, do that. I need help with this. I need this,” and he was okay with it. Going into CRNA school, he understood that I was going to probably be more demanding. That being said, the nature of our relationship was that I was already demanding prior. Our dynamic was already such that I typically am very vocal about what I need and what I want.

There’s no rock left unturned. I’m very like, “This is black and white. This is what I need.” We have the openness going in. He doesn’t see the barking demands. He doesn’t get offended. He doesn’t see that as me being controlling. He laid back, which is what I love. He’s type B, and I’m type A. Not everyone’s going to have that dynamic. If you think giving commands or asking for things is going to cause some tension in your relationships, and then they’re going to say, “You’re being too demanding,” or they start using cuss language, which again, to me is a 100% no in my book.

These are things that we discussed prior to even getting married. I remember saying this when we were dating. I heard this growing up, but I was like, “This is not okay. Don’t ever cuss at me. Don’t ever say the F word to me. Don’t ever call me the B word. Don’t ever, and I would never do it to you.” That’s a mutual thing. Every relationship is different. For me, that was a no-tolerance factor, but we discussed that. Essentially, and by dating, I got reassured that he isn’t like that and that he didn’t grow up in a household like that.

I grew up in a household like that. That being said, it left a situation on my brain where this pain point is that I remember that I’m like, “I don’t ever want to do that.” It hurts to even reflect back on it. Get to know who you are, what your relationship dynamics are, and if it’s going to cause a major disruption in your routine, you’re going to have to face it and figure out what’s going to work for you and your significant other.

Set Aside Some Personal Time

The third thing that you’re going to have to discuss and make a point to do is set aside some personal time. It’s not going to be as much as probably what you’re used to, and that needs to be discussed, but you need personal time. You need self-personal time for yourself. You need couple time. You need to maintain that relationship if you want it to survive CRNA school. If you flat-out neglect your significant other the entire time, it’s not going to pan out well when you continuously ask for more and more but don’t give anything in return.

The only thing you probably can give him in return is some time. Set aside some personal time for you and them to have that relationship still. For us, it looked like watching a Netflix movie on the weekends. We would still make time to at least get that done. We didn’t go out often. We hardly went out to eat unless we were being taken out to dinner by our parents because we couldn’t afford it. If we had an anniversary, a dinner, or a birthday, we would get a nice filet mignon steak, we’d get some asparagus, grill it up on the grill, and have a nice homemade candlelit dinner.

We still did things that felt like we were getting out a couple of times, but it didn’t look like it did when we were prior to school. We weren’t going and doing anything fun. We weren’t getting a couple massages or anything crazy because the budget was key, but we still found time to make each other feel special. That’s essentially what it takes. I equally remember in school sometimes feeling like I had a hard time opening up emotionally about the stress that I was under.

A man and woman laughing over a meal together

CRNA School: Set aside some time with your significant other. Find time to make each other feel special.

That sometimes can build up to a disconnect between me and my husband. He didn’t see it coming, where I’d explode and cry. He’d be like, “What the heck? What happened?” It’s because I didn’t let him know leading up to that I was experiencing this stress mostly because I felt bad bringing him into that versus trying to deal with it myself, which was a mistake.

You look back on that. He felt hurt that I wasn’t sharing these things versus me sharing them and him being stressed with me. Looking back now, that’s probably something I could have done better. The key with this entire episode is you have to figure out your relationship dynamics and make time for each other, even if it’s less than what you’re used to or in different ways than you’re used to.

Make sure that you discuss the responsibilities and the routines with childcare and plan for that. If you need external help, whether that’s a nanny, mom, grandma and grandpa, brother, sister, or whoever, you have to discuss these things ahead of time. Know what they feel about the financial burden as well as what it’s going to look like when you’re done with school. I know there were some couples that when I went to school, their significant other were both nurses.

The whole plan was when the significant other was done with CRNA school, the other one was going to be a stay-at-home mom or a stay-at-home dad. That was their ultimate goal. You can see how they talked about this beforehand and had a plan, like, “We’re doing this because we’re equally both going to win when we’re done. When we’re done, you get to have the job of your dreams, and I get to stay home and be a stay-at-home mom, whatever it is.” They were in it together in that sense.

They both had a plan after school of what their lives were going to look like. Even if that’s not the case, even if the other person doesn’t want to stay home, maybe after you become a CRNA, it’s going to allow another person to work part-time or maybe change jobs altogether. Maybe now they can’t change their career because they’re set because they need the money. Once you become a CRNA, maybe it’s going to give you the financial freedom to allow them to explore a little bit, try new things, and find a career they’re actually happy in. Include your career plans with them and see how it’s going to benefit them. We’re all in this together. It’s a collaborative effort, and that’s another thing to keep in mind.

Once you become a CRNA, it's going to give you the financial freedom to allow your partner to explore a little bit, try new things, and find a career they're actually happy in. So include them in your career plans with them and see how it's going to… Click To Tweet

CRNA School Is Just A Stressor, Not A Cause Of Divorce

Lastly, I’m going to leave you with the fact that divorce in CRNA school, in my humble opinion, happens when you go into CRNA school when things you’re already cracked. When the pencil’s already halfway snapped, it’s going to break the rest of the way. That’s true no matter what you deal with in life. Similarly, a lot of divorces happen after kids. It’s not because of the kids. It’s because the relationship was not strong prior to having kids.

You brought in a stressor into an already cracked thing, and it’s going to crack the rest of the way. CRNA school’s no different. It’s a stressor. It’s not the fact that you’re in CRNA school. It’s a stressor in a relationship that if it’s not already solid, it might not be flexible enough to bend without snapping. Therapy is ultimately what I’m getting at.

If you think you need to go the route of therapy, I equally have a good girlfriend of mine, her husband doesn’t want to talk. It’s never been his thing. It’s funny. They dated in college, and I remember even thinking he was also someone who would sit on the couch and watch six hours of NASCAR and drink 6 or 12 packs of beer. That worked for them. Now that they have kids, it causes a lot of tension like, “Get your butt off the couch and help me.” I’m like, “He was like that when you dated him, so what did you think was going to happen?”

She knows that. She was like, “I love this.” She’s been my friend since we were in first grade. She’s a good friend of mine. She got so fed up with the fact that he wouldn’t talk to her about her issues within the relationship that she started going to therapy. He refused to go to therapy with her. He doesn’t want to go, but yet she’s gotten, “Would you want a divorce?” “No, I don’t want a divorce. I don’t want to go to therapy. I don’t want to do it. I feel fine. I’m perfectly happy.” He was perfectly happy. To him, he was in his own little world, totally happy, and she was like, “What? Are you crazy?” She started going to therapy herself, and she’s much better at it.

The moral of the story is, depending on the person, you’re not always going to get a win-win situation, but the best you can do is help yourself cope and adjust. This has saved her marriage by her getting therapy and having someone to talk to about these things and talk about her emotions because he won’t do it. That doesn’t sound like the most ideal, but versus a divorce, it’s the best situation they have. Don’t be afraid to get therapy. Ideally, you want your spouse to go with you, but if that’s not the case, don’t be afraid to get it for yourself. I’m only speaking because I probably would never have thought of that prior to now having my friend deal with this issue over the last few years since they’ve had children.

You're not always going to get a win-win situation. The best you can do is help yourself cope and adjust. Click To Tweet

This was never an issue prior to them having children. Now that they have two kids, she’s stressed beyond belief because she’s taking care of horses, and they have cats and dogs. He travels all the time, and she works full-time. She’s like, “I can’t do it all. I’m so stressed, and you’re not helping.” She feels alone but he feels fine. I’m speaking from the heart. You can get through CRNA school intact, but you have to know how to use the resources that are available. If that means therapy for you, then that’s what you need to take advantage of to try to get therapy.

I hope you guys enjoy this episode. I hope this reassured you that this is more than capable of getting through CRNA school married. I didn’t know anyone who got a divorce in CRNA school. There’s only one person in my entire class that didn’t get a divorce from school, but they definitely didn’t do a good thing in their marriage, like their classmate. I’ll leave the rest for imagination. That being said, it wasn’t the first time. This happened prior to CRNA school coming to find out that this was an ongoing thing for this person and this other person. That’s what I mean.

CRNA school was not unique. It was who they were and their relationship issues prior to CRNA school. To me, it wasn’t a shocker because when I found out that this was not a first-time thing for either one of them, then I was like, “Not a shocker at all. That’s not surprising.” Think about the hard things prior to school and address the relationship issues head-on. I even knew a classmate who wasn’t married, but they were dating. It was not going so well, and they were always fighting. He decided, “I don’t need the stress during CRNA school. You’re gone.” He dumped his girlfriend the week he started CRNA school, and it was the best decision he ever made.

I hate to be that Debbie Downer, but think about those things. Do you want a stressful thing that you think is not savable prior to going to school? It’s the reality you might have to face. There are lots of fish in the sea. It might not seem that way. Here’s the funny story, too, and I’m going to end it after this, I promise. Two of my classmates also got married after CRNA school. They met in CRNA school and got married after CRNA school, and they now have four kids, happily married. They’re the cutest couple ever. Love does await. That’s a happy ending to all of this. Enjoy the rest of your day and thank you so much for reading. I appreciate you. I hope to see you next episode. Until then, take care.

Important Links

Get access to planning tools, valuable CRNA Faculty guidance & mapped out courses that have been proven to accelerate your CRNA success! Become a member of CRNA School Prep Academy here:


Book a mock interview, personal statement critique, resume review and more at https://www.TeachRN.com

Join the CSPA email list: https://www.cspaedu.com/podcast-email

Send Jenny an email or make a podcast request!



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