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What If Your Spouse Does Not Support Your CPA Exam Plan?

I’m one of those old-fashioned types (yeah right) who believes you should go to college, take and pass the CPA exam, then get married and have kids. Not for tradition’s sake but because it’s generally the easiest way to go. When you’re young and single, you have only yourself to piss off, and focusing is much easier when you don’t have a new wife/husband or – worse – a few cranky kids at home. I’m not talking about my (questionable) life choices, I’m talking about what is the least painful path for someone considering a career in public accounting, so let’s make sure we’re getting that part.

But what happens if you didn’t take that path and find yourself struggling to appease your spouse and kids while struggling through the CPA exam? I’m going to slap a few links on this sucker and call it a post but I am really counting on you all who have been in this situation to speak up and offer some sage words of advice to a fellow CPA exam candidate whose significant other is about ready to walk if he doesn’t hurry up and pass the exam.

We won’t share the dirty details of this particular OP as we don’t want to reveal his identity (his wife might REALLY leave if she knows he’s knocking on my dirty door looking for some guidance and I wouldn’t blame her, I live in the most disgusting part of DC) but here’s the gist: he’s been studying for the exam for… let’s just say “awhile.” All of you who have been studying for “awhile” know exactly how long “awhile” is, no need to elaborate.

The family has been through lots of ups and downs, including her medical issues and, obviously, his CPA exam “issues.” I’m not sure which is worse, but am sure that both are probably bad for this couple. They do have a couple of kids in the mix, no need to go into more detail on the extra level of drama that adds.

The wife gets that hubby needs to study, but she’s (understandably) sick of her husband being locked in quarantine with his CPA review textbooks and not her. That can take the thrill out quickly as anyone who has been in this situation knows. This is why I date someone who works in the same area as I do; we can talk endlessly about the tedium of work (I mean really, would you listen to your girlfriend blabbering about how shitty anonymous comments on a hack tabloid blog made her feel?) and still want to tear each other up at the end of the day because even though we’re on opposite sides of the spectrum, we sort of get what the other is suffering through. But when you’re talking about 3 – 8 hours a day spent studying, you can see how a spouse might get jealous. It’s like cheating, except the filthy mistress is Peter Olinto. The wife can hear him on the other side of the wall “Don’t confuse DDB with ODB. Do you remember ODB? He was a member of the Wu Tang Clan and he’s dead now actually. Don’t confuse DDB depreciation and ODB from the Wu Tang Clan.” That would turn me off too.

So what do couples have to do? Support each other. I don’t expect my partner to go defend me in the Going Concern comment section when strangers are calling me names but I do expect him to listen to me bitch about it every now and then. What do you do when your partner has no idea what you are going through and is fed up with hearing about it?

There is a line. A recent series of University of Iowa studies shows that unqualified support may actually do more harm than good.

Researchers studying heterosexual couples in their first few years of marriage found that too much support is actually harder on a marriage than not enough. Meaning, your wife shouldn’t have to accept you being locked in a room all day for three years trying to pass the CPA exam.

The study also discovered that when it comes to marital satisfaction, both partners are happier if husbands receive the right type of support, and if wives ask for support when they need it. I hope I don’t offend our four female readers by implying all women want the same level of “support” from their man, and imagine women attracted to public accounting are a bit stronger and tougher-skinned than needing tons of support from their partners. More Susan S. Coffey, less sniveling little girl.

But at what point does wifey have a right to walk on this guy? What is it going to take for him to get through the exam and get back to being a husband and father?

Personally (and I say this having had to deal with being in a relationship with another human being, not knowing anything about what it’s like to balance that and the CPA exam except what those going through it have shared with me), I’d say these two need to have a talk and soon. He needs to commit to a date to be passed by (to show he is dedicated to resolving the very obvious issue in their relationship) and follow through on that plan.

Or he can walk. Whatever. Sometimes it doesn’t work out.

Any tales from the frontlines, people? This guy needs your help.