DEAR SANDRA: The Advice Column

November 6, 2002

Hello Sandra,
This is not your usual letter, as I am not writing in for myself but rather about my husband, who is an AU student.
He is a very busy man, with a career in the military and we have two small sons. He’s got tons of hobbies and friends and he both works hard and plays hard. His dreams for the future are big, but his sticking power is low. He’s signed up for AU classes not to do a degree, like many of your people who write in, but to do some upgrading so he has more choices about his future once he retires from the Armed Forces. Unlike many professions, most have worn out their usefulness in around their forties, and it’s smart to have a career plan in place for afterward.
When he first began the courses, he was very gung-ho and excited. Now, I have to nag him to even look at his books. Eventually, he gets extensions, and will wait as one by one as they expire and gets frustrated trying to do it all in the last minute. Then he chooses something else, or even retries the same course and the process begins again
I don’t know how to encourage him without riding his butt, and I don’t know who within the University can help with students who need more encouragement. Is AU a place where he can even hope to succeed?
Thank-you for your time,

Dear Worried,

I think your husband has the same problem as the vast majority of AU students. Staying motivated! It’s easy when the course materials first come in, they are new and interesting, but when it actually comes to staying on track, life seems to get in the way for most of us. It is so much easier to slack off on your schoolwork when there are no deadlines except for the finish date, and those seem to sneak up sooner than expected. I am sure that AU makes a lot of money off of a lot of students on extensions.

I can understand how this situation may annoy you, since your money on these courses he is taking is obviously being flushed down the toilet. How do you motivate him without seeming like a nagging wife? Try using positive reinforcement. It’s obviously important to you that he finishes these courses so maybe you’ll have to start being his motivator. Tell him that every time he finishes an assignment or a chapter you’ll bake his favourite dessert or meal or you’ll dress up like a nurse in the bedroom, heck even withhold sex entirely until he finishes an assignment. Women seem to have a knack for being bossy and we don’t even know it, and men hate to be bossed around. It makes them see you more as their mother than their wife, so if you use “rewards” to motivate him to get his work done, it turns the table and it clear you really care rather than you’re just a nagging annoying wife.

Another option is take advantage of the study buddy option through AUSU. Another student may be taking the same courses as your husband and can help keep him on track. AU also has counselling services for students, check out their website at
They can help identify and overcome barriers to student’s learning and develop sound study and personal management skills.

I am going to suggest that we put a thread on the AUSU discussion forum where student’s can give their “tricks” to staying motivated to study. Tell him to check it out in a few days maybe we’ll have some good ideas on there. Good luck with motivating him yourself and I hope that you won’t have to withhold sex for too long or do too much baking!

Thanks to everyone for your letters and encouragement. Keep those letters coming, no question is unanswerable and confidentiality is assured.


This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of