Jean, can I ask you a personal question about how this has worked out in your own life? When did you do your PhD - before or after you got married? How did pursuing that cohere with your life and passions being wrapped up in your husband's?I thought it might be fun to share my answer. A little glimpse into my life history. (And look! There we are, all young and skinny!)
My husband was studying theology, to prepare for work in ministry, while I was doing my PhD. I wanted to study theology too, but we couldn't afford that: I needed to work, and his studies came first, as he would be the one in full-time ministry later on. We couldn't really afford to start a family yet either (which perhaps would have been the ideal, and perhaps, looking back, we might have managed it, but there you go!). So I did a PhD in history (but really in theology) which I got a three year scholarship for. This meant I could de facto study theology, and support us financially at the same time. Our main goal was that Steve study theology and be prepared for ministry: the rest was a subsidiary of that.
Steve was also working part-time during that time as a children's and youth worker in a church. We lived on the grounds of the church, and I helped him run the kid's club once a week - hardly my first choice of ministry, but I enjoyed it all the same! He also did some unpaid, related ministry at the university campus nearby. We did this together as much as possible: I went to socials and perhaps (I can't quite remember now) I may have mentored some of the girls.
So you see I did a lot of "following" and "supporting" and "helping" as he prepared for his (our) life's "mission", if you want to put it that way!
During the last two years of my PhD - which, perhaps predictably, took longer than expected and the scholarship ran out - I did, and then we shared, a staff working job at another university. I handed in my PhD, got pregnant, and continued to minister alongside Steve on campus while I still could, until greater numbers of children made that impossible and my role became hospitality and encouragement. He kept working at that university full-time, is still there, and I'm still raising our family and supporting his work. We go to a church connected with the university ministry, and I encourage the young women there. I write (my own hobby/ministry!) and do a little paid editing work as needed by our family.
And the rest, as they say, is history! Not a perfect model, but that's how being a "helper" has worked out for me.