It is Thursday…how ’bout a Spice Girls throwback? 🙂
I’m used to being alone. And I don’t mean that in a “poor me, I’m the female protagonist in a romantic comedy,” kind of way–I’m happy with myself and I’m happy with my life. Yet despite the fact that every personality test I’ve ever taken has labeled me an extrovert (WTF, Meyers-Briggs?), I’m really comfortable being by myself, and I even prefer being alone in certain situations. I am a very independent person–to a fault, as some people might tell you.
That’s another factor that makes my transition from “single” to “married” more complicated. I’ve spent 25 years living my life as an individual. Although I am a daughter and a sister and a friend, I usually think of myself as just, well, me. When I make decisions I think of how it will affect the people close to me, but I am not accountable to anyone to the extent that I would be if I were married or had children. But that’s all about to change. More and more often, Scott and I are faced with situations that require us to make decisions about how to merge our lives together when we’ve both lived as successful adult individuals for so long. It feels weird, knowing that after September 5th, it’s not just “me,” it’s “we.” And although that’s one of the challenging but healthy things about marriage, how do two people go about combining two lives into one? Or to what extent do we combine some aspects of our lives, but leave others separate?
What to do about my last name was the beginning. Now that we’ve rented an apartment together and will soon be shacking up, that opens a variety of other doors. How do we pay bills? Do we join our bank accounts? Do we keep them separate? How will we determine who does the housework? Who prepares meals? Will Scott be sufficiently impressed with my wifely sandwich-making abilities, or will he divorce me to be with a younger, hotter woman who can cook sammiches better than I can?
I know you’re thinking, “But you’ve lived with other people in the past, right?” (And you’re also thinking, “Kate, you cook very delicious sammiches so you shouldn’t worry.” Very true.) Yes, but this is a whole different ball game. My dad always gave my brothers and I stern lectures about emptying the dishwasher, and then we’d act guilty for a second before running off to play Legos, but that kind of behavior doesn’t exactly fly when you’re in an adult committed relationship. Similarly, griping about your roommates is a naturally accepted part of the college experience, but to some extent things are more clear-cut because there’s a landlord or property management company collecting your checks each month, boundaries are established legally and/or socially, and–depending on the situation–there is more of an implicit understanding about personal space, privacy, sharing belongings, etc.
As soon as you have two people in love, things get weird. The problem is, a husband-and-wife (or husband-and-husband or wife-and-wife) unit not only has a romantic relationship, a physical relationship, and an emotional relationship, they also must have a financial relationship, a logistical relationship, a life planning relationship, a decorating taste relationship, etc., etc., etc. If your relationship is challenged or failing in one of these aspects, it can affect some or all of the other aspects. We sure expect A LOT from our partners.
And as with every other decision Scott and I have made preparing for marriage, every option becomes increasingly relative and politically charged. “Kate, are you gonna change your last name or keep it?” “You guys should definitely start having kids right away.” “You should freeze your eggs and then grow your baby in a tube after you turn 55.” “What are you doing renting an apartment? You should buy a house. It’s a buyer’s market!” “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T HAVE WEDDING COLORS?!” Maybe part of the problem is that, unlike being someone’s lazy kid or someone’s college roommate, there’s no one set of rules for how to approach marriage in this diverse modern world. Back in the day when people got married significantly younger, things were easier–or more accurately, simpler–because both parties spent less time establishing themselves as individuals before they got married, a.k.a. merged their lives. And, not to mention, it was usually the wife whose life just kind of fused in to her husband’s identity, the product of which is “Mr. and Mrs. [husband’s first and last name]” and other stupid traditions that are stupid.
Among the many things Scott and I agree on is that although we are happily progressing towards a marriage, we want to maintain our individuality. This means finding a balance between being a couple and being two people that happened to say “hey, I like you, I wanna enter into a legally binding agreement that means I’ll do most stuff with you but maybe not everything with you.” In my opinion I think we’ve done a great job of that so far. Scott goes to NBA Summer League games with his buddies and I have brunch with my girlfriends, we take turns treating each other to meals and running errands and doing favors for one another, and we’re planning on opening a joint bank account for bills while keeping our existing personal accounts after the wedding. I remind him of stuff when he forgets it, and he cools me down when I get all worked up about dumb stuff, like receiving envelopes addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Scott Rogers.” We’re two different people, but we’ve agreed to be a team.
Things are bound to get more complicated the longer we’re married: right now we both work and we both have good full-time jobs, and that may change. We don’t have kids, and that will probably change too. We get along easily, and that is bound to not always be the case any given day. So until then, just like with everything else, I’m taking it in stride. Or, I should say, *we’re* taking it in stride.