Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Transitioning from Dating to Marriage Mentality - by Emily

Editor's Note: This needs no intro. Other than for me to tell you that it just called me out. I am a woman who prefers to keep my problems to myself, my fears silent, my bills and paperwork handled on my own, and be fully responsible for everything. I always want to shoulder my own burdens, and fix everything in my daily life before it spills into someone else's; particularly into the life of the man I care about. Maybe it's because I don't ever want to admit I can't do everything on my own, or maybe it's because I feel guilty asking for help. Either way, marriage isn't very conducive to living life on your own in this way. After reading Emily's submission today, I promised myself I would give up the reigns and let someone in. To everything. It's not going to be fun - and quite honestly, fairly terrifying - but it's going to be GOOD. So, thank you Emily for encouraging me to do this, and reminding me that it is worth it. - Lauren

About a month ago, my husband and I found ourselves at our dining room table celebrating the long-awaited engagement of our two best friends. At some point between hearing the re-telling of the engagement story, squealing (that was me, not my husband) over the perfect ring, and dreaming about the beautiful wedding to come, the couple mentioned that they wanted to know how we made the transition from dating to marriage, and what was the secret to our happiness.

(okaaaay... so that *may* not quite be how it went down. In my memory, it went something like this: “You guys are soooooooo wise and happy and pretty much awesome at marriage, teach us your ways!” In reality, it was probably like “So, you guys are married…” and I started talking. But, you know what? It’s my story and I’ll write what I want to!)

At first, I was kind of stumped. My husband and I dated for five years before getting married, so we knew each other really well by the time we walked down the aisle. We never lived together – in fact, we lived in different cities for the last 1.5 years of our courtship – but somehow we seemed to dodge the first-year-of-marriage-is-really-really-tough bullet.

Perhaps this is because our lives were quite smooth that year: we moved to a new city (easing the in-law stress and allowing ourselves to get established as a couple), but we both had transferred our jobs so we were both working and did not had the stress of looking for a job. We both had business backgrounds, and because our attitudes about money lined up really well we planned ahead instead of fighting afterwards. We started out with nothing – literally, nothing – but our really small apartment didn’t take much time or money to fill. Oh, and the apartment? Pretty much brand new. Yup, we didn’t have to do much in terms of maintenance.

Sure, we had our challenges. We didn’t really know anybody in our new city, so we had some misadventures trying to make friends. We only had one car, so driving downtown together as a chatty morning person (him) and a don’t-even-look-at-me-it’s-before-8am silent NOT morning person (me) was maybe not the easiest. But overall, our first year of marriage was spent enjoying one another, exploring our new city, and trying to figure out what adults do with their time. What could I possibly tell this couple to think about as they prepared to transition from dating to marriage?

And then? It hit me like a bolt of lightning. I had to tell them about THE REST.

If you’re dating the man that you’re going to marry, your “together” life is probably full of fun. Not that it’s all rainbows and giggles and unicorns, but you have to agree with me: your life is probably divided between “dating things” (going to dinner, going to the movies, playing sports or going for walks or doing active things together, etc.) and THE REST (doing your laundry, paying your bills, cleaning up after yourself, running errands, etc.). Even if you sometimes do more mundane domestic things together, like cooking dinner at home, grocery shopping, or laundry, you have to admit that these things have a dating shine on them.

For example, when we were in college hubs and I went grocery shopping together. We gazed at each other with goo-goo eyes in the produce section, laughed in the baked goods aisle, and decided we were MEANT TO BE when he answered the tough question of pulp or no pulp in the orange juice aisle correctly (answer: pulp, duh! Pretty sure this exchange resulted in a ridiculous jump-in-the-arms-twirl followed by a smooch. They probably had to do a clean-up-on-aisle-6 after everyone in the vicinity threw up because of this saccharine moment. Sorry, Food Lion!).

But when you get married, you not only share your fun times… you share THE REST as well. Note, I’m not talking about the bad or tragic things… you share those too… but I’m talking about the day-in-day-out always-running-in-the-back-of-your-mind stresses that make up life.

Now that you're married, if you feel stressed about money, it’s your shared stress about your shared money. You have to go to the grocery store, because if you don’t, you both won’t eat (and you can’t just stock your freezer with Lean Cuisines… hubs could eat a LC for an appetizer). You need to get that huge pile of shared laundry running or no one will have clean underwear for work.

And the problem with THE REST is it doesn’t matter how much or how little your husband helps out with everything – I know, because I am blessed with a very helpful husband. The real problem is that, subconsciously, when you think about your relationship it’s not just fun anymore. And sadly, I think that’s why so many young women feel this dissatisfaction and say “Well… I just don’t know what to do. We used to have so much fun. Clearly, he’s just not who I thought he was, I made a bad decision, and I will choose better next time!” But friends, I have a secret: THE REST will always be waiting for you.

So, what is a good woman supposed to do with this information?

First, just absorb it. Knowledge is power, ladies, and whether you are dating, engaged, or newly married, knowing that THE REST is there and will affect your feelings about your married life (subconsciously) will help you to deal with those feelings if and when they pop up.

Second, if you do feel overwhelmed, disillusioned, or frustrated with married life because of THE REST, talk to your partner about it. Remember – it’s not you, and it’s not him, it’s just life! Being able to say “Honey, I’m feeling really overwhelmed by our finances, the laundry, and our errands, and it’s starting to affect my overall happiness” is a really powerful thing! Sometimes just calling something out for what it is can help relieve the burden of those emotions.

And third, make a plan to tackle THE REST together.

In our first year or marriage, my husband and I had Saturday morning cleanup – we had a chore chart (seriously, pretty sure there were gold stars involved) and we traded duties each week. We also set up times to review our finances (usually monthly), and made a weekly list of errands that needed to be done.

In a few hours, we had addressed THE REST together and could get back to what we did best: having fun together and loving each other.


Abby said...

Thanks for this thoughtful post, Emily. My husband and I have been married for nine months now, and it's been nine months of bliss, but I am beginning to understand how much THE REST can affect our relationship. Thanks for the gracious reminder!

FMN said...

This was such a great post.

Vicki Fourie said...

This is such a GREAT article - even for us single girls.
I've always wondered why married couples struggle after the wedding/married bliss.

Knowledge is powerful, indeed.

Blair@HeirtoBlair said...

Truer words have never been spoken.

Caitlyn said...

I absolutely LOVE this. I am currently engaged and I have to say that this was all stuff that just kind of hit me in the face. My fiance and myself have lived together since basically the beginning. This was not entirely by choice, it had a lot to do with not having another option, but I can't say it's been a bad experience. I've heard a lot of people talk about how not living with their husband or wife prior to marriage has been great. For us, living together has helped us get through a lot as a couple and figure out a lot of THE REST type of stuff.
I think a big thing about THE REST is how it actually makes you feel. It isn't just about the action and whether or not he does the laundry without asking. It also has to do with how that makes YOU feel or HIM feel. Example, my fiance doesn't remember to do laundry. It just isn't on the top of his list. I used to get upset about it and I didn't know why. Through some examining together, we discovered that it wasn't the laundry that bothered me, it was the fact that I felt like he wasn't paying attention to my needs. It is funny how something like not doing laundry can lead to a very serious conversation about my needs and how we can both pay attention to one another's needs.

Sara said...

This is awesome. I'm almost through with my first year of marriage and I totally agree! I've felt blessed with our transition into being roommates with my husband but even still, the mundane can be so blah sometimes and it is easy to get overwhelmed.

Something that is helpful for us is to set aside time for us that is not about the blah day-to-day details but is just about getting out and having a date night! Or sometimes we just pretend our kitchen is clean and pay attention to each other amidst the mess. :)

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