Practicalities of Joining Two Lives Together
One of the most complicated processes after you get married is going to be joining your life completely with someone else's. Some couples believe that, because they were already living together, that adjusting to a married (joined) lifestyle shouldn't be too difficult. The truth is, however, that figuring out how to completely and intrinsically link two lives together into one can be a complicated and time consuming process.
The process is even harder to deal with if you aren't yet living together. It's true; there are some couples who believe that living together before they are married is a bad idea. These couples don't just have small details to figure out; they have large details as well.
For the purposes of this article we are going to assume that you aren't yet living together. But we are going to start out with the moving in together stuff. If you are already living together you can skip that part (but we're pretty proud of it so we hope you don't).
Where are you going to live?
This is one of the first things that you have to decide when you join your life with someone else's. There are a couple of ways that you can approach this:
- One of you can move in with the other.
- The two of you can find a new place for the both of you to move in to.
There are good things and bad things about both of these choices.
Having one person simply move in with the other can save a lot of time and effort. You won't have to spend a lot of time during the wedding planning hunting for a new apartment or house to rent or buy. You also won't have to worry about things like credit checks and having to find a bunch of paperwork like paystubs, etc that you need to provide when you apply for an apartment.
At the same time, however, it can make for a more difficult adjustment. Spouse A will probably have things already set up the way that he or she likes them in the home. He or she is probably very comfortable there. Having Spouse B move in a lot of belongings and making changes to the living space can be quite stressful. After all, Spouse A likes things the way they are. It will be difficult to deal with the invasion that is happening—even when the person invading is someone you love. Meanwhile, Spouse B is probably worried about overstepping boundaries. He or she might be feeling incredibly insecure about moving into a space that he or she isn't helping to build. It might take a long time for Spouse B to stop feeling like a houseguest.
When the two of you find a new place together, you are both starting over. You can talk ahead of time about who is going to be bringing what belongings. You can find a place that the both of you like and build it together. Neither person has to feel like a guest in his/her own home or like his/her space is being invaded. You get to build from the ground up (basically).
That said, it also takes a long time to find a place that the both of you want to live in. Do you have the time to go house/apartment hunting while you are planning your wedding? Do you know where all of the paperwork you are going to need for applying for a lease or rental agreement is located? Can you afford to move in to an entirely new place and pay for things like deposits and cleaning fees?
The two of you probably have fully realized lives separately. You probably have all of the appliances, linens, and etcetera stuff that you need. When you move in with someone you are both going to have to sort through what you have. You aren't going to need two of everything. So you need to figure out whose dishes you'll be keeping and whose couch should be donated. Figuring out who is keeping what and who is donating what should be done before you find a new place to live.
How are you going to pay for things? Are you going to have separate or joint finances? These are things that you are going to need to decide as you work on combining two lives into one.
Are you going to have one joint bank account? Two separate bank accounts or a combination of both options? Having a single bank account can help alleviate competitiveness when it comes to who is going to pay for what. It makes paying for things like mortgages and rent a lot easier because you only have to think about the one check. It doesn't take that long to add one spouse's name on to the other's bank account. Still, when you only have one joint account, it can be a breeding ground for resentment. After all, why should someone else's money go to pay for whatever debts you acquired before you got married? How will you hide purchases for things like birthday and holiday gifts? What about personal items. One spouse might not like having his or her money go toward the other person's hobbies.
Having completely separate accounts can have its own problems. Most rental or mortgage brokers do not want to take two checks for a single payment. This means that one of you is going to have to write a check to the other to make sure that the bills get paid on time. It can also be complicated to figure out who is going to pay for joint purchases this time or next time. It's easy to feel resentful if you are always the one to have to buy the groceries or pay the electric bill. Still, it is convenient for keeping track of payments for debt that was not acquired jointly. Debt acquired before the marriage will be easier to pay off. It will also be easier to surprise the other person with gifts, etc.
Many couples compromise and end up with three bank accounts: one joint account that they both have access to and then individual accounts for each spouse. A portion of every paycheck is put into the joint bank account and the rest goes into the joint account (or vice versa). This offers the best of both worlds… but keeping track of a lot of different bank accounts can be difficult.
How are you going to file your taxes? In some instances, filing jointly offers the best deductions and tax benefits. In others, it is better to file as "married filing separately." You'll have to spend some time going over your taxes and talking with a professional to figure out which will work best for the two of you.
Now it is time to talk about the day to day of living together. As independent individuals you are used to taking care of yourselves. You're used to doing all of the cleaning and all of the cooking. You're used to having to do all of the shopping and all of the errands. Now that there are two of you, you need to figure out who does what.
It is easy, particularly when you are first living together, to let one person take care of most of the daily business of living (cooking, cleaning, chores, etc) while the other… well, let's them. Try to avoid this. While you might not mind the situation now, it won't take long for you to start to feel resentful of it. By that time, however, the habit will be established. The other person could resent having to suddenly do the things you seemed fine doing before.
Most people have certain chores or jobs that they gravitate toward and away from naturally. Hopefully these will complement each other. Perhaps one prefers to clean while the other prefers to cook. Maybe one of you hates to vacuum but the other one hates to dust or do the dishes. One of you might hate going to the grocery store, but won't have any issues with going to the bank.
It will take time to figure out how to divide these things equally, but if you keep working at it, you'll get there.
Figuring out how to communicate openly with someone you see every day can be difficult. This is not the same kind of relationship that you share with your siblings. You are going to need to figure out how you will handle things like disagreements, stressful situations, etc. The best thing to do here is to be open and honest. Don't let things fester or they will get harder to deal with properly later on.
The Last Word
Joining two lives is never easy. Even if you've been living together and feel like you have the day to day stuff down pat, there are going to be issues that arise after you get married. Joining your life with someone as a married couple feels differently than simply moving in with someone you are dating. Suddenly you aren't you anymore, you're part of a "we."
The things we've talked about here are just the basic business of taking two lives and making one. Try to be patient. Try to be kind. And above all else, remember that you're in this for the long haul and that it is going to take time to put together a harmonious life. There will be problems in the beginning but if you trust each other, you'll be able to work through them in a way that leaves you both satisfied and happy.