Deciding to marry is an important life-changing decision. While the romance is important and love will cure all sorts of problems, it is still practical to approach marriage sensibly.
The merging of two lives is a complicated process. Even living with a roommate can be a precarious situation.
I once had the opportunity to move from a small one-bedroom apartment to a large three-bedroom townhouse with a friend who was my neighbor. We spent a few days discussing how the roommate situation would work and thought we had developed a plan that would work for both of us.
Although we would be paying for utilities in our new living quarters – an added expense for each of us – by splitting the rent and utilities we should have ended up paying less than we did for our one-bedroom apartments. That’s the way it should have worked. But in our discussions, we decided we would each pay “half of the expenses” and it turned out that we had entirely different ideas about what that meant.
To my new roommate, sharing the expenses meant also sharing the cost of food, toilet paper, paper towels, and everything else she could imagine, except for our own personal hygiene items. Even that could have been a workable situation if our lives had been more alike. But she weighed close to one hundred pounds more that I did and thought that food was something to worship. I considered food to be something necessary to survive.
Additionally, my new roommate loved shopping for “deals.” If toilet paper was on sale, she would purchase 36 rolls! Soon I was working a second job just to afford my half of the rent and expenses. After six months of this, I was tired of working so much so that my roommate could eat gourmet dinners and stuff the closets with sale items. She was really perturbed that when I moved out, I insisted on taking half of the frozen meats, canned vegetables, and toilet tissue. But I figured since I had paid for half, that I could certainly move my half with me back to a one-bedroom apartment.
Marriages can have these same problems. They may not surface at the beginning, during the honeymoon phase, but they can suddenly become problems in the marriage relationship.
While you might discuss holidays and the art of gift giving, the terms used in one family might be completely different than in another one. You might both exclaim, “I love to decorate for Christmas! And I really love shopping for just the right gift!” And you both would mean it.
But, when the holidays approach, how surprised will you be to discover that to one, decorating means just putting up a tree and to the other it means decorating the entire house? To one, shopping for the perfect gift might mean one afternoon of shopping; to the other it could mean months of shopping. One spouse might think that drawing a name and buying a gift for one relative is the way to exchange gifts. The other might be used to buying something for each of forty relatives.
It can be quite surprising to learn how different you are, and what different lives you’ve lead, even though you might have spent hours and hours talking and thinking you agreed on so many things.
But we are unique individuals, drawing from entirely different circumstances. We have different personalities and different family experiences. And, yes, the difference in the sexes often comes into play as well. Most folks agree that when a woman says, “Fine,” it doesn’t necessarily (or even probably) mean that all is right with the world.
Marriage really is a great way to share life with the one you love. But, after the honeymoon is over, reality sets in. It really is important that couples discuss some of the most mundane things before the ceremony and that they define and explain things in their own way so that there is no confusion later on.