How Do You Manage a Household without Losing the Romance?

Balancing the budget isn’t exactly sexy, y’know?

author and her husband looking down at a toddler in front of greenery

You know how when you’re getting married, all of the adult women in your life say things like, “OMG WHAT ARE YOUR COLORS?” and then on the side whisper things to you about how hard marriage is, and how you’ll put on a zillion pounds, and how having kids is the best but it’s also the worst, and the whole thing just feels… disorienting and depressing?

Or was that just me?

Over my (many) years running this site I’ve heard so many of us complain about the refrain of doom that is whispered in our ears getting married. “Marriage is just so hard. You’ll see….” Because it’s confusing, and negative, and just flat out not what we want to hear.

But here I am, somehow about to celebrate our eighth anniversary this summer. And having written about this process every step of the way for nine years, I can easily reach back in the archives and see documentation of the fact that, for us, the early months and years of marriage were nothing like those hints of doom and gloom. They were magical, and the intensity of the commitment we were making was nothing but amazing for us. It made us refocus our lives on what we wanted the most, throw out what wasn’t working, and build a super intentional life.

And, spoiler alert, I still think my marriage is a damn good thing. But these days I’m starting to tease out some of the missing nuance in all those whispers. And I think what I have to say about it is: life is hard. Sometimes it’s devastatingly hard, like when you lose two people you love in one month. Sometimes it’s big-new-commitment hard, like when you have your first baby and your husband takes a brand-new job all in the same month. And sometimes it’s just run of the mill hard, like when you’re raising two kids, running a business, building a career, maintaining a household, and trying to fit in time for each other on top of everything else. (And, you know, a million other kinds of hard not listed here.)

These days, our life is more run-of-the-mill hard. In fact, it’s so run of the mill, I’m not even sure I’d call it hard. It’s just life, with a lot of adult responsibilities. But in these moment of the daily grind, I’ve come to realize that our marriages serve two purposes. They are at once the thing that (hopefully) lifts our spirits and the working relationship that gets us through our days. They provide companionship, conversation, love, cuddles, sex, and dreams of the future. But in part, they’re also business partnerships—even though in modern society we largely pretend that they’re not.

In some ways, our spouses are our life co-workers. We divide chores, we do budgets, we negotiate time off, we rotate through childcare, we manage important life decisions together. And while I wouldn’t describe the latter as, “OMG YOU’LL SEE,” I would say that it contains a lot of the hard work of life (and that if we find a partner who’s a good fit for us as a life co-worker as well as a romantic partner, we’re damn lucky).

Which leads me to my question, to the rest of you. No matter how long you’ve been in your partnership, whether it’s five months or fifteen years, how do you manage that balance of life co-worker and romantic dreamboat? Do you find that you have a language for talking about the life-business partner part of your relationship, in a world that is always talking in heart eyes and Valentine’s Day cards?

Talk to me APW: How do you balance keeping the love alive, while keeping the electricity on?*

*(Something that I shit you not we failed at last month. Did we have the money? Yup. But somehow we mismanaged an ongoing auto payment. Adulthood FTW.)

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