Reclaiming Wife: Dish

So. I had a proper post written for today. But. When the comments started buzzing over on my little marriage update about all the Reclaiming Wife stuff we had to talk about… I scrapped the post. Because I needed to ask – what conversations about marriage and married life do we need to be having? Dish.

I also wanted to take a moment to point out the obvious – APW has lots of my writing (that’s a big part of why I do this) but it also has a lot of community driven content (the community is the other part of why I do this), and Reclaiming Wife needs to work the same way.

I’m new at the married game, and I’m still sorting out what it means to me. I’m sorting out the ways in which being married has changed our relationship (it has) and the ways that we’re the same couple that has been together for five and a half years (because there are ways it hasn’t changed too). And I’m figuring out what is hard, and what is not, and what I want to write about and what I don’t.

But the bottom line is this – I’m just one person. So when people write me to ask if I could share, say, how I’m handling sharing holidays as a newlywed, I realize what they are really asking is how are you guys sharing holidays as newlyweds, and that they have something to SAY about sharing holidays as newlyweds, but they are feeling scared to put it on paper and could I write it for them? Pretty please? Because here is the thing, you don’t want a post about how we are sharing holidays, because it’s BORING. Check it out: our extended family is interfaith, and our families are long-time friends, so we do Christmas with my family, Passover with David’s family, Thanksgiving together, and High Holidays by ourselves.

Look and what I just did there. I did NOT solve your problems.

But I really do want to talk about all this stuff, I just can’t do it in an echo chamber. So why don’t you guys go crazy on this thread. Throw out the stuff you want to talk about. “Exactly” each other. And if you’re reading this post, or reading the thread, and you think, “HOLDUP! I’ve got something I have to SAY!” or “I have a question I wanna ask Meg/ Team Practical!” then why don’t you email it to me? Send it to reclaimingwife at apracticalwedding dot com. Because I wanna talk about this stuff too.

PS I’m probably dooming myself to more comments than a human can read, huh? But seriously, I feel like we need to get some of this out in the open already.

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  • If I may be so bold to speak for some engaged and no-yet-married people… I’d like to hear about what has changed for people within their relationships after marriage and how/if they prepared for those changes as a couple?

    Also, for my own nosey-nelly-ness what are people’s experiences being called (or calling someone) ‘wife’ or ‘husband’ – emotionally speaking?

    • I’m curious about this too — particularly because I’m in the ambivalent-about-marriage camp, and not totally sold on the concept to begin with. All of my previous relationships were with women, so marriage was never an option — it feels weird to suddenly have this be the goal. On the other hand, none of those relationships lasted, and this one is permanent….so maybe it makes sense to finally tie the knot?

      So yes, I’d love to hear more from people about how their relationships have changed, post-wedding!

      • Having been married for almost 25 years this is still an active question between my husband and I. We changed dramatically but it took 6 weeks after the wedding to really sink in. The thrill of budding love was slapped into the ozone with responsible love. Balancing the me/we/us within the context of a shared last name and new role was rough. My MIL was a god send! It was her wise and gentle ears on the phone for hours about this topic that kept me from tossing in the towel many times. An indpendent soul she made time for her creative expressions and reminded me to hold on to my passions, never be dependent on a man and to keep my sense of humor. The best tip was to know when to ‘tune out’.

    • Chelsea

      I’d love to hear about this from OUTSIDE the relationship, too. Like, how have people began treating you and your family different after you’re married – did you finally get to move from the kids table to the grown up table? I’ve already noticed that my fiance and I are being treated more like a unit by my family, and I’m curious to see how that will evolve once we’re married, have kids, etc.

      And, I would LOVE to have a discussion of how this plays out in gay and lesbian couples, both where gay marriage is legal and where it isn’t. I suspect there are a million different experiences, but I’d be extremely curious to hear about them.

    • Stephanie

      I too am interested about this. We eloped a month ago, and I don’t think anything has changed. We were engaged for two years, had a quick courthouse wedding with our families, and then quickly returned back to our lives of working full-time and finishing up pre-reqs for grad school (honeymoon hopefully will come this fall). So I am wondering, does everyone think their relationship changes after they get married? Maybe I just haven’t had the time to think about how marriage has changed our relationship? Maybe our lives are just on the brink of so many changes that we cannot yet discriminate which ones are marriage related? I don’t know; but I do know I would love to hear more about this from you all!

      • OMG…me and FH have been at the kids table of our families, our whole lives! And now that we’re getting married, we thought it would change, but so far, it hasn’t. I wanna talk about this too!

  • Julianna

    As a 5-months-from-being-married person trying to prepare for & focus on the lifetime of marriage not just the 1 day of wedding, I would love to talk about:

    – holidays. (perhaps as representative of “family sharing”/negotiating). For us this was one of the big topics we had to tackle before we decided to get engaged (up until now we’ve celebrated separately, each with our family-of-origin). It’s something that was an oddly easy decision for both of our parents based on *their* family backgrounds but is a much more difficult terrain for us to navigate somewhat as a result. So I’m not just interested in what exactly people do/how they split things up but also how they managed the conversations, the emotions, any progression from newlyweds to later in your marriage, etc.

    – change. this has definitely come up before, but I would love to talk more about it & to get your point of view in particular, Meg. I’m curious what’s changed, what hasn’t, what’s been surprising, what’s been difficult. My partner and I have been dating for almost 10 years now, and lived together for 2+, and sometimes it feels like nothing will really change (except holidays, see above). But then other times I feel like it’s such an emotional event how could things *not* change? I don’t know if I’m making sense, I guess I’m just curious… I don’t want to fall into the “oh as soon as we’re married he’ll magically start picking up his socks” trap, but the “oh we already live together, nothing will change” attitude seems naive, too.

    – how the wedding fed the marriage . We’re starting to craft our ceremony and I’d love to hear from folks on the other side of that process if there are things they did that still stick with them or that inform their marriage and how they came about.

    – equal partnerships. what does equality or balance mean in your (here I mean all, not just Meg & David) relationship? I am prone to an “eye for an eye”/strict fairness approach but am coming to realize that doesn’t always work for our partnership and that there can be other ways to be equitable and share responsibilities in the household and in the relationship that do in fact result in one person doing more of the cooking or housework (because the other works longer hours), etc. For me this comes up particularly around the “wife” concept and traditional vs. stereotypical vs. desired roles (and all the emotions attached to *that*).

    ok that’s probably enough from me ;)

    • Liz A

      Julianna, I’ve been trying to work on the fairness aspect. I’m also from the Split it Evenly and Eye for an Eye Camp. I think this is probably because I have one sister, close in age and growing up, that’s how my parents divided things like chores.

      But I’m finding that it doesn’t always work out that way with my fiance. I do the cooking and he does the cleaning and I get mad if he doesn’t do it that night but leaves the dishes in the sink overnight. To me, that computes as not fair. But my feelings of inequity also spill over into the emotional–I had a habit of using a voice to quote back things he said which he saw as mocking him; I tend to make superlative statements during arguments (this is the Worst Thing Ever). So when he brought these things up, I agreed to work on them. And in the spirit of fairness, I brought up some things that bother me about his communication. So when I stopped using my Fiance Voice, I thought he should start listening better and not interrupting. When he didn’t, I got mad. Why should I fix things if he’s not fixing them?

      But then I talked to my mom. Who has been married to my dad for 32 years. And is a wise, enlightened woman. And she listened when I whined about all of this unfairness and how it wasn’t even. And she simply said, Let it go. Because at the end of the day, I’m the one holding the anger and frustration and I can just let it go.

      So I try to look at it this way: I can only work on making myself a better partner. If the dishes are in the sink and I know I’m going to get mad later when they’re not done, I do them myself. And I try my hardest not to get cranky about it. When I work on making less grandiose statements about how upset I am, I think of it as self-betterment, that it’s making me a more effective communicator and a better partner. I’ve found that once I stop focusing on what he’s NOT doing, that I see what he IS doing. And there’s some pretty nice stuff that goes on when I’m not worrying about how unfair it is that he NEVER makes the bed but he sure does a good job of tangling the sheets :)

      • C

        I do not have this problem because we share tasks we both don’t like, pick up tasks that the other detests (I HATE doing dishes, so my fiance does dishes while I cook), and both contribute what and when we can. If sometimes thing aren’t equal that’s okay because at sometime in your life/relationship the tables will turn. Perhaps things will be easier if you look at things “big picture”?

        • Julianna

          I think one of the things that would be so great about a larger discussion on this topic would be getting to experience the exposure & empathy so many people found during the name discussion… same thing for finances and for gender roles/forming & maintaining equitable partnerships. it can be so easy to judge or to assign “right” and “wrong” to different approaches and I know I really benefited from hearing how many different options there are out there and getting more insight into the practical & emotional pro’s and cons of various approaches for different people.

        • Eliza

          I think all of the above comments are great! So many things I’d love to see discussed in so much more detail, particularly finance split, when to have kids, boundaries with in laws (I know we’re going to struggle with that one!) and all the sex stuff. (And yes to guest posts on sex in relationships! Anonymity can definitely help honesty in that regard, I think.) I can’t WAIT to see Reclaiming Wife take off!

          Chiming in about the grad school balance, both from the perspective of someone going through it (I’m in the process of finishing my JD – will be done by August!) and that of their long-suffering partner! I really wish I had had some idea of what it was going to do to our relationship beforehand; we had no idea what we were getting into. The fact that our relationship survived it was largely due to his incredible patience and persistence at loving me despite my myriad flaws and sometimes terrible behaviour. Of particular difficulty was the way it effected our finances and housework – more specifically, my spectacular (and I suspect very gendered) guilt about “not contributing”, despite working my butt off every single day for law school. (I’d be happy to write a guest post about this stuff if people were interested, and/or to read lots of other people’s thoughts – I know you’re out there, grad school people! And Meg! – Now that I think about it, probably a guest post on this is not really necessary because you could talk about it from your own experience!)

          • Eliza

            Whoops! Hmm, this was supposed to go down the bottom. Not sure how that happened! Sorry!

          • meg

            Ha! You’ve got to be kidding ;) I spent most of D’s law school working 60 hour weeks and pulling 28 hour shifts at work. Over the last few weeks I’ve been pulling 40 hour weeks, with every other waking moment spent on my second job (achem, APW). Which is a very nice way to say David has done all the cooking and cleaning while going to law school, while I supported us in a horrible economy.

            I’m learning this is not so normal. I’ve been known to say, “Having a law student is like having a housekeeper, it’s so great!” And all the other law school widows look at me like I’ve lost my effing mind.

            So yes, that would need to be a guest post. I can only write the other (gendered, traditionally) perspective.

      • Nina

        That sounds an awful lot like me… with the throwing around of superlatives and expecting of fairness in everything. And I think I will also work more on cutting that out as per your mom’s wise advice, because it doesn’t feel healthy. Last night I went to bed with all this anger, anger that he wasn’t going through “wedding stress” like I was. I wanted fairness in STRESS. Nevermind that his staying calm is imperative to me staying somewhat grounded. I hope that being married will also help remind me that daily fairness isn’t the goal.

      • This is always an interesting topic. I’ve lived with my partner for many years already, and we’ve worked through a lot of housework related stuff.

        I’ve tried assigning chores, I’ve tried just asking, I’ve nagged and gotten irritated. I tried Flylady and just smiling and doing it myself to set an example, or because I care more than him, etc. But none of them solved my sense of unfairness and resentment.

        Finally I sat down calmly with him, told him I was really frustrated and felt like all the responsibility was falling on me, and what could we do about this? He took the initiative to start making a list of things that needed to get done, and to start splitting them up fairly. We worked out an equitable distribution and put it on a shared Google calendar, so we’d both see it as we checked our regular calendars.

        The house isn’t really any cleaner these days. It turns out we’re both pretty equally lazy about cleaning, and settle to a similar level of mess. But since we worked out and wrote down who is responsible for what, I don’t have the huge cloud of responsibility and guilt and anger about it.

        Somehow, that also helped me to let go of all the “shoulds” about housework. My mom always felt bad and guilty that her house wasn’t sparkling and tidy, and used to beat herself up verbally for it, which had the effect of guilting me about not cleaning too. (Her mother keeps the house very tidy all the time, and she feels guilty for not living up to that. She and I are naturally about the same level of messy.) I haven’t quite analyzed how, but explicitly dividing up the responsibility with my partner has helped me stop expecting perfection of myself. I’m okay with a certain level of clutter, and that doesn’t make me a bad person. It’s okay for me to not care about the dishes sitting in the sink overnight. My mother and grandmother won’t see them; they can’t judge me.

        Both of us feel like we should clean when guests are expected, though. So when we need to do a big clean, I make a shared online list of all the stuff that needs doing, and we both work off of that. (I don’t work for these people or get anything for this, but I want to give a shoutout to Zenbe Lists — best way to share any kind of list with your partner, especially if you both have iPhones.)

        But yeah. Housework is a tangled web, because people may really have different cleanliness standards, but there is a lot of sexism tied up in that — gender role expectations about who should care more, who should take more responsibility.

        I highly recommend sitting down and having an explicit conversation about it. But DO NOT come in with a list of your own and assign chores to him. Let him take initiative to think about how to make it equitable. He might surprise you — my fiancé surprised me.

    • I’ll throw in another request for talk about “change”. As someone who’s been dating her fiance since high school (we’re getting married on our ten year anniversary), I’d love to talk about long-term relationships and marriage. It’s very different from my parents time (they met in November, got engaged in December, moved in together in April, and were married in June– less than nine months), and I’m finding myself a little adrift, advice-wise. Talking about how marriage affects a stable, established, long-term relationship would be amazing.

      • meg

        Mmmm. It does and it doesn’t, though it’s a net win all round, I found. Post prompt noted.

    • Amy

      Amen to the balance/equal partnership conversation. In the 7 months that we’ve been married, I’ve been finding this more difficult than I had anticipated, perhaps because I’ve been surprised by a sudden, intense aversion to “wifely” duties. I feel like I don’t quite know how to define this new title of wife that I’ve acquired, and can’t quite put my finger on who I am as one, yet. Wife…it’s a loaded word, that one.

      And, what about our partners? How does societal “husband speak” affect them? I’d love to hear their perspectives on the formation of marriages, too.

    • Meg P

      I also wonder how people’s weddings have fed their marriage. I remember reading a comment a while ago (it might even have been somewhere on this blog, apologies for plagiarism!) saying that they wished people who had small, intimate ceremonies marriages would be forever reflected by that simplicity and intimacy and that those who had massive, lavish gatherings would have marriages marked by consistent grand gestures of love, but worried that this was probably not necessarily the case.

      And I wonder how people’s marriage changed their relationships, I may be incredibly naive but I can’t see our wedding really changing things for us.

      (Long time lurker, first time poster!)

    • meg

      How the wedding fed the marriage is one of the smartest questions I’ve ever been asked on this site. I’ve been thinking about it all day.

    • I absolutely want to talk about how the wedding fed the marriage. That’s one of my primary reasons for wanting a wedding in the first place, and I want to do our best to create a ceremony that will nourish our marriage for years to come.

      • Olivia

        Oh well that’s confusing, we’re two different Olivias! I was reading your post thinking “Weird, I don’t remember writing that…”

        • Haha, after having the exact same response to one of your comments, I’ve since switched to posting as “olivia jane.” In other news–I happen to agree with all your comments so far, so that’s a relief!

          • Olivia

            Ha! Well I’m glad we haven’t inadvertently misrepresented each other! Thanks for adding Jane to yours; I couldn’t think of how to change mine to clarify. :)

  • Thanks for this opportunity, Meg! I’d like to talk about sexual intimacy and how to negotiate discrepancies within a relationship. For example, what do you do when one partner wants to be sexually intimate more frequently than the other? My partner and I struggle with this, and it seems like it will only get worse as the years go by.

    • Sara, I noticed you were discussing this on your own blog, and I have to say that I was grateful that someone brought it up. Seconded.

    • ANDREA

      Yes, please do! I think there is lots to be said on this topic, and in much more frank, up-front ways than it is usually discussed. I think many, many people underestimate the importance of sexual compatibility, and/or the importance of negotiating towards healthy sexual compatibility within a long-term relationship. I’d love a discussion on this.

      • Lor

        We’re not married yet, but have been living together 3 1/2 years – we have talked about it before, he definitely wants it more than I do, but that’s because he likes to do it before we go to sleep, by then I am showered, and tired and ready to fall asleep! I like early morning sex or come home from work sex, he doesn’t. LOL!!! go figure, so we enjoy weekend where we can sleep in late and then do it. or come home and do it and be able to sleep in. Weekdays truly are compromise, yes sometimes you just do it because it’s fair – especially if he compromises for me and spends the evening doing it…I also realize that once you get into it, you kind of forget how tired you were and how fun it is, and then you do fall asleep peacefully.

        But really, just talk about it and what both of you like, or when you like to do it and see where you can work from there.

        • Lor, same here. FH is a night owl, I’m an early-to-bed girl. I’m also Type A go-go-go, so when I hit the pillow I’m usually really zonked. However, everything you said is true. A lot of times it’s not about drive, it’s about how much energy you actually have. Which, actually, is pertinent regarding more than just sex.

          • Lor

            Irisira you are so right!!! it totally snapped, it’s not about DRIVE, it’s about ENERGY!! oh my god, that SO makes sense! Now I know how to phrase it the next time we have that talk – (because I’m sure there will be a next time! lol)

          • kahlia

            With us it’s mostly about energy, but it is also a bit about drive. We did talk about timing (when each of us is more likely to want to do it) and have agreed to try to work within the times when we overlap and for each of us to put in a little extra effort sometimes. At first my partner was upset at having a “schedule”, saying it took the spontaneity (and thus, the fun) out of it, but he’s since realised it’s better to be on a schedule than to not be intimate!

    • meg

      Um – YOU GUYS might be able to talk about that, depending on how it was written. I’m not going to talk about that though. Partially because I have pretty strict boundaries to make myself feel safe on the blog, partially because my parents and my in-laws read the blog (which is good for making sure I stick with those boundaries… ;)

      • ANDREA

        Yes, of course, that makes sense — always easier to talk anonymously, kind of ridiculously to expect you to talk without that veil. Would you be willing so post something written by say, Dan Savage ( to open up a discussion? I could try to find something appropriate.

        • Liz A

          Andrea, I was just thinking about Dan Savage and how he says that sometimes, you just gotta take one for the team and go with it even if you’re not particularly interested at the moment. Not always, of course, but when the relationship needs it.

          • Heather

            I can’t agree more! Anyone struggling with these issues should listen through the archives of the Savage Love podcast. You may not agree with everything Dan says, but listening to other people discuss the sexual aspects their relationship issues will give you some valuable insight.

          • meg

            ‘Good, giving, and game,’ baby.

            How do you guys all know that I love Dan Savage so much? It’s just like you SENSE IT.

      • Rebecca

        This is a completely understandable approach Meg! I suggest something similar to what you did with the name change topic, start it off with Dan Savage article like others suggested or whatever you like that is within your boundaries, set some rules for commenting and say go.

    • ddayporter

      another book that touches on this is 10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married, by a very smart (and kinda funny) Canadian named Guy Grenier –

      we, ahem, got a little behind on these conversations so we’re actually still working our way through the book, 2 months after the wedding, but he has a huge chapter on this exact issue. we’ve found this book to be a really good tool for making sure we’re having these important conversations – not just before (or right after) getting married, but throughout the life of the marriage.

      • Thank you for this recommendation!! I am adding it to my wishlist right now. :)

    • liz

      meg, i vote for guest posts on sex.

      • liz

        and i’d be ok with writing one from the “we waited” perspective.

        • JoLynn

          Awesome! I’d be interested to read that.

          • LEIGH ANN

            I’m so glad somebody brought this up. The biggest obstacle that comes up for my boyfriend when we talk about getting engaged is that we don’t have one of those awesome-sex-all-the-time relationships. Though I’m the one that wants to have sex more frequently, I’m fine with once a week; he’s very affectionate otherwise and I don’t feel like we’re lacking in physical intimacy. But he is afraid that, as one of the other readers mentioned, being enthusiastic about our sex life will only get more difficult as we get older. And of course there’s the whole “Once you get married, you stop having sex” myth. Part of the problem is that I had a lot more experience than he did when we got together. I already know that I’d rather have good sex once in a while with somebody I’m completely connected to in every other respect than great sex all the time with somebody I can’t have a conversation with, whereas he sees a milder sex life as a possible road block to the marriage down the line.

            I’d love to hear from women who are more libidinous than their male partners, how that’s affected their relationship and if anyone thinks it COULD be a road block in a marriage.

        • Kayakgirl73

          Having waited for sex for marriage, has made things interesting. We have really had to learn to talk about things that can be difficult to talk about. It’s not something you can easily talk to your girlfriends about, especially since I never advertised that I was waiting. Actually, we both waited and are in our 30’s.

          • Aly

            As a not-quite yet engaged (but should be soon) but in a long term relationship virgin, I would love love love to read a guest post about about waiting for sex. Yes, I’m sure I could find tons of information on a religious website, but that doesn’t pertain to my relationship as we are not waiting for any religious reasons. And in fact, we are waiting more because he wants to, not me. Which of course flies in the face of every social convention of “all guys think about one thing only” and makes it really hard to explain to people (my close friends, its not like I advertise this fact) why we are waiting as I have no strong convictions on the issue, but am doing to because I love my boyfriend and I’m certainly not going to break up just to have sex. So a guest post by somebody about waiting, and all the aspects of that unusual (today) situation would really mean a lot to me.

        • Meg P

          I’m so glad someone else waited! I don’t know anyone else who has and it can be very isolating.

        • meg

          Liz, I would loooooooovvvvvveeeee that. LOVE. THAT.

          Funny though, I totally think married sex is hotter. So, really, you got the best part of the deal.

        • We waited too. But it was never a big issue for us so I don’t know that I’d be able to write a post about it. We did talk about it as much as possible before hand. And we still do a lot of talking about it now.

          Communication, the solution to just about every problem.

    • Allison

      Sara, I read your blog as well, and I am always really impressed that you can mention this sexual discrepancy in such a calm and even keeled manner. So I will try to do the same. I want to have sex more often than my partner. More specifically, and possibly more graphically, my partner is not *ahem* always “up” for it. I have been trying really really hard to take your approach and discuss the situation rationally and without judgment. But I keep finding myself falling to the societal trap of “men want it all the time” or “if he doesn’t want to have sex with you it means he finds you unattractive.” I know neither of these things are true, but I am having a hard time remembering that while my advances are being rebuffed. It’s not like I’m even trying to have sex every night…. How do you openly and honestly discuss your sex life with your partner without making it too…um… personal?

      Also, Meg, props to you for keeping a little mystique. I wouldn’t want my in-laws reading about my sex life either :)

      • Kate

        Also (probably you know this but it can be reassuring to hear it from someone else) not being physically “up for it” doesn’t even necessarily mean he doesn’t want to! The body can be a funny thing and the brain can take a body glitch and turn it into a HUGE feedback loop. That’s hard to deal with . . . we went through a thing where I felt like I was always tiptoeing around scared something was going to go wrong. Now we’re a little more relaxed. If it’s clear it’s not happening he’ll ask me if I want “attention” (his phrase, and yes, I find this hilarious) and I’ll either take him up on it or we’ll go to sleep/on with our lives. Knock on wood, it’s working OK.

        Is the baseline even with “malfunctions” at a level you can live with? Is he there for you in other ways (“attention,” cuddling, back rubs?) Obviously with emotional support, but after all this is a sex thread . . .

        • Allison

          Oh Kate- the tiptoeing thing is exactly the problem! I can deal with the amount of sex we’re having, but I HATE, Hate, hate not understanding what it’s like to have a penis. Seriously. How does that thing work? I am not the kind of person who tiptoes around anything, but I’ve been walking on eggshells waiting for him to initiate because I don’t want to put him on the spot. Everything else is so great though. We’re getting married in 3 months. We need to sort this all out before then :)

          • Alyssa

            No, you totally don’t! I’m giving unsolicited advice here, (you added a smiley face so you probably weren’t serious, but I’m bursting with wisdom here so indulge me….) but if you mean you need this sorted out before you get married, you’re going to give yourself a LOT of heartache. It’s be nice if all your relationship issues worked themselves out before you got married, but it’s not going to happen. For every relationship quirk you solve before you get married, another will pop up. I did the same thing, thinking we HAD to get certain things figured out before we walked down that aisle…but you can’t. The only think you need to get sorted out before you get married is whether you want to spend the rest of your life with this person. Then you’ve got loads of time to work things through and it takes the pressure off. And sometimes that’s enough to solve the problem. (Sometimes. Sometimes the problem needs to be smacked around a bit….)

            But if you meant that you wanted to figure it out before your wedding night… Wedding Night sex is expected as a given, but it may not happen. Heck, you may not want it either because you’ll probably be damn tired! That should be a post right there, the myth of the wedding night and how it can wreck us. Why not Wedding Morning sex? That’s romantic too, your first morning waking up as a married couple… Less pressure that way too, which can make the married couple sexy time not as fun….

            And Allison, I’ve been right there with you. All I can say is initiate, but don’t get your feelings hurt if he can’t or doesn’t want to, just say okay and move on to cuddling and talking about something else.
            It’s frustrating, but if you’re walking on eggshells and he knows it, it’ll make the physical problems worse because then it becomes this THING…the giant not-hard elephant in the room….
            So if he can’t and then he knows that you’re upset about him not being able to, it makes the anxiety even worse and makes it more difficult later because then he’s freaked out about not being able to do it AGAIN and then it’s another vicious cycle.
            (But of course the flip side is he needs to be aware that just because he’s not physically in the mood doesn’t mean he can’t help YOUR mood if you really want to. You’re married! Or about to be…. Third base is totally acceptable. So are things bought from stores you need to be 18 to go into.)

            Besides, you being your sexy self and initiating might be just what he wants. A sneak attack! Like a penis coup de main….

          • liz

            what alyssa said.

            but also. it can totally become a mental thing for him. like, “looks like she wants sex… uh oh… i hope i can get things rolling…” if he’s so busy thinking about that… things WON’T get rolling. know what i mean?

            complete and utter honesty without insult is the best sexual policy. if he can comfortably say, “not tonight, babe” without hurting you, then that will remove a ton of pressure for him (that may be keeping things… down…)

            there’s no rush to “figure this out.” marriedsexytime is a nice long process.

      • Tina

        I just want to add that I would love a post about the intricacies of sexual intimacy. I completely understand that some people feel better about the anonymity. Since Meg is not anonymous, I wouldn’t expect her to go into details about her sex life. However, I think the conversation that has already started is a good one.

        I was just thinking the other day how I have learned so much about other relationships in this community, and that if there’s one group I would like to have a frank talk about sex with, it would be this one. Then this post appeared. These are like-minded women dealing with something that is often still considered taboo. I love hearing varied experiences without the need to turn it into a Sex in the City episode.

        • ANDREA

          Yes! Definitely Tina, this is what it is. I just feel like there is so much to talk about, and so many people that could offer great advice to each other, and this would just be a great place to talk about it. I mean, as I said I adore Dan Savage’s blog, but I don’t want to get into some ridiculous comment thread with all the random, angry, immature pieces of the internet. I want to get into a calm, interesting, thoughtful discussion with the intelligent, fun women of this community. I want to hear the stories of those who waited. I want to hear the stories of those who had a sleazy, sexy one night stand, then fell in love and still have amazing married sex. I want to hear from those who are having trouble, who have gotten over trouble and know how to talk about it, and those who don’t know how to talk about it, or didn’t until now. There’s so much potential for mature (and sexy) discussion here :)

  • Oof, this is a tough one, but only because our families are so complicated, I think. Does anyone have experience with separated parents AND inlaws, and how to do it all?

    The last couple of years we have spent Christmas with my family, which is nearby, and then my fiancee’s mom (she has no dad) comes up and spends some time with us right afterwards.

    I think this year we may take over Thanksgiving and have our own, invite everyone we know, and let our families make their decisions instead of our having to pick which ones of them to visit.

    @Rachel – I can’t wait to be a “wife,” but I haven’t done it yet so I’ll let you know :) A lot of that, for me, is that we are two women and I can’t wait for it to be just a matter of FACT that can be slipped by in conversation and not the whole conversation (“my wife and I just adopted a puppy,” or “my wife and I ate there last week.”). It’s much less ambiguous than fiancee, which one can always hear as fiance.

    • Camille

      Oh, I’m so glad someone shares this with us!

      We’re not married yet, but the last 4+ years have been a mad dash around the city to accommodate our families. Thus far, our Christmas looks like this:
      Eve: get off work @ 6:30, rush over to eat (hours past everyone else) at FH’s mom’s Friend’s house. Go from friend’s house to FH stepdad’s friend’s house for party. Sleep at FH’s mom’s house.
      Day: Breakfast with FH mom’s family, lunch with FH’s grandma (on his mom’s side), late afternoon with my dad, dinner with my mom and stepdad, and all stepdad’s family.
      Boxing day: brunch with my dad and dinner with his dad. (alternating brunch and dinner each year)

      Unfortunately, everyone lives on other sides of this city, and we don’t drive a vehicle. (But lucky that theres not flying involved!)

      So I’m thinking there must be a better way to handle this A) that doesn’t leave FH a ball of stress and B) our only “alone” time is while driving.

      But having everyone over at our place (once we move into an ‘our place” big enough to host it) leads to a whole new set of inter-family issues not limited to: competitiveness, criticism, how to match one side of family with another (all the women one night, men the next? FH mom and Stepdad with my dad and stepmom, FH dad and stepmom with my mom and stepdad? argh!!)


      ps: we have mostly decided to not have a seating plan at the wedding just so we don’t have to acknowledge this silliness!

    • Camille

      I write too much, I think.

      But may I ask how others feel with split families on both sides? I know statistically that increases your odds of divorce, however, I listen to statistics the same as I do superstitions. ie: I say it doesn’t matter and keep a calm face, but sometimes it gives me the willies.
      And the idea that both of us had big examples of how not to relate, how not to compromise, how not to be conscious and gracious of the other person, and less of how to make a marriage work touches my statistic/superstition funny bone.
      It reminds me of an old driving lesson, which was: You should know the drop off is there. But don’t look at it, or else you’ll steer towards it.

      • I’m struggling with this too. Both our parents are divorced – all four parents married new people, and then both our moms got divorced again. (Both our dads are very happily remarried though, so that’s nice.) So… yeah… that’s a lot of divorces! And sometimes it really freaks us out. It took us a really long time to be comfortable with the idea of marriage. I don’t think either of us were interested in marriage when we first met – just coming from that background of parental divorces. And although we do have more bad examples of how to interact in marriage, I think in some ways that’s actually been a good thing. We were both in our early teens when our parents divorced, and witnessed all that bad behavior firsthand, and I think learned from it. Learned what NOT to do, and how NOT to fight. I mean, we still fight, but I think we’re really cautious of not taking low blows at one another… if that makes sense. Our parents didn’t compromise – so we have actually become really great at compromise, I think, as a result of seeing how that didn’t work for them. I mean, I still feel like there are these crazy odds against us, but then… like you… I don’t believe in superstitions – so why should we worry about the odds?

      • ddayporter

        I don’t know the answer but I know the feeling. Fortunately it’s only my side that is split, Zach’s parents are still together. But I’ve definitely felt that quiet terror that I’m not as well equipped or I’m doomed because my parents were both married twice and divorced twice. I’m with you and Katie Jane though, I think having divorce in our family might give us the upper hand in some ways. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by strong marriages (friends parents, aunts and uncles), so that I got a lot of exposure to really great marriages, while also having intimate exposure to really bad marriages. I think it’s another situation where, you’re aware of the possible pitfalls and you plan and learn to steer around them. There seems to be a lot more state-funded marriage assistance out there, and you know, we have APW, which our parents definitely didn’t have.

    • KD

      Ugh, yeah – bf and I both come from divorced and remaried parents. No two live in the same City. We usually do the tri-state, 6 christmas tour (as his famly does extended christmas celebrations too). Been doing it this way for 5 years, where we spend at least a week and a half traveling from one to the other, and other people accomodate our schedule and we celebrate Christmas with certain people at really odd times…it’s not perfect – but it works for now…

      As for increasing the risk of our marriages failing – I think for this community it’s probably the opposite.

      I think we all can look at our families with a critical eye and learn from the good AND the bad. I think the pitfall comes when you think the awful-ness is “normal”. I’d guess we are all able to recognize that certain things aren’t normal.

      I know for both my bf and I, we were super aprehensive about the big M because of our parents – we dated for many years before we were both (more-so me) finally comfortable taking that step to become engaged. I think it’s better than some of my friend jumping into marriage because they think it’s this magical perfect thing – I kind of like that we looked at it with a super discerning eye before we took the step.

      • Becca

        Oh man, divorced parents – this has been a huge blessing in my life (a wonderful stepmum, beautiful halfsibs and other ‘extras’ in my life who I have learned a lot from). But yea, also a bit of a curse in terms of my own feelings on marriage…

        I think a lot of us come from this background and we face our own set of emotions to work through – fear and cynicism were two biggies for me personally (even now in a very happy place I’ve kept my own last name professionally which I see partly as a kind of insurance policy). Being engaged brought up a lot of issues I thought I’d dealt with already, and sadly I didn’t always get much support from friends – divorce is kind of a taboo issue when you’re engaged or newly married. Meg, if we could talk this over sometime on APW that would be awesome – it’s one forum where I think the support would far outweigh the judgement, and it’s always nice to read comments and know you’re not alone (even if its an issue that needs some professional help as well!).

        • Elissa

          I’m also interested in the issue of parents’ divorces. Just for context, I’m pre-pre-engaged, living with my partner of 7 years. My parents are non-unhappily but not super-happily married, and my partner’s parents had a yucky divorce when he was about 15. As a result of this, my partner has an idealised view what marriage should be – which seems backwards but isn’t… I think the logic goes something like this: bad marriage = messy divorce, anything less than perfect and romantic and wonderful suggests bad marriage, which equals messy divorce. Which puts pressure on me to be perfect and romantic and wonderful, and also makes any small disagreement or issue into The End of It All. Living together averts these issues somewhat, because it’s not the magical state of Marriage where all these ideas are based. I wouldn’t get married without getting relationship counselling to help us work this out (and the corresponding preconcetions, etc that I have too, I’m sure). The books people have mentioned sound good, but we’ll get to that when we’re ready to be pre-engaged :)

    • SaraB

      We’ve also started discussing the holiday thing since both sets of our parents are divorced (we’re in the “pre-engagement negotiations”stage). Plus, my folks live a plane ride away. We’re leaning toward the Christmas-Thanksgiving flip-flop until we have kids. At that point, we’ve decided to look again at the schedules since some of my friends who have kids have run into new sets of issues (Santa being one, traveling with small ones being another).

      Glad to see this post and the resulting threads! Our plan is to have these talks now and make sure we really want to be engaged (though it looks like we’re going to get married!) I love getting advice from those planning and those already on the other side.

    • Rachel

      We’re not married yet (25 days!), but family relations are a big issue. My family is very tight-knit, but I have personal space/time issues (as in, I’m going to have my own bedroom in our married house in case I need to escape seeing other human beings for a while issues). His family is really broken up, and I have a lot of difficulty seeing eye-to-eye with them. What my family would deem totally inappropriate comments (:cough: comments about my butt :cough:) are apparently par for the course in his.

      I’m worried that we’re going to reach a time when I can’t be with his family because they make me so uncomfortable, but I would be so upset if he didn’t interact with mine, that I feel it’s unfair for me to even consider that.

      I have no idea how to handle differences in family communication. I’ve always demanded respect, and I purposely categorically do NOT respect people who cannot honor that. The way his family speaks to me makes me so uncomfortable, but I don’t know how to send that message without becoming the butt of a running joke (and, yes, his family would make it a joke!). Not good, folks. Not good.

      • C

        Rachel, MY family is the busted up one that has no boundaries and says whatever they want to one and other; when people are mad the gloves are off and some pretty terrible things have been said. Couple that with the fact that they admit to treating me the worst and you have a pretty awful situation.

        You MUST talk to your fiance about this and hopefully he understands how uncomfortable the situation is for you and can help you set boundaries with his family (which, like it or not, will become your family). You can learn to change the subject, not react and control the situation to some extent. This is not easy and it won’t stop everything from being said/happening.

        And you may have to come to terms with the fact that you may need to have your distance with his family. My fiance has no respect for my family due to how they treat me and the things they have said in front of him. He is polite to my family and if we were to ever be invited over to their house he would go, or if I wanted to have them over, he would support me.

        • Lethe

          Thank you so much for your comment. My fiancee and my family have no relationship because my family does not accept my being engaged to a woman – I know this sounds ridiculous, but I never really thought about how many (opposite-sex) couples probably are trying to cope with essentially the same situation for OTHER reasons. That makes me feel much less alone. I guess families can be difficult in all kinds of ways, eh? In any case, you sound very wise in how you are dealing with this, and I would love to hear more on this topic.

      • kahlia

        I’m also very interested in talking about different communication styles between families. My family is welcoming and kind to everyone, while his seems to not want to even acknowledge new people–and definitely not accept weird, foreign me. The result is that I feel like they don’t like me (and it might actually be true, which is the hardest part. At least if it was all in my head, I think it’d be easier to get over).

    • meg

      Ok, someone needs to step up to guest post on this one. Our parents have been married 35 and 36 years respectively (yes, yes, their anniversaries are two weeks apart), so I literally have nothing to offer on this front. Not even vague advice.

  • Sharing holidays. Yikes. This one is a raw spot with me and my FH. Essentially, my extended family is obnoxious and less-than-welcoming to ME, let alone my FH (I constantly feel like I’m walking on eggshells around them … the latest being that my aunt is, essentially, treating my wedding like an imposition, and I was constantly reminding myself of you and your blog the other day and I handled myself quite well), and his extended family is, well, awesome. He wants to spend Christmas with his family. So do I. My mother, however, I know is going to go through the roof. Sure, you can flip-flop Thanksgiving with Christmas, however we have an open invite for his family to take us to Disney every year at Thanksgiving, so that further complicates things. We’ve gone the past three years, are planning to go this year, and probably will cool it for a while after that … but regardless, it makes the “Just swap Thanksgiving and Christmas each year!” conversation difficult.

    Because time off around the holidays at my office is always at a premium, and we have to travel for his family (my family is about 50 miles away), I’ve decided that on years when Christmas lands on Friday/Saturday/Sunday, we’ll spend it with his family; and on Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday, with mine. Thursday will be a wild card. It’s the fairest thing I can come up with. It also buys me time – Christmas is on a Saturday this year. :)

    • Also, to add quickly, I knew a couple who refused to have this discussion before they got married. They got married in October, and still didn’t have the discussion resolved by Christmas, so they spent Christmas separately – he with his family, she with hers, a 5 hour drive away from one another.

      They’re divorced now. I haven’t spoken to either person in years, and I have no idea what the reasons were for the divorce, but I think it’s key. A lot of these discussions have to do with building our baby families. I’m not saying it’s unhealthy to spend an important holiday apart once in a while, but their reasons for doing so, I think, had to do with setting a bad foundation for their marriage.

      • Maybe I’m just paranoid, but stories like this make me nervous. We have, up until now, celebrated Christmas with each our families. We live only twenty minutes away from BOTH sets of parents, so this isn’t difficult. I go out for Christmas Eve with my family, because that’s a BIG deal for us (and he isn’t into church), and then my fiance sees his family, and then meets up with us on Christmas Day for a big family dinner. It’s worked so far? But I don’t know if that counts as “apart”– it’s literally a day. But so many people talk about how hard it is to navigate holidays… Maybe I’m just overthinking things (not unheard of for me, heh).

        • I think that’s totally different. This was a case of where neither couple would budge at all about Christmas, so their first Christmas as newlyweds, they elected to spend separate rather than choose where to open presents on Christmas morning. As in, other ends of the state separate. It was more, as I saw it, symptom of a larger problem – neither was very good at compromise (and this is actually a really crappy word for it, but it’s the best I can think of for now).

          I guess my point was, it’s important to set these boundaries for your “baby family” and figure out your priorities, and start seeing yourselves as a team rather than separate people who happen to be in a relationship. I think your example is actually a really great one of how you handle the holiday question AS A TEAM, while still keeping the integrity of what’s important to you.

          • Thank you for your support and clarity; I so often read things that aren’t about me or our relationship, project it onto my situation, and then suddenly think we’re doomed to failure. It’s not the best line of thinking, to be sure!

            And that’s the thing– we do make compromises and have chosen specific ways to make it work. I have a big, ridiculous, boisterous family of 25 people that gets together for Thanksgiving every year, and my fiance comes along and has dinner with us. The next day we see his parents, since it’s just the four of us, and we have a lovely, quiet, dinner and day all to them. I think the most important thing about the holidays is, as you said, setting boundaries and figuring out what works for each baby family.

            Thanks. :)

    • I want to hear about this too. We’ve always spent holidays separately, but we’ve already decided those days are over. Once we get married, it’s important for us to stay together, as a family, on holidays. The big problem we’re facing is that both our parents are divorced, and both our dads are remarried, and all four parents live in different cities… fairly far away from one another. So the tough part is that no matter how we work it out… someone’s mom is going to have hurt feelings. (My mom will probably take it hardest of all if we’re not with her for Christmas. She was really shocked when I told her my fiance and I wouldn’t be spending holidays separate anymore, and would have to decide where to go each year. I think she just assumed he’d keep going to his mom’s, and I’d go to her house.) There’s this big part of me that just wants to say… screw it, let’s just have Christmas alone and start a new tradition and whoever wants to visit can. (But not stay with us since we have a small apartment. ha.) Anyway, I’d love to hear from others in this position. We’re getting married in October, so it’s a decision we’ll have to face right away on in our marriage.

      • Rachel

        My parents are divorced and his parents aren’t, but the 3 families live very far apart, too (ie it would be nearly impossible to do Christmas Eve at one house and Christmas Day at another or something like that). My mom also doesn’t like my fiance, so spending holidays with her is weird and uncomfortable (this past holiday season was the first one we had spent together, instead of separately and we did Xmas at her house). My brother hates my dad and doesn’t do any holidays with him, so the only way I get to see him for a holiday is to go to my mom’s house. It’s very complicated and icky and I *also* sort of just want to say screw it and have our own holidays and whoever wants to come visit will.

        • You and I have talked about this Mom issue. My mother isn’t quite as overt, but my extended family’s cool demeanor makes up for that. However, for me, instead of brother it’s grandmother – she likes seeing me on the holidays, and she’s 84. (She also, unlike the rest of my family, LOVES my FH!)

          On the other hand, she likes seeing me PERIOD, and we don’t live far away.

          Which, actually, brings me to another point, that FH had (which I can’t disagree with): with the exception of me and my cousin (who lives less than 10 miles from me), my “extended family” (that is, my mother’s siblings and their families) all live within 15 miles of one another (and we’re about 50 or so miles away, so about an hour’s drive), so “getting together” is not a huge deal – we do it a lot, and we can do it with minimal planning. FH’s family, on the other hand, isn’t terribly spread out and we’re not terribly far from them, but more spread than 15 miles and further from them than 50 miles. It makes holidays a “bigger deal” when you only get to see some of those people a couple times a year, rather than, say, once every couple of months.

    • Tricia

      Ditto. I would like to hear about this. It is becoming an issue for us as well. Last year we spent Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with his (and my mother was *not happy*, but I took my family flack). I thought we had agreed to swap holidays and, in fact, he is fine with going to see my family over Christmas, but feels like he has to go visit his family too. I feel like it is setting a bad precedent to not just suck it up and deal with the family flack and say, “This is what we are doing. Its fair darn it.” Anyways, we are in the middle of discussing it now. (And the ever lovely, who’s family is being intrusive and how.)

  • Carbon Girl

    First off, I wanted to say that I have begun to feel the difference marriage makes more and more that we are 3 months into it. So far what I can say is that I feel this amazing sense of security. That no matter what, if I fall, I will be caught by a soft bunch of down comforters. There is just this security that I always expected from marriage, but I had no idea how it would feel. It goes beyond someone else having your back and being on your side, it is like someone else much deeper than that and really beyond words. I also have this overwhelming sense of pride that this amazing man is my husband. Things have sucked at work lately but I always know I am coming home to something great.

    Now, about family time. I had a revelation last weekend on our way home after visiting his family after we missed the last flight home at the airport due to delays on our first flight. That meant with both lost a vacation day waiting for the next flight in the morning when we should have been working. Mainly, it was that we cannot keep doing this. Both families have an expectation that we will visit them at a months notice and both are at least a 2 flight, 3 hour plane ride away. It was fine when my family did this to me and his family to him, but now, when they both want both of us, and it is too much. I had to put my foot down when my mom kept insisting my husband come with me to my brother’s graduation next month. Our vacation time is precious, and we have so much we want to do together. I don’t want to be cruel, so 2010 will be kept as is with the warning that things will be different in 2011. One family will get Thanksgiving, the other Christmas. If they want to see us otherwise, than they can come visit or maybe the parents and us could do a vacation together. I have yet to make this new status quo known and I am worried how it will be received.

  • Amanda

    I just got engaged yesterday (!!) but have been reading for several months and have been with my beloved for over five years now. I wanted to first thank you guys because as a result of this blog, I had some very serious and in-depth discussions with myself about whether or not I even wanted to be married that I just plain never would have thought about before coming to know you all. I have been driven to think more thoughtfully about things that I have taken at face value. I have learned to evaluate traditions and gender roles like never before. I think I have a little bit deeper understanding of what becoming married and thus a wife means… for me, that is, because of yall.
    However, I’m still scared. I would like to talk about retaining personal autonomy while working hard to be a fully engaged and committed partner. I want to know what I can be doing to prepare for our marriage (not just our wedding day). I want to talk about sex to ditto Sarah. Thanks, all!

    • Katy

      I’d like to add to the conversation about holidays that sharing isn’t always about managing other people’s wants and needs, it’s also about your own. One of the more difficult things about our to-be-created baby family was realizing that I wouldn’t be able to spend time holidays with my family in the way we always have. Perhaps because I come from an immigrant family, we didn’t have anyone else to spend that time with, so all of my memories of Christmas, for example, are bound up in things we did just the five of us (and that no one else I know did… again, immigrant family). I’m so excited to have my fiance be a part of those wonderful traditions, but admittedly less excited about abandoning some of those traditions and missing out on my family to spend holidays with his. It’s not that I don’t love his family or feel welcomed. I think it’s a difficult thing for people to talk about sometimes – there are some things about my solo life that I’m really going to miss, and holidays with family are one of them.

      In terms of other topics, I’d love to hear more about changes within marriage, even little things. Being engaged (for soooo long), it has been wonderful to notice all kinds of special little changes, and I’m excited to see how we grow in marriage. I’m interested in all the conversations about kids – yes/ no, biological/ adopted/ foster – bring it on! Also, I think it would be helpful to hear more about financial issues (another thing no one wants to talk about!). One of the biggest fights of our engagement thus far has been about whether/ how to combine finances. My fiance felt strongly that there was no need to, and I felt that at least a partial combination of finances would help us work towards “together goals” and share the financial burden (I’m currently the primary earner). Lauren (Suburbalicious Living) wrote a great post about this a while back, but it would be great to hear about how other couples have navigated this issue. I know for us that conversation brought out all kinds of crazy things we didn’t even know were important to us.

      Thanks for all you’re doing, Meg!

      • Katy

        Amanda – I’m losing my mind! The reason I “replied” to your thread in the first place was to congratulate you on your recent engagement. Congratulations!

      • Julianna

        holidays and holiday traditions with my family are definitely something I’m going to miss being able to participate in as fully as I used to. this past Christmas was a really emotional one as a result – mom commented more than once about it being our “last” family Christmas. Which I don’t entirely agree with – I’d rather think of it as changing & expanding rather than ending – but I totally get where she was coming from, and I am going to mourn the loss of some of those traditions, too. For me it is the flipside of the growing up/establishing boundaries discussion (when it happens because it has to, or is a natural consequence of other decisions, as opposed to being because you are intentionally “taking a stand” for something).

        • Katy

          Julianna – I think that’s totally right, so maybe we can add this to the boundaries discussion!

        • meg

          Julianna –
          I think you owe us a post on this. You’ve brought it up a few times, so I think you have something to say. As I said in the post what I can offer is limited. What I can say is – at least it’s not really your last Christmas. Since I no longer celebrate Christmas, other than in support of my family, that is a whole other level of pain. Another reason I don’t want to write the post. Some things are best kept off the interwebs.

          • C

            Meg-couldn’t you celebrate both the Jewish and Christian holidays at your personal home? In no way am I judging or questioning your relationship. However, if you are mourning the loss of holidays you love then that’s a problem and strikes me as unfair (albeit I have no knowledge of your relationship or your reasons for conversion or if you really changed your religious convictions or just changed for family reasons or anything else). But in any conversion for marriage case where it’s not just changing religious denominations but actual religions, especially in a situation where one person misses their traditions, it does make me wonder; what did the other person have to give up for the relationship? And is giving up something important to you really necessary?

            We celebrate Christmas in my house….and we’re BOTH atheists. And I’m not talking agnostic, or open to the idea of a higher power or “spiritual”. I’m talking big-bang atheists lol. But I LOVE Christmas, and also recognize that it comes from pagan/Roman traditions and has been co-opted by consumerism.

          • Julianna

            I will work on it this week! I have been mulling it over for a while and trying to think about how to write a post that is not just “here’s what we’re doing” but rather, opens up the discussion for everybody. I really do think the parallels to the name change situation are huge – for some it’s not a big deal, their choice is obvious; for some it’s fraught with multi-layer family relationships all with competing demands; for some it is what it is but the emotions involved need a space to be acknowledged nonetheless…
            ok. I will stop writing it here and go write it for real. promise.

          • meg

            No. We couldn’t. That’s not ok with me.

            And there, you see in a sentence, why I don’t open this topic up for discussion on the site. I could write you an essay (and have written essays) about exactly why I think that. I could go into ethics and my relationship with my soul and tradition and history and my family. But APW is not the place to do that, and there are a lot of women here making different choices than I did.

            We all make sacrifices for our families. That’s how it is. My missing of what I once had with Christmas in no way changes the reasons why I made the choices I made.

        • Holidays hurt, there’s no two ways about it. I feel like we have it pretty simple with the split, but even the little changes hurt. I remember the first Thanksgiving I spent with his family – we weren’t engaged, but we already knew – and it hit me I’d never had time to mourn the loss of MY Thanksgiving traditions properly. I had to escape from the family for a moment and compose myself.

          It’s hard. It’s still not mine anymore. I still feel like I’m joining them and their amazing traditions. But it huts to have lost mine. I’m trying to focus on the family traditions I still have on my side and on the traditions we’re building together – just the two of us – but I think we don’t talk enough about the grieving.

          • Julianna

            I think you hit the nail on the head with “even the little changes hurt” and that we need to be able to talk about it! It can be hard to grieve what feels like a lost tradition without sounding like you’re bashing your partner’s or their family’s traditions so I think people feel even more pressure to not be/feel/seem/look sad about it even what it actually makes perfect sense that we are!

          • Amy

            This exactly! I was totally caught off guard by the sadness and grief I felt last Christmas when I had my first Christmas away from my family. At first I was happy and excited to start our own little Christmas traditions at our home, and then on Christmas Eve I started getting really, really sad. I missed my family (we’re all pretty close), and I missed our traditions, even as I was carrying them out and adapting them in own house. It completely shocked me, I wasn’t at all prepared for the grief. Luckily my now fiance was really, really good about it, but I’m still sort of worried about if the grief will always be there, or if it slowly fades?

          • kahlia

            Thank you for giving me the words to explain why I had to escape to the bedroom and sob for 30 minutes on the first Christmas I spent with my partner’s family. It wasn’t even my first Christmas away from home, but it seemed like a bigger deal.
            I think I’m quite fortunate in that he would rather spend the December holidays with my family as well, but we live in Europe and so far that hasn’t been possible very often. I would like to discuss how to have the conversations (like, suggestions for which words to use) with his family, for example, when we say that we’re not going to be there for Christmas.

      • JoLynn

        Holidays are super important to me–I have five sisters so they all began spending them with their families, my mom is single, and I hate leaving her all alone for holidays. (Besides, I just love her and we get along really well). Add to which, his family is a two minute walk away from us, where my family is hours away by plane, and I feel like we should spend *all* holidays with my family since we spend almost every single day with his. I know that’s unfair, but I would live near my family if it wasn’t for him (he’s taking care of his aging grandparents and thus can’t/won’t move, which I respect).

        • My FH feels the same way (we’re an hour from my family, 3.5 from his, so it’s not quite as pronounced, but same idea).

    • Olivia

      Congratulations Amanda!

      • Amanda

        Thank you!

    • IRMCK

      @Amanda Congrats on your engagement!

      I totally hear you about the “retaining personal autonomy while working hard to be a fully engaged and committed partner” thing. We’re at T-minus two months until the wedding, and I’m still absolutely terrified of losing myself.

      • Amanda

        Thank you for saying that. Its comforting to know that others feel the same way.

      • Alex

        I can’t tell if this comment is going to go where I wanted it to go, but it is about the woman who was afraid of “losing herself” and wanted to talk about the balance between keeping you identity and being a good partner. I read this and breathed this huge sigh of relief, because I realized that I this used to be exactly my fear, and it was a terrible fear and hard to talk about. But now, after being married just 6 months (we dated for 4 years before that), I can honestly say I’m not worried about it anymore. I don’t know how to reassure you except to say, the fact that your concerned about losing your identity means that you won’t. Marriage is not, it turns out, some mysterious black box that turns normal people into “husbands” and “wives.” You’re marriage will be whatever you and your partner decide it’s going to be. And the changes that you make in order to be a loving, supportive partner, are changes that also make you a more understanding and complete human being. If anything, I feel like my identity has expanded and grown to encompass this partnership, not that marriage has somehow swallowed me up.

  • Julianna

    oh, and someday – not today – I want to talk about kids. Both in terms of how to stake out space as a family without or before having kids, and also how kids change/enhance/expand/challenge the baby family you’ve been working to establish. Sort of along the lines of ‘how to keep the 2 person relationship centered when adding a 3rd or 4th or more’ but I mean it more broadly than that.

  • Sarah Beth

    I’d love to hear about children. Or, specifically, deciding not to have them, and being in a childless marriage, or choosing to adopt rather than have your own. I have never wanted kids, and never been comfortable around them. At family gatherings, there can be twelve women in a room ooh-ing and ahhing over the newest edition, and I’m the one in the corner rolling my eyes, or have left the room altogether. My fiance, however, would like kids eventually. I have zero desire to be pregnant, but I’m not totally apposed to adopting an older child

    It’s just that so many people’s ideas of marriage center around the goal of having kids, and I don’t hear a lot from women are childless by choice, or who chose to adopt as a first option, rather than a last resort.

    • Sarah Beth

      Uh, “opposed” rather. Apparently, I should finish my coffee before writing anything…

      • Ashley

        Yes Yes Yes! More about “childless by choice” couples!

        • Yes! But I would add, what if you are a childless by choice couple at first, and then one of you changes your tune? I’ve seen this happen in two relationships, and the result was devastating.

          We are both childless by choice right now, but I’m worried that one of us will change our mind. We’ve talked about what we would do if this happened, but I would love to hear from married couples that went through this, or are going through this.

          • Yes, if someone out there wanted to post or start a discussion on the whole to expand or not – childless by choice, decisions changing down the road, adoption, etc. that would be amazing. We are in the childless by choice camp at the moment, with a small * that states “never say never”. There are things about having children that I really like, but I’ve never felt a really overly strong desire for them. Of course as more friends/couples around us go down this road sometimes I find us/me second guessing that but then snap quickly back into place that we really enjoy the idea of just us and the freedom that gives. But then you throw in my age (low 30s…slowly creeping to mid 30s…) and I freak out and think ‘uh oh, what if in 5 years I’m like YES let’s do this’ and it’s too late. And then I get curious about our lives in 20 years and will we be lonely, feel like something is missing? A large part of me quickly responds “Hell No! Look at how fulfilling our lives are now” but that doubt….it’s out there.

            So yes, I’m all for this type of post – and would love if someone out there is a little further into marriage and still going childless, could speak about what it’s like for them at the moment.

          • Margaret

            We are also in the childless by choice… yet not totally ruling out the option. But I worry sometimes how that will work. What if I change my mind? Or he changes his mind? Or if we never change our minds… what does that look like? I can count on one hand… no, one finger… the long-married couples I know (in person) who are childless by choice. SO MUCH of what you read in the media about marriage involves child-raising and how it impacts a marriage, but I want to know what happens when kids *aren’t* in the picture. Is it easier on the marriage? Or do you feel less connected?

          • Rebecca

            I think this can also go in the reverse, simply because I have seen it happen with equally devastating consequences. A couple gets married in their 20s under the belief that they aren’t ready for children right now but 5 years down the road they will. So, that 5 years go by and one person says “no, wait I’m still not ready for children and, in fact, not sure I want them at all”.

      • Christine

        I’ve been DETERMINED to adopt (and only adopt) for nearly 10 years, and within the last 3 months have made a complete 180 degree turn, and now am all aboard the baby-making truck.

        Only now I feel SO guilty and awful about this for so many reasons. It’s been hugely upsetting to me. Not the least of which is that I’m satisfying the you’ll seeeeeeeees.

        I guess I don’t have any real direction for this post. Has anyone else been all.about. adopting and then suddenly and completely abandoned the idea in favor of procreation?

    • I am definitely with you on adoption–maybe it’s because I’m an only child myself, and have always had friends who I thought of as my sisters/brothers, but I love celebrating the fact that being a family doesn’t have to mean sharing DNA. It always secretly bothers me when I see magazine stories about people who have tried hundreds of different IVF treatments, but refer to adoption as a last resort…

      I/we struggle with the having of/not having of children thing as well. We recently moved back to our hometown, and in our minds it was because a.) we missed our families, b.) we were ready to buy a house/”settle down” and because of that c.) Pittsburgh is a HELL of a lot cheaper than DC. However, I was surprised to find that a lot of friends/family that I spoke with after the move assumed that we had done so because we planned on popping out some little ones right after the wedding. I mean, I get it…we’re closer to the grandparents, blah blah blah…

      It’s not that we recoil in horror at the thought of children, it’s just that we’re wondering why now, or why ever?

      Has anyone else had the “why children” dicussion with their significant other? The only “pro” that I can really come up with is that I like the “idea” of having a family with my husband. I like the idea of building a nursery, the idea of taking our kid (I stop at one) to the park, the idea of helping them buy an outfit for the prom. But is an “idea” a firm basis for a family? Or is that why everybody does it? Is it selfish to have a child, or is it selfish not to? Aren’t we already a family with us and our crazy dog?


      • Yup – I like the “idea” of having children/family with him, I like the “idea” of us passing on our love of sports and coaching little league teams, I like the “idea” of passing down heirlooms, etc. Not really sure that legitimizes having a child and the every day reality.

      • mollymouse

        The Mr. & I talked about children before we got married. I’m a teacher and really want children, but he was ambivalent (more like “Why should we?”). Beyond the idea of passing on our genes, etc., I think we would be good parents. I think we would raise healthy, happy children who would contribute positively to society. I feel like it’s a responsibility that we need to take on, especially when I see countless children who’s parents could care less about their well-being. We’ll have the financial and emotional means to do it and so I think we should. However, I also feel pretty strongly that (while I want a biological child) we should adopt someday.

        Funnily enough, we had that conversation about 5 years ago and now that we feel like we’re getting old enough to have children, I’m totally stalling! I’m just not ready to go through the physical process of it (but my SIL is having a baby, so that’s tiding me over :) )

      • Ashley

        So this isn’t a reply at all…just my feeling on this topic.I am so so happy that people are talking about this on here! It’s an issue that I/we have been struggling with for a while now. I’m not married or even engaged but I’m in a long term committed relationship with plans to get married eventually. We’re pre-engaged I guess you would say and for the time being, happy that way. When my partner and I met I was kind of ambivalent about children but had always kind of assumed that I would have them, because I should have them and everyone in my family has them and that whole line of reasoning. Then I met my partner and feel ridiculously in love with him and 8 months in found out that he definitely doesn’t want children. I was REALLY upset which I thought meant that I obviously wanted children and this was the end of us and I was pretty upset. But here’s the thing… I just couldn’t get myself to do it, leave him I mean. When I tried to be logical about it, I just wasn’t sure that I wanted children at all and I wasn’t sure that I wanted them enough to give him up, mostly because giving him up seemed like the worst possible thing I could ever have to do. So I waited…because this idea that someday in the future I might want to have children just didn’t seem strong enough to give up this right now fabulous man that I had found. So I asked him to consider having them, like really consider it… and I would consider if I could be happy without them… and I waited and I cried and I read and I thought, a lot, a lot… and eventually I realized that life without them might be really great and that I really had no burning desire to have them, just this abstract notion that I should want them and I should have them. I am also lucky enough to have a really great GP who I talk to about everything and he gave me permission to see this as a choice, a choice that I can be free to make however I choose to make it. It was so empowering to realize it was a choice. I know it’s not a choice for a lot of people, but for me it was, because I wasn’t born with this innate burning desire to have kids.I really was on the fence and so for me, for now it came down to a choice between this man that I love who doesn’t want children and this far away notion that someday I’m going to be hit with this burning desire to have children that society (and my family) tells me I will have. It was incredibly liberating to be realize that I was free to make this choice and I feel so great about it! Anyway… I’m going to cut this off now because it is ridiculously long but I have LOADS more to say on this topic.

    • Lor

      we’ve talked about this as well…we are both on the fence about having children…somedays we say “gosh if our kids turn out like you, we’re in trouble”. I know we are both not ready – we talked that over in depth. If we do have children it will be in our late 30s. I think the reason we both were scared is that “society” places this idea of how children need to be raised, just like the WIC…and that scares us, terrifies me! But then he and I both have seen some of our friends and coworkers and the way they raise their children and we see that we don’t have to listen to “society” but just do what feels right and comfortable. For example we went to pick up a dresser from our coworker and they are in their early 40s with a toddler and after we left, he said to me, wow if they can do it, we can too. Seeing an example that he understood made him realize that children weren’t SO scary…but it does get annoying when people say ” oh you’ll change your mind, you’ll start sooner”. Well maybe I will, or won’t. but that will be OUR decision. I don’t even know if that made sense! lol.

    • Carbon Girl

      Oh dear. I was just thinking that “childless marriage” sounds kind of negative. It is a choice (for many) and should be given a better name. How about “child-free marriage.” I like that because it alludes to the freedom that comes with not being a caretaker of kids.

    • I would love a post about being childless.

      I feel that I will probably want kids eventually, but certainly not in the next few years. My fiance definitely wants kids. I’m in the middle of reconciling all those big scary emotions.

  • abg

    Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. There’s been some chatter on here about how the engagement period is really laying the foundation for the soon-to-be married couple as its own family, but how exactly do you carry that into the marriage? How do you continually reinforce that we are an us now? This is a subject I’ve struggled with a LOT throughout my engagement, and have had members of my family stop speaking to me over, and now that the wedding is here (SATURDAY!), I’d be interested to know how others have managed the expectations of families of origin post-wedding and which boundaries are the most important ones…. particularly coming from different points in marriage. I suspect couples with kids would have a few “I wish we’d put a stop to xyz in-law behavior before we had kids.”

  • I’d like to hear from other people about getting through financial strains. My partner has been -er- GENTLY employed for the last 18 months (ie: enough freelance work to get by, but basically unemployed and miserable) and I’ve been surprised by the way it’s impacted our relationship (and also by the way it HASN”T impacted our relationship.)

    On the positive side: I’ve learned a lot about us! As the primary breadwinner in that time, I feel like I’ve gained an independence that’s good for me (it’s awesome to realize that I could provide for both of us!) I’ve also been incredibly impressed by his ability to NOT take his frustration out on me — even when he’s in a stressed-out, shitty mood, he manages to not get into a bad mood with me. He’s also never taken a macho “I can’t provide for my woman, woe is me” stance, which is important to me!

    On the negative side: it sucks. We’re squeezed, which stresses us both out, and we have more free time, but less money to spend. I have to be careful when I’m stressed out about money, because it makes him feel like shit when he’s not contributing more. He has more free time, so he’s taken over more of the household chores, but that feels weird sometimes, like we’re a reverse-1950s couple. There’s an unsettled feeling, since we’re not sure when or where his next job will come from.

    Anyways. Those are my thoughts. I’d love to hear from other people!

    • Zeke

      Ohhh…the freelance thing.

      It’s actually a concern of my Fiance and mine, as I do a lot of freelance (a job in which I love) on top of my primary job (which I also love, but sadly is only part-time but with regular hours). I know I do all this extra work because I love to do it, I love working. However, the past year, I’ve been working on the ‘NO’ word and scheduling in social time (and sleep). My Fiance will be going into grad school this fall, so I’m going to be the primary bread-winner starting off our married life together. I don’t think there is a real solution I’m offering, but keeping that balance, working your household budget and making time for those important things…like each other.

      I’m in the middle of Choosing Simplicity by Linda Breen Pierce, which covers living simply in this complex world driven by substance and material possessions. It offers insights into the lives of those who have chosen simplicity, to get back to family and the things that are important to you. Which is going to be reflected in our wedding, simplicity and Love.

      One thing I’ve been keeping in mind with these wedding plans, something Meg you posted a week or so ago about a pair of wedding graduates a line that sticks in my head “at the end of the day, we’ll be married”. And you don’t need to sweat the small stuff.

      • Amy

        and pressures. we both finished grad school last year. after my husband’s graduation, he was subsequently unemployed for 5 months. (the months leading up to and immediately following our fall wedding.) he’s now had on his 2nd temporary position trying to ease into the job market. during this time, our communication and patience has grown tremendously. our financial situation has led to major prioritizing, and has been a huge lesson in selflessness and balance. all in all, we are happy.

        however, around us, there is pressure. it feels like we are constantly being bombarded with questions and assumptions about buying a house, traveling the globe, having kids, etc. while we know that we have consciously made the decision to pursue furthering our education first, it feels like that accomplishment is not worthy of noting. instead, we should simply be moving further down the “marriage/family checklist.” we often leave discussions with friends and family feeling as though we have somehow let them down by not being further along. do any of you deal with these pressures? how have you been adapting to the nature of the economy? how do you keep each other’s confidence levels up? how do you respond to those who make you feel guilty that you’re not meeting certain expectations?

        • Elissa

          I exactly’d this, but since you asked if anyone else felt the ‘moving along the checklist’ thing, I thought I’d talk about it too… I’m not feeling it from family, and only a bit from friends (“When are you guys going to get engaged already?”) – it’s mostly coming from me. My partner and I have both been career students for about 5 years longer than all our friends – I’ve just finished, and he’s writing up his PhD. Suddenly everyone around us is getting married and buying houses and having kids. We’re too poor to be thinking of travelling or buying houses, and he’s not ready for kids and I’m so SO clucky and can’t even afford a kitten to take the edge off! And sometimes I get stuck thinking about what other people have that I want (babies! a house to nest in! pretty appliances!), and I want so badly to be moving on from this ‘poverty-striken student’ phase of our lives… I’m getting better at focusing on what I have and the small steps I can make, but it still hurts a bit sometimes.

          • Amy

            i’m so glad you replied! i’ve been mulling over your comment about pressuring yourself all day. where do we get this feeling from? and, why is it so hard for my educated, logical mind to separate itself from this feeling of keeping up?

            also, how do we reassure our partner? because, speaking for mine, the “breadwinner” stereotype seriously gets to him sometimes…he tends to take on a ton of personal responsibility and guilt for where we are at financially, even though, again, we both know that it’s just simply the choices and priorities that we’ve set for furthering our education.

            *and, meg? i’m a tad bit honored to have you in agreement. :o)

        • Camille

          how do you respond to those who make you feel guilty that you’re not meeting certain expectations?

          As I see it, the problem goes beyond not buying a house, having a band versus a d.j., or getting out of school. It centers along a two-fold line of assumed failure; either you failed at “properly” considering your options, and/or you failed at succeeding in them.

          Both of which are ridiculous. Because the answer is, “well, we’ve considered all the options and WE (invoking that almighty-two-is-better-than-one WE) have decided to do ______. Having made this decision, we are happy with it and ourselves thankyouverymuch.

          Explaining that you are aware of the options and have made the best decision for yourselves at this moment in time is giving your friends/family the opportunity to understand your reasoning. If they are disappointed, their assumptions are faulty in your context. It’s an old saying, but you can’t please everyone. Just so long as YOU know what you’re doing and why.

    • meg

      I feel you ladies… big time.

  • Cortney

    I second the adoption discussion! FH & I have talked about this quite a bit, and we plan to adopt at least one child (along with having our own biological children), and it’s so hard to find straight talkers on the subject.

    “Oh, it doesn’t matter how long I waited – it was worth the wait!”
    “Oh, it doesn’t matter how much we spent on the adoption, or how we paid for it. The cost was worth it!”
    “Kevin’s a little delight! He doesn’t have any psychological issues, like some other adopted kids do.”
    “Oh no, the other kids aren’t jealous at all!”

    I get that you’re happy & don’t want to relive the negative moments, and I’m thrilled for you, but when we ask you these questions, we don’t want you to sugar coat it for us. We want to know what made your hair stand on end, what drove you to tears, and yes, what ended up being the best parts about your adoption experience. But mainly, we want to be adequately prepared for what we may possibly be getting ourselves into!

    Other than that, I’d also really like to read about splitting holidays (FH’s parents live in Michigan, in the same town as my father, but my mother lives in California with my younger sister, and my brother & the rest of my family are in Sweden… see my dilemma, here? haha), changes after marriage, advice for keeping the passion alive in a relationship after marriage, and advice from people who went through the “oh, that will never happen to me” moments in their marriages (infidelity, cancer, depression, loss of a child, etc.) and survived.

    And Meg, I agree. I would love to read more from other members in the community. That is part of why I love this blog so much. It’s built on a community spirit.

    • Casey

      My parents were unable to have their own biological children. I don’t know much about their decision to adopt or the costs involved, but I do know that it was a long and arduous process. There were rigorous home inspections (my parents got in big trouble because they hadn’t yet decided which bedroom their hypothetical baby would sleep in, haha!). And they waited for years, never knowing if or when they may have a child. There were false alarms, and every time they thought the time was at hand and were let down, there was heartbreak. The hardest was when they finally received the news that they could adopt a newborn baby boy. When they went to the family center to discuss it with the counselor there, the counselor informed them that the baby was born with debilitating allergies and would have to be cared for in a highly sterile indoor environment. My parents were terrified, but couldn’t bring themselves to say no to something they had waited so long for – they signed the adoption papers. As soon as they left the office, they realized they had made a terrible mistake. They lived on a 50-acre farm with cats, dogs, horses – hell for a child with deadly allergies. They ran back upstairs, in tears, confessed that they couldn’t do it, and canceled the adoption papers. They were devastated, not knowing if they had made the right choice or not, or whether they would ever get another chance to become parents. Well, things turned out alright – they got newborn me soon after. I’m an only child, so I can’t speak to the difficulties of raising biological and adopted children side-by-side, but I can say that my parents were fully open with me from the very beginning about my adoption, and I have never had any emotional crises over that :) I’m sorry that was so long – but hope that helps!

      • meg

        Tear…. sniff. Love that.

    • MinnaBrynn

      My FH is adopted. He grew up with his parents, their bio-son, and an adopted sister. The comment has been made that his parents wanted a sibling/friend for their bio-son. FH and his brother are only about six months apart, so they were treated more-or-less like twins. There’s not really such thing as treating all your kids equally, especially not with one premie, one healthy kid, and one who was adopted after spending 6 years with a drug abusing parent. He often feels like the his brother got everything because he was the bio kid, and his sister got everything because she came from such a bad background. (To be fair, he got a lot too, but he’s often felt left out and blamed his adoption.) There have been days when the adopted kids wished they’d been able to stay with their birth families. To be honest, I’d wager a guess there have been moments when everyone wished that. He spent most of his life okay with being adopted, then really struggled with it through high school and some of college. Now that he’s been able to meet and talk to his birth mom, he is beginning to see it as a blessing, the only thing she could give him was a carefully chosen, loving family.

      I don’t think it was a difficult process to adopt him (at least not compared to his sister), but it’s something that doesn’t go away for us. It impacts all of his parents, and all of his siblings, and my FH and I. We have to think about having no idea what genes he’s got on from one side, for his own health or for our future kids.

      Knowing his family’s experience hasn’t put me off wanting to adopt, but it’s made me look at it in a less romanticized light. I’ve seen my FSIL deal with her drunk, deadbeat biodad show up to her high school graduation and hit on her mom. Both FH and FSIL are taking financial hits to get their bio-siblings and bio-moms to their weddings/graduations/etc. I know there are cases where bio-families aren’t part of the deal, but for us, they are. They haven’t always been, but now they are, and that’s just one more family to juggle on the holidays and one more direction we’re being pulled.

      I know it isn’t a story about what it’s like to adopt someone, but it’s our experience with adoption. It’s been hard and heartbreaking for everyone, and we’re still working on figuring out how to fit together this newly enlarged family, but it’s part of our life and we wouldn’t change it.

    • Jacqui

      Check out the blog anymommy. She has an adopted daughter and three bio sons and has a lot of honest posts about adoption issues/blended family issues.

    • I am an adopted person, and would be happy to talk about being adopted or my thoughts on having kids/not having/adopting/not adopting.

  • Esund

    I recently read in some new feminist literature that many couples start out egalitarian (splitting cooking/cleaning duties, sharing financial decisions) but after marriage, or after children, they start to fall into traditional gender roles more and more. I’d like to hear about people’s experiences with this. Did becoming a wife, or becoming a mother cause you to take on more traditionally feminine roles while your husband took on more traditionally masculine roles? If so, is it a problem or is it purely pragmatic?

    • ANDREA

      Ooh, fabulous idea. Or perhaps a “roles” discussion generally? Did you (anyone) find that you fell into a role you didn’t expect to find yourself in after marriage? If so, was that a problem for you? Are there places where you’ve compromised a previously strict egalitarian model, and where has that worked or not worked for you?

    • Pat Mainardi wrote an AWESOME essay in 1970 which is still incredibly relevant to this discussion:

      It’s funny and well worth the read — especially for husbands/partners who are genuinely well-meaning, but can fall into these traps. It’s become a running joke between us — I tell him he’s just BETTER at laundry than I am, and he insists that I am just BETTER at unloading the dishwasher….

      • Esund

        A really good new book on this topic with lots of studies included is Joan William’s “Unbending Gender.” It also deals with the work/family conflict and the pull women feel between work and domesticity.

    • Fitz

      I’m interested in this, too, because I see it happening to us. When we first moved in together, we shared cooking and laundry pretty equitably. After we got engaged, my husband began a very grueling year-long grad program on top working 40 hours a week (that was his company letting him cut back), so I took on essentially all of the household management. He finished his grad program right before our wedding, but somehow our chore rotation hasn’t regained its pre-school equilibrium. We’ve both noticed it and are working on rebalancing, but I wonder to what extent wifely stereotypes have contributed to the new status quo.

      • I am terrified of this happening. I work a LOT and personally feel that whoever works less should do more housework but my priorities of cleanliness seem to be more stringent than my fiance’s and so things sometimes just don’t get done for days. I am not sure if the mess just doesn’t bother him or if he is expecting me to do them or if he thinks that things got done by “Magic” when it was really Mom in the past…. argh!!

    • Marina

      The opposite has happened for us, although probably just due to logistical reasons–he lost his job, so he’s the one home all the time. But through that, we’ve discovered that he likes homemaking a lot more than I do. Things like cleaning and cooking and laundry and all the tasks that have to get redone every single day (or more frequently!) make me seriously grumpy, while he’s more likely to feel that they’re relaxing. It’s funny, because we’ve both known for a while that I enjoy working outside the home far more than he does, but somehow neither of us connected that to the idea that maybe we should plan on me being the primary breadwinner.

      Of course, there’s certainly issues that come with that–I’ve caught myself thinking “What have you DONE all day?!?” when I come home after work to a dirty kitchen. I have to consciously try to take it as it comes, and negotiate what roles we take on based on what we actually like doing, not on homemaker/breadwinner stereotypes. And as we start talking about having kids, I’m nervous about how my family will react… they’ve made some comments in the past about things like being surprised that a father could be a good primary caregiver for an infant, and I’m definitely worried about getting the “bad mother” comments.

      But so far, 10 months into marriage, it’s working out pretty well.

      • Meg P

        Ha ha! “Exactly!” to the “What have you done all day!?” I have to consciously stop myself from saying that, otherwise I’ll turn into my mother!

      • Tricia

        There are two things that get me in this arena. While we seem to be doing pretty well in the housework arena, I sometimes worry that he will feel like I am not pulling my weight. I like to cook (which he hates) and happily do 75-80% of the cooking for us and that is fine. But he does probably 90% of the cleaning. It is not only that I don’t like cleaning, but I just don’t tend to do it. (There is always something better to do.) That was the case even before he moved in (and my place was generally a disaster as a consequence).

        The other part is in the career arena because he frequently makes comments about moving to follow me and generally emphasizing my career over his, that actually make me somewhat uncomfortable. I love that he is an enlightened modern man, but I don’t want to be the primary breadwinner. The truth is neither of us is very happy or feeling very successful in our careers so far and I think that causes anxiety for both of us. Its something we really need to talk about more.

        Has anyone else had issues with partners who, rather than insisting on maintaining traditional gender roles, are more enthusiastic about reversing them than you are? Or are you more enthusiastic about role-reversals than your partner?

        • Marina

          Heh, I guess I really simplified my situation in my comment above. Neither of us really WANT to be primary breadwinner–I mean, both of us would be happiest working maybe two days a week, and not worrying about going into high-paying jobs but just doing what sounds best for our emotional/mental well-being. Who wouldn’t want that, right? And I’m actually fairly hopeful that we’ll get pretty close to that some day–both of us are in relatively flexible careers, and both of us are very good at keeping our expenses minimal.

          But… thing is, the bills gotta get paid. I think it has to be an individual negotiation in each relationship–I mean, one person shouldn’t be able to tell the other one they have to be the primary breadwinner, it should be something someone chooses to take on. And you don’t have to have a 100% role reversal either, you’re allowed to create new roles besides breadwinner/homemaker. What makes you uncomfortable about the idea of being primary breadwinner? Can you get rid of that part while still happening to earn more money than your partner?

    • mollymouse

      For a long time, the Mr. and I were on opposite work schedules – he worked summers/I had summers off; I worked fall/he had fall off (we’re a teacher and a forester). So we’d switch off household jobs according to who had more time at home.
      Once we got married, I became irrationally unhappy with this arrangement. I’d cry if I didn’t make dinner in time or if there was a huge pile of laundry – even if I’d been working 50 hours that week! I secretly felt like I was a bad wife and he’d be thinking how selfish and lazy I was. Never once did I think that before the wedding!
      After he figured out what my problem was, he scolded me for being so silly, told me he’d always let me know if he felt I wasn’t contributing, and helped me figure out a schedule to keep me feeling like I was helping out (I love schedules, and also, my husband!)

      I think it’s weird how subconscious it was. Soon the Mr. won’t be working seasonally anymore, so I’ll be interested to see what happens to us when we’re both really busy.

      • Aine

        We aren’t married yet and haven’t had to arrange housework, but my FH frequently has to point out to me that I’m stressing out about failing to meet expectations…that he doesn’t have, that are unreasonable, and that are sometimes self-destructive (or “us-destructive” if that makes sense. I keep telling him he makes me sane (note use of “makes” rather than “keeps”) and its so true.

        • Eliza

          Aine – you are not alone! I have had this exact same feeling and experience over the last ~2 years of living with my boy-person. I think for me a lot of it comes from an upbringing where traditional gender roles were very prominent, and that moving in together triggered lots of unconscious stereotyped thoughts that had been hidden about what my “job” in the house and in the relationship was, and how that was linked to my identity. I feel so lucky that a) I had the gender studies education at college that I did, because it helped me figure out what was going on, and more importantly b) the boyfriend I have, who said loud and clear, “sit down, stop worrying, I’M cooking dinner/vacuuming/doing the dishes/etc”! It was really hard to get past the guilt, though, despite both of those things.

  • I am interested in hearing more about marriage when you are past the “baby family” stage. Having been married for all of 11 (wonderful) days, I’d love to hear about how marriage looks and feels from 5, 10, 20, etc. years out. One of my favorite things about planning a wedding was hearing people talk about their marriages, and I’d love more of that.

    • JoLynn

      Maybe Meg’s Dad and Mom will write a post!

    • My mom reads this blog and ADORES it, and actually mentioned this post to me when we were on the phone yesterday!! And I immediately remembered your comment, Carrie, and realized I’d have to make her write something.

      Meg (and all Team Practical ladies, of course), if there were some prompt for Wedding PhDs (or Professors, or Deans, or whatever we’d like to call people married 10, 25, 50 years), similar to your Wedding Graduate Prompt, my mother would sit down and write that sucker TODAY. She’d love to help practical, sane, reasonable people navigate this tricky path. She hasn’t done it perfectly (of course), but if we can dig up a few good questions, I think advice from the long-term marrieds would be amazing.

      So, questions/suggestions?? All I’ve got are the vague ones, like, “What was the biggest threat to your marriage? How did you overcome it?” and “What reminds you of why you married him/her in the first place?” and things like that.

      I’m still a wee Undergraduate, but if anyone has questions, it would be amazing to compile a prompt for people a few years married.

      • Tricia

        That would be amazing. Meg let’s do this! Please!

  • I read all these comments and just thought… yes, yes, yes. Let’s talk about all of this. Splitting holidays; asserting your independence as a couple – somewhat separate from your families of origin; the whole kid issue – how to preserve everything you had as a couple before kids entered the picture; also – finances!

    My fiance and I have talked about money a lot, but we still don’t have a plan. I own my own business, and I am really more comfortable with keeping our own bank accounts, a system that has worked for us well in the four years we’ve been living together. We’ve discussed putting money in one shared account and paying bills from there, but still keep our accounts separate. Also – we both have things that we sometimes like to splurge on (him – electronics; me – camera equipment and clothes) and I don’t think either of us want to feel guilty about that if we’re sharing one account. We’re both excellent savers, so I don’t want either of us to look at the account and be critical of what one person chose to buy. Does that make sense? We haven’t fought about this issue… we’re just not sure what we should do; and I want to figure it out before it does become a fight. I know finances are a huge cause of marital strife. So I’m really interested in hearing from others about this.

    • ddayporter

      I swear I’m not being paid by Dr. Grenier but I have to recommend his book again here (see above, “10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married). One of the conversations is about money and finances, and he hugely stresses the 3-accounts system. One for you, one for your partner, and one shared. That way the bills get paid and you each have your own money to spend on whatever you want. And then it’s just a lot of hard talking about how much money goes into each personal account, and it can get iffy if one person is bringing in the lions share of the money. But I think the book really helps you get started talking it all out.

    • Lethe

      The three-accounts system is how my fiancee and I manage our finances, and it really does work great. We each have individual accounts, and contribute to a joint account from which we pay bills and purchase the stuff we share, including shared entertainment expenses and things like that. The way we’re doing it is to contribute to the joint account according to the percentage of household income that each of us earns – so, if I am bringing in 30% of our total income and she is bringing in 70%, I’m responsible for funding 30% of the joint account. That way the system can stay fair and flexible when we change jobs and our incomes change relative to each other.

      Another great, if somewhat dated at this point, book to check out is Beth Kobliner’s “Get a Financial Life,” which is aimed at people in their 20s and 30s, and which benefited us as a young couple!

      • Marina

        We’re also doing a 3 accounts thing, except it’s actually a 6 accounts thing because we each have our own savings accounts and a joint savings account as well. I’d like to coordinate our joint savings more, but it’s hard when we have a variety of goals–he has student loans to pay off and I don’t, saving for having kids is more a priority for me than it is for him, both of us want to go to grad school some day, etc etc. Personally I would like to consider all those savings goals joint savings goals, but he feels really strongly about having separate accounts. I don’t know. It’s hard to find the one right solution–I’d definitely like to hear more about how different couples negotiate this conversation.

    • Sara

      We completely planned to do the 3 accounts system but discovered early on (before even setting it up, but after discussing it in detail) that we were too lazy to do the paperwork. We established a joint account w/our wedding gifts, both signed up for direct deposit into that account, and that was it. Maybe it’s b/c neither of us feels v. strongly about the issue, but our 1st anniversary is approaching, and we have yet to have a money fight. (This is not to say that I don’t think the 3 accounts system might be preferable, but it’s just not important enough for me to invest the time to make it work, apparently.)

  • Mollie

    I’d love to hear more about how to navigate a brand new marriage where one partner is in grad school. I am starting a full-time MBA program one month after we get married, and I would love to hear more about how Meg (and others) have handled this lifestyle, both as the student and as the supporting partner.

    • caitlin

      I’d second this! I’m getting married in August, and we’ll move across the country (and away from my family) immediately afterwards so that he can start grad school… my emotions are all over the place. I’d love to hear about other people’s experience with this type of situation!

      • Liz

        I would love to hear others’ comments on this…my partner and I have been together for almost 5 years, and I’ve been in law school for the last 4. When I look at it objectively, it seems ridiculously difficult, but we got through it (mostly thanks to her incredible patience).

      • This, please! We’ll be moving across the country from all friends/family so that I can start a PhD program less than a month after the wedding and I am both excited and terrified.

        • robin

          Caitlin & Sharon, we moved from PA to CA one week after getting engaged (2.5 years ago). I’d be happy to share my experience with relocating, being unemployed (we moved for his work), leaving behind friends, family, community, etc. And then planning a wedding and getting married (six months ago). Happy to share more here, or in email.

          • Hi Robin, I would love to hear more about your experiences! (And funny coincidence – FH and I are moving to CA from GA, and he is originally from PA.) Could you email me? pensyfATgmailDOTcom.

            Team Practical is the best! :)

          • caitlin

            Yes, please! I’d love to hear from you! Since there are several of us in this boat, I’d recommend a post, but I’d also love to hear about your experiences through email. My address is rosielin3ATgmailDOTcom. I’m especially interested in what kind of things you did to make sure that you could stay focused on your relationship while all these other major changes were happening in your lives. :)

          • robin

            Caitlin, I’d consider a post…But. I don’t know that we did this particularly gracefully. But I can talk about THAT, if that’s of interest. What it was like to get engaged, move cross-county, and then almost immediately enter what was possibly our relationship’s most difficult time. And how we mucked through it. And then planned a wedding. :) I can share this experience, but I’m not sure whether there’s advice in there, or just my experience, and thoughts, and hindsight.

    • YES. I’m starting a 2-3 year MA program in English Lit a month after our wedding, and I’d LOVE to know how not to hide away from the world (and my marriage) in order to do well and to give my studies (and my partner!) the amount of time each needs.

    • I have been both the student and the supporting partner throughout our engagement – my fiance and I met in grad school and will be in school for at least 2 years after our marriage! I would love to hear a discussion about this – the changes that could occur after marriage, etc.

    • Ditto!! A voice from the side of the supporting partner (fiance is just starting his PhD)! And also, TWO partners in graduate school…. I’m applying to M.Div programs this fall, which could mean both of us in school again. Yowch.

      • Stephanie

        My FH and I are both in grad school. We both do the chores, fairly evenly, with some give and take depending on who has exams/papers when. It’s completely possible. One thing we do that helps is set aside a chunk of time every week in which we are both working together on household stuff. That way we both see each other working so one of us doesn’t feel alone in the work. After that, we do something fun together, so that we don’t only see each other while doing chores.
        Even with this system, we’ve had to let go of some things — for example, the dirty dishes often pile up in the sink for a whole week. That’s not how our mothers raised us, but it’s what works now, and we’re both getting through school!

    • My husband has only known me in graduate school. He met me the month I started my masters. And now I’m 2+ years into my PhD. We got married mid-semester for me. It’s definitely a HUGE part of our life with my schedule changing every four months and budgeting for all of my school expenses (have you seen the cost of books!). This is an excellent topic.

  • Tricia

    I really want to talk about the process of redrawing boundaries with your families of origin and friends as you move into marriage. I had a little sketch I drew when I was thinking about this the other day, that I wish I could include here. Basically, from where I am standing less than 4 months from getting married, alot of building your baby family is about redrawing boundaries.

    As a single person you are a part of your family of origin, your groups of friends, your group of colleagues, etc. With each of these groups there are boundaries defining who is and is not a part of the group and what is acceptable behavior and expectation within the group (for instance, whether it is acceptable for your parents to expect you to visit them on a month’s notice). You also have boundaries with each other of what is and is not acceptable. To build a new family all of these boundaries need to be redrawn.

    You need to define a new boundary that defines you and your beloved as a family and to extend the boundaries of each of your families to include the other. You have to redefine what is acceptable and accepted behavior with each other and also with your families of origin. For instance, your families of origin can probably no longer expect you for every holiday. Questions and advice that were once welcome may now be intrusive and inappropriate. Where it may have been fine for family and friends to drop by and let themselves in when you were single, you may not feel comfortable with this for your new family. All of this redrawing of boundaries can be painful and contentious, both for the couple and their family and friends.

    I would love to hear about other people’s experiences in this area. I think this both goes to what has changed after you got married and how you negotiated these changes. How did family react? How did you work through it when you didn’t agree on where the boundaries should be? How did you deal with the negative reactions of those who may be forced to take a step back? Did you find a way to explain it so they could see it more positively?

    • I’d also like to hear about the flip side of this, in terms of how to reassure your family and friends that they still have a very important place in your lives after marriage. I’ve heard a lot of “you’ll seeeeees” about how all of my single friends will stop calling after I’m married because they’ll assume I’m too busy with my husband to hang out with them. While I think my friends are more sensible than that AND FH and I have always tried to be very intentional about keeping our friendships (both as a couple and as individuals), I’m disturbed that there *is* a cultural stigma floating out there that we will just turn into Smug Marrieds. How do you fight that, short of always being the one to initiate hanging out with friends?

      • This is a great topic! One of my friends told me that she never feels awkward when it’s just her and my husband and I, she doesn’t feel like a third wheel. I took that as one of the highest compliments there could be. Marriage shouldn’t be an exclusive club where you never talk to single people again.

      • ddayporter

        yesssssssss this is a great topic on both sides. I have not seen it so far from my friends but even when we were engaged, Zach’s friends seemed to stop inviting him out, because they assumed he wouldn’t be interested anymore. I think they get it now, that he’s still very much interested in maintaining their friendships, but it surprised me that they would assume that. After seeing that happen I was sure to speak to my friends about it and make sure they know I still want/need to be involved in friend outings. Our friend groups don’t mix much, but I do think it’s really important for us each to have our time together, time with friends together and time with friends apart. It can be hard to strike a balance but I really don’t want to get to a point 10 years from now where one or both of us has no friends anymore and we’re 100% reliant on the other for entertainment and support. On the other hand I don’t want us to spend so much time on outside relationships that we lose our connection to each other.

      • Erin

        Agreed. And how about continuing to build new friendships post-wedding? I will be working on this one over the next few years since I re-located when we got married, and I have no friends here aside from my husband’s sister & brothers. I don’t want my husband to feel, five years from now, that he’s solely responsible for my entertainment.

        • mollymouse

          This is actually one of my husbands exact fears when we decided to move. He was afraid that I would miss my family too much and come to depend solely on him for companionship, eventually resenting him and wanting to get divorced (can you tell he spent some time thinking about it? :) ) I told him we’d work it out if it came to that and he’s been working extra hard to meet new people in our town.

        • Kayakgirl73

          Yes, please on making friends after marriage. I moved right before the wedding. It’s only 25 miles, but often it takes an hour in traffic so I don’t see my friends often and I need to make new friends but I’m not sure how to go about it. I think it’s particularly hard since I don’t have kids. My sister didn’t really start to make her own friends when she moved after marriage, until she had a baby and joined moms groups.

          • Laura

            I think it can be very difficult to make friends when others are not ‘looking’ for friends. My Fiancé moved to live me and found that a lot of people here have tight knit groups of friends from school/childhood.

    • Lauren H.

      I would love to see this discussed, both from the side of the person who wants to keep all their own friends, and from the side of getting your friends to accept that your partner should now be included in some invites. Zack and I personally have done fine with drawing those boundaries with friends, mostly because we’re pretty solitary people and so don’t have large groups of friends to intergrate one another with. I have a friend, however, who decided from the moment she got married that her husband should be allowed to go everywhere she went, no matter what, and that if he wasn’t invited, she wasn’t either. No amount of explaining the concept of girl time has helped– it’s both or none. As a friend who is not well acquainted with her husband, that’s hard to handle. I have a feeling that most of Team Practical doesn’t feel that way about their spouse at all-we’re pretty big on being individuals here-but I’d love to see it discussed.

  • September Bride

    I would love to talk about money. How you share/split money in your marriage. What works and what doesn’t, in your experience and why. Do you feel more secure sharing all of the finances or having some money of your own? How did you deal with assets/savings/debts that each of you brought into the marriage? Does anyone have any really clever solutions to the money conundrum?

    • Zeke

      I’ve worked hard to get this far out of consumer debt, I have a little more to go before I’ve paid that entirely off. My goal is to be out of it before our wedding. I do not want to start our married life off with my debt-load over our heads. I feel it was my debt and I need to take care of it personally.

      My Brother and his Wife each have their own accounts apart from their joint accounts wherein they get an ‘allowance’ where they can spend it on whatever they want, without having to ask ‘permission’ or discuss purchases. It gives them their individual identities, but keeps either of them in check and all household expenses (etc., etc.) are covered.

      • ddayporter

        Zeke, I am in the same situation – I am bringing some consumer debt into our marriage and I really want to pay it off myself. When we first got engaged I had set a schedule to have it paid off before the wedding. Well, then Zach started grad school and I became a primary earner and I had to reduce my pay-off amounts. I was disappointed that I couldn’t enter into marriage debt-free, but I’m confident I will be soon and we can celebrate it together. Being in this partnership with him, in particular being the bread-winner, has really helped me set my priorities and make sure I’m not spending money I don’t have.

        • Amy

          I’m curious how people handle the 3-account system (mine, yours, and ours) when one partner makes significantly more than the other? My husband and I each have our own accounts, as well as a joint account (and we’re lucky to not have any consumer debt). But, he makes a heck of a lot more than I do, and I’m struggling with saving for a home/retirement at the same rate as he does. With my income, its a lot harder for me to put 10-15% of my pay away for retirement without significantly cutting back on my “me” money or our joint trips/dinners/etc. Especially since we’ve both agreed that when we have kids, I’ll be staying home for a while. I don’t think it registers for him that if I do stay home, he’ll have to be the one to save for both of us (house and retirement) for a while. We’re starting to have these conversations now, but I’d love to hear about other people in this situation.

          • Julianna

            the huge discrepancy in our income levels is one of the reasons we’re combining into a single account. While I still have issues feeling like I don’t contribute equally, I am lucky that my partner sees it all as “ours”. sorry that doesn’t answer the “how to handle 3 account system” question; for us it was too hard to fit into that system so we had to find another path.

          • Amy,

            This exact issue has been a huge challenge for me. My (new) husband is primary breadwinner (I’m just finishing up certification program and launching new business) and it’s been incredibly difficult to feel on equal footing financially.

            We have the 3 account system and essentially put everything into a joint and then give ourselves an ‘allowance’ each month based on our income (he’s self-employed). We meet every week and go over our spending, track our budget and at the beginning of each month we set aside an amount for our personal accounts. We have a minimum we try to put in, but it can grow if we have extra in our budget after investments.

            So far it’s worked out really well. Still room to grow and figure things out, but it’s been a good starting point for us.

            P.S. Love this open-topic, Meg… so many things that need to be discussed. Thank you!!!

          • meg

            I’ll write about this soon, but in sum: we have three accounts, but it’s dead fair (at least in theory). We both get exactly the same allowance for ourselves, and then I pay all the bills and big stuff out of one account. And our savings are shared. For me that is sort of an obvious. We’re partners, we save for retirement/ down payments/ vacations together. So, anyway, that’s our deal. And I earn 100% of the money at the moment.

            The only fluke-y part is that, as the lady working two jobs, sometimes I think, “I want this goddamn belt and I worked 60 hours this week!” and then I buy it. But then, David gets to buy something too. Fair is fair.

    • Olivia

      Our money sharing system is in its infancy, but our current strategy is to put everything in one pot, and then each get a certain amount in a separate account to make discretionary purchases with (coffee out, make up, tools, other stereotypical but relevant things…). How much that discretionary amount is, and what it gets spent on is an evolving thing.

      I’ve had a lot of conversations with my married friends about managing money and one of the best pieces of advice I got was this: “whatever you do, just keep talking. Money is often a proxy for other things going on in your relationship.”

      • ddayporter

        that is a great system. of course the hard part is figuring out how much each person gets in their separate pot?

        right now we don’t have a joint account but we share a credit card. so we put all of our shared expenses on the credit card and then we split the balance at the end of the month equally. Well, we did that until the hubs went into grad school, now it’s more of a 70-30 split with me paying most of it; he has savings that he uses for his incidental spending, I use whatever extra I have after the bills (not much right now!). Ultimately the plan is to do the 3-accounts system, with a joint checking instead of the shared credit card. Just not sure yet how we’ll decide how much to put in the individual accounts.

        • Olivia

          The discretionary amount is the same amount each. We’re not fully in this system yet, so I can’t tell you how we determine the amount yet. So far we’ve played around with numbers a bit and the amount will be what we can afford that will give us both a feeling of freedom with that money. $25/month probably won’t do the trick (for us). So we’ll see.

          We want to do things evenly, despite discrepancies in income. Right now I make much less than him, but that could very well change in the future. We’ve had a lot of talks about our comfort levels with going “all in” so to speak, and it’s tricky and I’m sure things will arise, but on the whole it has been a surprisingly easy shift in thinking.

          I could keep typing and typing here, but I’ll leave it at that for now!

          • Olivia

            Oh also – I was talking with a married friend the other day and she said she and her husband did the all shared plus some discretionary funds for the first several years of their marriage. Now they share it all (in part because they have a kid now who uses up that extra money), but she said that initially it was a great way to ease into running everything in a fully joint way, and to get used to each other’s spending, etc. while also adjusting to all the other changes that come with being married.

          • ddayporter

            makes sense that we might eventually go “all in” and this 3-accounts system is kind of like training wheels…

          • Lethe

            You know, I think one really important thing to keep in mind is the importance of both people in a couple having credit in their own name. This happened to my mom – she was always just jointly on accounts with my dad from the time they were married, but then in her 50s she realized that if something ever happened to him, she has no credit history and would have a lot of trouble getting loans on her own. In the past I think this used to be a big problem for women but today people are maybe more conscious.

    • Nina

      Just throwing in my two cents (no pun intended) that the finances conversation is really interesting, because I think it does definitely have some deep roots to it.

      We have been doing the 3 accounts system for a while – we each deposit a set amount into a joint account each month to cover expenses (and this varies according to income and has shifted over time). With marriage, I’ve wondered if we should tweak this and have our pay cheques deposit into the same account (so the sharing comes first), but for some reason this still makes me uneasy and I don’t really know why, since our spending habits are similar. I think money spells independence to me and I’m afraid of losing that.

      • Laura

        My mother told me recently that when we were kids (and she wasn’t working) she had an account which she called her ‘running away money’. She never needed to run away, they’ve been married for 35years.

        • Tricia

          My mother told me something similar. That she had money in her own name from before they were married that she never merged into the common pot (my mother was a homemaker) She said in very definitive terms that I should keep some money of my own and that, at least for her, having that money and knowing that she always could leave actually made the hard times easier and made it easier for her to hang in there.

    • My finance has been absolutely AMAZING about this — I’m bringing a LOT of debt to the marriage, and he has none – he’s completely willing to put $ toward it and considers it our debt. I was pretty against this, but he argued that I am also bringing property (a summer home) to the marriage, so that does make sense. It’s pretty amazing to suddenly not feel like I’m swimming upstream alone anymore, financially.

      We’re going to do the each have our own accounts, one shared savings (big savings, for a house and school) and probably a household checking account.

      We’re both pretty bad about money, so I think we may need to go to some frugality classes or something together!

      • & on that note, making more than your (especially if male) partner. it’s not a huge issue with my fiance, but in the past it’s been a dealbreaker issue with men i’ve dated, & i’ve never dated anyone who earned more than me, so I have no idea what it’s like otherwise. there’s still seems to be a pretty strong “man as breadwinner” stereotype!

      • meg

        I know, right? I think this is the single coolest thing about marriage. And I’m not even the one with the student loan debt. But seriously, it’s GREAT.

    • Kirsten

      We have a three account system (plus savings) that’s worked pretty well. The biggest thing is mindset — we view it as our money, and our future goals. We’re paying down our debts together, because that will ultimately work best for us, rather than tackling them separately.

      Before we moved in together. we shared all our income, debts, expenses and savings (do this! I am surprised by how many people don’t). Using this, I set up a household budget based on our total monthly income — it included expenses like rent and groceries, as well as savings, student loans, and credit card debt. There was a certain amount leftover — because I make 40% of the household income, I got 40% of the surplus, and my boyfriend gets the other 60%. This helps us keep some autonomy and really made the transition smoother.

      We will likely move toward a system where everything is “our” money — I don’t think we’ll be able to keep as much separate money once kids enter the picture, and I don’t think I’d want to. We’ve also realized that to save for a house, we’ll need to pull in some of that pocket money.

      I will admit to having some moments of concern about taking this step before we are married. If I had to do it over again, I might wait to merge things until we are married or at least have set a date. Fortunately our relationship is quite strong, and I’m confident that we’re in it for the long haul. We haven’t had a single money argument. But the advice passed on from women in troubled relationships, to always keep your money separate, and have enough to “get away,” has certainly made an impression on me.

  • Zeke


    This is something that my siblings and I discussed (5 of us) way back when we were younger was how we were going to split holidays – realizing when we all grew up and got married, we’d have to learn to share with 5 other families (or more). Out of the 5 of us, two are already married, and I’m just one more to add next year, and thankfully sharing/alternating holidays has worked so far.

    The one holiday that we share/alternate first and foremost is Christmas, everything else is really catch-as-catch can. 2010 is an ‘off-year’ for my family, My Sister will be with her Husband’s family, my Brother will be with his Wife’s family, my two single brothers are thinking about going skiing, whereas I think this year happens to also coincide with my Fiance’s family’s ‘on-year’ – which so far works out.

    The trick with all this is, my family is scattered to the four winds (no less than an 8 hour drive in any direction, or 3-4 hour flight away). My Fiance’s family is likewise a 3-4 hour flight away in yet another direction. So getting together is generally an orchestrated event and reserved for a full week or special holiday plans.

    • I am pushing hard for this in my family – that instead of sharing holidays we all get together over the summer for a “week at the beach”. This is especially relevant now given the big shifts occurring in my side of the family (one kid – me! – who just got married, two other kids now living with their significant others – and the family commitments that go with that, and parents who are looking at selling our childhood home and moving into someplace smaller – thus with less room for big holiday gatherings). I’m hoping this becomes our new family thing.

    • Fitz

      I love that you and your siblings all discussed this together – you are lucky to be close!

      I took a lot of flack from my family for alternating holidays with my husband’s family; of course, now that my little sis has a love of her own she’s starting to be more sympathetic to the idea.

  • Money is something I’m interested in….I was raised as an independent woman and it is bizarre to me that my fiance buys me stuff sometimes. We’ve decided to combine finances when we get married in July, and I feel that since I make less money I have less of a right to spend any, which has nothing to do with my fiance (he sees it all as our money regardless of who made what) but has everything to do with me. It is really important to my fiance that our kids stay at home with a parent until kindergarten, but I am so scared of being dependent on someone else financially that I just can’t do it, so as of right now we’re planning on him being a stay at home dad (which is is fine with, and I think that is so hot).

    Holidays…ugh. We have a tentative plan in place, but last year for Christmas Eve his sisters messed with the plans and he had to tell his mom that if they’re going to be on their own time schedule then there is stuff we’re going to have to miss, which I thought was an important step. It’s going to be really tough to not wake up at my parent’s house on Christmas morning for the first time ever! His family has a strict holiday schedule and my family is really easy going about when we get together, so I’m worried that my family stuff will be put on the back burner since it’s so flexible.

    • I struggle with that money issue too! I make less than my fiance right now as well, because I just started my own business last year, and it just takes time, obviously, to profit in a new business. I just know I will feel guilty about spending money if we combine accounts and he’s still making more than me. And that’s not him at all – he doesn’t care. It’s just totally my screwed up issue. I want to keep everything separate so I don’t feel guilty. And we’re struggling with that decision, because he would rather combine things, I think. And I don’t want to combine our finances and feel like I have less of a right to spend money. It’s tough.

    • KD

      Right on – I’d love to hear more about money inequity!

      My bf makes 3x what I do – we’re comfortable and debt free and I rarely think about it, but I can’t help but occasionally feel like I’m mooching or something! Or like… since I make less money I should be doing more housework? Of course, I work more hours than he does. I just hate feeling like i’m not holding up my share because I like to be independant. He is a believer in the “it’s all OUR money!”camp. (we’ve had more or less combined finances since we moved in together 4 years ago and it’s been a gradual increase)

      I’d love to hear how people let go and learn to rely on someone else financially while still feeling independant.

      • Olivia

        One thing that helps me wrap my mind around income discrepancies is that different types of jobs come with different salary standards, and they are not a reflection of your worth or contribution to the household.

    • Jennifer Lyn

      I really agree with this struggle. FH and I just made the decision for me to quit my (very stressful and unfulfilling) job this past week. I am putting all my trust in him to support the both of us now in spite of the fact that we are not yet married. And coming from a family where money was tightly used as a way to control people- it is terrifying. I really appreciate seeing all the comments and I have ideas how to start discussing this with him.

  • Meg A.

    I would like to delve into the taboo topic of money. My fiance and I have been discussing how, and to what extent, to combine our finances after (or before) we get married this summer. How have or are others dealing with this? We are both frugal, but also spend in different ways and put importance on different things. This is an area where I really struggle with losing autonomy (and complete control!).

    • Kim

      I’m chiming in to the combining money discussion here. I was in the three-accounts camp and wanted us to each keep our personal accounts in addition to a joint account. And then things got messy. :) We’ve each got bank accounts in our countries of origin, so when it came time to set up shop where we are now, we just put it all of our money in one pot. At first it was just convenient, since I got work before he did. But then it just became how things are. I was the one who was more stringent about keeping our own money, but himself was much more flexible and relaxed about it, and eventually I adopted his attitude toward money and became more relaxed as well. We also set up a joint savings account, which made me feel a lot better. We each spend whatever we need to on a daily basis, we squirrel money into the savings account on a monthly basis, and discuss any large purchases.

      I’m pretty anal, so I’m really surprised at how much I was able to let go of “my” money and to accept that these were now “our” finances. We’re accountable to each other, which seems to be working out alright so far.

  • Cortney

    I just wanted to add from my earlier comment: I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it if we had A Practical “First House” discussion. I know a lot of couples these days have already bought homes before they tie the knot, but it’d be great to hear from members in the community who have already done it, their advice/horror stories, etc.

    Mainly, something like…

    – How much money did you save before buying your first home?
    – What kind of loan did you take?
    – How did you go about the shopping process?
    – What priorities did you have for the house VS. what priorities your DH had for the house?
    – What was your bidding experience like?
    – How was your escrow phase?
    – How did you afford to furnish this new house, as opposed to an apartment (or whatever space you were living in before)?
    – How did you and DH compromise on decorating?

    • Tricia

      Another wrinkle on this can be where one partner already owns a home and so you both move in there. I own a condo and find that the transition from ‘my space’ to ‘our space’ is not always easy. It is further complicated because he has not *quite* entirely moved out of his old apartment so there is my/our space and his space which just makes the language complicated if nothing else.

      • This. I bought a house with my parents upon first moving to grad school; my soon-to-be-husband now lives in it with me for going on two years. At the wedding, my parents are going to sign the lease over to he-and-I, but I somehow get this feeling that as long as we’re in this house, since I was the first owner, he sees it as “my” house and not “ours”. (Wow, longest sentence ever!) Houses/condos/property ownership = complicated!

        • Amy

          Oh man, that change from my space to our space was tough! I owned a condo and he moved in, and it really took a good few months or adjusting (and fighting a bit) to figure out how to make the space workable for both of us.
          And for me, I had issues about feeling personally attached when he would find fault with the apartment. For example, its not as close to the city as his bachelor pad, and the kitchen wasn’t as nice because, hey, I bought the place as a single girl and it was the nicest place I could afford! And he missed the proximity he used to have to friends/work and the dishwasher (who wouldn’t) but it was a wake-up call for him when I told him that I felt like he was personally attacking me for not having a nicer apartment. Which he wasn’t, but he had to learn to rephrase some of his frustrations with the space.

      • Excellent idea! He’d lived in our house for 2+ years when we got married. He hadn’t fully filled it so my stuff easily fit, but how do you make decisions when something has to go? We also generously used post-its, especially in the kitchen, so that we could both get around the kitchen without opening every cabinet. There is a possibility of “this is your place and I’m intruding” kind of thing. How do you deal with that?

    • elyse

      Cortney – having just gone through some of this. . .

      – How did you go about the shopping process? ZILLOW!!!!! then we had 7 days to look in person, make our decision, and get our offer approved. which was insane and not recommended, but doable!
      – What priorities did you have for the house VS. what priorities your DH had for the house? we were pretty much on the same page here, years of watching househunters together, totally helpful! happy to give you more details if you’d like
      – What was your bidding experience like? INTENSE

      and since we’re about to go through these. . .
      – How did you afford to furnish this new house, as opposed to an apartment (or whatever space you were living in before)? we’ll be doing this SLOWLY – our priorities are bed, couch, big tv (which we’ve been talking about getting forever), surrounded by all the kitchen stuff we registered for. that should get us by for a while!
      – How did you and DH compromise on decorating UM – he loves persian rugs, i don’t. so i guess this is something we’ll be working on!

      • ddayporter

        oh awesome, so all those hours spent watching house hunters together really comes in handy?? haha. we both love that show and love talking about our own priorities for that hypothetical future house we’ll have together.

        • elyse

          it does!

          • elyse

            sorry – hit enter i think and posted before i meant to. so yes – all that house hunters, as silly as it may seem, really paved the way for having our own conversations about 1) what we’re looking for, and what we want vs. need to have now (vs. down the road when we can afford more, or can just live without forever) and 2) making sure we stay within our means, come on how often do you see them choose the house that has all the awesomeness but you know is above their budget!

            downside – we couldn’t handle watching any episodes while we were actually househunting!

  • Liz

    Forgot to put this in my comment above…I would like to hear specifically from same sex couples who have been together for a while, and may have had a non-legal wedding or ceremony, and then had a legal ceremony (whether in Canada, or Spain, or MA, or IA, or wherever). We are planning both a wedding at our church in Florida and then a legal wedding in Canada. It is really important to me to have the legal part, and I am curious about how others feel about this, and if you’ve done it, how the dynamics changed (or didn’t change) in terms of how you viewed your relationship, how people talked about it, how your families reacted/acted (or didn’t) – stuff like that.

    • Lethe

      Hi Liz – I definitely second your comment. My fiancee and I are another same-sex couple (also graduating law school! yay!), and we’ll be getting married in Massachusetts next spring so that we can have a legal ceremony. We’re actually New Yorkers, and though the marriage will be recognized here, it can’t actually be PERFORMED here. It’s rough feeling like you have to leave your home just to be “really” married. It’s not really easy to have a full discussion of this topic in the comments section, but definitely my partner and I felt it meant something different to be legally married than just to have a non-legal ceremony. I wish it didn’t, and I’m somewhat uncomfortable admitting to myself that I feel like it “counts” more. We’ve been together for six years, and we probably would have gotten married earlier if we hadn’t been waiting around to see what would happen with New York – last fall when the Senate here failed to vote for marriage rights, we finally said “f%$^* it” and decided to just go to MA.

      Either way, it has been interesting how some people in our lives have taken our relationship more seriously just because now it is going to have this “marriage” designation. (I very much look forward to the ease of the word “wife.”) And how other people automatically assume we’re not going to follow the usual marriage traditions, because….why? It’s not quite a “real” marriage, so we automatically aren’t going to do the usual marriage things? When we got engaged, some of our very nice, progressive friends responded with “that’s great! So, are you going to have any kind of….ceremony?” ….Ummm…yes, and it’s called a “wedding”! I don’t know what kind of assumptions are underlying those comments, but it floored me that people would think this was somehow not as important or that we would automatically just want to go to the courthouse.

      Oops. Looks like a lot went rushing out there. ;) Well, this is my bid for more discussion of same-sex marriages in general. Like, not the legal issue, but those tricky social aspects: reactions from (even well-meaning) friends, reactions from within the community (which includes some people who don’t really believe in marriage), navigating talking about your engagement and marriage with people in the world at large, etc. And also how it has or hasn’t changed your view of your own relationship, especially if for many years as a young queer person you grew up thinking marriage wasn’t an option anymore, or never really thinking about it applying to you at all.

      Hooray for discussion!

      • Ha, I know the feeling on the multiple ceremonies. My fiancee and I live in NJ (and work in NYC), but our families are mostly in the Midwest. We’ll be having a church ceremony and reception in Minnesota, but it was also really important to us to have our relationship legally recognized too so we’ll be getting married in Massachusetts and getting civil unionized in New Jersey first. It’s a bit strange to me that what we consider the “real wedding” will be the one that happens in MN with our families and friends there to celebrate, but the legal recognition will have happened a month or so earlier in a courthouse with just a couple of family members. And we have also had some questions along the lines of, “so what are you calling this? A union? A celebration of commitment?”…with our response being “uh, how about ‘wedding’?”

        We’ve been together for over 6 years and have lived together for most of that, so I am curious to see how our relationship changes (and doesn’t change) after we’re married.

        • Liz

          Yay for law school! And especially yay for when it’s over!

          We’ve gotten the “are you having a ceremony” question too…and a few times, when we’ve said yes, in our church, we get “but that’s not legal, is it?” I explain that it’s not illegal because there’s no law AGAINST it, it’s just extra-legal because it’s not recognized. :) My partner’s mom thinks we shouldn’t bother with a ceremony – “because it’s not legal” – or else do a tiny one and then just spend the money on a nice vacation. It’s annoying to have to justify why we WANT a wedding with people – because the reasons aren’t any different than a different-sex couple!

          Something that I’ve worked out in my head to deal with this is the fact that most weddings have two components – the emotional/personal/religious (if applicable) one, and the legal/civil one. Most people have them at the same time – we just have to split them up. Although that makes sense, it doesn’t always help when I’m feeling annoyed by the whole thing. :(

      • Class of 1980


        I don’t think there is any reason for you to be uncomfortable with the idea that being legally married counts more. Of course, the emotional commitment is already there. But you are getting a host of legal protections in one fell swoop with the legal marriage.

        • Lethe

          Definitely – and the legal protections are a big motivator for us. (Although many important ones, like Social Security etc, are federal not state, so we still won’t have them.) But it is sad to think that for my friends who live in states where they can’t have the legal option, they might feel that their weddings are “less than.” Because even if I don’t want to feel that way, I think I would.

  • Yes, I’d love to hear about various models of combining (or not combining) finances for a couple and some pros and cons of each. And I would be curious to hear from one couple that started out using one model and switched to a different model, for example, they combined finances, then decided to separate again, or the opposite.

  • Erin

    I’d like to read about people’s experiences with setting up the “household economy,” as Wendell Berry calls it — both in figuring out housekeeping minutiae, and developing success as an economic, productive unit. My husband and I lived in separate states until right before we married, so I’d appreciate other people’s wisdom about combining the homes of two full-fledged adults and exploring their new status as an economic partnership — or not.

    • Another Thea

      I can’t talk about it from the other side, unfortunately, but I was discussing that very issue with my mom just the other day. She said one thing she wished she had done (and would recommend to other people) is at least one (preferably both spouses if it can be done) spouse taking time off. Clean the house from top to bottom. Negotiate stuff placement. Walk/ drive to grocery stores together. Get rid of your excess junk. Put out your recycling. Start a garden. Find a place of worship if that’s important to you. Have that daily routine in place so that when things get rough, you have an anchor and you’re not flying by the seat of your pants, because there’s nothing worse than having things upset emotionally, mentally, or physically and also feeling like your home is not your home, or that making it a home is too much effort.

      Talk a whole whole lot about what makes a home welcoming for you. How do you feel renewed/ refreshed, not just in your spouse’s behavior, but in the structure of the home? For my dad, it’s fresh-baked bread each day; for my mom it’s a clean house with dishes done and no laundry to fold. How is your housekeeping going to support that welcoming/ nurturing aspect of your home? (In other words, don’t clean/ organize just to be clean and organized–clean and organize with a purpose in mind.)

      Give yourself TIME to do all of this so that it’s not rushed and you can be very very intentional about keeping house (= making a home) TOGETHER.

      Also, I highly recommend “Home Comforts” by Cheryl Mendelson, which is a practical housekeeping primer as well as a repository of wisdom and philosophy on all things homey.

      • Liz

        Wow…I really love this idea. I am definitely going to look up the book and try to implement this. I think it hits the nail right on the head – I can clean and clean and still be frustrated with how the house is/how I feel because I’m not clear about the intention that I have for the house. Thanks Thea!

      • Jennifer Lyn

        THANK YOU! Recommendations I needed and we’re aiming towards but it is very nice to see it affirmed.

  • Margaret

    I really want to hear from people who’ve been married decades, but I’m not sure how many hang around APW? How can we recruit some? LOL.

    I’ve always heard that in marriage, there tends to be “seasons” and times when you “fall out of love” with your partner. I want to know how to navigate that… right now, I find it hard to wrap my head around falling “out of” love with your husband and then somehow falling back into love again. I’m sure years of waking up next to the same person can dull that sense of wonder –“wow, he’s really the guy/girl I get to wake up next to!”– but for 5 years, we’ve managed to keep most of that original spark alive… Right now, it doesn’t feel like a challenge, but people always say “relationships take work.”

    So my question: is love a verb or an emotion? What does “working” on love/marriage mean to you??

    • Chelsea

      I bet I could get my mom to write a guest post! She’s not a daily reader but I am always sending her links to posts, and she’s always agreeing with them. She knows that this blog is one of the reasons the whole wedding planning process has gone so smoothly for us – maybe I could tell her that writing a guest post would be her “thank you” to Meg and this community for keeping me sane! She and my dad will have been married for 30 years in August and have definitely had their ups and downs, but I really admire their marriage because they are still very clearly in love with each other.

      • Olivia

        I would love to read that.

        I have very few (none?) long term marriages or partnerships to look up to in my life, and I doubt that I’m alone in that.

      • KD

        My mom works in the finance industry and has done stuff about couples combining finances – I bet I could get her to write a guest post on that.

        Oh, as for the falling in and out of love thing – one thing I’ll always remember my mom telling me when I was in my first long-term, mostly grown-up relationship and was whining to her about something. She said, “Some people think in relationships there are good days and bad days, but the truth is, in marriage there are good years and bad years and you work through them…”

        • September Bride

          @KD – Please, please, please get your mom to write a guest post!!! I would love to see that.

      • Mine too! 40 years in December and they still make out and get giggly giddy over each other and hold hands. I hated it in high school but now it’s cute as hell. Yay love!

        • I love this! So adorable. :)

    • liz

      verb verb verb verb verb.

      love is a choice. VERB.

  • Courtney

    Holidays are definitely an issue. How do you balance?

    How do you get to know your new family especially when people live so far away?

    How do you handle where to move?

    What happens when one of you makes more money?

    How do you plan if one of you hates where you live?

  • Mel

    I am interested in hearing about 1) health, and 2) managing a household. How have people’s health changed or been challenged in marriage. How did you learn to be healthy together, in terms of cooking, planning, shopping, exercising? So far I want to take walks every night and he never does, and I hate planning what I’m going to eat for the week – but then we end up with takeout for the hundredth time. It makes me feel like I have some growing to do in knowing how to manage a household, a relationship and my health. Just the term “manage a household” sounds so 1950s to me, but I would be interested to hear how people are doing that in a modern way that works.

    • Alyssa

      Mel, I think we might be married to the same man. :-)

      I’d also love a health post because I think it’s an issue that not really addressed until you are older. The Boy and I are in the midst of figuring this one out; having had surgery that left me prone to illnesses and a dad who suddenly went from a healthy runner to BAM, quintuple bypass patient, I have become overly sensitive to health issues with loved ones. I’m all “Prevention is the key to being a healthy in your middle age! Let’s have a salad and then go for a walk!” and he’s all “Health is important, but I want Papa John’s. And stop talking, I’m in the middle of COD.” (if you don’t know what COD, go kiss your husband/fiancé for not being a game-playing TV hog.)

      I think the biggest issue is how do you deal with something that is SO personal? Yeah, you’re married but when it comes to your partner’s health, it’s THEIR body and you can whine and nag and talk and discuss all you want, but it’s their choice.

      So I second health!

      • Alison

        Alyssa, my Dad died from poor cardiovascular health brought on by stress, bad nutrition and general physical neglect when I was 11. Let me tell you that my Man’s lacidasical attitude about health and seeing doctors is VERY upsetting to me. We’re comprimising with the idea that he’ll see a doctor for an annual exam, and do what the doctor tells him to do. And I stay out of it. Because it is personal. I can’t be the boss of him (a mature attitude, I know), so I’ll stick with being the boss of me and if he wants to come along for a walk with me, great. If he wants to eat potato chips instead, fine. I have to let my respect for his own grown-up-ness be more important than my own fears about losing him.

        • Mel

          Wow. This really speaks to what I’m going through. I want to respect him and not nag, but I’m also worried about him. I really like how you put this – your thought process is impressive.

          This is something I think about overall with marriage – when to compromise, when to put your foot down, how to express your needs without nagging, when nagging may be necessary, when you need to just respect that someone else is different and be OK with that… Still finding that balance!

  • Mel

    Also interested in decisions about whether to work full-time while having an infant at home, a debate which can get very heated but at this point I have no idea if I would stay working full-time if we have kids (but how could I afford not to?). Different decisions seeem to be right for different people. How the heck do people pull it off either way? It seems impossible, which is not a very positive attitude to have about bringing new life into the world. The options seem very unfair.

    • elyse

      agreed. because i’ve always firmly believed that when we have kids, they come first even if that means putting my career on hold. and i’ve always firmly believed that we should have them sooner rather than later (for reference, we’re both in our late 20s and we both can’t wait to have a kid. or three.). but the closer we get to that being an actuality, the more i realize how important it is for us to have a few years of ‘just us,’ first and how its going to be me who has to balance the career, just given what we both actually do for a living. and how none of this is ever going to be easy. so yeah. . . sigh. . .

      • karen

        I’d love to hear from people who have been through the planning what do to around work and kids to the reality of it.
        I’m currently pregnant, engaged and planning to get married after the baby arrives – and so far the discussions with my partner about childcare, leave and work have been with both of us on the same page: we think that both parents should be involved in caring for the child, we both have careers that we don’t want to drop out of for a substantial length of time, and so both of us going part-time seems like the way to go. But we don’t extended family in the state, so no help there, and while I’ve already raised returning to work part-time with my boss, my partner hasn’t yet. So I worry that the plan and reality could diverge rather quickly.
        So yes, would definitely love to hear about different options and how people made it work for them.

  • Jackie

    The Holiday thing is sooo tough! My fiance and I have been engaged for over three years (but we have finally set a date in September so yay!). As a result, we have already had to deal with this for some time.

    I come from a REALLY small family. My father and grandfather have both passed away, and I’m an only child born of an only child. I feel that if I don’t spend both Thanksgiving and Christmas with my mother, she’ll be all alone. Unfortunately, my family and my fiance’s family have nothing in common so just inviting her to spend the holiday with them is not an option. On top of that, my fiance’s family is not very emotional or close. They don’t really seem to care whether either of us are there.

    As a result, we end up spending Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day with my mom. We spend December 23rd through lunchtime on Christmas Eve day with his family and then have to drive 4 hours to my family. While this seems to work, I keep feeling guilty for taking my fiance away from his family!

  • Margaret

    I feel like this article: “It’s Hot! It’s Sexy! It’s… Marriage!” [] could lead to some interesting discussions. I read Sandra Tsing Loh’s piece a while back piece and felt very disheartened. More on that here:

    “When date night is not enough” [] and

    “Let’s call the whole thing off”

    • Chelsea

      Or how about Marry Him! Which of course is now a book.

      I remember when I first read this article I was of course depressed, because the idea of settling just to have a family is depressing, but also a little encouraged that someone was finally admitting that not everything about your husband has to be man-of-my-dreams caliber in order to have a happy marriage.

      • Alyssa

        Ooooo, that article gives me fits now just as much as it did when I first read it!
        I have so many problems with that woman and her dogma, I don’t even know where to start….

      • liz

        good lord that upset me much more than i’d like.

        there are women out there who read this?

    • Alyssa

      I really really enjoyed that first article!! I think I might print it out and carry it around with me when I’m cranky at The Boy….

      I remember the Sandra Tsing Loh’s article, but I also remember blowing it off because it seemed so far removed from where I was at the time. I also remember disagreeing with a lot of the comments people were making about it at the time. It was like there was going to be this huge trend of marriage re-examination because of it…

  • Can we please talk about all the doom and gloom you hear about marriage? I’m getting sick of people telling me that the help I’m getting from my husband right now won’t last through marriage among other things. You know what deary, maybe if you’d accepted and appreciated his help a little more at the beginning he’d be more inclined to continue offering it throughout. But instead you kept saying no thank you and so he stopped offering. You “trained” him to not help. Gah! I probably just need to vent about that on my blog.

    But yes, let’s definitely talk about the other side rather than the “just wait” doom side everyone likes to spill on.

    • liz

      oh, girl. you’re so right about the “thanking” stuff.

      when we stop appreciating each other, what’s the point of trying to please one another?

  • S

    This might be a sub-topic for other things (housekeeping? family boundaries?), or maybe it’s a bigger topic…I wonder if we could talk about fighting. What’s worth fighting with your partner about? What are the things you just let go of as not worth it/unchangeable and what are the things that you have to take a stand for? One of my mantras for sanity is “I love [Mr. S.] exactly the way he is right now,” but honestly, who leaves his clothes in the dryer for three days?

    • Liz

      I have to admit, I leave my clothes in the dryer for days. Then they migrate to the laundry basket. Unfortunately, both of us hate, hate, hate folding clothes.

    • Roxanne

      I would like to talk about arguing as well, in a sense, but not necessarily what you should or shouldn’t argue about. I mean..who can really tell me that?
      One of the things I heard a lot was “People say the first year is the hardest, but I think it’s so much fun!”. I’ve never actually heard anyone say the first year isn’t the hardest. So then when I get irritated with my partner because he won’t pick up after himself, or after an extended amount of time together I look forward to getting out on my own I wonder…am I bad partner? Does this mean I don’t love him enough? And then I panic. Like. Sh*t what did I do wrong where everyone is skipping through flowers and I’m pissed cause he leaves his dirty socks in a ball under the coffee table.
      So um. I guess…does everybody argue? Do people really wonder this? Or…am I actually crazy? I’ve ben holding on to some hope that maybe I’m not the only person that thinks like this.

      • Alyssa

        I’m thirding this.

        When people hear you are newlyweds, they’re all, “Awww, you must be so happy!” And I have a couple of single friends who think that I don’t have a say in relationship discussions anymore because, “Whatever, you’re al married and happy and sh*t.” And I don’t say anything because I don’t want to air my dirty laundry, but you know what? We’re NOT happy all the time.
        We’re not unhappy; we are happy that we got married and we love each other, but it’s not a constant state of bliss. It’s a state of contentment, with frequent periods of awe and wonder at your beautiful partner – interspersed with moments of wanting to rip his face off.

        So I think a post on fighting or arguing that leads to comments on how the APW community handles it would be great. My fear is that it would turn into a b*itch session, though…

        • Meigh

          Yes, this. I’m definitely interested in how people go about tacking the Big Issues. When there’s a disagreement, I’m the kind of person who needs to deal with it head on, talk it out right away and be done with it. My fiancee is the total opposite; she needs alone-time to think about what she wants to say before we talk. This definitely creates tension, but we’re learning how to compromise. I’d love to hear more about how other couples with different communication styles handle fighting or discussing big issues like holidays, or buying a house, or having kids, etc.

          • Ashley

            Yes…. my partner and I are the same. Totally different communication styles and I/we find it really difficult. To manage what I need versus what he needs so that we both feel respected and ultimately able to come to some kind of agreement, even if it’s an agreement to disagree. I would really appreciate more on handling differences in communication styles. I think (and I say think because he isn’t always overly open about his feelings ) it’s a really big issue for my partner and he seems to think we have to figure it out before we get married because if we’re having trouble communicating now, what will happen once we’re married. I’m of the opinoin that a marriage is about continuing to figure things out together. How do I respect his fears and his communication style while also not dwelling on an issue that I think will resolve over time? Big question, I know.

    • liz

      fighting is productive.


      there are rules.

      if you fight respectfully. if you fight without getting dirty- namecalling, drudging up history. if you fight with the mindset that you’re on the SAME TEAM, working toward the same goal of getting to know one another better and be better as a couple (fighting together rather than feeling like you’re on opposite sides, like he’s the enemy).

      that’s when fighting is productive.

      it’s also important to lay ground rules such as when is a good time for a discussion and when isn’t. i like to handle things IMMEDIATELY. he likes to mull things over, let the steam dissipate before we discuss.

      as far as the day-to-day annoyances (ie, 3 week old laundry), we try to cater to one another’s quirks. he knows it annoys me when he doesn’t close the shower curtain after a shower (it gets all mildewy being bunched up at the end like that), so he does his best to close it. and when he forgets, we both laugh- because we both know it’s a sore spot. i know he hates when i don’t firmly close the toothpaste (it needs to “click” apparently) so i’m extra careful to close the damn toothpaste (even though it’s stupid and i have no idea what the hell he’s talking about) and then we both laugh when i forget and there’s a goopy toothpaste cap mess. (the toothpaste isn’t important to me- but it bugs him. so why not cater to him?)

      if you don’t address those day-to-day, insignificant quirks and annoyances, they’ll build up.

      • I vote you write a guest post on this subject! Really great points that need to be shared in their own space.

      • Olivia

        On toothpaste: my friend squeezes from the middle, her husband squeezes from the bottom. Instead of making an issue out of what is a quirk/preference, they each have their own toothpaste tube. I think there’s an awful lot of wisdom in that story!

        • Taking that whole toothpaste issue a step further–we each have our own bathroom. I like the shower curtian closed and he doesn’t. So I close mine and he doesn’t close his. I don’t mind a cluttered counter and he does. So I have make-up all over my counter and his counter is clean. You get the idea.

          This solution solves two big problems–we each have our own space, which helps us maintain our own identities. And we have each learned there are ways around those little things that the other does that bug us. You have to be willing to let things go and you have to be willing to compromise. But it took us 3 1/2 years to really learn these lessons–and we still have to relearn them. It’s not always rainbows and sunshine, but I wouldn’t want to relearn these lessons with anyone else.

        • Rebecca

          I know a couple that does this exact same thing. As a guest I was totally confused until the system was explained to me because they each had the exact same kind of toothpaste.

        • liz

          i wonder how many fights occur over toothpaste and toilet paper (over or under??)

          • Kim

            Over, natch!!!

        • Mel

          His toothpaste tube is a mess! To keep the peace, I have my own. I like to preserve the distinct Aquafresh stripes, an aesthetic necessity he doesn’t see a need for.

          • We solved this by switching to Crest or Colgate (single colors can’t get all mushed together!). And although he squeezes from the middle, I take a little pleasure in making it all super flat at the end again, so that’s sort of solved too — i make it flat, he squeezes wherever’s most comfortable. And when we’re halfway through the tube, he starts squeezing from the bottom too.

      • Nina

        I agree – while of course the big discussions are important, I think the little stuff can be equally important because you deal with it on a daily basis and it can feel indicative of something larger (even if it may not be), like respect for each other. I struggle with not wanting to nag, but my options seem to be 1) put up with socks/dirty dishes/whatever and feel pangs of anger whenever I see it and 2) do it myself and eventually grow to resent him. This is such an age-old debate and as smart as we are, I don’t expect that we can solve it. But I’d love to hear how others deal with these mini-battles (like separate tooth paste tubes – brilliant!) and keep them from growing into something bigger.

      • FM

        Yes, about being on the same team.

        One of my favorite pieces of relationship advice (from a friend when we first moved in together) was to try to perceive every interaction with your partner with the assumption that the other person and yourself are a team and you’re each trying to do well by the team (not just for me or him, but for both of us individually and as a little family). It is a very forgiving perspective. For example, if he is upset about me not doing something a certain way, we can talk about whether his way is ultimately the best way but that conversation is going to be more pleasant if I try to make the assumption that he wants things his way because he thinks it’s better for ME and US. Similarly, if I think something should be done a certain way, it’s easier for me to bend or convey it more pleasantly (or even to drop it) if I am assuming that my intention is an end result that is better for him and us. Even though we each might have started out being bothered by those things just because we are set in our respective ways and like to be right.

  • Olivia

    Another vote for talking about money. And about choosing to rely on each other financially so that one partner can pursue things that would be harder without that support (school, an initially not profitable venture, etc.). It’s kind of awesome, kind of scary!

  • elyse

    i have so much to do at work right now but this discussion and everyone’s comments are WAY more interesting.

    as a couple closing on their first home together in 14 days (as in, first time we’ll be living together after 4 years of dating), getting married in 16 days, and then moving from city A, a comfortable 2.5 hour drive from my family to city B, a 2.5 hour flight for my parents and 15 minute drive to his, I’ve been thinking a lot about well, a lot of what’s being said!

    we have some things going for us – holidays, thankfully, won’t be an issue (same religion, one happily married set of parents each, and his parents never picked up on thanksgiving when they immigrated here which happens to one of my fam’s favorite holidays, so. . . score!) and luckily he’ll be done with school and we’ll both be working, so money while always an issue, won’t be an ISSUE (although his salary as a baby resident doctor is nothing to write home about!)

    concerns – boundaries! his parents are great, but i’m fiercely independent and enjoy having time to myself. i don’t necessarily want to go over there for dinner 3 times a week. his brother and sister in law also live there, and we all get along great. but on the flip side, i’ll be working from home and the only people i’ll know there are his family. which means i know i need to give myself opportunities to get out and do things on my own. so any thoughts on that (i think its like 3 issues in one, sorry!) would be fantastic!

    as someone who could have cared less about the wedding but always wanted to be married, i’m pretty psyched to be standing where i am right now. and im lucky to have found an intelligent, rational (since i’m not always), amazing guy to spend my life with. and i’m looking forward to continuing to read APW after the wedding!

  • elyse

    and one quick thing to share. . . i’ve been meeting with our rabbi’s wife prior to the wedding and at the first class, she opened with saying that in your marriage, you should never have to compromise. which at first i thought ‘huh? isnt’ that what it’s all about? how else will we decide what to have for dinner!”

    but then she explained – ‘you should never have to compromise yourself.’ to be happy and satisfied in your marriage. which i think is oh-so-important.

  • Mel

    What do you do if his mom expects you to call her Mom? Do people really do this? If not, what do you call her?

    • liz

      you avoid addressing her directly.

      (at least that’s what i do)

      • Mel

        I wrote “Dear FirstName” in her Mother’s Day card, leading her to say “Soon you’ll call me Mom!” Oh. My. God. I hope she didn’t see the look on my face. She’s great, but she’s not my mom. It just seems really weird that someone would be saying I should call them that. But she means super well, and it’s tradition I guess… When I can, I guess I’ll follow the “Don’t refer to her” advice!

        • liz

          if it’s not your thing, don’t do it.

          don’t force a “mom” if she’s not one to you.

          this is odd for me because my husband calls my parents mom and dad all the time. but they sort of took him under their wings. whereas, i never see his parents. and when i do, i feel like i’m on my best “must impress them” behavior. so no, they don’t make me feel like theyre my “mom” and “dad.”

          so i don’t call them that.

      • Mollie

        Or wait until you have kids and go from not addressing them at all straight to “Grandma” and “Grandpa”!

        Not something I advocate, but have seen happen more than once……

    • Jen

      His mom told me I didn’t have to, but could, call her mum. It wasn’t comfortable for me but I didn’t want to say thanks but no thanks so I avoid referring to her at all (Instead of Hi, Mum or Hi, Ann I just say Hi!)…. probably not the best way to deal with it.

    • Kristen

      One of the first things that my future mother-in-law said to me after we got engaged was “now you can call us mom and dad!” So I just said, “thanks, but I’m probably not going to.” Short and sweet and they are still Helen and Jim to me. :)

      • Ha! That’s one of the first things they told me too. Husband calls my parents mom and dad, but he has since before he proposed. It’s still strange for me though. I generally just don’t use a name of any sort when talking to her. Maybe I’ll figure something out later.

    • mollymouse

      This isn’t a huge issue for me, but is something I think about a lot. I love how my father calls my mother’s mom “Mom”. I think it’s absolutely sweet and adorable. On the other hand, I can’t bring myself to call the Mr’s mom “Mom”. I *have* a mom and I don’t feel all that motherly towards the MIL (I like her and all, but she’s a bit much and I’m not excellent at dealing with her personality type. i.e. I want to shout at her a lot :) ) However, I really like the Mr’s father (his mom and dad are divorced) and I would feel totally comfortable calling him “Dad”. I feel like that’s betraying my own father and would really piss the MIL off.
      So, I just call them by their first names and secretly worry about it sometimes.

      • Christine

        My parents call each other’s parents’ “Mom” and “Dad” but it’s a fairly recent development, and only after 25 years of marriage. I never noticed before that my parents never addressed my grandparents directly until I heard them use the pronouns…it was SO weird to me. But I love that I’ve witnessed them genuinely come to feel that my grandparents are their parents over the course of the past 20+ years. You can’t force it, and there’s no timeline. Eventually, you’ll feel like your in-laws are just…yours. It’s totally natural now.

        At the moment, I barely trust my future father-in-law to hold my soda, so I’m looking forward to the transition…

        • liz

          you just said what i was going to.

          my parents are also at that point with my grandparents- but theyve been married 25 years (and, uh, my parents knew each other since kindergarten… cute, no?)

          you may eventually grow to the point where they DO feel like a second awesome set of parents. but if you don’t now. meh. you don’t.

    • Alison

      I kind of use Mom as a title for Mom’s who aren’t my Mom. Like a job title or an honorific.

      • Alicia

        Interesting… I was just teaching my students about “kinship terms” the other day and this came up – who you give the title to etc (i.e. in many cultures everyone of a certain age is auntie or uncle etc). that being said, I really really don’t want to call his mom “mum” (we live in the UK), I don’t call my step-mom that and she’s been around for 15 years.

    • Julianna

      this is really interesting to me, I’ve never heard of or experienced anyone calling their partner’s parents “mom and dad”. shortly after we got engaged my fiance’s parents specifically requested that I start calling them by their first names (as opposed to Mr. & Mrs..), saying they wanted to have their own identities as individuals before they started getting referred to as some version of Grandma & Grandpa after we have kids. They even laughed about it, saying “we know there will be a period when you don’t refer to us by name at all, but we hope you can adjust”.

  • Ophelia

    My partner and I have lived together for almost three years, and we’ve already dealt with a lot of what it seems is supposed to come after marriage – we’ve dealt with holidays (I’m American, he’s not, so we typically do Tgiving with my family, Christmas with his), we continually deal with finances (I’m in grad school, he has a real income, so he pays for most joint expenses), and we’ve worked out a system for chores around the house.
    The things that are a problem for us, and will likely continue to be are:
    1. career balancing. he’s got a phd, and i’m working on mine. he already gave up one career track to move with me for grad school. when i finish, and go on the academic job market, i’m not sure i can ask him to give up the career he’s established here. this is the classic 2-body problem in academia, but probably extends beyond into other careers.
    2. my research involves extended stays overseas. so, i have to go to Africa for 3 month periods every year, and will plan to go for 6-8 months next year (during which point he’ll try to come with me, to the potential detriment of his job (see pt.1)). this is really hard on our relationship, for obvious reasons.

    so, i guess my situation is pretty unique, but the more general questions are how to balance two (mobile) careers and how to deal with spending long stretches of time apart.


    • Liz T

      Hey, person-who-has-my life. My now-husband spent a year in South Africa with me after finishing his own Ph.D., so that I could do my own Ph.D. research. He was able to do freelance work from there, but it was definitely less satisfying than the kind of job he would have had either in the UK (where he’s from) or the US (where we now live). I don’t have any real answers. He’s just now looking for a job in the US, so hopefully in a few months we’ll be able to look back and realize that it didn’t screw up his career permanently. But yes, then we will probably have to move *again* in a year, when I’m done and get an academic job. I have to say, the thing that has blindsided me is the degree to which I’ve rebalanced my priorities away from getting the best job I can (or, indeed, getting an academic job at all) towards being able to live in a place that works for my new family – both in terms of my husband’s job, but also in terms of living close to friends/family so that we are not isolated when we do start having kids. I’ve always been ambitious in my career, so this is not a development I expected, at all. And I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

      • Alicia

        This is actually an area I’d really love to talk about…

        Not so much the balancing careers/fieldwork but more about decisions how and where and when to move.

        We currently live in the UK where I’m finishing my PhD and he’s working. He’s british, i’m from northern california but have lots of family in NY. He always assumes we’ll move back to the states “someday,” as I do, but I worry about “dragging” him there (to say nothing of the logistical problems like health care, lack of vacation days, maternity leave etc).

        This was a major stumbling block for me in feeling ready to get married, worrying that if we built a life together and then split up down the road (I’m a child of multiple divorces, and potentially a big worrier) that one or the other of us would be stuck in a country away from our families (presuming we have kids at this point).

        Then again, at a certain point I just decided that we love each other and want to make a lovely life together and can’t worry about what might or might not happen 10 years from now.

    • Lethe

      Ug. Career balancing. As another with a PhD-earning partner this will be an issue for us too – and I’m about to become a lawyer. Not a great combo with someone on the academic job market, since lawyers can’t just move freely from state to state until they have practiced long enough to waive the bar exam…

  • I am less than three months away from our wedding and am definitely more excited about what comes after the wedding (not that I am not excited about the wedding…oh believe me. I am!), but I am so looking forward to what comes next. I think there are two things I’d like to discuss: the first being what it was like when everything settled down…..when you got back from honeymooning and put away wedding gifts and got back to regular old life. The second being finances. I’m intrigued by the way people handle married finances…because it works so differently for everyone and we are in the process of trying to sort out what will work best for us. I’m of the “just put it in all in one pot because what does it matter” camp….and so is my fiance…but i think he’s having a tough time with the idea of not having his own stash….he can’t articulate why he would need it and what it would be used for…but he admits it feels weird to surrender to the collective….which I totally understand.

    • Roxanne

      I totally understand! The finances is something everyone has to look at. Some things work better for other people. We don’t necessarily have “one pot” per say, but it works very very well for us. And everyone is looking at different things they may or may not be taking on – debt, for example. I think finances is a great topic.

  • I’m terribly interested in talking about couples’ counseling. I know a fair number of people who did some counseling (either through a spiritual advisor or otherwise) before getting married, but probably an equal number who didn’t. I’d love to hear from the married folks who did have some counseling. What helped? What didn’t help? What did you feel strange talking about beforehand that no longer felt strange after the wedding? What techniques have you found to be surprisingly useful now that you’re married?

    Part of the reason I’m interested in this is because I’m a little (ok, maybe more than a little) nervous. FH and I almost certainly won’t have time to do counseling before our wedding. Between graduation season, other weddings, and planning we simply ran out of time. We’ve talked a bit about kids, holidays, finances, and plans for the future, but there’s a small voice in the back of my head trying to tell me that “I’ll see-eeee” that things will be more difficult if we don’t do official pre-marital counseling. So, I’d love to hear about how others’ experiences with their counseling informed their marriage, especially at the beginning.

    • liz

      you may wanna buy a good relationship-focused book.

      we did counseling. but we learned a lot more about each other on our own, by reading books on relationships and talking about the Big Things (sex, money, kids, geography, goals etc)

    • Chelsea

      We did our couseling through the church where we’re getting married, and it was a group class. It was really helpful, but part of the reason for that was our attitude: we took it seriously. But we could have just as easily not taken it seriously and answered all of the questions superficially and still “passed” the class.

      I guess what I’m saying is that counseling is only as helpful as you let it be, and if you guys are taking the time to talk through the issues that could come up you’re probably just as prepared (if not more prepared) than couples that go through the motions of counseling. So don’t beat yourself up over not being able to go – you’re still doing the work!

    • Liz T

      And you can do counseling after you get married as well. We got married in a hurry (immigration reasons) and are just finding the time for this a year later. It would have been nice to do it beforehand, sure, but I think it’s still going to be very helpful now. The whole transition is a process, not a moment.

    • ddayporter

      when we were looking into pre-marital counseling, one of the counselors we contacted actually told us he prefers to work with clients right after the wedding instead of before. as others have said, if you wait for official counseling till after the wedding, probably a good idea to do some work on your own, with the help of relationship books, maybe talking with older married couples for advice, etc. also I hope you’ve seen Meg’s post on this, with the list of topics?

      • I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the post, but I’ll have to look it up and re-read it!

    • Tricia

      We are getting short on time as well so we’re doing the Prepare to Last Program. It is a self-study counseling thing with a derivative of the Prepare Inventory (lots of scientific data on that one). I can’t tell you how it is going since it just came in the mail and we are going to start next week, but I think it is a good way to provide some structure to those big conversations (something we really needed) and make sure everything gets covered before the wedding (which really lowered my anxiety level).

      • Mel

        I’d like to hear more about this!

    • My fiance and I are a little over four months out from our wedding, and we’re in counseling. We’ve been doing this for a few months, and we love it. Well. I love it, he’s actually enjoying it; considering he believed it was a waste of time before, that’s a vast improvement. In any case, it’s been great– the way I talk about it is that it’s taught us how to argue better. Counseling is a reflection of ourselves or, in couples situations, of our relationship. It helps us see things clearer, and helps us find a way to make it better. We’re about to start meetings with our minister, too, which I’m looking forward to. After ten years together, I think we’ve got the basics down, but I think talking to professionals will help us really do it right. Just my $0.02. :)

    • Marina

      I think the biggest thing we got out of premarital counseling was just hearing from someone who’d seen a million couples go through all the exact same things we were going through. One thing I remember so clearly is our cantor telling us that the things that annoyed couples about each other when they’d been married 50 years were the same things that had annoyed them when they first got together. She made it sound less depressing than that, though–what I got out of it was that those little things that I worried would never, ever go away wouldn’t actually interfere with us having a long and happy marriage. 50 years from now he’ll still chew noisily and I’ll still leave the chip bag open til they go stale, but that doesn’t have to have anything to do with how much we love each other.

      Er, that got a little off topic–what I meant to say was that I think couples counseling is great, and that premarital counseling is great cause most couples are dealing with a lot of stressors during the wedding planning process, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not doing it either.

    • I highly recommend doing some kind of counseling, either before getting married, or afterwards. Pre-marital counseling was required by our church, and we both wanted to do it, required or not. While I would say that we learned more about each other reading/discussing relationship books, just talking to an outside person about our relationship is important. I think it’s important to know when to ask for outside help, and to feel comfortable discussing relationship issues/struggles with a trained person.

  • Cortney

    I can’t get enough of this comment thread, seriously. I’m addicted to the “refresh” button. Haha.

  • Kerry

    I absolutely love reading all of these comments! I just wanted to comment on how hard it is when both you and your fiance/husband are only children…meaning, neither of you have siblings. That’s how it is for my fiance and I, and I have to tell you, the family drama seems multiplied for us. Holiday season 2009 was actually our first holiday season together as a couple, believe it or not, and it was….awkward….and a little sad. Luckily, my parents live a little over an hour away, and his live in our same town, so that makes it easy to travel between both houses. But both parents wanted Christmas Eve AND Christmas Morning AND Christmas Dinner with us. The amount of bargaining that went on was insane. So I’d love to hear from other only children out there!

    Also, regarding the awkwardness of having his mom ask you to call her “mom,” how about when she starts saying “I love you” way before you…actually love her. I said it in return, but then I felt extremely unauthentic and wished I had been able to come up with the perfect response that summed up my feelings! But then I thought, well, when do you really start to LOVE his family?

    Wow, that was longer than I thought. Thanks for listening!

    • Tricia

      When they live farther apart (his family is on one coast, mine is on the other, and we live smack dab in the middle) it makes it both better and worse because you have to choose and everyone gets that you have to choose but they don’t have to like it. Alternation seems like the only fair way, but the *do not* like it and consequently there is fuss. I’m hoping to get this sorted out in the first year. (Although I am sure it will have to be completely re-sorted when kids come into the picture)

    • Sarah Beth

      I’m an only child and my fiance is shamelessly referred to as “the golden child”, though he also has a sister. Add to the typical holiday mess that my parents are divorced and remarried, my mom lives nine hours away, and my fiance’s grandmother is the *most* possessive parent/grandparent I have ever encountered, and you have a storm on your hands. This past year (our third holiday season as a couple) we finally managed a “fair” solution that didn’t involve spending holidays apart. We had Thanksgiving at his folks, and Christmas at my mom’s, though we didn’t leave until Christmas Eve. This year we’ll swap (that’s the plan anyway). But I know there was much griping, and talk of me “taking him away”. Par for course. To me, even this compromise seems lopsided, since he sees his family at least once a month, and I am lucky to see my mom twice a year, but I fought hard enough for what I got.

  • Finances. Oh God, talk about the finances to DEATH. Matt and I have been married for a year and a half and it is the only thing we can never agree on and, sadly, money is a huge aspect of marriage.

    It’s stupid and foolish: my money, your money. Get it sorted before, during, and after the marriage. Seek a financial counselor if you must.

    • liz

      they say like 80% of divorces are money-related or something.

      money and sex- the real marriage monsters.

      • Margaret

        Sometimes I feel like I’m missing something (i.e. not missing *out* on something, but not understanding something fundamental), because we have yet to fight about money — anyone else out there like this? Maybe we just both handle finances similarly?? Or maybe it’s just because we don’t have a house or kids?? or maybe we’re just weirdos… always a good possibility. ;-)

        • liz

          maybe you’re not broke enough.

          • Margaret

            LOL. Hmm, I generally think of us as pretty broke. I was a grad student for the past 3 yrs., now I’ve been unemployed for a year… and he makes a good salary, but not rolling-in-the-lap-of-luxury (aka not over 35,000). and we’ve got student loans, etc.

          • Margaret

            (should add that we are both extremely frugal by nature… so maybe that helps?)

        • I’m with you, Margaret. My husband and I don’t argue about money either. We had really frank talks once we realized we were on the marriage track, well before we got engaged. We moved into together a few months before we were engaged, but that is when we combined our finances. We just hit six months last week and in that respect, all has been well. We spent most of this past year out of work, but we managed to make it work somehow without getting overly stressed about it.

          • Yep. Mine, too. Prior to even getting engaged, my husband asked me to attend one of Dave Ramsey’s events. He’d been listening to his podcast and we have mutual friends that got out of debt with his advice, so we went. The advice was great, but more importantly, it opened the door to the discussions of money, how much we had, what our history was (emotional and habitual), what our current values and goals were and what we wanted in our financial future. Luckily, it turned out we had similar backgrounds (historical debt) and similar future goals (smart saving and wealth-building). We track our expenses and meet every week to talk about our budget.

            It’s not always easy, but knowing we’re on the same team with the same end-goal feels really good. And safe. There was a point early this year where I finally got fed up with the stress around finances (my fears/thoughts around, “do we have enough?” “i don’t deserve new clothes because i’m not contributing right now.” “i feel guilty because he hates his job but is doing it so i can follow my dream right now.”). My new intention for the rest of the year is “abundance” and “money is fun.” So far it’s working. :) (well… the fun part anyway… still waiting on abundance).

        • liz

          to be fair, i thought about this and realized that josh and i don’t fight about money.

          our money fights are, “you didn’t pay that bill?! you said you were going to pay that bill! now we have a late fee!” fights- which are actually bad memory fights. (which have since ceased, as i am now Captain of the Checkbook)

          but that may be because he’s generous to a fault and i’m a cheapass. so if i say i want a pair of shoes, he tells me to buy them. but i never buy them because i’m too cheap. the end.

    • Maria

      Margaret, how do you do it? My future fiance and I both finished our masters a little over a year ago and have yet to find full time jobs. We’re both living back home with our parents, about 3 1/2 hours apart, and it’s driving me crazy. I work a full time and a part time job, and still don’t make enough to get my own place and be able to pay my bills, and he just lost his part time job due the company closing, and is selling scrap metal and picking up random construction work just to pay his bills. All I want is for us to be able to get our own little place and get married!

      • Margaret

        Yeah, totally hear you on not being able to find full time work (or even part-time… I’ve gotten maybe 5 temp calls in about 10 months). Which is tough, esp. when you worked for a master’s.

        I think it helps (not for employment, though) that we live in a tiny college town. Rent is still pretty high, but way better than, e.g. NYC. And everything else here (uhh, walmart, basically… not much else) is cheap and you don’t have to drive far to get it. I save money by staying home all day. :-P

        But it would definitely be tougher if he didn’t have his job.

        • Maria

          I guess I’m lucky. I got both jobs I have now through friends and neighbors. One of my best friends works at a restaurant, so I work there during the day and Saturdays, and my neighbor’s family owns a cleaning business, so I clean office buildings at night. It’s exhausting. Hopefully the job market improves soon!

    • I absolutely agree that talking finances to death is VITAL. Not just about joint accounts vs. private accounts, either. Personal spending habits are also an integral part of the conversation, and I’m really glad my husband (squee, I get to say that now!) and I shared finances prior to the wedding because seeing how we work with it.

      He grew up differently from me — his family is more of a “we have the money, so we’ll spend it, because money is meant to be spent and enjoyed.” I grew up rather poor, and money was meant to be saved, and I would spend MONTHS as a kid agonizing over whether or not to spend my saved allowances on the smallest of purchases.

      So, he’s a spender, I’m a saver. I get worried about finances, he’s bright about things always being okay. And it’s been fine because…well, we balance each other out. I’ll get him to save sometimes, and sometimes he’ll wheedle me into spending a little money on some enjoyment.

      There have been bumps in the road, but now in the early stages of marriage, the work put into working out finances over the past 4 years being together has really helped the transition to be pretty much painless. I tossed around the idea of creating just one joint account for us, since we already have the three-accounts setup, but he pointed out that if it isn’t broken…why fix it?

      And maybe sometime down the road we will unite all into one account, but for now…the three-accounts system works for us.

      But yeah….my lengthy reply basically is just to echo that no matter what setup you decide on…I’d DEFINITELY talk about it to death, and maybe try it out…and if something doesn’t work for you, try something else!

      • Liz

        Oh…this describes us to a T! I grew up with no money and the feeling that money should be saved, and saved, and saved. She grew up with parents who were comfortable – not extravagant, but definitely believed that money was a tool to be used and enjoyed. Because of this, we have COMPLETELY different outlooks on money. I am trying to convince her that consumer debt is not a good thing, and she just doesn’t see what the big deal is. Like you, it works because we pay our bills – but our finances are completely separate.

        It’s frustrating sometimes because I know that if we could put our money together, we could get stuff paid off faster – but I respect that we deal with money in different ways, and it may stay that way. It’s good to hear that you guys have been able to talk through a lot of it. We’ve always talked about money, but only in the past year or so have we sat down and gone through cold hard figures. We’ll keep talking – and I’m upfront about my desire to persuade her to think about debt the way I do (bad bad bad!) :)

  • sarah

    i’m curious to see how things will change… i know everyone says that things do change, but they can’t explain how. well, i want an explanation! we’re getting married in a month… we’ve been together for nearly 5 years, and lived together for 4 years, knew we were getting married “at some point” for about 3 years… so i really honestly don’t know how things will change, other than just things being more “serious” in general, which i’ve felt for a while, but maybe even more so lately.

    like… you don’t like his mom? he doesn’t like your dad? you don’t like his best friend? he doesn’t like your “gay boyfriend”? well too bad, you’re going to have to learn the best way to suck it up and make the best of it, because you love that person, and you don’t want the situation with X to drive a wedge in your marriage!

    what else? i’m wondering as well about how people have responded to you differently since you’ve been married… families taking you more seriously, etc? what compromises have you made for your partner? – realizing that you can’t always have it exactly your way, and sometimes, you may need to sacrifice some things you wanted so that your partner can achieve their dreams as well….

    i’m sure i’ll think of more things… and probably have experiences i’d like to share, once we’re actually married!

    • Marina

      We also lived together for almost five years before getting married, and I also wondered whether there would be some BIG CHANGE. 10 months into marriage, there kind of has been and kind of hasn’t. Nothing specific–all the things that were annoying are still annoying, all the things that were great are still great. But… the past 10 months has been one of the best periods of our relationship. Not THE best, but up there with the good ones. We’ve fought less, and resolved fights quicker. My husband’s theory is that it’s actually just better compared to the stress of wedding planning. ;)

      I think the change has been that… it’s driven home for me that this is an Entire Life thing. That my plan for five years out and twenty years out and sixty years out now includes his plans too. I mean, I knew that before, but not in the same visceral every-time-I-look-at-my-ring-finger way. And that makes the little annoyances seem smaller.

      I’ve also really enjoyed watching him spend more time with my family. He’s facebook friends with my grandma, which is the cutest thing ever. And it’s a trip realizing that his family will always be my family now too, that that’s a part of the Entire Life thing too. Both good and bad. ;)

      I’m sorry this is so nonspecific–I know you mentioned feeling frustrated with everyone being vague about it. But really, nothing specific has changed.

      • sarah

        well… i think maybe the part about it being nonspecific is just that it is inherently very personal to your specific relationship what will and won’t be different! i guess that’s why it’s such a difficult/elusive topic to touch upon. i’m interested to see (and hopefully have the opportunity to comment on here about) what changes for my own relationship in the coming year..!

  • CK

    Hi Meg,
    I’m really interested in hearing a little bit more about the premise of this aspect of APW. Maybe this is just the English major nerd in me coming out a little too strongly, but I have a few questions about the title “Reclaiming Wife”; mostly, I’m wondering about it because I think “wife” is still an incredibly privileged word in our society (there is no word for women who are not married except “single” which is essentially just the negated version of “married” or “wife.” “Single” implies that the dominant way of living is to be formally coupled and anything else is a deviation from it). So, I’m wondering 1) how can we “reclaim” a word that is not lost, but in fact, very dominant and 2) is this process of “reclaiming” really a process of “redefining?” And, most importantly, how are you “redefining” it the word “wife” so it actually acknowledges its own level of privilege?

    Because this is my main concern about entering into a married life; as a straight woman, I would have access to fundamental civil and political rights that the GLBTQ community is denied; I really like the work on APW that is concerned with this social justice issue. But marriage and coupled-ness is general is a privileged state, regardless of sexuality. So how do we become wives, husbands, partners, etc. and give up some of the privilege associated with this state? I know it sounds a little odd to ask you how we can address the devaluation of single life on a web site dedicated to weddings and marriage, but I think the two issues are inextricably linked. I have recently found a partner who I think will be in my life forever; but it makes me uncomfortable when I think about all the social validation I have gained because of this that I didn’t have before. Whether it’s small things like going out to dinner and not worried about being pitied or stared at because I have someone sitting across the table from me to the social assumption that I am somehow a more responsible or dedicated person because I have a partner by my side — how do we reject these benefits once we become coupled?

    • Alyssa

      Ooo, good question. I’d say I disagree, but I think I’m just looking at it differently.

      I’d post my feelings, but I have a feeling this might be a post and I wanna see how Meg weighs in….

    • Kate

      OMG, Yes!!! A post on this, please!

    • meg

      Interesting. I think Husband is indeed a privileged word. But I think the assumptions people make about me when they know that I am a wife are much less kind than the assumptions that they make about me when they think I’m single. I think wife has some very, very demeaning baggage attached to it.

      I think this to the point that I only wear a only non-traditional wedding band. I don’t want people to visually make any assumptions about me.

      I’ve written about this in the past (look through Reclaiming Wife). I’ll put it on the list for possible further less tired discussion as well.

      • CK

        That does sound interesting — I’d like to read a post about your experience with being known as a “wife” is less socially accepted than being known as “single.” It just sounds so different from our general cultural expectations of women. I was thinking about this because a friend of mine and I were having a conversation lately about how strange it is that anytime someone gets engaged we automatically say “Congratulations!” I’ve done it plenty of times without even really knowing the couple. And I’ve said it as if that person has really achieved something, that they have really worked hard and that blingy piece of light on her left hand is the hard-earned result. Certainly we congratulate men, but I think the bulk of it is directed at women; I’m saying this because, as far as I know, Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t started posting ads for wedding rings on my boyfriend’s facebook profile just because it says he is in a relationship with me. I think the reason we congratulate engagements so automatically is because we still live in a culture that uniformly says marriage is the end point for women. If you get the rock, you’ve made it. When was the last time any of us congratulated a friend for being single? I’m not talking about congratulating someone for passing their medical boards or defending their dissertation or for turning 30. None of those achievements are tied to marital status. And I don’t mean congratulating someone for dodging a bullet and not marrying the guy who leads his own World of Warcraft team. Because that still places single people in a couplist ideology. When was the last time any of us congratulated a friend for deliberately choosing singleness as their most authentic way of living – not just as the default setting until they find “the one?” When have we ever thrown a party that, on average, costs $22,000 in order to celebrate singleness? For as much as we pay lip service to the fact that marriage isn’t about fancy photographers or dessert bars or indie chic photobooths, that doesn’t stop us from placing that long-awaited for Kitchen Aid mixer from into our wedding registries. And, on some level, expecting to get it. And it doesn’t even stop us from assuming that all our friends and family will spend hundreds of dollars to travel and celebrate with us simply because we have made a decision not to be single.

        I don’t mean for this to sound harsh. This is certainly not a problem that is just particular to the wedding industry – when was the last time you saw any romantic comedy where Kate Hudson didn’t end up married to Matthew McConaughey (or at least kissing him) in the final scene? Most dating guides targeted at single people all drive them toward the marriage plot – He Just Not That Into You (so move on so you can find the guy you’re meant to marry!); The Top Ten Things You’re Doing Wrong on a First Date (so you can do all the Right Things on the second date and eventually get married!); Women Are Too Picky (just flip a coin so you can get married!); Women Are Not Picky Enough (no one wants to marry someone with a suitcase full of loose morals!); Try Dating Someone Who Is Not Your Type (opposites attract – and then get married!). What Is Wrong With Jennifer Aniston?!? It’s always the same endpoint.

        I’m not saying that marriage doesn’t have its societal hardships, especially for women. I’m a grad student in the humanities; two of my female friends (one who is married, one who is newly engaged) both went on the job market this year and took off their rings during interviews because they thought their status as married women could count against them in an already impossibly competitive job market. And they have good reason to think that. But I think this speaks more to the devaluation that mothers (or potential mothers) experience in the public sphere rather than married women; Anne Crittenden has a wonderful book on this called The Price of Motherhood (2001) that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in this subject. But for the most part, we see that unmarried people are systematically more disadvantaged economically and socially than their married counterparts; I would check out if you’re interested in looking at statistics. The main point is that we need to start having conversations about how the married community can start to recognize its own privilege and then stop presenting itself, however unconsciously, as The Only Way for women to live fulfilling and socially valid lives – lives that are just as valued and celebrated as women who are married. As much as we all love a great cosmopolitan, we need a post-Carrie Bradshaw America.

        • liz

          i don’t see “congratulations” in this light at all.

          i think marriage is a happy thing- not an achievement, but typically a decision made out of happiness. when saying congratulations, we’re, i guess, agreeing with their state of happiness. congratulating them not on what they’ve “achieved” but what they’re sure to be happy about. (when in congratulate someone for getting pregnant, it’s not because i think they’ve achieved some great feat)

          i think in celebrating marriage, we’re celebrating big decisions and life changes. my friend just moved to an apartment, and is having a housewarming. (she’s single- and she has a registry full of housey things she needs, much like the registry you describe as being a privilege only for married-types) i’m not moving. do i get a congratulatory party for resigning my lease? no. and i don’t think you would argue that i should. we don’t celebrate decisions to stay on the same path- we celebrate changing paths.

          • CK

            Good point, Liz. Perhaps this is an issue of semantics; maybe saying “Congratulations!” is the just same thing as saying “I’m so happy for you!” I do, however, take issue with the idea that we celebrate weddings/marriage/life commitments (and, conversely, do not celebrate singleness) because marriage is a big change because this implies that singleness is static and unchanging. I think that idea devalues the complexity of a single life, which is, in fact, full of changes, excitement, hardship and compromise, just like married life. I think it is very problematic to say we don’t congratulate or celebrate singleness because single people never change; my point is that our very ideas of what constitute “milestones” in this society already privilege couples and devalue single people. It also implies that single people don’t have “relationships” or that the only relationships that really count in this society, the only ones that constitute “change” that is worth celebrating, are romantic.

            I understand why what I’m saying is not that fun to hear, especially on a web site that is all about celebrating marriages and long-term commitments. I’m not expecting many people to agree with me. No one likes to think that they’re privileged; we like to think that we’re the underdogs fighting up against a society that provides a hyper-commercialized and superficial idea of what a wedding is to women and then devalues women’s work within the home once the marriage is underway. And we are. But refusing to acknowledge our privilege as people with partners comes at the cost of ignoring what couples in this society earn at the expense of single people; for instance, if I were to work at a company alongside a married woman, my boss is much more likely to ask me to work longer hours or to travel more often because there is the belief that my free time is somehow less valuable because I’m single (I’m also much more likely to experience sexual harassment in the workplace if I’m single than if I’m married). If I enter a busy restaurant on a Friday night by myself, I will probably be placed at the smoky bar instead of a table because the restaurant thinks I’m not as valuable as the couples who come in and just order desserts and drinks. Statistically, unmarried men earn less than their married counterparts. If I want to adopt a child (and I’m not Angelina Jolie), there is a very slim chance that I will be considered before a married couple, and there are some states that even have legislation in place saying I can’t adopt. If I get a job that has great health insurance, I won’t be able to place anyone else on that insurance as a dependent (as untaxed income) unless I’m married to that person. Many people on this thread have talked about flip flopping grad school based on their marriages. I can say from personal experience that married students in grad programs are much more economically advantaged than unmarried students; in fact, most of the students in my grad program are either married or live with a partner and are thus able to depend upon a second income to support their education. I don’t think that it’s any stretch to say that graduate education is more accessible to people who are married than people who are single. None of this is considering the social stereotypes of single women as spinsters, “cat women,” neurotic (I’m looking at you, Ally McBeal), sex-starved excessive chocolate lovers and people to be pitied. I usually enjoy talking to the stranger who is sitting next to me on a flight or a train; when I was single, the question of “Are you married/Do you have a boyfriend?” would always come up and the follow-up would always be “Why not?” or “You seem so nice.” Re: What’s wrong with you? All I’m saying is the problem is not me and my singleness, the problem is the question itself.

            I understand if this is all territory that goes beyond the scope of Reclaiming Wife. But I think some of our deeper discomfort with weddings and marriage is rooted in the privilege that the whole institution affords us and that this would be an ideal topic to address in this forum. I love that APW is really about living honestly (in addition to having a pretty party) and I think this is something we have to be honest about. One person who talks about these ideas so beautifully and humorously is Bella DePaulo, whose blog Living Single on Psychology Today is, I think, a great companion to APW. You can find her here at

          • liz

            i do think there are two very distinct sides to the coin- yes, “wifedom” does have its privileges. however, the fact that there’s a title for a woman who gets married (wife) and not for one who doesn’t (single) doesn’t immediately connote, to me, a position of privilege. rather, that i am defined by my (perhaps lesser) role. i’m no longer woman. i’m wife. i think THAT has been the purpose of the “reclaiming wife” series.

            certainly singleness carries its connotations (both negative and positive), but wifedom does as well. in either situation, any assumption (either positive or negative) that boxes in a person is unfair. and i think that will always be the problem, as long as we continue discussing ‘singles vs wives.’

          • liz

            and re: grad school, etc.

            i think your typical single hears that they should finish educational goals (or any other goals, really: career, travel, etc) BEFORE they’re “trapped” in marriage. i know that this is an idea that i was fed over and over (hence, finishing my master’s before getting married)

          • Tricia

            I just wanted to point out a very specific point. CK you refer to the fact that a married man will, on average, make more money than a single man, which is true. However, you omit the significant corollary that a married woman will, on average, make less money than a single woman (and have a harder time finding a job to boot). While being married is advantageous to a man in almost every way that anyone has looked at, it is not as universally positive for a woman. While a wife is seen as an advantage in the job market (and still a near requirement for certain high level positions) a husband is often seen as a detriment. I too intend to take off my ring when I apply for jobs and I very carefully did not inform my graduate school advisors that I was engaged until after I had passed my preliminary exams. It even informs my decision on whether or not to change my name because I am concerned that if I change my name it will telegraph my marital status in work settings before I am ready to share that information.

        • KD

          I think you make a lot of interesting points, CK. I personally disagree with some and agree with others. I agree there is a lot of validation that comes from being an in an engaged or married relationship that does not come with being in a long-term committed relationship. My boyfriend and I were living together for 4 years before we got engaged, and dated for year before that. We had already decided to be together forever years earlier, but it wasn’t recognized publicly by certain people as a “serious” relationship because we didn’t want to get married right away.

          That aside, I think a lot of what you talk about is completely dependent upon what type of community one lives in as well as social circles. For example, I have friends from smaller cities who ARE looked at like losers/failures/”old maids” if they’re not married by the time they’re 24. On the other hand, in my large metropolitan city, in my social circle my bf and I and another couple are both engaged. This is ground breaking – people are congratulating us, and are happy, but if anything, people are more looking at it as a potentially doom and gloom type of thing. Everyone respected our relationships and loved how both us and the other couple are independent people with individual identities outside of our couple – but they fear once we get married we’re going to become fuddy duddies for lack of a better term. Ergo, marriage is certainly not the end-goal in my social circle. Don’t get me wrong, people want the companionship and partnership that comes from a relationship, but no one is racing to the courthouse. My circle is late 20s/early 30s and mostly single and we’re the first marriages…

          Reclaiming a word – in my opinion – means: taking a word that often has negative connotations or could be used in a hurtful way and deciding to use that word in a new empowering way. I think of all my dear friends years and years ago who really were part of a large nation-wide force to reclaim the word “queer”. It was used in a hateful way and they took it and started to use it in a positive way.

          Consequently, I think in many situations some people (obviously not us) hear “wife” and think of laundry, obedience, cooking, domesticity, cleaning, docility, child-rearing… while this is not usually used in a hateful way, it’s not the image of a woman any of us would like portrayed. I think what Meg brought up when the whole “reclaiming wife” topic came up was that we, as wives, have the chance to show that wife can mean so much more than that. What I would personally only like it to mean is married. As a wife, I hope no one uses it as a chance to make any generalizations about me or any role I may have.

          I think people’s generalizations of the role of a wife are lessening generation by generation. My peer group doesn’t hold the bad domestic stereotypes with the term “wife”, but they do think of it as the begining of the end of being fun and social. I certainly know that I will make a point to show my friends that marriage doesn’t mean I’ll stop playing beer pong and day drinking, I will continue to love to cook and hate to clean, I am still the same me, and I look forward to expanding… or narrowing what the term “wife” means in my little corner of the world.

        • sarah

          CK, I think that your argument about the privileged status of married folks doesn’t necessarily run contrary to Meg’s desire to “reclaim wife.” To make a comparison: Men are privileged in our society, however, that doesn’t mean that men aren’t policed into performing masculinity in a specific way that can be harmful to individual men. If a man started a blog about wanting to “reclaim masculinity” to argue for an expanded definition of maleness that included traits not usually associated with maleness, his act would fight the patriarchy — even though he is focused on maleness, which is a privileged status.

          I think that “reclaiming wife” is kind of like that. Yes, married couples are privileged in our society, but they are also policed into being something very specific and often times harmful. Progressive married couples can work on reclaiming and redefining the state of being married IN TANDEM with the fight to recognize all types of families and relationships. These fights are not in conflict with each other — they complement each other.

          • CK

            I totally agree! This is why I’m interested in discussing this in the context of a wedding website. My question is — how? How do we do this? How do we make sure that the “reclaiming” and “redefining” of “marriage” is linked to a redefinition of singleness. Because I think it’s very easy to forget the disadvantages that single people experience once we are coupled — I’ll admit I’ve done that now that I am coupled even though I am nowhere near entering the point of marriage. Specific, daily, little ways that couples can do this, that’s what I would like to see a post on.

          • meg

            Sarah made exactly my point. And I would add what’s been said above – marriage carries privilege for men that it doesn’t carry for women. Married women earn less and have a shorter life expectancy than men. They are more likely to be unhappy. The opposite is true for men when they marry – they earn more, have a longer life expectancy, and are happier. So while, yes, society incentive women to marry with kitchen aid mixers, society has a long history of incentivizing women to do things that are not good for them.

            Add to that that society *does* view marriage as women’s crowning achievement. You’re making the argument that this privileges married women. I would make the opposite argument – by getting married my personal achievements and self are now swept away, making the crowning glory of my life my ability to score a mate? That’s a GOOD thing? No. Of course it isn’t. That makes me want to reclaim the word wife.

            But in the end, it sounds like you want a very specific post, and if you do, I think you should write that. I think we’re coming from slightly different life experances here, in a way that wouldn’t facilitate me writing the post you want. I live and have lived in big cosmopolitan cities. When I was single I always felt that I was more empowered by that fact than the women around me who were married. Being a single ambitious woman in New York City is the thing to be. Being a married woman in the circles I moved in in New York was not rewarded. And I don’t, in general, now feel more privileged as a married woman. The opposite – I now think that the few people in my life who think there is anything different about my married state than my single state have burdened me with a very specific set of goals that I now need to live up to. I know that’s not at all the case in all communities, but I can’t write from outside my life experience.

            I’ve already written extensively about the legal privileges of marriage, and how I think they need to be extended to everyone. So that’s been covered. How do I fight for that? I write. I talk to people in my life. I march. I give money. So that, I think, we’ve discussed.

          • meg

            Oh, and go read Sarah’s wedding graduate (Part II) post about feminism and weddings. As a formerly queer identified woman, she makes some eloquent points about why, she eventually decided, weddings were an important thing to celebrate.

        • Tricia

          Some of the financial privilege is unavoidable because there are economies to two people sharing living space, cookware, cooking, vacations and life in general. I can see two ways one could make this ‘fair.’ The first I consider unacceptable which would be to penalize married couples to bring them down to the level of singles. The second is for singles to work together to their joint financial benefit. Have a roommate. Cook together. Share work. Give each other advice. Look after each other’s health. Take care of each other. These are the behaviors that often give married couples an advantage, but they are not only not limited to heterosexual relationships, they are not limited to sexual relationships. You can do a great deal of this (and reap the benefits) with your friends. However, the commitment involved in marriage makes this more possible and had benefits of its own. I don’t think it will be possible to benefit as strongly in the absence of strong commitment, something most people do not have with their friend (although some people do get this kind of support from family and extended family, a system that modern patterns of moving is largely disrupting).

          • sarah

            Clearly a heated topic! I think that discussions like this are precisely why we need to “reclaim wife” – because in society there are certain expectations and automatic thoughts that occur when we find out that someone is married/getting married, or for that matter, single…. so in the same way that being a “wife” can be deemed a “privileged” state, it is also one that is fraught with complications for modern, intelligent women in today’s society – whether we feel looked down upon as caretakers in competitive career fields, or wonder why we didn’t get taken as seriously in the “congratulations” department when we were single… as if this one achievement defines us – but society doesn’t realize that there are so many OTHER achievements that equally define us (i.e. graduating school, getting a promotion, having your dissertation conferred, publishing an important article, etc etc) besides having found “that person”…

          • CK

            These are compelling points,Tricia, but they all seem targeted at what singles can do to improve their situation — and I’m interested in what couples can do. That’s why I think this topic is relevant to APW or RW. This seems comparable to when my students study marriage equality: we always talk about how marriage equality is not a “gay” v “straight” issue — in fact, there has to be an alignment between the two communities (one that is privileged, the other that is oppressed) in order for it to succeed. The straight community has to get behind the issue of marriage equality in order for it to succeed, even if they think it doesn’t affect them. Similarly, the married community has to recognize its own privilege in order to change it and make the world a more just place for singles. I don’t know where your information on single women’s pay earnings is from — everything I’ve read on the issue has been to the contrary; single people, and single women in particular, are more economically disadvantaged than their married counterparts. Again, I would check out in order to get more info on this if you’re interested. I also think suggesting that single people should just try to “couple up” but in different ways is an answer that can only go so far; personally, I think that’s the equivalent to proposing civil unions or domestic partnerships as a solution to marriage equality.

      • Sarah Beth

        I find it interesting that people sometimes choose not to wear a wedding band because they don’t want people making assumptions and judgments.

        I *want* people to make certain assumptions about me because of my engagement ring. Namely, 1) Don’t hit on me. 2) I’m in a committed relationship. 3) No, I won’t go out with you. 4) No, I won’t hook up with you. 5) Leave me the #@%^ alone! Can’t you see the ring?!
        (Interestingly enough, I don’t think I’d ever been hit on before we got engaged. What’s up with that?)

        Unfortunately, my engagement ring isn’t flashy enough to be noticed. No one EVER notices it, until I say the word “fiance” or “engaged”, which I think secretly bothers my guy. He’s made several remarks about “no one ever asks to see your ring”, etc. which makes me sad and angry at the same time. I think it’s beautiful, and it frustrates me that people dismiss it because it’s “such a small diamond”.
        So you can bet I will wear a wedding band, and it will be the flashiest thing our conscience/taste/budget will allow. :) I want people to know that I’m married at a glance; their misconceptions about me are *their* mistakes, and they won’t keep me from being the exact sort of woman/partner/wife I want to be.

        I understand that there are less shallow reasons and more weighty judgments that make men and women choose to forgo wedding rings, but I’ve just never felt that way.

        • Sarah Beth – I think it really depends a lot on the context one is in. For the most part, I don’t think twice about wearing my ring, but I’ve quickly realized since getting engaged that there are definitely places/situation where a ring can be the determinant as to whether or not people take me seriously.

          For example, I’ve found I’ll be treated MUCH better at high end department stores (especially if I’m dressed down and sans makeup whilst shopping) if the salesperson notices my ring. On the other hand, when I did my tour of prospective grad schools this past spring, I definitely felt like there were times when I was taken less seriously as a scholar because I was engaged (and apparently was expected to have a head full of WIC-marshmallow-fluff instead of literary theory and, um, intelligent thoughts of my own). I think part of why this occurred is because I look younger than I am and my ring is a family heirloom of FH’s that’s a bit blingier than I’d personally prefer, but I also think in the academy there can definitely be a bias that if you choose to marry/start a family young, you are a less serious scholar than your unmarried peers.

          So… there’s that perspective. I totally agree that I love that the ring can save me from getting hit on when I’m out with girlfriends or on my own!

          • Oh! Also meant to say, yes other people’s assumptions are their own business, but unfortunately I do have to think about how those assumptions are going to affect whether or not they see me as employable, etc.

          • sarah

            i’m really interested/upset/surprised/shocked about this whole thing about how you are less competitive for jobs/less desirable for academic programs because you are engaged/married! i guess i honestly truly hadn’t thought about it at all, and it hadn’t even occurred to me. i applied for Masters programs last year, before I was officially engaged, but I was still in a serious committed relationship, and my soon-to-be fiance would have moved with me wherever i went. now that i just finished my first year of grad school, engaged the whole time, i am shocked to say that i never once even considered that my professors or peers might be judging me because i was engaged. i have not made it a secret that i want to go on to a PhD program, and i think i have been very successful in my program thus far, am highly respected by my teachers and peers, and have done very well in school. i never even thought about the fact that i should take my wedding/engagement ring off when i interview for PhD programs next year…. this is who i am, and i am confident in that fact. what are you going to say when a professor asks you, so what do you do in your free time, how do you engage in self-care? should i lie and say “i like reading” when really what i want to say is “i love hanging out with my husband and my 2 dogs”? and when they say, “how does your husband feel about moving for your school?” i would say with conviction, “he is very proud of me and completely supportive of my decision to pursue a doctoral degree.” which is entirely true! it just troubles me that some people might be judging that and it puzzles me that this never even occurred to me before, but obviously some people take it very seriously.

          • meg

            There is a long history of young married women being discriminated against in the job hiring process, because of the assumption that they may leave the workforce soon to have kids. Either making them A) Not a long term job candidate or B) Someone who would cause the company to shell out for maternity leave. Hence people taking off their rings in interviews.

  • Natalya Hopper

    You guys have brought up some great topics; Meg – thanks for asking. I’d like to hear more about step-families and becoming a step-mother (or having children from a previous marriage and re-marrying). In less than two weeks (!) I’ll become the step-mum of an eight year-old British boy. We get on really well most of the time, save for some minor issues. His mother lives nearby and she is always polite to my face but occasionally says not-so-nice things about me to her son. Of course this annoys my soon-to-be husband and it’s not the only issue we’ve run into with her thus far (we have different opinions about discipline). As much as I love my step-son, I can see that it is going to be a challenging situation at times. I’d be interested in hearing from others who became step-parents, how they adjusted to it and what rewards/challenges they encountered.

    I second the talks about money as I just finished grad school and have substantial debt. With his business, house and a kid he’s borderline in trouble too and it can be worrisome.

    I think others mentioned the concept of combining households, which I would also be interested in. I’m moving 4,000 miles away to join him in the UK so I can’t bring the majority of my things. I feel comfortable at his flat but I’m very aware that it is HIS, and doesn’t contain very many of my things. Yet.

  • Annon

    Okay, I’ll be the voice of sadness on here, but I would like to talk about betrayal. I’m fairly recently married, and shortly after the wedding, my husband did something that really hurt my feelings. Something that feels like betrayal. Small case betrayal – I’m not talking cheating or big lies or terrible things. I’m talking about my husband doing something he shouldn’t have, and how crushed I felt when I discovered it. I want someone to talk about what it feels like when the person you loves falls off the pedestal. About forgiveness. About knowing that you are married and the requirement of forgiveness is built right in to your vows, and how that doesn’t make it easier. About how we let each other down, and about how marriage is a vow to stay and forgive and make better. About fighting fair at these times. I want to know that others face the darkness and also emerge unbroken.

    • Ashley

      I’d like to see more about this, too. So often on APW we discuss the virtues of marriage, the joy, the unity. But what about the relationship struggles? A commenter above mentioned wanting to discuss the nature of love- is it a verb or a feeling? I’m sure I practically broke the “Exactly” button after I read that one. How do we handle it when “to love” feels like “to work?”

      I’m marrying my boyfriend of seven years next weekend, and I am (sometimes painfully) aware of the challenges in our relationship. I am confident that I’m marrying my best friend, but does that make for a good marriage partnership? Time will tell, I guess.

      Part of the process for me has been to re-examine my expectations for what a relationship/marriage should look like. Where are these expectations coming from? Often, I realize that when I stop expecting my relationship to look like what I think it should look like (based on expectations that stem from family and cultural pressures,) then I can step back and let it be what it is. And usually I’m fine with what it is.

    • Marina

      I’ve dealt with that, although before the wedding. I think the main thing for me was coming up with a plan to make sure it didn’t happen again. Not the empty promise “I feel so bad I’m sure it’ll never happen” kind of plan, but really looking at why it happened, what your expectations are, what are the root needs of your expectations, and how to make it easier for it to not happen than for it to happen again. If that makes sense.

      I don’t know the particulars of your situation, but I think a big step for me was moving past the thought of “How could you do this to me, you must be thoughtless/selfish/cruel/not in love with me.” That was not a helpful thought. Once I was able to move past the blame game into figuring out what my needs were and how I could better communicate them, it was easier. Not easy, but easier. ;)

      • I think this would make a really interesting topic. So often on wedding and marriage blogs you read about all the fun and joyous parts…and I think for some people all that anticipation and buildup and excitement can lead to a long way to fall when the nitty gritty of marriage starts to happen….when the luster of the wedding dulls and the mundane sets in and possibly there are bumpy roads and really hard moments to live through….about how I hope that the security I will have in marriage…in having made that life commitment…will make it so we can lean on each other knowing we’ve made a promise to work through this. And…if I may be sort of a downer….if this is really a marriage blog and not just a wedding blog….maybe someone needs to address the idea that sometimes things don’t work…and how do you know?

    • Jess

      Annon – I’m glad that you posted this, because I was trying to find the words to say just the same thing.

      I am deeply in love, with my husband, but he and I have not had the marital bliss either of us expected in the past 8 months as husband and wife. We have disappointed each other. We have been downright mean to each other. And we’re both pretty broken over it. We are getting help and we are slowly working to forgive each other for our mistakes – harsh words, failure to trust that we had each others best interest at heart. We basically forgot that we are on the same team and when troubles arose, we both protected ourselves instead of acting in the interest of our new “baby family.”

      And it feels like sh*t to admit this.

      I’d love to hear if anyone else has struggled through this and how they are dealing with/moving forward from it.

  • Kim

    Meg, this is great! Thank you for making your blog such a welcoming community.

    I agree with Annon above. :)

    Also, I’m engaged to be married in July but I still find myself having these crazy crushes on people. (Non-celebrity people who are real people in my life.) It’s fine for now because my fiance and I talk through a lot of this stuff. (And by “stuff” I mean what is probably my unconscious anxiety/ nervousness about our upcoming wedding). But I know so many married people whose harmless crush turns into something more, basically because it’s only natural that we click well with other people aside from our spouse. That’s a scary thought for me. It’s scary to know that it could be ME who is the hurtful person in the relationship.

    PS – Thanks for checking out my blog yesterday. You made my day. :)

  • Ripley

    I’d like to talk about post-marriage changes. Big ones. Things where what you got isn’t what you thought you were getting into.

    Things like going into marriage monogamously and then having the discussion about opening things up and how important it is to your partner…years down the road.

    Things like going into marriage with the expressed intention of having kids together…and then listening to your partner, the guy who had five kids already when you married him, slide into a state of not wanting any more kids, to the point where you eventually agreed to a vasectomy because you knew he wasn’t ever going to change his mind.

    Things like dropping out of college to move to your partner’s state with the expressed intention of going back as soon as possible to finish and his expressed intention of support…only to find out that there will never BE a “right time” in his mind. Taking the opportunity YOU find and struggling to make things work out and wondering where he changed his mind about supporting your dreams.

    Things like watching the partner who was a good parent when you met him slip into lethargy and neglect, trying to pull himself out of the slump and do right by his kids although you know his heart’s not in it.

    Things like waking up one day after a period of increasing disquiet and realizing that all the things you thought you could and had successfully compromised on were actually slowly killing your soul to the point where you had to shake everything up to have a chance of reclaiming your marriage as a true partnership, trying after ten years of established codependency to grow up, stand up, and love each other as peers…trying to explain your changes to your partner. Exploring what each of you can give up and trying to determine if you have enough common ground left to make things truly work.

    I’d like to talk about these things. I don’t have them sorted out by a long shot. I’d be happy to share what I can.

    I’m also happy to share my experiences as a stepmom. I’ve made mistakes and done (and not done) things I truly and deeply regret, but my relationships with my stepkids are one of my proudest accomplishments. I love them all dearly and am honored by their love for me.

    • Liz

      Ripley, I would REALLY love to hear more from you about this topic. This is exactly the kind of thing that I am terrified will happen and I have no idea how I would deal with it. I know that I (and I imagine many people here) think of marriage as something that can succeed and blossom with work, even through crappy times. But if working at it ends up not being enough…well, where does that leave me?

  • Well, as someone who’s about to do the “My husbands in law school” thing, that would be good – as well as “What the heck am I doing binding myself to another human being?” and “I’m a feminist career woman who never considered marriage and here I am getting married.” or how about “I always thought I would marry a girl & now I’m not.”

    Finances are always good, how to not enable each others bad habits (we both like a LOT of ice cream,) deciding who gets to go to grad school first, big decision talks, life mapping…

    • liz

      the ice cream.

      oh, the ice cream.

  • Kate

    Religion, religion, religion!

    I’m a progressive Catholic in love with an atheist, and we’re not engaged but talking marriage. He is ok with me raising kids Catholic. I struggle with a few things:

    – celebrating milestones in a way that would feel authentic to both of us–i.e. not a baptism in a church where he’s standing there faking it
    – Teaching kids religion: tough. Teaching kids religion when you’re building a faith community from the ground up (as many progressive Catholics are these days) and without the support of your partner: incredibly tough?

    Anyone else in a similar situation?


      I am. My boyfriend of four years was raised Catholic and now considers himself sort of non-papist Catholic with occasional bouts of agnosticism. I was raised Baptist and am now agnostic, and nonreligious. We have had many talks about what we’d do with kids. He wants to raise them in the church, and I’m basically OK with that. He doesn’t expect me to participate all the time if I don’t want to. But he does ask me “What will you say if our (future, hypothetical) 5-year-old comes to you and asks you if God is real?” and I say “I’ll tell her the truth: I don’t know.” There are other issues, such as he wants to have baby baptized in the Catholic tradition, and I am basically against it. I expect to have lots of talks over our life about these kinds of things, and I hope we will always respect each other and think about what’s best for the children, and I’m sure he’ll give in to me when I feel strongly and he doesn’t, and vice versa. But it is a tricky thing. I was always told that you should marry someone with the same spiritual beliefs as yourself, but what do you do when you both have kinda sorta spiritual beliefs and aren’t 100 percent sure on anything?

    • Marina

      I am not in this situation with my partner, but as an agnostic have taken part in many religious ceremonies in my life where I wasn’t exactly 100% on board, and I didn’t/don’t feel like I was “faking it”. I think there’s a middle ground where you can be there as a support to someone you love who believes, and be there 100% for THEM even if you’re not 100% there for the religion.

      • Kate

        Leigh Anne, exactly! Sometimes I wish my own beliefs were more firm. I could see myself either giving up on the Catholic Church and becoming a Unitarian in ten years, or having kids and really missing the familiar, if patriarchal scene and going back to it. In some ways, both would be easier, at least from a raising kids perspective. But neither is where I am right now!

        Marina, thanks for your take on this. It makes me feel better. As someone who’s very involved in religious stuff I tend to feel that it’s no good if every single word of the ceremony isn’t acceptable to both of us (and I do have friends who have been able to pull off weddings, etc. like that, and won’t sing the words to a song if it calls God “King” or whatever.) It’s a good reminder to think about the macro-message of ceremonies and the macro-reason you’re there.

        Natalya, I sympathize. From everything I hear, having kids can either make people yearn for the way they were raised or push them further to what they really believe now–which would be the opposite in both my partner and yours’ case. Although yours already has the one kid–is your partner opposed to you taking him to church, or is it more the extended family?

        Such a relief to talk about this with you all.

        • Natalya Hopper

          Well my step-son goes to a typical public school in England, which is run by a church (I don’t understand how that works exactly). Once when his son said he believed in God, my partner commented to me later that he was being brainwashed at school. I found that a bit odd as there are plenty of other ways children are exposed to the concept of God, and really he still believes in Santa and the Easter Bunny, right? My partner hasn’t made it clear that he is opposed to me taking his son to church, he agrees that he should be allowed to make up his own mind. So I think he’d be okay with it but I worry more about his mother, who doesn’t particularly like me to begin with.

          Right now I am picking out a Psalm to be read at our wedding in a couple of weeks and I asked for my partner’s opinion knowing it wouldn’t mean quite the same thing to him as it would to me. Regardless he gave me an honest opinion on which one to use but since it’s “my realm” left the final decision up to me. Most of the people at the wedding aren’t very religious (meaning my friends) and my brother in law is even Hindu. I like having diversity, it makes it interesting and I hope my children will be educated about all the religions of the world.

    • Natalya Hopper

      I can relate. I’m a life-long Episcopalian. I go to church every Sunday and I read from my Irish Jesuit prayer book every night. My almost-husband was raised Scottish Mormon but he doesn’t consider himself to be religious at all now, but agnostic. We both respect one another’s beliefs and he joins me in church on Christmas Eve (I’m trying to get him to come on Easter too!). All that is fine but when it comes to raising children it brings up some issues. His son has expressed interest in coming to church with me but I don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to “brainwash” him (I find the Brits to be pretty un-religious so far). I’ve made it clear that I expect our future children to be baptized (his son isn’t) and I’d like to take them to church until they are old enough to decide for themselves (it’s a nice family activity). Although he says he’ll support me in this I wonder when it comes down to it how it will actually pan out?

    • Christine

      This is a HUGE issue for us.

      I was raised – and am still – a practicing Catholic. Pretty much every guy I’ve dated before my fiance has not only NOT been supportive of my faith, but has been downright mean/condescending about it. This was such an issue for me, that the day after our first date, I told him, “FYI, I’m raising my children Catholic. And whoever ends up raising them with me, WILL be supportive of that. Whether or not he’s Catholic, too. Parents have to be a unified front, and I’m not going to be undermined by my co-parent.”

      My fiance was raised Jewish, but was agnostic-bordering-on-atheism when we met. At heart, though, we have very similar spiritual beliefs, and – while he’s still uncomfortable with the concept of Jesus as the messiah – he believes in the existence of God. I find that his in-depth knowledge of Judaic history/old testament really just strengthens my own beliefs.

      Here are my “requirements”:
      -Must go to church with me every Sunday (has done this since the very beginning, and says he loves going for the meditative aspect…I didn’t want our future kids throwing, “why do I have to go if Daddy doesn’t?” in my face every week. eff that mess.)
      -He’s totally allowed to express his own doubts/concerns about faith to our children, but has to do it in a, “here is one way to look at things,” way. Luckily, that’s how he presents most of his opinions.

      I know I got lucky as far as the dual-religion business goes. But I’m still pretty nervous about the whole thing. And I’ve gotten some questions from his very.very.Jewish. family members which I don’t feel comfortable answering without consulting with him first. Especially because his grandmother (who was the one who saw to it that he and his siblings were given a strong Jewish upbringing) recently passed away, there’s a lot of guilt about doing what she would have wanted. It’s all tough stuff. For sure.

    • meg

      We came to our relationship as an interfaith couple. Because of that, and all the work I’ve done personally sorting through that and coming to decisions over that past five years, I have some pretty strong feelings on the subject. Because of that, and because I think issues of conversion and faith are so big that they deserve their own forum, I’ve traditionally stayed away from these subjects.

      I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve written strong provocative pieces about faith issues, and faith issues and relationships, but I feel like APW is not the venue for me to share those sorts of essays. They are things I like to talk about in the context of faith, first of all, and second of all, I’m not a blank slate on this, and that wouldn’t be helpful to many of you.

      So that’s me and where I’m coming from on that. Sometimes it’s helpful for me to point out what my boundaries for this blog actually are, personally :)

      • Kate

        What a tease! Are these provocative pieces published somewhere else that you might be willing to send us to? : )
        Or, while I completely understand that you’re not comfortable discussing your own faith decisions–I was kind of getting that from reading the archives–does that rule out an open thread on interfaith relationships, or a guest post from someone else? Hearing from the women who make up this community and have been shaped by your guidelines on discourse so far is always thought-provoking and helpful, no matter what the topic.
        Though, if it’s just not something you feel equipped to moderate the comments on, I completely understand . . . maybe I need to start my own blog : )

      • liz

        religion is some tricky ish.

  • First, I would like to veto the posts on how to buy a house. Yes, traditionally, this is something that married people do. But, not ALL married people do this, or even WANT to do this. It would be more interesting to spin it into a convo about compromising and working together towards a common goal. But, escrow and banks and mortgages and blah, blah, blah. No thank you.

    Second, let’s talk about The Five Love Languages. This is a book by Gary Chapman that my husband and I started reading this weekend. It has slight Christian undertones, which I understand are not for everyone, but, it has really great ideas about how we receive love (physical touch, gifts, acts of service…etc) and how we can give love better to our partners. It really opened our eyes and helped us express our love to each other in different and more constructive ways.

    • Kayakgirl73

      I loved the Five Love Languages. Very helpful and interesting since my husband and I speak different love languages.

    • MinnaBryn

      My FH and I both read that book after a recently married friend recommend it. We’ve talked over it with several people who know both of us but we still don’t know what our languages are. Not knowing which category we fall into has made us both work harder to meet each other’s needs on as many of the languages we can. It’s helped us consciously treat each other better and think daily about not taking each other for granted. For us, that’s probably worked better than thinking that x or y language will fulfill all our needs.

  • Claire

    I’m interested in discussing navigating marriage with both partners’ fathers deceased. My fiance and I both lost our fathers as teens, and left our Mothers to raise us alone, with some help from extended family/the community. (I might add they both did stellar jobs!) But I wonder how it will work without close marriages to look to for guidance/advice/as role models. I haven’t thought about this much – I’ve mostly been focused on how to make it through the wedding day without my Dad – but this post and the comments made me realize that moving forward into our marriage without our Dads is going to be tough at times. Has anyone else had experience with this? Did someone else (perhaps unexpectedly?) stand up in their place (not on the wedding day, but the days after)?

    • Alex

      Having planned a wedding and gotten married without my mother, who died 7 years ago, your post spoke to me. I’m afraid I don’t have much encouraging to say–it’s really f*cking hard, and will remain so as you start to negotiate the next phase of your lives without the benefit of someone you look up to. At our wedding, we left a chair empty for my mother, and placed a corsage in it. We also acknowledged her in the ceremony. But yes, now that the milestone of getting married without her is passed, there are more to look forward to. We talk off and on about children, and I ache with wanted to ask her questions. My parent’s marriage was messy, so I don’t feel I can turn to memories of them for guidance. But I do find that I gravitate towards friends who are in really wonderful, long-term relationships. We are friends with some wonderful couples, some of them married and some of them not (some of them gay), who really inspire me with the way they handle their lives together. Knowing these people helped me get over my fears about marriage, and now help me negotiate some of my concerns about the future.

  • redfrizzz

    i’d like to talk more about finances, division of labor (house and ‘professional’) and particularly about religious households- how partners compromise between differences, how to approach a wedding, a family, and how to incorporate and deal with one’s own family when embarking on a (what’s the word??) inter-religious partnership…

  • Ash

    *Newly Engaged Over Here*

    Please talk about long term (years)”Co-habituating” (sort of hate that label) and how that effects navigating the venture into marriage.

    Also FINANCES. It is understood that I will lead with the money, because that is a strength. I know this will be a cause of friction. We have different habits……. Insight please.

    How to integrate your families. To what extent this is necessary. How to make this comfortable in the wedding process.

    What goals and things to absolutely be clear and certain on before getting married?


    • Ash

      Also geography. My fiancé is very connected to where we live. I would prefer to not settle here…..
      uh oh my issues are sounding like BIG ISSUES. Time to get them out on the table. huh?

      • Ash

        I just knew I was going to reply a million times over. So also. I have more familial baggage than he does. Dealing with Daddy issues and Mama issues, at that, as much as possible before the marriage and during would be a helpful subject to me. ( Look at me-all No Holds Barred) I can not be the only one. Right?

        • Ash

          Annnnnd. How to develop that thick skin in terms of your decisions and life together. I’m feeling so sensitive and judged by everyone.

          • Ash

            Foster parenting is something that has always been in the back of my mind……Add this to the Adoption discussion, will you?

  • BJ

    In-law integration. My husband’s brother and I didn’t get along the first time we met and in fact he broke off contact with my husband because of it. Eventually, through much hard work we repaired the relationship, though my fiance (now husband) and I have had other minor hiccups with him along the way.

    Unfortunately, I find that I don’t trust his brother and am paranoid that he’ll find something else to get riled up about. At our wedding (about a week ago) he got really drunk, hung his hand on my shoulder and said “You’re family now” and “I have a sister.” I think he was sincere but I felt repelled. Am I obligated to trust him? I’m an only child and while on the one hand I could be excited to have a sibling now, instead I feel kinda weird.

    Similarly, how much skepticism or questioning of your spouse’s parents is ok? We’re a new family now and our primary loyalty is to each other, not to our families of origin. We each walk a fine line of poking fun at each other’s parents, but I want to make sure I don’t go so far that he’ll start feeling defensive of them (or vice versa).

  • I’m curious about learning to fit into a new family (in-laws) dynamic while still staying yourself. My family is quite warm and open, and have made an effort to make my fiance feel welcome since they first met him, which has paid off. We both love spending time with my family. I’m quite fond of both of his parents (divorced), though I do feel like it’s always “work” when we visit. His sister is always cordial, but she’s a very protective big sister and is slow to warm to people. Since we live halfway around the world, I haven’t been able to spend too much time with his family (though luckily they do all live in the same city, which makes things easy). I guess I’m looking for any advice about how to help his family feel like my family, too, all while staying true to who I am.

    • liz

      this sucks- but they may never.

      i have a big, warm, loud italian family on my mom’s side. and a chillier, stoic german family on my dad’s side. and even now, after 25 years of marriage, it’s all strained politeness and formal cordiality when my mom visits my dad’s family. that’s just the dynamic of some families.

      maybe i’m wrong. the other apw girls can kick my ass if i am.

      • FM

        I think gaining in-laws is possibly the weirdest thing about marriage. Luckily I like mine a lot…but you know, they just do life differently than my family of origin.

      • Margaret

        @Liz: “this sucks- but they may never.”

        Yeah, in my experience, this is pretty true (talking about my mom’s side vs. dad’s side, specifically). There is ebb and flow in feeling connected w/certain members (babies and weddings being too good points to draw everyone together), but some families just have a different family culture, a different way of relating.

        That said, I’ve noticed when it comes to my future in-laws, the more time we spend with them (we live out of state), the closer I feel. I also tend to be VERY shy, so it takes a while before I feel close to someone/another family.

  • Jessie

    Something I would love to hear about from ladies (and guys!) that are a few years further down the road is about career expectations, especially early on.

    We are both in the early stages of our chosen careers, and balancing the needs of our respective fields has been giving me a lot of stress lately. My job, at least at this point, requires me to move around a lot for the next couple years (mostly to big, expensive cities). He is a math teacher and is also just starting out, but has a bit more flexibility since you can teach anywhere.

    I don’t want to compromise my future career by keeping myself in one place, but I also don’t want to have a long distance engagement if I can help it. We’ve been doing distance for a while now, and we can’t wait to experience this awesome time in the same zip code for once. He is absolutely on board with moving around with me, but I feel kind of uncomfortable having him”follow” me just so we can stay close. That just seems unfair, especially since young women are told not to follow a man and to be independent and pursue their careers before family.

    How can I be ok with him following me, when I would feel like a totally selfish hypocrite? And even though it’s possible, it’s probably not the wisest choice for him to bounce around from city to city this early on in his career and I want to be sensitive to that too. So we are struggling with how to make the geographic and career issues work, while also trying to start our life together and have a balanced partnership.

    This is the stuff they don’t (but should!) teach in college!

    • Alison

      Jessie, the man and I have lived apart for a long time. He was in the Peace Corps while I was in Graduate Shcool. That was hard. Him being in Africa while I was doing the hardest, most emotionally draining activity EVER was really hard. And now we’re in the same place you are. He’s a teacher and I can only do my job in a few places in the country and so he has to follow me. I can be OK with that because he’s OK with that. I know he’s always known this was how my career would go and he has chosen to be with me and to be dragged to a place he would never have thought about living. I was really clear early on that this was how it would be, and now I have to respect his choice and not take too much on myself in the guilt department.

      He is a teacher, but not working as one, because he still hasn’t found a teaching job here after 2.5 years. He took a job a few hours drive from here for a school year in the middle of those 2.5 years and we tried to see each other over the weekends, but we weren’t happy with that. I say a little prayer every day that he’ll find a teaching job next year and include a little prayer for some self-forgiveness that I’ve brought him to a place where my career is the only one really prospering.

      For me, it’s about respect. Respecting his choice to be with me and respecting his ability to speak up when he’s had enough and we need to make a change.

      • Jessie

        Respect. Yes, absolutely. I think that is key, and I’m so happy we have that and are working towards strengthening it.

        I guess I just worry that once we make some definite choices, and if they happen to not work out so great for one of us, that resentment will start to grow. Planning to be honest about our individual needs as they arise, and then actually responding to them seems like two different things. This might be the pessimistic view, but it seems like it would be easy to feel bitter if you get the short end of the compromise stick.

        I don’t want to look back with regret, and I don’t want him to either. Of course I hope this doesn’t happen, and I tell myself it won’t, but the thoughts are there. That’s the hard part — getting rid of the doubt.

        • Marina

          The nice thing about decisions is that most of them you can make multiple times. If one of you starts feeling resentful, then make a new decision that fits both your needs. He can follow you right now, and if in the future he finds a job he really wants to stick with and not move anymore, then you can decide again whether he’ll follow you or you’ll follow him or you’ll live separately for a little while, or maybe they will have invented instantaneous travel by then, you never know!

  • TLVBride

    Cross-cultural, multi-national marriages. My fiance and I have been together for over 5.5 years and 4 years ago I made the decision to move to the other side of the world to be with him. At the time I was still young and excited about the adventure, now the adventure starts to feel a bit old from time to time. I love him, I love us, but sometimes I have this horrible feeling that someday I’m just going to be completely done with living in a foreign country and I’ll give him the ultimatum of “me or your homeland”. Or we’ll move back to the States and he’ll do the same to me. We have talked a lot about these issues, but you can’t predict the future and that big question mark in the distance terrifies me. Our decision to get married came with the understanding that these challenges exist but we are ready and willing to work through them because we love each other, but still, it’s really scary. I would love to hear from people who are in the same boat – engaged to ex-pats, married to ex-pats, ex-pats living abroad who are engaged or married. How have you handled these enormous questions?

    And, on a similar note, how do you handle the cultural differences? We’re having two weddings – one in the US and one in Israel (where we live now) – when I explained that people give gifts and not money for the wedding he was floored and flabbergasted. For me, I’m somewhat dreading the reaction my parents will have to our celebration in Israel because it will be so different and foreign to them and I’m not sure they’ll like it. And that’s just the wedding! He’s a socialist kibbutznik who grew up in the desert and I’m a nice Jewish American city girl. Usually we’re on the same page, but sometimes we’re very much not. Maybe its not so different from any other marriage, but in any case I’d really like to hear from folks who are/have been there. Raising kids? Family traditions? Political/worldviews? Finances? How do you find a balance when you come from such different places?

    • Natalya Hopper

      My almost husband is Scottish and I’m from the Southern US so our cultural differences may not be as drastic as you’re describing but we do encounter them. Particularly within the context of wedding planning. But it’s my first wedding, and it isn’t his so I’ve gotten to make most of the calls. Plus we are getting married here in the US and we’ll have a big party in the UK when I get my visa.

      I can attest to the issue of where to live. Since he has a son from a previous marriage it wasn’t really an option for him to move here without leaving his son, or separating him from his mother. Nevermind, I’ve always wanted to live in the UK so that was okay with me. On the other hand, I am VERY attached to where I come from/live now and I’m very sad about moving far away, even if it will be worth it. We came up with a compromise ages ago, that we would move back to the States after his son finishes school in about 8-10 years. My grandfather has already set us aside some land for us to settle on and we often dream together about fixing up an old farmhouse on land very near to where my great-grandmother grew up. Knowing that I won’t have to live in urban England for the rest of my life makes it a little easier to move away in the first place. (well, I haven’t left yet so ask me again in 6 months when I’m missing the mountains, my parents and my grandparents).

      So good luck with everything!

  • NRM

    Life and career-mapping please! How to reconcile being a career-driven woman moving across the country for a long-term partner? Balancing who does their MA/PhD/LLB first if you don’t get into schools in the same city? Choosing what is best for your relationship over what is best for your career?

    I’m in my early 20s and I find the whole process terrifying. What if 10 years from now, I’m no longer with this person. Will I regret my decisions?

    • Jessie

      I could not “exactly” this enough.

      I think finding the balance between creating a rewarding personal life and a successful career life is absolutely the scariest thing about the future. How do I know what the right choices are? How do we keep the relationship first priority without compromising our individual goals?

      • NRM

        What I find most frustrating about this process is that everyone around me (coworkers, friends, family, professors) second-guess our decisions. I’ve learned to say “I was offered a great job” when asked why I moved to City X. The truth is I moved to City X because of my partner, and found a great job. But there is a big career risk implied in the latter statement. A professor (who did her BA, MA and PhD in the same province) warned me quite strongly not to make education/career decisions based on my partner. Some of the response has to do with age (I’m in my early 20s). Some of it has to do with expectations based on my personality (ambitious and high achieving).

        For myself, I feel like the best thing we can do is be honest in our education and career needs with our partners. Will you need to move every few years? Will you need to live abroad? Are you limited to one state/province/country?

        • Jessie

          I’m in a bit of a reverse situation in that I am staying in my city for the time being because my guy has two more years left on his Army reserves contract. When he’s done we’ll probably be moving to whatever city I decide to work/go to grad school in, which is very possibly overseas. That’s sort of the deal we’ve struck for now — I stay for a bit, then he follows for a bit. There are definitely jobs and opportunities I could take now in other cities, and he is understanding and open to me doing that, but I feel really uneasy about leaving right before we are about to get engaged.

          I want to share that time with him, so I’VE decided to stay. This choice is horrifying to people and a lot of older people and mentors warn me against it, saying I shouldn’t do anything because of “some boy”. These are often people whose advice I seek and respect, so it really makes me wonder if I’m doing this all wrong, or if the cultural expectations about young women are just messed up.

          Being young in a liberal academic world makes it hard to be taken seriously when it involves significant others and weddings. I don’t tell people I’m planning on getting married relatively soon because I hear “But you’re so young, what’s the rush?” or “What a waste!” or “You’ll ruin your career” literally every time. Just because I want to get married doesn’t make me less smart or driven or feminist. I am still all of those things!

          I agree, NRM — being a talented and ambitious early 20-something comes with huge cultural expectation. We are not supposed to choose relationships over careers. And yet, for some reason, it’s ok for a girl who doesn’t aim high or isn’t seen as having as much potential (whatever that means) to get married right out of college. I recently graduated and have a ton of awesome stuff happening right now with work, but people act like that will all disappear once I put on a ring. Why does getting married young mean I must give up a career? Why do people assume that young brides are unintelligent or that they buy into traditional gender stereotypes?

          I can’t change that I met my partner while I was young and not 5, 8, or 10 years down the road, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up all the goals I have. I feel blessed to have a partner that supports my dreams and wants to help make them happen, even if it takes a lot of extra coordination.

          (Sorry that was so long…clearly, this is something I have an opinion about!)

  • Jo

    I think I’m in the minority (pre-engaged) camp here, but I’d like to hear about compromise and dreams. Did getting married mean you had to compromise on your life-long dreams? Lauren over at Suburbalicious Living had a good post about this:

    I have (and my family has) always loved to travel and explore new countries and cultures, and I consider it to be a really important part of who I am. My significant other really doesn’t give a hoot about travel. His idea of a great vacation is sitting by the beach or pool for a week. That would bore me to tears.

    I love him and he’s a great guy, but my reoccurring fear is that if I marry him, I’ll never get to realize my dream of taking time off to traipse around the world before settling down to have kids.

    • Chelsea

      Had to put my two cents in on this, since I love both traveling to far-off distant lands sitting on the beach with a book… I’ve recently realized (as in, while planning our honeymoon) that I think there is a difference between “travel” and “vacation.” To me, travel is about exploring, seeing and learning as much as possible, expanding horizons, etc. A vacation is about unwinding and escaping the pressure to do anything that you don’t want to do in that moment. They can overlap, but don’t have to. So, we’re taking a “vacation” for or honeymoon, but making plans to travel as soon as possible. Maybe treating them as two completely separate types of trips would help you guys find a way to meet both of your needs.

    • Julianna

      travel compatibility was one of my guy’s big prerequisites in a relationship, and so it was really important for him that we took several trips together before he could really picture a long-term path together. We do have fairly similar travel styles, but it still took some discussions before, during, and after trips to hash out the differences and learn to both verbalize our own needs (“I really cannot handle exploring for 3 more hours before dinner, the jet lag has my body clock off and I need to eat within the next 45 minutes”) and to respect the other person’s preferences and learn to compromise (“I am fine going to see X, Y, Z on the 3rd day if I can have the 2nd day to chillax on the beach” or even “if we do a beach spot this year, can we do an urban spot next year?”).

      We do also have a family friend whose partner is totally not into traveling at all, and so she comes and travels with other like-minded friends instead. So that might be another thing to consider – just because he doesn’t want to join you may not necessarily mean you don’t get to go (although I can understand why that may not be ideal).

      I know that doesn’t quite address your question, but I just wanted to say I totally understand why it is a big issue/concern for you. I’m sure there are other types of dreams/passions other people have to negotiate but travel was high on our list, too.

    • jolynn

      (There are a whole lot of pre-engageds around. And post marrieds. It’s a whole lotta fun!)

  • Alora

    The hard stuff. The stuff life throws at you just when you think everything is going ok. Illness, death, money, insurance, family, the ability to go with the flow and keep your relationship in tact ( even if your partner has trouble going with that flow). I had a chronic/potentially terminal illness, as does my sibling, that my mother passed away from. So many of our “issues” stem from this aspect of my background. In the 3 months we planned our wedding in we also lost 3 of our close relatives (grandfather, cousin, father) which put us into the “just cope and move on” mode. I would LOVE a post on loving through loss. How to support one another through worst case scenarios. How to keep life & love beautiful when the outside world gets ugly. At some point or another we will all go through a loss of some kind and yet finding intelligent writing on the topic seems to be near impossible for me.

    Side note: I am a first time poster and long time lurker and I want to thank you Meg. Thank you for having the discussions that are intelligent, and challenging. Thank you for reaching for the voices that are too rarely heard and allowing them to be heard.

    • Alora

      oh! And how to navigate these minefields as a team instead of reverting back to your own, solo, methods.

  • Arden

    at 300+ posts I can’t guarantee that this hasn’t been covered already but… how about personal growth, change, and long-term committed relationships. I feel like the model we are so often given is that personal growth often means waking up to moving beyond a relationship, but what about waking up and moving forward through a relationship? How to communicate with and maintain intimacy with your partner in a way that nurtures change?

  • Alicia

    So many great things already brought up, and I don’t know if anyone will read this far, but to echo a few already written and add my 2 cents:

    Here’s a couple of things i’d love to talk about:

    1) emotions/practicalities surrounding legal vs “not legal” weddings.

    We already got married at a registry office in January because of timing determined by visa stuff and wanting to have legal crap out of the way and not deal with it on honeymoon (and save a pile of money) and are having a wedding in the US in a month. My family was really worried about this overshadowing our “real” wedding, how I’d feel about it, would it be anti-climactic etc (to the point where my dad didn’t want me to say anything to him about it).

    I was concerned about these things as well but so far it has felt like an awesome decision. I would be into writing about this or hearing from others. I know this is true for many for reasons of health insurance, same sex marriages, visas etc. I would also be interested to hear from others about how they then incorporated ceremonial aspects into the ceremony given the legal bit was already out of the way (we have some ideas involving a ketubah, I’ll let you know how it goes).

    The addenda to that is that we are also having another party in the UK in the summer and at my dad’s house in cali on boxing day – so another topic would be how to balance/get excited about so many wedding parties and keeping everyone happy and yourself sane (and solvent) through 4 (in our case) wedding ‘events’ of varying sizes.

    2) health stuff

    My partner has 2 pretty serious health conditions, neither one is fatal but there’s sometimes scary stuff about future surgeries, pain, ability to travel being limited (I’m a super big traveler). He hates it when I nag him about being health (although interestingly this has gotten easier since we’ve been engaged as he sort of accepts that it’s my ‘role’ more than he used to) but I really really don’t want him to get sick. He was in the hospital for about a week at one point and it really freaked me out, both for him and also for myself, as in will this be an on-going experience for us?

    How have others dealt with/are dealing with this?

    3) issues around relocating, especially to foreign countries… this has been covered a bit above

    Many thanks to Meg and all for inspiring and thought provoking posts as always.

    Now back to PhD writing (2 weeks to go) and wedding planning (1 month to go) – thank you all for your words of encouragement a few months ago…

  • Alex

    I would like to talk about not how people are dealing with the effects that being married has on all their relationships *besides* their relationship with their spouse. Do you find that people like co-workers and new acquaintances react differently to you now that you’re married? Does that stress you out? What about your single friends? Even though I’m 28, I ended up getting married before most of my friends–and I always expected I’d be the last one to get married. My friends are all rather cynical about marriage, as I used to be. I feel like my wedding and now the fact that I’m married and they’re not has put some strain on our relationships–anyone else feel that? It’s very painful to realize that your path has somehow diverged from those of your closest friends. How are people dealing with that?

    • Amanda

      I have felt a little that way since I started dating my now-fiance. In fact, I have made special efforts to NOT discuss my great relationship, how happy I am & our wedding plans with certain people in my life. I do this because it makes me sad to get the “oh, that’s nice” response, followed by an immediate topic-switch to their recent escapades. So now I actively go straight to their escapades stories, and keep my happiness to myself & share it with my fiance and my family. But I can’t help but wonder – was I that single, cynical girl once, also? (Probably I was, because I *just didn’t get it*? I suppose we can’t fault naivety?) So perhaps you can find other common ground to keep the friendships focused in, and hopefully once they are in a happy relationship, they’ll be begging to talk about weddings!

  • Jen

    I’m not engaged, but have learned a lot about relationships from APW, and feel that people here may have wise advice on something I’ve been thinking about in my relationship. How do you begin to talk about marriage with your partner? Before you decided to marry each other, what were some crucial things to discuss?

    I keep wanting to have this conversation with my boyfriend, yet get so tongue-tied and don’t know where to begin. I know this is fairly late in the thread, but I have enjoyed reading these and haven’t yet seen this.

    Thanks Meg, (and Team Practical) for this sane and brilliant community!

    • liz

      i think for many it happens organically. how long have you guys been dating?

  • Lady D

    You’ve probably stopped reading these comments by now, but I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days and I finally figured out what I wanted to say/talk about.

    While I really enjoy this website and I find that it really resonates with me in some ways, there is something lurking that I haven’t heard mentioned, that I would like to talk about.

    Where is the Reclaiming Husband site? This site is yet another example of how we (women) think and ponder, consider and assess, how to be good partners–better partners–for someone else. And how much time are our spouses thinking about it? How much time has my fiance spent thinking about what it means to become my husband? If I had to guess, I would say probably under twenty minutes. Our many, many discussions about our relationship, marriage, engagement, etc. usually end with him saying what we’re going to DO. Not what it’s going to be like, or how it’s going to be different.

    This site also worries me a bit. Because these discussions really makes it sound like being a Wife is your most life-defining role, but I’m not sure I want it to be. I don’t really want to be His Wife; I want to be Me, who is also married to Him. Sure, I think marriage will change us and I love that we are becoming more of a family unit. But I’m not sure that I want my whole existence to be Wife. How do you balance that? I want to be married. I want to be a team. I am not sure I want to be known and defined as His Wife. Can we talk about that?

    • liz

      hmm. i kind of always thought that was the point of “reclaiming wife.” that the societal expectation is that once a woman becomes a wife, that’s suddenly her identity: Wife. i feel we’re combatting that misconception that all of our other facets are lost and we are newly defined as “just a wife.”

      • meg

        Right. What Liz said. “I’m not sure I want my whole existence to be wife.” That’s why the site exists. Who the f*ck wants to be defined as just someone’s wife? Who wants that to be their crowning achievement? But here we are, and that’s what we are now, so we need to go ahead and reclaim the word already.

        As for reclaiming husband, I’m going to start with the obvious – I’m not a man, can’t write it. Then – I don’t think the word husband is anywhere near as loaded with awful baggage as the world wife is. And why not reclaiming marriage? Well. Like the tagline says, that was rejected as sounding homophobic. Besides, Reclaiming Wife sounds edgy, and I like that. Would I take posts from men? Heck yes. I’ve been pretty clear about that.

        Now it sounds to me like you need to go read the reclaiming wife archives already.