Life has been a whirlwind since I last posted here about having COVID together during the holidays (bleehhhh). Since then, business has been rockin’ and rollin’ at my day job – running The ADS Agency (marketing and branding firm here in Atlanta). I wrote the proposal that helped one of my fav organizations, Atlanta Black Chambers, win $200K to help small businesses thrive past COVID. For my own business, I won a smaller $10K grant called Backing Black Business via Meta (Facebook), Reimagine Mainstreet and more for black women entrepreneurs. Very cool! And recently, our little silky terrier dog, Millie, just turned one! In late Feb, I had a quick business trip to Charleston and in March, the hubby and I got to fly out to LA together (his hometown) and then he dropped me off in San Diego to go to my fav conference ever in life – Social Media Marketing World (tres, tres awesome).
We made it to half a year!
Before I knew it, I looked up and realized we just hit the half year milestone in marriage! That’s kind of a big deal for someone who’s been independent their whole adult life. For those who don’t know me, I’ll give you the quick and dirty synopsis to catch you up: I’ve had a lot of “close calls” at marriage, but never one that stuck until last year. Got engaged in my young 20s (really glad we shut that one down), again not so long ago in my mid-30s (a story for another day), a “bonus proposal” just before that last engagement (yet another story for another day – no it didn’t also turn into an engagement) and this past fall one finally made it down the aisle with me. All the while, I totally enjoyed my “single life,” the relationships along the way (which played a major role in shaping who I am, I believe), living it up in the corporate world and then starting my own biz. Got to travel the world a bit! That was pretty awesome.
So what does it feel like to go from being completely independent all that time to now being officially with someone? Always living with someone else under the same roof, being ultimately in some ways responsible for someone else’s wealth, health and happiness?
Here’s 6 Things I Learned in the First 6 Months of Marriage:
1. Living together brings on a whole new set of challenges.
When you’ve been independent as long as I have, you never really have to put up with anyone’s ish. Your boyfriend / partner / beaux / boo-thang / whatever you call them could come over whenever you want them to. You go out or stay in. At some point they leave. They’re a guest in your home. You can put up with a guest’s weird hygiene quirks and ways of doing things for a few days, easily. But forever?? This is where the rubber meets the road.
Merging your items
An independent woman already has a way of doing things that she likes. I’m not gonna say we’re “set in our ways” and can’t change, but the change is a harder adjustment in your 40s than it is in your young 20s. In my case, I had my own place before – it was a neat, tidy, small apartment. Everything was new. I took my 900 sq ft of stuff and tried to shove it into a 20-year old home with plenty of – let’s just call them – renovation projects in the future. His house was already filled to the brim with two decades worth of things. It was difficult to try to quickly sort out items that were duplicates that needed to be decided upon, items that could go to Goodwill, that should be thrown out, etc. It’s even MORE difficult when your partner was raised with the idea of “waste not, want not” (also a family value of mine, but that takes on a whole new meaning in today’s high-consumption-American-culture). These days, I far more value the idea of minimalism for the sake of breathing space. Not overbuying and having multiples of the same item laying all around the house because you can’t find the last one you bought. You get me?
So that was an adjustment and it’ll still be some time before things are in some new-meshed-up world together where my things are fully integrated with his things, but it’s much farther along than when we originally moved in together.
Chores: when two people are both full-time-working people, how do you divvy up who does what and what’s fair?
He’s an architect full time (plus he works plenty of side projects with a buddy of his) – so it’s like he’s got two jobs. That’s a lot of computer time and he’s often tired most weeknights. Figuring out each other’s schedules has been an elusive target – not gonna lie about that one – during this pandemic especially. At first, we were both home with each other all the time (bit of a hairy experience, to say the least). Once we felt like we were beginning to get used to that, then his new job had him come in 3 days a week: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. And so far, someone needs to be home with our dog Millie – at one year’s old and largely a pandemic pup, she’s not used to being at home by herself. She’s just never had to do it. So that presents a problem with someone, so far, always needing to be at home with her (something else for us to work on).
In any case, I work a full-time business all day, every day. He works a full time architect job (and extra). My business spills over into the evening and weekends sometimes. So does his. So with two very overworked people, how do we fit in the time for chores? It’s very difficult – but at the same time, I keep telling myself that we’re not so different from everyone else in America, right? Everyone else is working this hard too, mostly, right?
So far, we’ve decided on this layout:
- The dishes are his ministry. He pre-washes, loads the dishwasher. I run the dishwasher and put them away – with the exception of the nights when I know he’s extra tired from work. If I happen to have a little gas left in the tank, I might knock out the dishes for him.
- Laundry is my ministry. I wash, fold, hang and put away all the clothes. It is NOT his thing whatsoever. Sometimes he helps by putting up his own things. (SOME of the time). 🙂
- Garbage is his ministry. He takes it out every Wednesday – dragging the garbage and recycling bins up to the hill to the curb. I round up the upstairs garbage out of the bathrooms and my office and haul some recycling out sometimes.
- Groceries and cooking are 90% my ministry. My grocery bill and DoorDash spending has gone through the roof since I’ve moved in here (because feeding a big and tall, 6’6″, 300+ lb. football-esque guy costs way more than feeding my 5’5.5″, 140+ lb. self). Neither of us really feel like cooking at the end of the day (or during the day while we’re working and we both happen to be at home), but somebody has to do it because ordering out every day is fiscally horrendous.
- Fridge cleaning is his ministry. And by “cleaning,” I just mean throwing away the old stuff. He should, for sure, add on actually wiping down surfaces and such but that’s another request for another day.
- Taking the dog out is something we share when we’re both here. When he’s home alone, obviously it’s all on him and vice versa. His office is downstairs – which is where we let Millie out at. We bought her on a whim so we were not prepared to have a fence in the yard, etc., which we still don’t have (nor is the doggie door installed that I bought awhile back for her). With so many projects of higher importance in the house, those are things that have to wait in the queue. Until then, we’ve been taking turns letting her outside, which has gotten SO much better since when she was a little puppy, but it’s still a fairly daunting task. We probably let her out and in 10 times a day.
And there are many more chores I could name. Many we haven’t established who does what yet. Like the bathrooms (no one wants to do them – we pretty much handle it whenever it clearly can’t take it anymore), getting the mail, vacuuming, sweeping, etc. I know what you’re thinking – what about a maid service? We tried that just before the wedding. It was cool and mentally helpful, but honestly, nothing ever feels super clean while everything is in this renovation state, so I cut that off for awhile. We do have a landscaper who will come out and mow the lawn and trim the hedges, so that helps keeping the yard from looking like a random neighborhood jungle.
What I’ve learned about chores that matters most is this: it all boils down to values. What did your mom teach you when growing up? What’s “normal”? What was expected of you then and what are your expectations and standards now? Everyone’s seems to be different, and my hubby and I are no exception. So there has been a lot of conversation, negotiating, expectations-talking, etc. to sort all that out. Ongoing project!
2. Money hasn’t been an issue (yet) – and maybe it never will be?
They say 50% of American marriages end in divorce and the #1 reason for that is finances. Money. “Le root of all evil” so they say. Well, I think when you’re an independent woman, that’s one of the upsides of marriage. No one “needs” anything from anyone. And so far, for better or for worse, we haven’t comingled our money like that. We still have our own separate bank accounts. He handles his debts, bills and accounts and I handle mine. The two times we’ve come together so far to tag-team financial projects have been (1) the wedding and (2) trips. And with those, they’ve almost seemed to handle themselves. He falls in line with what he knows he can handle and so do I. We talk about it. But mostly we just handle it.
Guys I used to date in the past would tell me I never ask for anything. And my own hubby says that now. It’s true! I think that’s the hallmark of being truly independent. So that’s one habit that I think still works well in a marriage. Maybe at one point for kicks and giggles we’ll get some kind of joint account together – but so far, why mess with a good thing? Am I missing out on something? I’m waiting for the good arguments to roll in for merging money and getting a bunch of joint accounts together and everything being one big pot, etc. So far we haven’t felt that need or urge to do it.
3. Travel and family require real advanced planning.
My whole life, I’ve only had my family to be concerned about, plan for, play with, love, etc. It’s a whole new world to now have to consider someone else’s family for the first time – especially when they all live out of state. A lot of my family is out of state too, but to be fair, we’re all well within driving distance of each other. Most of us can get to each other inside of 1-2 hours, with the exception of our Florida people – which is more like 5 hours away. His family is in DC mostly. LA. Some are in NY. So he feels funny I think having my family activities be so accessible to us and yet it’s such a stretch and ordeal financially and time-wise to go see his.
So one thing I started doing was planning out our year of travel together. It was a fairly aggressive schedule, but it took into account everything that’s a possibility on the table for a full year – including conferences for work and Divine Nine orgs (he’s an Omega, I’m an AKA), our anniversary honeymoon (which we prayerfully will get to do this fall), the beach trip we always do with my family, etc. There was almost something to do every month this year – which was a lot for us! So far, our February trip didn’t happen, but the others have. So if we don’t get to do a trip – no biggie, it’s not the end of the world. But at least we have a good idea mapped out instead of not planning and trying to throw a trip together the month before (or worse, the month-of) – which was his typical MO before we officially got together.
4. Dealing with expectations as a married couple.
This is going to sound so duh-obvious to say, but there is a real difference between just being someone’s girlfriend and being their WIFE. A boyfriend / your man / partner / insert-whatever-you-want-here can be dismissed at any time and vice versa. As mentioned before in Point 1 above, they’re a guest in your home, not your family. Marriage makes them family. And no matter what anyone says, everyone has some kind of expectation of what a husband should do or what a wife should do in a marriage – and where those expectations misalign, there will be friction (i.e. pain, arguments, etc.).
I once heard a relationship expert say that you should throw all your expectations out the door for your spouse in order to be happy. I’m not sure I 100% agree with that sentiment, but I understood what he was getting at. There’s expectations, there’s the reality of the way your spouse actually is (their current character, behaviors, MO, etc.) and then somewhere – hopefully in the middle – is a compromise. Sometimes he may win out for his expectations. Sometimes I do. Sometimes, there’s no good compromise for quite some time – maybe there never will be – and maybe that’s the part that has to be let go. Either way, it’s all a negotiating act to be played and that, for an independent woman, is not always the easiest.
When we got sick with COVID together this past holiday season, I got sick first and he thought I was just being a “drama queen” and potentially a hypochondriac. To be fair, we’d both just had our 2nd boosters at the time so we were thinking what we initially felt was just booster side effects. But I took exception when by Day 4 those symptoms hadn’t gone away and he still thought I was being overly dramatic. So for a week, I was feeling positively miserable and getting no pampering-patient-treatment at home. By the next week, it started hitting him hard and he got all the benefits of Nurse Andrea. Kinda not fair, but I think the next time (God-willing that is far away), he’ll play a better nurse for me. That all goes back to expectations of what we think our spouse is supposed to do for us / with us, etc.
A misalignment of expectations can also lead to “friction” as I alluded to before: disagreements, arguments, etc. He’s never been in a relationship with a woman like me (Ms. Independent). My only experience with a guy like him was my last fiancé (again another story for another day – but chalk that ending up mostly to long distance). We still have “fighting fair” on our list of things to work on – which I also talked to Chantel Cohen about in our 3rd interview together (we talked a lot!) – but let me tell you, we are worlds better than we were when we first moved in together! Every expert I ever hear speak on this subject always advises this: that the only person you can ever really change is you. Demanding apologies doesn’t work – you have to learn to merely forgive and let that be the most you expect. And you also have to learn each other’s trigger points, when to give space, when to walk away from someone who’s being disrespectful out of anger (which is actually just a knee-jerk reaction to fear) – and to come back and speak to each other in a calm state, because people don’t think logically / rationally when they’re upset.
Ultimately, I’ve decided that what we create in our marriage is just going to be unlike what anyone else has. It’s not going to be like my grandparents, parents, aunts / uncles, and neither is it going to be like his parents or any other examples he has most likely. Bits of it will show up for us, for sure. But how we operate, what we need to do to make our lives work together, to be a support for each other and all those good things – that, I think, will be unique to us.
5. We both still need our space.
In a recent interview about relationships with ATL love expert Chantel Cohen, I was asked if I was an introvert or extrovert. I replied with my typical answer: an ambivert (which is a cross in between on the spectrum). Chantel informed me that the prevailing psychological theory is that there is no in between. It’s either intro or extro.
So by her definition, I’d have to say we’re both introverts then. We both enjoy hanging out with other people, but we gain our energy from our alone time – to have time to think without distraction, rest, etc. Even before we were officially married and lived together, my hubby would often be unreachable, he’d retreat to his home or elsewhere and I just wouldn’t hear from him for a couple days at a time. Didn’t bother me so much as I always had things to do myself and had no problem entertaining myself either. Now that we live together, I’ve learned more about what his real deal is. He will let his phone completely die – and I think he likes it when it does. He likes the ability to shut the world off (and that does include me sometimes!). In the pandemic, it’s been very abnormal since, for a lot of it, we were both home every day. That can be hard to be alone with each other like that for months on end – it’s like you never get a break from each other enough to miss them (like you would in a normal working environment where you two go off somewhere for most of the day and just come back together for you a few evening hours before nodding off). Likewise, I needed a break from him sometimes. It was good to get some girl time in here and there and also to just have the house to myself every now and then.
So now, even as things seem to be sliding back towards “normal” (or a new norm – wherever we’re headed towards this post-pandemic era), I think we both will still always value our alone time and time apart from each other. As my favorite Robin Hood movie quote says: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” (And that’s the old school 90s kiddie cartoon movie, not the cooler, grown up one loool).
6. Once you realize HOW you’re needed, the role(s) you need to play become clearer.
Like I said earlier – what this marriage becomes will be unique to us. My hubby’s not my dad and I can’t expect him to be all the things my dad is in his marriage to my mom. And vice versa – I’m not his mother and he can’t expect me to be whatever his mom was to his dad. Who we are together just becomes something entirely different.
So in my marriage so far, I see I need to be the travel planner. That’s not his ministry. So I stepped up and became that. He is very much into the world of investing in stocks, trading and such – so much so that he MUST watch Cramer every weekday evening to get his stock fix – so clearly that has become his ministry (and has inspired me to take up the world of investing with the ever-popular Robinhood app). I realize taking care of cars is not his thing, so I make sure I get my own car washed, oiled up and gassed up as per the usual before I met him anyway. He knows I don’t always have time to cook, so he sometimes steps in and will take care of a meal here and there for us (that part is a bit like my dad). He has zero qualms about picking up the phone and dealing with an issue on an account, so that’s his space. And so is IT.
I think this is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far: when you see a need that’s a you-sized hole, it’s your job to fill it. I think I half-expected someone to tell me – yes, you know that he’s not going to fold his underwear so this is your job now. I’ve just learned to take on tasks as / if I can that feel like I’m gonna have to be the one to do them. So maybe that’s the key to this marriage thing so far: tag-teaming life as we see fit.
What do you think? If you’re an independent lady, do these lessons fit your expectations of what your first half a year with your spouse might be? If you’re already a newlywed (or an oldie-wed 🙂 ) – how do your lessons compare with mine?
Thanks for stopping by and see you again soon!
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