It’s funny when you think about it. I lived with my husband for more than three years before we got married. After we were married, a number of my friends asked me if I felt any different. I told them no. It didn’t feel any different; in fact the only major difference I could cite was that I needed to do a lot of paperwork to change my last name.
That answer wasn’t entirely true. But I chose to overlook a lot of little things that over the last six years, I’ve needed to learn to adapt to. As we approach our seventh year of marriage, I can honestly answer that question.
It feels INCREDIBLY different.
Marriage, however you view it, is all about commitment. It’s about consciously and definitively linking your life to another adult’s. When you’re living together, you don’t have that same level of commitment. I’m not bashing anyone who lives together, trust me – living together comes with its own level of commitment.
However, when you just live together, there’s a safety net (spoken or not) that exists allowing either partner to excuse themselves from the relationship without a lot of messy legal and domestic related issues. If you live together, you generally keep a fair-minded list of whose things are whose.
You may or may not blend your finances. You may have a joint account to handle general household expenses, but you are more likely to maintain separate banking accounts and handle your own individual incomes.
When you live together, even when you share a child, you maintain a certain amount of independence in your own lives. There are clear areas where they are blended, individual and independent. Some married couples do the same, but there is not the same level of expectation of one partner or the other that expects a partner to show up for an event they aren’t interested in just because the other partner is going.
Marriage blends lives. It blends lifestyles. It unites goals. It unites dependencies. It unites joint activities. Even individual activities become a part of the overall whole. This can take some serious adjustment if you are not aware of it as it happens. If you do not make the adjustments, you may find yourself living a parallel life with your spouse.
Your spouse is not just your roommate. They are not just your friends. They are not just your co-parent. They are your spouses. Your lives are joined legally, emotionally, mentally and financially as well as physically. It is a great deal more difficult to abandon a marriage than it is a co-habitation.
Think about the things you’ve given up or blended as a married person that you would not really have considered doing when you were just living together (if you did prior to marriage.). It’s just how it is. I recognize a lot of differences that are in my life now that were not present prior to our wedding. In retrospect, those changes occurred then, but I didn’t notice them.
This isn’t a bad thing. It’s not a better thing. It’s just what it is. It’s what marriage is about. If you can recognize that this happening, you can help each other adjust and support each other on the issues that may trouble you individually. Your spouse needs to know your levels of expectation as much as you need to know theirs. Never assume anything but good intentions as you work your way through this period of time.
Your marriage will evolve naturally. Your relationship in the first of year of marriage will grow and change as you each of you do individually and together. Acknowledge and recognize those changes for what they are, embrace them and work together to maintain your harmony. You, your spouse and your marriage will likely be happier for it.