Being newlyweds, Mike and I get asked the same question over and over again: “Does it feel different to be married?” We usually shrug our shoulders and make some joke about how we “shacked up” prior to being engaged/married – so not really.
But there is one thing that makes me feel particularly married. It wasn’t when we purchased a house together, or when I use my new last name. Oddly enough, what makes me feel most “married” is when one of us needs cash from the other one. Yes. I’m being 100% serious. If Mike’s headed into the city with only enough cash for one train ticket, I’ll throw him a $5 bill; when I needed to make change for one of my friends, Mike passed me along a $5 and a $10 – not expecting the $20 in return. It’s not my money or his money, it’s our money, all of it. So who’s holding onto the cash at any given moment really doesn’t matter. And for some reason handing my husband that $5 so he can purchase a train ticket, without having to visit an ATM, is what makes me feel most married.
I assume that reason is that when I was growing up, cash flowed between my parents in much the same way. Mom would send Dad to her purse so he could grab a $20 bill (insert one of us kids following Dad to her purse, asking for a $20 bill as well). Dad would give Mom cash to pay the babysitter. It was totally natural since my parents live out of joint bank accounts as well.
This all could have a deeper significance than the fact that it doesn’t matter who has the cash at any given moment. I’m sure if we really dug into the topic we’d find that it roots from our money being a common goal and a common interest that we work towards together. Mutual success if you will. Or we can leave it on the surface with, I feel married when I had my husband $5.
When Mike and I took our Pre-Cana classes leading up to our wedding there was a test to see areas of our relationship that might need work. Having been together 7 years and known each other for 8 years, the priest who conducted the test actually double checked the scantron results because there were so many of the same answers on both of our tests. Our scores were rock solid, and the section leading the pack was communication.
It wasn’t always that way. When Mike and I first started dating we found it difficult to communicate with each other because we are so opposite in personality. Over the years we’ve mastered how to communicate with the other person in a way that they understand and retain.
However, communication isn’t a stagnant thing. It shifts and changes as various life events happen. Our communication needs in college were very different than they were post-college. Whereas in college we could see each other once every two weeks and talk on the phone only once a week, after college we found that we needed more face time. When we eventually moved in together, how we communicated shifted again and we adapted. Mike learned that I actually liked to hear about every little bit of his day, as well as that I liked to tell him every little bit of mine – and I learned that on nights that Mike doesn’t get home from work until after 10:30pm he wants to just sit and watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report with a beer in silence. Planning the wedding together lead to another set of communication and negotiation skills. We learned what was important to each other, and what decisions we could each make on our own without offending the other person. Those skills actually translated when it came time to start talking about paint colors for the new house.
And so it should come as no surprise to us that purchasing a house together would require an adapted set of communication skills. Over dinner last night I knew Mike was being a little short with me – knowing him as well as I do, that meant he was either exhausted beyond belief, or I’d done something to irritate him. It turned out to be a combination of the two. I couldn’t fathom what I did that could possibly have irritated him. As we learned when we moved in together – you have to share what’s on your mind or else things fester. So Mike explained that we didn’t share the same task-list priorities when it came to the house. I protested that I’d been doing what he asked me to do! It’s then that we took the time to break down exactly where our communication had slipped up:
Comcast was coming Sunday morning and Mike asked me to make sure that the Comcast man would have space to work in the Study/Media Room (a room low on his priority list since it’s not a vital living space). What he meant was, clear some paths for the Comcast man by stacking up boxes and moving them around. How I interpreted it was start going through big boxes that don’t have a lot in them (like the boxes housing our large vases – there were more of those than you’d think), take the contents out and find a place for them and then collapse the boxes so there would be more space in that room. While I thought I was completing his task, he thought I was just decorating living room and dining room instead of putting my energy into more important rooms like the clothes situation in our bedroom or sorting through the contents of my office.
Thankfully we caught this oversight in communication and expectations early on in the unpacking process so as to avoid a larger argument later on. I’d much rather have a few short conversations than an argument any day! Our commitment to sitting the other person down and explaining what’s irritating us, as well as actively taking that constructive criticism and applying it in the future, is probably why we seldom find ourselves arguing.
This made unpacking go much smoother today as we were both on the same page.