Intimacy, Vulnerability and Merging Lives: Insights from a Newlywed Perspective

Jan 4, 2023 | Main Blog | 0 comments

When moving in with someone, especially someone you have just married, there are big and little changes, often unforeseen, you have to make. It’s nothing like how you have lived with others before. You grow up in a family, whether they are yours or an extension, creating habits and preferences based on the people who raised you. Then comes the time you move out and you live on your own. You use those earlier habits as a baseline to create your own. Maybe you do all that you wish you could have done under your parents’ roof. You’re tidy or less so, or you paint your walls that particular color your mother hates. You bring friends over, including the guy you had an amazing date with. You get roommates so you can afford a nicer place or live in the city you’ve always wanted to. You have to be more accommodating to make different lifestyles work together for the length of a lease. You get mad at their annoying habits, but not for long because you know it won’t last. In the end, you go your separate ways, often because you get married. Then you realize, being married is not like living with a roommate: sharing the same space and living separate lives. You need to merge your distinct lifestyles, habits, the good, and yes, the ugly into one home to make not just newlywed bliss work, but your whole marriage. It’s a shift you want to make because you made a promise to each other.

I’ve had a few friends get married this last year and make that same shift. They adjusted their lives to include someone else in it who they love. It’s a beautiful choice, and one I wanted to hear more about. I was able to interview one of those friends to understand how she has handled the change and went through the process of merging her life with that of her husband. Here is our conversation:

How is it different living with someone you love compared to a roommate or your family?

The biggest change has been the process of merging our lives. There’s a beautiful balance that we are constantly striving towards between being yourself and whole as your own person and combining that with someone else. While dating, he had his own apartment and I had mine. The boundary between yours and mine was very clear. After we married, that boundary faded, but we both strive to keep the idea of a practical respect in the center. For example, I know he values saving electricity, so I try to remember to turn a light off when I leave a room. I value tidiness, so he tries to remember to put his shoes away. From time to time, we both forget, but the heart of it is we both care about each other in the little things.

What have the challenges been?

One challenge for me has been the vulnerability of no longer taking care of myself financially. It has turned out to be a blessing. We both know what it means to be financially responsible because we were taking care of ourselves in that regard before we were married.

What has been easier than expected?

Living with Matthew has been easier in the sense of home feeling like home. When I moved into my apartment, it took a long time for it to feel like mine. Our house now already feels like “home” simply because we both share it.

What emotions have come up for you living with your husband? Whatever those may be how have you learned to cope or lean into them?

The biggest emotion has been fear of vulnerability. This has been true throughout our time dating, too, though. When you live with someone, you can’t just give them highlight reels. I remember trying to explain to him at one point that I missed living alone because I could keep the messy, hard stuff I dealt with to myself. Then I didn’t have to weigh anyone down by it. The truth is, we grow through conflict. We learn a lot about a person by the way they respond when we are at our worst. The way Matthew responds has brought me to a deeper and more beautiful understanding of vulnerability.

When married, you need to give your whole self to the relationship. What does this look like for you?

Being myself has been easy. I’ve never once felt like I had to be anything other than completely authentic. I’m learning more and more that I can be the messy parts of me, too. Struggling with PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), I’ve had a few low points since we’ve been together. Working through those has been painful, but it also strengthened our relationship.

How do you want your husband to show up with his whole self?

I want him to feel like he can be completely authentic with me as well. He has a tendency to sweep what he really needs under the rug at times, and I want him to express those things. I pray that when he does, I respond in a way that encourages him to continue to do this. At times, I fear doing the opposite. I want to respond in a way that shows I’m imperfect, so it’s okay for others to be as well. It’s very easy to forget that we are all on an equal playing field when it comes to being imperfect humans. We fail. Relationships aren’t built on getting everything right. They are built on how good you get at mending and healing together.

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