Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Merging lives

I mentioned yesterday that my relationship status has changed pretty dramatically since I stopped blogging here a few years ago. To be more specific, I am now "engaged". I put that in quotes because while J "proposed" and we are going to eventually have a wedding at which we will formally commit to spending our lives together, we are not planning to sign any legal documents designating that we are "married" (i.e, no marriage license). One of the reasons I wanted to start blogging again is because I could use an outlet for reflection as we navigate what it means to merge our lives without that legal designation. So far, what I know is that it means we are going to have to process a lot more paperwork, and as we do that, we'll have to consciously and proactively think about a lot of issues that many couples don't deal with until they have to (and sometimes when it is too late). So I'll be writing about some of that.

Most immediately, J moved in with me about a year ago. J's daughter was a high school freshman when we met in 2009 and he had joint custody (she was with him three nights each week) so it was pretty much understood since the beginning that major life changes, like us living together, would wait until after she was off to college (and if anyone was wondering, yes, that was an issue at times, but we're past it now so I'm not going to dwell on it). The upside to knowing we'd live together eventually, but having lots and lots of time before it actually happened, is that I/we were able to very slowly make changes to the house to make it 'ours'. We did have a conversation some time ago about whether he would move in with me or we would look for a new house together (living at his condo was never really an option). Once we decided that keeping my house made the most sense, I began thinking about home improvements differently. Big decisions, like upgrading the insulation and installing solar panels, became joint decisions. That was really weird, partly because he wasn't actually living here yet and I still very much think of it as "my" house, but mostly because I've been making those decisions on my own for so long and it just felt odd to be factoring someone else into the equation. A big issue for me is balancing what I see as my independence with what I know people are 'supposed' to do when in a relationship. That is, I know I'm 'supposed to' discuss these things with him but what if we disagree? If I know what I want to do, and I'm paying for it and it's my house, the feminist in me resists the idea that I would do something different just because this guy wants something else. And yet, even as I write that, I know how terribly selfish that sounds...

More than one person has commented that this is a lot harder at 40 than at 20. We're both used to doing things 'our way', we know what we like, and are used to taking care of ourselves. I will say that it helps tremendously that J and I communicate really well - he actually likes it that I pretty much have to express every thought and emotion I have. So when I'm irked by something, he can just read it on my face and we deal with it. And it definitely has gotten easier, as we've slowly figured out our routine, who does what chores, etc. But I feel like this is all still very much a work in progress. Then again, I wonder if it ever stops feeling that way?

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