One of the biggest transitions from being single to being married is the living situation. Even though Nikko and I dated for eight years before being married, we had never lived together. For the last three years (three GLORIOUS years), I had lived alone. I would come and go as I pleased, cook (or grab takeout) for one, and had a walk-in closet all to myself. Now that I have Nikko “to have and to hold,” those days are over. Living together has presented a challenge to go from a “me” to a “we” mindset for the both of us. Nikko has seemed to flawlessly transition (bless his heart) always putting me first. Me on the other hand, not so seamless. This is has been and continues to be a work-in-progress for me. Here are some of the things I have learned so far:
The first question we ask each other when we get home from work is “How was your day?” As much as this is a cliché, I ask the question with sincere curiosity. We spend a little over 25% of our time during the week at work and sometimes it’s hard to separate work from home. Because this separation is crucial to a happy home life, I find that the question “How was your day?” helps to get any frustrations or issues we may have taken home from work out on the table. This helps us truly enjoy the limited time we have together during the week, free from work stresses.
Another tip when it comes to work is taking a true interest in what your spouse does. The few times I have assumed what Nikko does at work has led to miscommunication purely because I know very little about what he does day-to-day as a Civil Engineer. Knowing your spouse’s job allows you to be more understanding, especially when they have to leave early, come home late, or leave for work travel. Furthermore, it makes you prouder of your spouse knowing their role in terms of making this world a better place.
When it comes to finances, we could not be more different. My financial mantra is “TREAT YO SELF” and his is more like “let’s retire at 30.” Though it is frustrating at times, it is ideal that we are so different. He keeps me at bay and has taught me of the importance of investment and savings while I encourage him to treat himself once in a while to balance out all of his hard work. This does not mean that I’ve sworn off of Anthropologie or that he buys nothing but Brooks Brothers. But it does mean that I now know the impact of big purchases on our travel budgets. It does mean that student loans are paid off and cars take a couple months to pay off because he has taught me the value of budgeting your savings. Nikko’s financial prowess is one of the things I admire most about him because I know that financially we will always be okay. Instead of thinking of him as a killjoy for making me think twice about purchases, I think of it as just one of the many ways he takes care of me.
The question that comes after “how’s your day?” is most often “what do you want for dinner?” No kidding – this is one of the hardest things about being married. Our cooking skills and energy level around 5pm allow for frozen proteins and vegetables from Sam’s Club thrown into the microwave or toaster oven. Once we find something to fill our bellies, we quickly follow up with the question “What are we eating for lunch tomorrow?” which is another challenge if we eat all of what we cooked for dinner. We have learned to combat this vicious cycle with weekend planning and grocery shopping but it is still a work in progress. We have to plan meals and grocery shopping around things we both like (this can be a struggle) and we save eating out for the weekends or outings with friends. Eating out really breaks up the week and gives you something to look forward to so it’s important to sprinkle some of these outings in occasionally. Life would be so much easier if Nikko and I could eat Taco Bell every night but one can only dream (and my body thanks me).
When it comes to cleaning, Nikko and I have very different ideas of what that means. His militant tendencies keep things relatively tidy whereas I tend to be a little less tidy. Add Walter, our puppy, into the mess and our small condo becomes a zoo. This has taken lots of patience on his part and lots of proactivity on mine to bridge the gap. Since Walter can’t clean up after himself, that has also helped to bridge the gap in ideas cleanliness because we both have to chip in to corral Walt’s toys and clean up his messes. Nikko has taught me to consistently make the bed, an easy first task of the day to get right. And as for reminders, we have come up with a rule: If things get too messy for him, he just needs to tell me once so I can correct. If I don’t correct, then he can get mad. Communication is key here.
As Jordan formerly discussed in her post “Long Distance Loving,” it is important to know your spouse’s love language. The way you express love may not necessarily be the way they want to receive it. Nikko and I are different as I like to receive love via “words of affirmation” while he receives love as “quality time.” This has taken some getting used to for both of us. In order to bridge this gap, I do my best to surprise him with fun outings and date nights, even though he is just as content running errands with me. He tells me he loves me and leaves me sweet notes occasionally and I”m a happy camper. Of course we don’t limit ourselves to these things exclusively, but it’s helpful to know what your spouse appreciates when looking for love.
Each day of marriage brings about new challenges and new differences between us. People always ask how long we have been married which is often followed up with “oh you guys are still in the honeymoon phase!” My answer is always “That ended a long time ago.” Don’t get me wrong – Nikko and I are so so happy and would marry each other again tomorrow if we had the choice but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. I’ve heard time and time again that marriage takes hard work and now I’m seeing just what that means. Despite the disagreements and frustration that ensue, we learn more about each other everyday. That is probably one of my favorite things about marriage.