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I was asked about how I am handling married life this morning while in the break room at work.  Attempting honesty, as opposed to the typical “great,” I replied by saying that it is nothing like I expected.  It seems that no matter how much you prepare for marriage, you are inevitably left feeling like you have no idea what you just got yourself into.  You really have no idea until you’re in it.  The way your relationship changes, the way your sex life changes, the way you change, the way he changes, it’s quite unbelievable.  In fact, sometimes I think things have changed so much, I don’t even know who I am anymore.

People are waiting longer to get married these days.  You see it more and more that men and women are postponing marriage until their 30s or beyond.  In fact, I thought I’d be one of those people, until I met the right guy.  I thought I’d be going on fun vacations with my single friends, buying cute shoes whenever I wanted, filling my free time with whatever sounded like a good idea.  Even though I’d heard that after the wedding I would become a “we” and have to compromise, I didn’t know how that would translate into my own life.  And let me tell you, it’s a huge adjustment.  It’s not necessarily a bad adjustment, it’s just a sort-of strange, sideways adjustment.

My husband confirmed it for me last night.  He said, “Relationships change after you get married.  Everything’s different,” like he was some kind of marriage expert.  But, I get that things change.  I just didn’t realize how much things would change.  I didn’t realize that every time I wanted to do something for myself, it would affect him in some way.  Either it would affect our budget, or it would take up my time and he would miss me.  In a way, it’s a loss of freedom.  If I impulsively want to buy something extra at the grocery store or eye a pair of heels at a boutique that I may have bought had I been single, I have to think twice now.  I can’t just do whatever I feel like doing unless I want to explain my behavior, or purchase, later.  In some ways I equate it to the feeling you have when you’re young, you haven’t left home yet, and you had to ask your parents for money to go to the movies or justify buying a new outfit to your skeptical father.  The difference here is that you have had the taste of living by yourself and have been able to do whatever you want whenever you want.

That’s the problem with waiting several years before getting married.  The more time you spend in the real world fending for yourself, the harder it is to compromise or adapt your behavior.  After you enter the real world, you create a set of goals and set up a life path.  When you get married, if you’re lucky, you and your spouse have similar or complimentary life goals that will mesh as you grow together.  Even if you do have these similar life goals, the way you go about achieving them may differ from the process of your spouse.  That is what creates the period of adjustment.  Like I said earlier, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just… different.  As things have begun change in our relationship, I have found my own personal goals begin to change.

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My husband knew I was in debt when he proposed, he just didn’t know how bad it really was.  I tried hard to brush off my credit card spending habits and appropriately blame them on not making enough money to begin with.  Being a full-time student with two part-time jobs, making nickels and dimes was hard enough without having to defend a $100 clothing purchase at the local mall.

Spending inevitably got out of control when I began to plan our wedding.  My parents have been in the middle of a cross-continental war since they divorced 10 years ago, so I would have shot myself in the foot before I would have gone begging for money.  But, that’s a story for another day.  When it came to the wedding, I knew the one thing I would regret the most would be skimping on a photographer.  Neither of my parents, or stepmom for that matter, really thought that photography was worth spending money on.  One day, the perfect photographer emailed me!  I took some time to check out his online portfolio and knew it was meant to be.  I just didn’t realize how much it would cost.  Along with the couture dress that I bought on an unaccompanied, nervous whim, photography was the most expensive thing my husband and I are still paying for, aside from the honeymoon.

I don’t know how it gets so out of control, and I don’t know why I keep making excuses, but credit card debt can be the source of all evil for a newlywed couple.  You hear it everywhere that money is one of the biggest causes for married couples to fight.  Well, it’s true.  I would have never fought with myself over my massive amount of debt.  I could justify even the most expensive soap!  Plus, he could have never really done anything about my debt before we were married, because our finances and credit scores weren’t tied together.  Whether you want it or not, these issues surface with a big fat whack-in-the-face after the big day!  Take this commercial, for example.  This is us!  Not literally, of course, but every time that commercial airs on TV, I try to shrink into the sofa.

One day, somehow, something possessed me to tell him how much debt I actually had… for real.  The days of underestimation and avoidance were gone.  No turning back.  I think it was the first time my husband was actually speechless (he likes to talk a lot).  In all seriousness, though, it was a huge weight off my shoulders, not to mention a very emotional breakthrough.  But, the elephant in the room had inadvertently stepped on him.  It was not a quick and painless recovery.  What seemed like days later, we had a very structured, aggressive and efficient debt-payoff plan that would put us debt-free within a year.  And you know what?  I am actually very excited to get the debt paid off and live plastic free!