Singaporebrides | Relationships

November 2020

Expectation Versus Reality of Living Together after Marriage

The first year of living together after marriage can unearth a lot of conflict. Here’s how to navigate common issues.

When you imagined living together with your partner after marriage, your head might have been filled with romantic visions of Netflix marathons, breakfast in bed, and endless cuddles. Then you actually move in together and reality hits you with socks on the floor, dishes in the sink, and music that’s turned up way too loud when you want to sleep so you can wake up early for your morning yoga class.

The first year of living together after marriage can be fraught with challenges, and although housework or loud music may seem like small issues initially, if they aren’t dealt with properly, over time a lot of resentment can build up that unfortunately heads some couples towards divorce.

The problem is that when a couple starts living together, two unique individuals with different upbringings and home habits are suddenly facing each other 24/7. Partners might have very different expectations of how to spend their time, who should do the chores, and even how to pay the household bills. While having different living habits can be a source of a lot of conflict, it’s also a cool opportunity for you to create your very own home culture. And to do that, you need to communicate. Discuss your expectations. Agree on how you should run your home. To help you get started, here are some common areas of contention when living together, and how you can navigate them.

1. Housework

Expectation: A neat and perfectly styled Insta-worthy nest

Reality: An overflowing sink of dishes you both deny using

Disagreements about housework often arise when one party feels that they’re doing the lion’s share of the work. They can also stem from different standards of cleanliness and tidiness, or from different ideas of gender roles (read: men assume their wives will iron their shirts and have dinner on the table, and women assume their husbands will replace all the light bulbs and fix squeaky doors).

To avoid screaming matches about the dishes sitting in the sink overnight, divvy up the house responsibilities before moving in together. Volunteer for the ones you don’t mind doing, and take turns doing those nobody likes, or do them together. While you might have to compromise on your standards of cleanliness, try to agree on a schedule and stick to it.

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2. Eating habits

Expectation: Trying new gourmet recipes together every day

Reality: Lugging tons of groceries on the bus alone

Like Ron Weasley, you might have been used to three delicious home-cooked meals a day and expect the same now you’re married or else you’ll turn into a grumpy bear. Or maybe you’re used to ordering a lot of fast food to eat in front of the television, while your partner prefers cooking gourmet meals from scratch.

Different food habits translate to other things as well. One partner might want to grocery shop every other day to get the freshest produce, while the other prefers a weekly shop to save time, and refuses to pay for organic acai berries. Or perhaps you can’t stomach anything more than coffee before work, but your partner has just whipped up a batch of pancakes and expects a leisurely breakfast together.

3. Annoying Habits

Expectation: Your partner stays as perfect as you remember when dating

Reality: You can hear them chewing from the other room

Remember those days when everything your partner did was so cute? How about the way she never replaces the toilet paper now that you’re living together? Or the way he leaves his socks all over the floor? Everyone has habits that annoy their partner, so you simply have to let your partner know when something bothers you. Ask nicely, be considerate of each other, and remember that habits can take a while to break, so don’t lose your temper the next time you find an empty toilet roll.

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4. Screen distractions

Expectation: More cuddles and quality time

Reality: Talking to the back of a phone

Instead of the cosy snuggles in bed that you envisioned, you realise that your partner is constantly on his phone watching Youtube videos before you sleep. In an article on The Gottman Institute, Kyle Benson writes that a study reveals the average amount of time young couples engaged in face-to-face conversation was 35 minutes… a week! If you start to feel lonely in your marriage, talk to your partner about setting some ground rules regarding phone use at home, such as no screens during dinner, or having some time to talk before bed.

When you start living together and spending most of your time together, it’s also all too common for conversations to deteriote and for the romance to wane. Make an effort to keep the spark in your relationship alive by setting aside date nights and times for heart-to-heart talks without any distractions.

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5. Intimacy

Expectation: Sex every night now you’re living together

Reality: Seeing your partner in their everyday undies and hearing them in the toilet

One of the most exciting things about living together is how often you get to frolic between the sheets! Or so you thought. Ironically, when sex is so readily available, it actually occurs less often because it’s less exciting and no longer driven by separation. Keeping the romance alive after the honeymoon period might take some effort, and even some scheduling when work and stress get in the way of intimacy. But the good news is, the longer you two have sex, the better it gets, as you get more comfortable with each other and with expressing what you like.

6. Personal time

Expectation: Weekly poker night with the guys

Reality: Your partner tags along and wins all your money because she reads you so well

Yes, quality time together without distractions is important, but so is alone time. When you’re living together, it can feel stifling to have someone else around 24/7, even if it’s the person you love most in the world. Respect each other’s need for personal time apart from you, whether your partner needs to de-stress with a game in another room, or go out with friends who (gasp) aren’t you.

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7. Finances

Expectation: Saving for your children’s future

Reality: Astronomical credit card bills on your joint account

Money is one of the most common areas of conflict when you first start living together and sharing the bills. Since our values and feelings about money are so personal, it can be hard to agree on how to spend money together, such as how much to spend on entertainment, whether to pay for services, how much to save and for what. If you find yourselves arguing a lot over the bills, stop and take some time to talk about what money means to each of you. Only after you’ve understood each other’s approach to money should you have a talk about your budgeting and plan for financial freedom.

The key to living together happily ever after marriage is communication. Every roommate, your spouse included, comes with their own set of home habits and expectations, as well as pet peeves. If something bothers you, you need to tell them. As author Bob Taibbi, L.C.S.W. advises,“Expect these challenges, and proactively decide what is top priority you need to fight for and what you are willing to let go of. What you don’t want to do is be passive-aggressive, drop “subtle” hints in hopes that the other person will get the hint and make the change. Time to get the small stuff on the table and negotiate.”

Credits: Feature image from Janice and Glen’s Stunning Pre-Wedding Shoot in Cappadocia, Turkey by White Grandeur

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Expectation Versus Reality of Living Together after Marriage