09:life/life as a 21st-century newlywed.....................................................................................marcingber2009
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Life as a 21st-Century Newlywed
By Marc Ingber
August 2009
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About 15 minutes after I sat down for dinner at my wedding reception last October, my cousin was the first to ask me a question I’ve heard quite often over the past year. “So…how’s married life?” he asked.
“It’s been good,” I replied. “So far I’ve had a glass of wine and eaten a salad.” The inherent joke in all this, of course, was that I was the exact same person, post-wedding ceremony, as I was 30 minutes previously.
But in a more abstract sense, I was not. As far as the government and most major religions were concerned, what transpired in that half hour changed me completely.
Gone was the proverbial single, swinging bachelor, and in its place was a full-on, grown-up married man. I was now officially part of a duo. Being married has plenty of perks, benefits and even tax breaks, but it also comes with certain responsibilities, as most religions and my wife point out.
These range from minor things, such as taking out the trash, to major rules, such as not committing adultery. They say marriage changes a person, which is most likely true. But at this point, I have a difficult time finding vast differences between my life pre- and post-wedding.
I have a feeling this is a common sentiment among many 21st-century newlyweds. Marriage brings about changes in a man’s life regardless, but the shift in tide was generally more pronounced for generations past.
The arc of my wife and I’s “courtship” period – to use an old-fashioned term – was pretty typical for people of our generation. We met our junior year of college, when we were both 20, and spent the last two years of college spending most of our days together. After graduation we moved to Minneapolis and lived together for three years before heading down the aisle.
Therefore, by the time we did get married we had already been dating six years and living together for three. There was no post-honeymoon shock period of what we had gotten ourselves into – the type you commonly see on TV shows and movies about newlyweds.
After six years, there weren’t too many quirks left to discover about each other. My wife was quite aware that I can never remember where we keep common household cleaning products and that I can’t paint a bedroom to save my soul long before she married me. In fact, we probably could have won one of those newlywed game shows before we even were newlyweds.
This type of courtship is different than it was for my parents’ generation. When they got married, it was fairly uncommon to live with a partner prior to marriage. “Living in sin,” so to speak, was considered more taboo.
Marc Ingber is a journalist with Sun Newspapers, based in Minneapolis, MN. He was born and raised in the Twin Cities and attended journalism school at the University of Kansas. His primary interests include rock n' roll, movies, food and drink, the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Twins - probably in that order.
As a result, couples generally didn’t date as long prior to getting married. This makes sense to me. I understand why people would want to get on with their lives and live together, sans the sinning.
However, it’s a different landscape out there today. Almost all of my friends who have gotten married lived with their partner prior to the wedding, and many others are living together who aren’t engaged. This may not be the case in every city in America or for some couples, but it’s certainly common and was the situation in my case.
I don’t see a problem with it. Marriage is not something that should be taken lightly and you should know what you are getting into. If that means living together prior to marriage, so be it. It’s easier to hand over an apartment key than divorce papers if you find out a living situation isn’t working out.
Despite my wife and I’s familiarity with each other prior to marriage, there have been some definite changes since the wedding. One of the most obvious is her last name. We’ve almost been married a year and I am just now getting used to seeing mail come with a female “Ingber’s” name on it that isn’t my mom or my sister. At first it was strange for me – and I wasn’t even the one who changed my name.
The other big change is the bank account situation. Of course you don’t have to get married to share a bank account, but we never took that step until last year. It’s not as though one of us was counting pennies and the other was blowing money on Ming vases prior to the wedding, but sharing an account forces us to be more attuned to what the other is spending.
One post-wedding change for me has been a bit harder to define, but has been present nonetheless. It is just the general feeling that I’ve accomplished something in my life, from a biographical point of view.
Marriage is a milestone many reach – often multiple times – within the span of their life, but I still had a sense of accomplishment when it happened. As though I “went out and did something with my life,” as every high school teacher urges in those cliché after-school specials they used to play on TV.
However, I know marriage is not the end result of an objective, but rather the start of a whole new era in a person’s life. At this stage, the last thing I want to do is to dispense advice on what makes a marriage work. Ours has, but I don’t claim to hold the secret to a happy marriage.
I would trust the advice of someone who has been married for 50 years far more than my own. I hope that will someday be me, but I have a lot of wine and salad to go before I reach that stage.