The “Me” in Marriage

It’s been 7 months since I officially became Mrs. Rathroy and while sometimes I can’t believe the time has gone that quickly, it also feels like we’ve been married forever (in a good way). I’ve noticed that my grip on single Kelly has almost completely slipped away – stories from my life pre-Rathroy have seemingly been deleted from my brain to make space for new memories and stories that we build together every day.

But, losing those stories, along with my maiden name, threw me into a bit of an identity crisis. It’s bad enough that my new signature looks like Kindergarten scribble (no, I didn’t practice signing my married name before the wedding), but now I can’t remember what I used to eat or how I used to spend my evenings before I was a Mrs.

To be fair, I was in Germany.

To be fair, I was in Germany.

I spent some time silently panicking about “losing myself” in this lifelong relationship, and then I realized how silly that sounded. I was unmarried for 27 years and most of them were great. I did things like travel to Costa Rica and play beer pong and try to fix boys that “just needed to be loved.” Overall, a solid showing for my first 3 decades. But, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be married to Mr. Rathroy for like 75 years and I can’t even imagine all the stories and memories and personality traits that will fill all of those upcoming decades. I went through some pretty radical transformations in just the last few years, and I’m so curious about who I will become throughout the course of our lifelong marriage.

So, instead of wallowing in my attachment issues, I’ve started taking note of the things that I’ve already learned about myself since our wedding. I don’t know what it is, but something changes when you’re married. Maybe it’s the joint checking account or the perma-bling on our fingers or (more likely) something a little less tangible, but I’ve quickly learned that things are different now, including myself.

Wedding Ceremony Through Truck Window

1. I talk a lot. There are a few people that have always known this (mainly my ever so patiently listening mom), and I noticed that I babbled nervously around Mr. Rathroy when the romance first got real in Malawi, but boy can I talk. All the time. About almost anything. This is highlighted by the fact that my husband is extremely soft spoken in normal, daily life. He values silence, especially when the lights are off and he’s ready to go to sleep. Which is exactly the time that I have the need to discuss our weekly meal plan or the exchange rate to the Chilean peso.

2. I’m the boss. Maybe it’s because I’m the middle child, but I sure love being in charge of things. I’m a professional delegator and a die hard coordinator. And thanks to Lean In and their Ban Bossy campaign, I’m finally not ashamed to admit this. Though it doesn’t exactly help ease tensions with the Mister when going through a bathroom remodel or a garage reorganization…Thankfully, he fully supports my “leadership skills” and knows when to push back.

3. I love routine. There was a time when I thought I wanted a life of constant, unstable adventure. And while I absolutely need a certain dose of excitement to look forward to in life (a honeymoon in Patagonia, for example), I also really thrive with routine. Waking up at 5:30 every morning to make a smoothie never felt so easy and on Sundays, I bake granola. If someone had told me that about themselves 5 years ago, I might have cried for them. But now, my routine helps me focus, manage my expectations, and work for more when I get bored.

4. I’m really not that stubborn. Despite my boss-like tendencies around the house, I’ve really loosened up on the whole stubborn pride thing. If it’s important to Mr. Rathroy, I am happy to compromise (just don’t tell him or I’ll lose my bargaining chips…). Plus, my negotiating skills are at an all time high!

5. I need alone time. Not a lot of it, but without it I just start following Mr. Rathroy around the house and looking to him for my entertainment, thoughts, and general activities. Which, as you can imagine gets pretty boring for me and pretty annoying for him when he’s working in the garage or playing video games. Plus, it’s hardly healthy. But, with some alone time I reconnect with myself and my needs and it makes our interactions more appreciated and less demanding.

I’m staying tuned in with myself and taking notice of the small shifts that will eventually create a lifetime. I know marriage isn’t always sunshine and butterflies, and that sometimes I’ll still get pangs of nostalgia for who I was in my early twenties, but as long as I keep my eyes, my mind, and my heart open, I know that I’ll become exactly who I’m supposed to be.

Wedding Ceremony Site

And, as always, many thanks to Mr. Rathroy for walking softly by my side as I stomp through the unknown.

Money and Marriage

It’s no secret that Mr. Rathroy and I are opposites in a lot of ways. He’s an introvert, I’m an extrovert. He’s good at math, I’m good at words. He likes to read fiction, I like to read non-fiction. It’s a mystery how we make this relationship work at all.

Of course, we have our common ground as well – our love of adventure and travel, our desire to constantly improve our 68 year old house, our hopes of retiring on lakefront property in one of these bad boys. But, like in many marriages, one of our largest philosophical gaps is in money matters. Mr. Rathroy and I treated money very differently during our single years. As an example, part of the down payment on our house was birthday money that I had been saving since I was 13. While I have no hard evidence on what happened to Mr. Rathroy’s 13th birthday money, I would bet that it disappeared well before we bought our house.

It was easier to deal with money in Malawi. We were the richest people in the entire country.

It was easier to deal with money in Malawi. We were the richest people in the entire country.

I’m a saver to say the least. And while those anti-spending habits set me on a safe financial course as a single gal, merging money in a marriage has a few more complications. I can’t in good conscience make Mr. Rathroy eat ramen noodles every night, especially when his pay check is contributing to our grocery bill. And he can’t buy a motorcycle on a whim because my paycheck contributes to our existing debt like student loans and car payments.

Leading up to our wedding, we had lots of money talks – should we keep it separate, should we combine, should we work out some sort of proportional bill pay, etc. We compared notes on what our parents do with their finances. We asked our friends how they deal with paychecks and bills. We approached every single angle of the issue and finally made a decision: we would play to our individual strengths to best benefit our marriage (and bank account).

I accepted the position of Chief Money Saver while Mr. Rathroy advocated for monthly allowances that we could spend at our own discretion (so that we could still have some fun). We merged all of our income and big bills so that we could better understand the monthly cost of our married lifestyle. And we signed up for a Mint account so that we could set budgets and track our spending. It took months to design a system that worked for us as individuals and as an eternally united couple, and it still undergoes adjustments when necessary. And while spending that much time and energy talking about money can be a drag at first, it has created a sense of comfort and trust between us that otherwise wouldn’t exist. It was a crash course in compromise and allows us to talk about our money without the emotionally charged contention that a lot of people face.

We both understand our financial big picture and are both aware of every day transactions which helps us each learn to balance on the save-spend scale. Mr. Rathroy now looks forward to meeting a big savings goal and I’ve started enjoying occasional indulgences like a $10 cocktail. The topic of our money comes up multiple times a week and it’s never started an argument. Plus, now we have some rainy day insurance for days like today when we learned that the gas lines have under our house been leaking for over a year. And even though a $300 plumber bill isn’t great, at least we don’t have to chose between food and our house not exploding.

Our method of over-communicating about money is obviously not for everyone. To be honest, it wasn’t really for Mr. Rathroy at first. But once we had all the cards on the table, we started making long term goals and planning things like vacations, new kitchens, and retirement. We’re not always on the same page about everything, but we’re learning to write new pages together instead of tightly gripping our single life philosophies. And while I’m certainly not an expert on marriage, I’ve learned that letting go of some of my pre-wedding mindset helps me better grasp the new philosophies that we create together.

I don’t ever want to feel like I have to bite my tongue, especially not with Mr. Rathroy or on a subject that has been proven to make or break lifelong commitments. We’re in this together, and money is never going to disappear, so we chose to be friends with it instead. And, really, who doesn’t want to be friends with money?