Friday, July 16, 2010

Merging Identities

I swore I wouldn't be one of those women whose lives get so intermingled with their husbands that they no longer have a separate identity. I was going to maintain my own friends. I would never have a couple picture as my profile pic on Facebook. I would never keep a wedding photo as my profile pic for more than a month after the wedding. I would never get a joint email account. 

Hahahahahaha.

I decided it was about time to take down the Facebook profile photo from my 30th birthday party in May, but I couldn't find any good recent photos to replace it. It turns out that the only flattering pictures of me over the past year all include Jason. I have tons of solo photos, but I despise them for one reason or another. And then, there's that ever-more-compelling option of using one of the amazing photos... that includes Jason. And possibly a hug or some other equally cutesy lovey cr*p. But they are recent and flattering and available. And so, for the first time, I was tempted to just one anyhow. Except, damnit, it's MY facebook profile, not OUR Facebook profile. And I'm not one of those women. Right?

I'm starting to realize that the lines are getting blurred, and it's harder to keep certain things separate. We just signed up for a joint email address to facilitate wedding RSVPs and long-term bill paying. Although the gmail account will forward to both of our individual emails, I felt really torn about it. It makes really smart logistical/shared information sense for a household, but I still I felt like I was losing this little piece of my independence. And I really hope my friends never use that email after their wedding rsvp. Because it's really important to me to have a space for privacy - not to hide anything, since I figure we'll probably end up sharing passwords at some point - but just to have a place that's mine.

For the moment, the Facebook picture is just mine. And my career is mine... except if I want/am forced to change, in which case the choices become ours. And my friends are becoming ours and his are becoming mine and it's all just becoming a large extended social group. And the bills and healthcare insurance decisions are ours. And the responsibilities of life are ours. Jointly. Together. There's no line anymore for so much of it. My choices affect his. His choices affect me. I may be keeping my name but this is very much a partnership. And it's getting harder to figure out my own personal space, and even if I care about it as much as I used to. I like coming home to Jason. I like sharing couchspace as we work on our own projects. And I like knowing that we're in this together.

So I'm figuring out my new lines in the sand. I'm figuring out how it feels to be someone's partner in every sense of the word.  I'm gaining so much, and my life is immeasurably enriched by it, but I'm saying goodbye to impulsive solo travels and complete career independence and the ability to stay out until 1am (or even just 10pm) without phoning anyone. After 26 years of rather fierce independence and inability to allow anyone to get me chicken soup while I was sick, I'm actually comfortable with it this shift. I don't really feel like I'm fighting to hold onto myself because my priorities have naturally shifted towards Us (with a healthy dose of Me and cheering for Him.)

Although I swear I will take that wedding pic down after it's been up a month. Promise.

33 comments:

  1. sigh. my wedding picture is still on my profile. but only because i look damn good.

    the merging was scary for me at first. and then it became so comfortable and right and hardly noticable.

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  2. uh ya. this is the same story for myself. I am SO independent I said that him leaving his toothbrush at my place when we first started dating was a *BIG DEAL*. The weekend he ate thanksgiving dinner with my parents I informed him it was a *BIG STEP*. That same day he proposed. and laughed at my expression.

    we've had a two year engagement for that very reason- i was NOT ready to merge into a family- still not really but managing.

    our discussion about merging our finances after Meg's discussion on Practical Wedding was extremely stressful. I told him I honestly felt like vomiting at the thought of merging our incomes lol. he's sweet so he understood I meant the situation- not him.

    I think it's important though to keep YOU in the relationship while finding the balance of "us".

    Sounds like you're making steps towards that.

    I always said I would *NEVER* be one of those mom's who posted random things like "my baby just pooped his pants!! awww!!" on facebook like my countless other mom-facebook friends. Or weekly prego belly pictures. no way.

    If I do I told Andrew to have me committed.

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  3. Hey creep, get out of my head why don't you! :)

    "I don't really feel like I'm fighting to hold onto myself because my priorities have naturally shifted towards Us (with a healthy dose of Me and cheering for Him.)"

    I think I need to put this on some stickers and place them strategically around my life so that I can look at in in moments of doubt. Very cool post.

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  4. Our photographer took a gorgeous picture of me on our e-shoot which I use as my facebook picture. But I've noticed the same problem, so I make a conscious effort to have somebody take a picture of just me every few months; it's a little weird, but it works.

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  5. huh. i never new having a joint pic up on facebook made me "one of those girls"....

    oh well- I don't really care much b/c I don't even know who "those girls" are, and truthfully, maybe they're on to something...

    Like the fact that a facebook photo does not define you or speak to your independence.

    I too have always been fiercely independent, but I LOVE the life I'm living right now. I love sharing wedding planning, finances, a couch, a bed, and a life with someone else. I am happy in my own skin in these situations in a way I definitely wouldn't have been at one time, and i'm okay with that. More than okay.

    And not in a giving up, giving in, or getting over myself sort of way. I am comfortable with where I'm at and what makes me happy right now. And when I need/want more space or something different, then I'll make sure to assert that.

    So for me that's the key: checking in with yourself and discovering how you truly feel about your experiences, and not being worried about how people might perceive because of them (or a silly fb pic)

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  6. There are some things that I am keeping separate. My name (mostly because it feels like I just got it back). My checking account (mostly because Tony can't be a member of my bank, but the benefits are too good to leave). My facebook picture (It's my page, damn it).

    But I am extremely happy with the middle ground we've come up with. Eventually, we'll need to stop thinking in terms of "my money" and "his money," but not yet. I think we're both a little bit overprotective of our independent finances because of our previous divorces.

    The rest, though, is all good.

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  7. Dito to Ms. Awesome. I love our cute couple photos on facebook and I'd say half the time I have a couple photo up. Because half the time when I'm doing fun stuff where a camera is present, we are together. And I like that. And I don't think it makes me 'one of those girls".

    I think dependence has gotten a bad rap. I need him and he needs me. And thats ok. I haven't lost myself - only grown. Its like him and I combining took two awesome people and put us together into some Power Rangers mega morph thingy. We now kick double butt.

    Its a balancing act between dependence and independence and we're all working it out! You'll get there!

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  8. @Ms Awesome and Jen - no dings against couple photos in Facebook profile pictures anymore. I realize that most of our pictures are couple pics now making solo pic choices hard, which is just such a weird shift from when I was proudly single for much of my life and saw co-dependence as bad. I really resented the couple photos then. I don't resent them now, but I wonder what it says about me (if anything at all.)

    And I know that we rely on each other, but I'm also comforted in knowing that it's a *choice* and not necessity. I have girlfriends who have been in relationship after relationship since they were 14 and have never really needed/learned to rely on themselves. I'm proud of my independence and strength. I'm even happier that I now have someone to share my life with. It's better than ever, but I feel secure in this relationship precisely because it's not about "need" even though I can't imagine life without him anymore.

    So the shifts are just interesting and strange to work through. No judgment here, just figuring out my new comfort zone.

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  9. I get where everyone is coming from in this post. I totally agree that every single person (in a relationship or not) needs to maintain a healthy level of independence and privacy. At the same time, I know that as humans, we crave emotional connection and relationships - specifically a significant other relationship.

    I will come at this from a totally different perspective since I have a child :)

    You would never think twice about someone who posted a pic of themselves with their child in a Facebook profile. You would never think twice about a mom or dad who had a son or daughter that 'needed' them and relied on them. So why do we think it is an unhealthy thing to feel this way and do those things with the man or woman in your life?

    I think there is just such a push for a woman to not feel like she is losing her identity or being controlled by a man (or sometimes even vice versa) that we overanalyze everything to the point where we make issues out of things that really aren't.

    Don't take this the wrong way, Becca cuz I totally love you! But if you felt something uncomfortable or irritating about those girls who have a couple pic on FB then that would be *your* problem, not theirs. And that is not meant to be an accusation or a dig at you...just an honest observation of the fact that just as we say in wedding world, to each his own. What works for one girl is not necessarily going to be what makes another girl happy.

    I think it's fabulous that you are learning to embrace this natural shift of your life and hope you continue to rediscover and redefine yourself as your relationship grows. Because honestly, marriage is about growing together and strengthening and challenging one another. If you are not finding out new things about yourself along the years of your life, then you are in a stale and stuck relationship that is probably not very good anyway. :) Sounds like yours is one of the better ones.

    HAHAHAH, and side note: my verification word as I was submitting this was 'equal' Ironic?

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  10. Ooh, the joint email for bill accounts is a good idea. We're about to open the joint savings account - scary!

    I think there are some women who will NEVER have to worry about losing their identity, no matter how many shared photos or shared accounts they have, and you seem like one of them.

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  11. When I first joined Facebook (only about a year ago, I was a late bloomer) I was really surprised how many people who'd been married "forever" had a wedding photo as their profile pic. Then I realized that's probably the only time they had access to professional-level photography, and switching back to something taken with a point and shoot might be hard.

    Plus, how often does someone take a picture of just one person when they aren't doing it for ART reasons? I hang out with photographers and we have photo shoots for fun. I could probably put up a new profile pic every other week if I wanted to and never feel like I was taking a step back in quality. But that's not a normal situation.

    So, I'm in your boat in that I feel uncomfortable putting up a couple photo as my profile pic and plan to only use a wedding photo for a short time, but I have a embarrassment of photo riches so I make these decisions in a very different context than most people.

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  12. @hitchdied - I agree about the pro photography/photo quality impetus. But I think there's also something else going on for a lot (not all) people who keep the wedding image as their profile pic. I mean, I'll keep the album in Facebook and that's great. It's an importand day in my life and I plan to look freaking fabulous. But I remember my five year college reunion had a "yearbook page" type option where you could submit info and photos about what you'd been up to for the last five years, and I remember a good number of girls had ONLY wedding photos and only really wrote about getting married. It was as if getting married was their only "accomplishment" of the last five years. FIVE YEARS. It made me really uncomfortable. A photo and a reference is understandable for something so momentous. A page worth of wedding mush in a college reunion "about me" page makes me wonder why couple-hood and weddings are considered accomplishments instead of life events.

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  13. Oh, D and I are merged, merged, merged, even without marriage. We've known each other since we were 12, and over time we've accumulated joint friends, joint interests, joint memories, joint checking accounts and credit cards and possessions. Our families have merged - they see each other when we're not around, they talk enough that you only have to tell one side anything and everyone knows.

    I'll be honest - when we were younger, it was scary for me. I'm painfully independent by nature. When we were in college, I stressed a lot, wondering if I was damaging my sense of self by letting us get so bound up. But we tested various methods of separation/delineation and ultimately concluded that we are fine. We studied abroad separately and even though a 6 month separation doesn't sound like much, it went a huge way towards proving to me that I am my own person, no matter what. I can live in a new country, travel alone, make new friends, etc. etc.

    We're a partnership, and we change and grow as individuals all the time and our relationship changes and grows to accommodate that. After all these years, D still surprises me (um, I still surprise myself) and I love that. The strength of our relationship actually makes it easier for us to be strong individuals. I know that he'll accept me as I change and develop and we challenge each other to keep growing.

    Sorry for leaving a novel here, but this is one of the issues that has been toughest for me over the years. It has taken FOREVER for me to come to terms with it, and even though I know it in my heart, I still have minor freakouts when we talk about merging finances or things like that.

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  14. I inwardly cringed, the first time I used a photo of us as my facebook pic (prob. about 4-1/2 years ago, once I was finally able to to admit that yes, I, the fiercely single, was dating someone). But it was such a cute photo! And my friends had been asking to see what he looked like.

    And now, I'm using a wedding pic. GAG. Except that I kind of love the photo. And I just realized that this Sunday marks 1 month... part of me feels like I should take it down (how many times have I rolled my eyes when women only ever use their wedding pics?) and part of me wants to stick another wedding photo in its place, LOL.

    It's a weird, weird thing, for someone who used to classify herself as a "quirkyalone" (anyone else read this book?)

    And what makes it weirder is that I actually don't mind as much as I ever thought I would. As you said, my priorities have shifted over the years... I find myself using "we" more often than not when talking about movies or trips or books. It would feel strange not to text him when I'm going to be out past 10pm, but I used to tease girls who did that. In theory, these actions still bug me, but in practice, they feel natural and sweet.

    However, the other day, I was waiting for a ride from B. And two girls who are slightly younger, very single, and big partiers, asked me why I was waiting around. I started to say "My husband's coming to pick me up" but I suddenly felt very self-conscious about using that term around them, like I was either a smug-married or a fuddy-duddy. I kind of switched to "someone's picking me up." But I love calling B my husband in other settings! It's confusing.

    And yeah. we opened a joint e-mail account and joint paypal account for our honeymoon fund, but I kinda hope we can retire it now. What irked me is that Paypal wouldn't accept two names, so his is the only one that shows up.

    It's also tricky to navigate the two career issue, though we dealt with that long before marriage. In observing other couples, it seems like *someone* always has to compromise a bit... or else you have to move to a city big enough to offer satisfying careers for both. My classmates used to rag on me because "you have a boyfriend who will help support you" (um, no, he wasn't, financially, until this month) and "if you move to a new city, he'll be there with you" (true, but we can't move to a new city, because he has a good job here!).

    And yet, I'm the first person to admit that I wouldn't emotionally or mentally have made it through grad school or unemployment without him. And even though we tossed out the idea of doing long-distance again if necessary, just contemplating it made us both ache inside.

    (man, I feel like I could ramble on this topic for hours and still not quite express how I feel about it...)

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  15. @Born to be Mrs. beever

    Actually... I have to confess... re: "You would never think twice about someone who posted a pic of themselves with their child in a Facebook profile."

    Um, I kind of roll my eyes when my friends who have children use a photo of the child *instead of* a photo of themselves. Or when EVERY update is about their kids' potty-training or sleep habits. I get why they do it, honestly I do, but I still roll my eyes. (And for the record, I purposely never mentioned the wedding plans on facebook... I feel kind of bad, because I think some people *wanted* to know what was going on, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it).

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  16. @Becca: "So the shifts are just interesting and strange to work through. No judgment here, just figuring out my new comfort zone."

    Exactly. What judgment I did/do have is much more about me and my own issues than these other girls I know.

    But I also think that merging--in theory, at least, not always in practice--is harder for some women. Just like being single is harder for some women. I had to eat a lot of words when B and I got serious, because I had always insisted (to bewildering looks) that I would NEVER EVER get married or be that seriously entwined with a man. And I believed it, too.

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  17. @Margaret and @Born to Be Mrs Beever - I also had issues with the baby pics as profile pics (not if it was parent+child, but just child) until my closest girlfriend from childhood just had a baby. And now I'm mush. I don't know. It's one of the things (like my couple-or-not profile pic) that feels intensely symbolic... most of the time. And symbolically I don't like it. But practically, I love seeing the baby's cute little face because she lives so far away and I haven't been able to meet the baby yet.

    I'm someone who's always felt like symbolic gestures hold power, like taking a stand for MY facebook page. Perhaps it's also because I know more women who post couple photos than men? Like female identities sometimes get more bound up in the partnership identity than the male identities? It's hard stuff, but it's just symbolic. Really, it's how the couple behaves in real life that affects how cringeworthy the joint symbols feel to me.

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  18. your comment put into words what i was thinking- it's a choice. yes! i hear "codependence" and automatically think of someone who will be unable to exist alone, if necessary.

    but yes. it's a conscious choice to be so joined with josh. a happy choice.

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  19. @Rachel "The strength of our relationship actually makes it easier for us to be strong individuals. I know that he'll accept me as I change and develop and we challenge each other to keep growing."

    This is the part that I didn't understand before having a healthy relationship. But I still get the panics. And all the "proof" of my ability to be independent keeps me sane when the panics pop up. And then the panics fade, because I know this is so much stronger because of how we both support each others' separate and joint dreams.

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  20. You know what? I spent a good chunk of my life being single. I'd taken enough one-armed pictures of myself in exotic places - alone.
    I made being single a freakin' art form. By the time I got married (my late 30's) I didn't care about all the autonomy anymore.
    I took his name.
    I say, "WE are going to visit my parents" instead of "I."
    I like to introduce The Candyman as "my husband."
    I think the upside to having gotten married so late is that I do know myself. I know that I won't get lost in who I am because I am married. I'm not sure many younger brides can say that - or know it. I'm not sure.
    I like the melding of it all.

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  21. This post makes me laugh because I see myself here too. and I love telling people that moving in together wasn't nearly as stressful as deciding to join a phone family plan. Either of us could move out at anytime, but a phone plan was a Real Contract! Heavens!

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  22. @Thirty-something Bride. I think it's less about losing myself - because I've had enough time to get really secure in my bad-ass single self too - and more that I'm used to being single and doing things on my own. Taking care of my own life. Knowing I didn't need to count on anyone else. It's part of my pride in myself, and I HAD to take pride in it because I was surrounded by so many coupled friends. Singlehood became part of my identity. Solo travel was a huge badge of honor, proof that I could do it all.

    I don't know. I spent so much time making a happy single world for myself and genuinely not expecting/hoping for partnership, that the partnership melding sometimes throws me. I love it, don't get me wrong, but it's such a HUGE shift from how I've seen myself before that certain moments still pop up and surprise me - both in "oh sh*t" and "awww schmoop" ways.

    But I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's entirely awesome. But still suprising

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  23. You know @Verhext is right. But, honestly, I find it to be a constant vigilance situation, personally. Because yes, there are things that we do because they weork - he cooks. I don't like feeling like it's hard for me to eat when he's gone (and I kind of do), but it makes our team function, so, great.

    That said, there are things I have to constantly be vigilant about - like going out on our own. Since we moved to San Francisco with zero friends, and then shared friends as we made them, we got out of the habit of going out alone, so I watch for those things. Co-dependance is a place I've gone, and it's pretty un-amusing to get back from there.

    As for facebook pictures DEAR GOD WOMAN. CROP IT SO IT'S JUST YOU. That's what I do. I had a wedding picture up for a few days when we were on honeymoon, and then, bam, gone. I now have a honeymoon picture up, which says far more about what I care about anyway.

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  24. @ ALAL - If you are a certain type of person (I am that type of person too) the panics will never entirely go away. But I get them less often and I get over them more easily. Good enough.

    @ Meg - Oh yes, going out separately is key. We actually do pretty well in that regard because we each have some separate friends and we also have separate interests. And we're cool being alone-alone. So I don't feel pressured to accompany him if he wants to go do something I'm not interested in - he is an adult and he is happy to do things on his own. And vice versa. We love a lot of the same things, but definitely not all and we embrace our separate interests.

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  25. Both my parents and the beau's parents have joint email accounts. This bugs me to no end, especially that time my mom and I were planning a surprise graduation party for my dad and I couldn't just email her the things she needed to look at. I tried to encourage her then to get her own account, but she was seriously freaked out by that idea. Meanwhile, I'M freaked out by the idea of sharing an email account with someone -- outside of for the wedding planning, that is. So I feel you on that. It's definitely a generational discrepancy. I have my own accounts, my own files, my own LIFE, that I've built and maintained up until now -- unlike our parents, who started everything new together. They never had the experience of knowing what it was like to hold a public identity separate from their partner. For us, it gets tricky. Instead of building from scratch, we're trying to figure out how to merge separate entities. Sometimes it feels like destroying parts of yourself, or regressing somehow.

    Definitely some interesting food for thought....

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  26. @Meg - yes, the going out separately and alone time for projects is key. It's been strange though because, about the time we moved in, two of my closest LA friends moved away. That both added to the "merge" panic and pushed me to make new friends/reconnect more with old. Because yes, the separate social evenings are critical.

    And as for photoshop, I'll try next time for a Jr-High-Dance-Arms-Length pose in photos and see if that makes it easier to crop. Ha.

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  27. I think all relationships go through the changes as things slowly go from his and mine to ours, but I also think it is very important to keep a sense of YOU as things meld to us. For me it means doing certain activities that is just me or me and the girls while he hangs with the guys.

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  28. aww cute. sometimes doing the "will never"s with the right person feel like "should always" right? :)

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  29. I echo Thirtysomething Bride..I have had PLENTY of time to be single. I am 37 years old. I got this single thing on lock and down pat. I am estatic to have couple pictures up on FB page. And I switch them out regularly, even.

    I think when you have had both the blessing (and curse) of being single a very long time, the opportunity to merge is a very sweet thing. And this is not a poke at your age but at 26, you are starting to come into your own still and so I can see how you don't want to "lose yourself". Trust me, I've found myself for quite some time now and it's not all it's cracked up to be. LOL!!! :)

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  30. @Tiffany - Oh, I should clarify. I'm 30 now. I was 26 when I met Jason and I had been decidedly single for every pretty much every year up until then (with one unfortunate mini-stint in a relationship and a lot of unfortunate mid-20s dating). I didn't date at all in high school or college (late bloomer alert.) So yes, I know what it's like to be single. I wasn't single into my 30s, so you're right, I don't know what that's like. However, when you're the only one not dating for that long (prom, college dorms, first apartment...or three) yeah, it absolutely shapes your perspective on the world.

    And trust, I have couples pictures on Facebook. :) My relationship is a huge part of my life. It's just the *profile* picture I feel squidgy about. Because I had a lot of time to define myself apart from the relationship. My facebook profile is MINE. And it can reflect the important parts of my life (him) but I have a lot of difficulty in the symbolic melding (last names, photos), because this has been my life for so long. I have no problem with the practical melding (bills, joint checking, healthcare.) Practical is practical. Self-definition (or outside perception) is a whole other beast for me.

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  31. Oh boy, can I relate to this discussion! Especially this:

    "I spent so much time making a happy single world for myself and genuinely not expecting/hoping for partnership, that the partnership melding sometimes throws me."

    Being a single, independent, self-sufficient, globe-trotting woman of the world defined me for such a long time that it is hard to lay down that image.

    This post is especially timely because we have been considering a short-term situation in another city where he would have a paid job, and my job would be to write (pay coming only later). Having had my own income ever since I was 16, this possibility has thrown me for a loop! I can't imagine not having my own money, and my own paid work. I've been working HARD to get my head around that fact that it's OUR money, and I'll be ok even if I'm not earning for awhile. But after decades of taking care of myself, it's a bit hard to relax into it.

    And, re: weddings as accomplishments: I completed a grad degree and got married around the same time. The graduation photo is the one on my FB page because that was my *accomplishment* while the wedding, as you said, was a wonderful life milestone.

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  32. What is it with shared email accounts? Because a hotmail address is so expensive?

    Several of the couples I have known have had shared email accounts - until they got divorced. Coincidence?

    I think not.

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  33. Boy do I get you. I have always been fiercely independent, but I'm also a young bride, and that has made things so, so hard for me. I met my fiance when I was 18, so I never really got to get out on my own and live without him, and that has plagued me ever since our relationship got serious (which didn't take long). Even though it sucked more than I can describe, I'm secretly really grateful that we were long distance for two years because I feel like I never would have been able to prove that I could live on my own without them. Since graduating college, I have been very strict about us not sharing money at all because I want to prove to myself that I can support myself financially while I still have the chance. But I can't do everything. I actually broke off our engagement for about ten months not because I wasn't sure about being with him but because I've been thinking about "us" instead of "me" for so long that I thought I would never be able to get my life going without some space to think about ME. It's something I still struggle with...a lot. I worry so much that I won't be able to figure out what I really want to do with my life because no matter what I do, I'll never be able to make a decision that doesn't affect both of us. I'm so grateful for him, and I love him so much, and I really do think us being together will be the best thing for me (and us) in the long run, but sometimes I still wish we had met later so this wouldn't be so hard.

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