The Truth About Living Together

Continued (page 3 of 5)

Women who have lived with roommates before moving in with their fiancés may have it a little easier. At least they're used to shared quarters. Those who have been living alone, however, often face more complicated adjustments to a life of cohabitation than negotiating their own closets. "I had a really hard time at first not having my own quiet space," says one New Yorker who'd lived alone for a decade before moving in with her fiancé. "I missed the feng shui of a place that was all mine. I missed talking on the phone to friends without anyone listening in." To catch some privacy, she would head out to the gourmet café around the corner. In time, though, she learned that it was okay to need time alone, but to behave more like an adult about itmdash;in other words, without stomping to the door or slamming it on the way out. "Things improved for both of us," she says.

Many brides report that the good news is that the biggest source of contention is the wedding itself—which means there's an end in sight. "About 70 percent of the fights Gregg and I have ever had were about the wedding," Sarah remembers. "And my mom won every time." If nothing else, those fights can serve as entry points into discussions about larger issues. "I'm a firm believer in wedding-planning as a metaphor for negotiating marriage," Jennifer says. "Our fights were about whether to splurge on the expensive portable toilets, but they were also about how we thought about money and how we problem-solved." Such arguing can be a good thing, says Pamela Berger, a Brooklyn psychotherapist: "When you compromise, you are allowing for the other person's needs, and that's an essential part of what it means to be in a partnership in the first place."

As for Jamie and me, we finally were able to put that partnership first. Once again, we became a couple instead of a wedding-planning, box-unpacking twosome. We made furniture for our new home and took off for long weekends. And I realized, after truly opening my eyes and looking at this wonderful, loving (sometimes maddening) gift of a man, that no two people can move into a spot with all their worldly belongings and agree about everything right off the bat—or ever. Living together calls for attention to lots of details. It may involve a few tears and sometimes being in a lethal mood. It's a lot like planning a wedding.

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