Him + Her = Ours?

By Kristen Castillo

October 31, 2012 5 min read

Before you got married, you probably pictured spending every day and night side by side with your spouse. But that idea changes fast. You may want a night out with your friends, while your spouse wants happy hour with co-workers.

*Talk It Out

How can you go from "me" to "we" and still keep your sense of individuality?

"Talking is the glue that holds relationships together," says Dr. Fran Walfish, psychotherapist and author of "The Self-Aware Parent." "People need to learn how to talk and listen to each other and tolerate differences."

Life coach and blogger Maggie Reyes encourages couples to define what success looks like for their relationship.

"Talk about what you envision," she says. "Realize it's going to be very personal for you."

*Know Your Partner

It takes time to get to know your spouse.

"In most cases, it doesn't hurt to live together," says Walfish, who believes living together helps couples get to know each other. "It's better to know them before you say 'I do.'"

Be patient and give yourselves a chance to figure out each other's preferences. Does one of you like cooking? Can you handle the grocery shopping, or would you prefer your better half do the job?

Split chores evenly and based on what you can both tolerate.

Reyes advises couples to aim for win-win situations, not compromises, which often involve one person's making sacrifices.

*Alone Time vs. Couple Time

"It's a myth that you have to do everything together," Reyes says.

Instead, look for ways to balance your personal time with your couple time.

"Everything is doable if you have two willing partners," Walfish says.

One of her clients wanted poker night three times a week, which frustrated his wife.

Walfish confronted the husband and urged him to make a change. The solution?

"We cut down his poker nights one at a time," she says.

Some behavior modifications have to be made, suggests Walfish. "Demonstrate you're willing to have give-and-take," she says.

*Handling Money

You need to talk about how you'll handle money in the relationship. Do you want separate bank accounts? A joint account? Is there some wiggle room for splurges?

"Every couple will have a different priority," says Reyes, noting that some couples want to reduce debt. Others want to save for a home, and some want to save up for vacations.

No matter what you decide about saving or spending your money, plan to reassess your financial priorities from time to time.

*Family Expectations

You also want to figure out family obligations. Will you be expected to attend a family dinner every Sunday? How will you celebrate holidays?

"Talk about the little things so they don't become big things," says Reyes, who suggests couples discuss how they spent their childhoods, how they relate to their families and what they expect from each other when it comes to family commitments.

*Decorating

One of the hallmarks of couplehood is having a place to call home. Whether it be a condo, an apartment or a house, decorating that space can be very complicated.

"When you're making a home, your home is a sanctuary for the both of you," Reyes says. "The house is a reflection of you as a team."

She recommends asking your spouse how involved he or she wants to be in the decorating. Some spouses care a lot; others don't care at all. The middle ground? You choose a few ideas and run them by your partner. For example, preselect three paint colors, and then ask him or her to help you make the final color decision.

*Respect Each Other

Even when it's stressful figuring out how to be yourself and be part of a couple, remember to respect your spouse.

"We're still two people, and we love each other," Reyes says. "We want to bring our best self to each other."

That means you each can pursue your individual passions -- such as photography, cooking or biking -- while also spending quality time as a couple, for example, listening to music, going on hikes together and enjoying date nights whenever possible.

"Check in with each other, and make plans and decisions based on that," Reyes says.

Enjoy each other's company, and trust that you always are working on ways to improve your communication and your relationship.

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