Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When Two Lives Combine Into One: My Happy But Tricky Story..

My husband Jeff and I had a fight about money the other night.

It wasn't even a fight, really, at least not a conventional one. We do things differently than most couples. The issue wasn't the type of money problem most couples face. Some spouses say the other spends too much money on frills. Others complain the other doesn't keep track of finances adequately.

The issue between Jeff and me was not like that at all.
A still from the play "4,000 Miles" at the
Vermont Stage Company in Burlington, Vt.
From my perspective,  he was nicely staying within our household budget, but spending too large a share of the money he earned on keeping me happy and comfortable, and not enough on himself .

I was frustrated because I didn't feel like I was contributing as much of my income on keeping up the household as I should, I needed to cut back on unnecessary frills for myself, and contribute more to our mutual well being.

He met me that evening at Leunig's a fairly upscale restaurant in Burlington, Vt. before we went to see the play "4000 Miles," a production in which he designed the set.

Jeff's a well-regarded, busy theater set designer, and that was one of his jobs. Of course, he'd seen it upteenth times during rehearsal, but he wanted me to see it, and I also really wanted to go.

After dinner and a drink, we went to the play. It was set in an elderly woman's New York apartment. On the set, bookshelves and tables were cluttered with books, photographs and knick knacks.

The play, presented by the Vermont Stage Company was very well done and well worth seeing, but this is not the place for a review. But I was struck by a running theme running through the dialogue. It showed how   we negotiate life with family and those closest to us with a complicated stew of emotions. Love and devotion, mostly, but also uncomfortable moments, misunderstandings, gaps in good communication, and little shards of frustration.

On the set Jeff designed, he'd used some of the stuff he had accumulated over the years, items that came to grace our shelves and rooms when he moved in with me three years ago. He'd also grabbed some of the stuff I had accumulated over the years. (We have a long standing agreement that pretty much anything in the house is fair game for any of his theater set designs.)

Jeff also used family photographs from his side of the family, and my side of the family on the "4,000 Miles" set.

As I watched the play and noted where our stuff was on the stage set, I found myself marveling about how his life and my life became our life. I know that's not remarkable in the grand scheme of things. Zillions of people get married every year and establish happy, combined households.

I'm devoted to Jeff and he to me, that's plain.  But even with that devotion, it takes time to fully understand the implications of a life that was his and was mine, and is now ours.

That situation was   the basis of our money "fight."  Like every couple, we will spend the rest of our lives exploring and losing ourselves in our combined life.

There will be bumps along the way, and I hope Jeff remains patient with me. I'll probably never learn to negotiate our combined life perfectly, but I'll keep trying and loving the effort. Now that we've been together for nearly four years and married for seven months, I can't imagine living life any other way than I do now.
How lucky can a man get?

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