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The path to marriage can seem like a straight and narrow one. First, you have to find someone who complements you, someone whom you can see yourself spending the rest of your life and (maybe) starting a family with. After that, you fall in love, plan a wedding and poof, like magic the two of you are living together and ready to make a house a home.

For me, this route began at the age of 27, a few years before I said, “I do.” I was living in my first purchased home, paying my bills, taking out the trash and handling car and home repairs. Sure, I took my car to a shop to get serviced and called contractors to fix broken household items, but I handled it myself, nonetheless.

Even though I took care of business, by myself, I still looked forward to sharing a life with my future mate. And since the average age of a woman’s first marriage is 27, up from only 20 years old in 1960, according to the Pew Research Center, I would assume that many women find themselves in a similar situation as myself at that time — quite independent.

Therapist and marriage expert Sara Nuahn said to that a woman’s independence, even when she’s in a relationship, is important. “No woman wants to be in a relationship where she feels she doesn’t have the independence she knows she deserves,” she said.

I completely agree with Nuahn and believe that women want their independence recognized in a relationship. However, upon jumping the broom, some women are not considering the transition from going solo to being a party of two. I was one of those women.

After my husband and I got engaged, I moved into his house, out of state and as excited as I was, I was unprepared for the mental transformation that would soon take place. At times, I felt like I was back in my parents’ house, not because my husband treated me like a child or unlike his equal, but rather, because I was completely out of my element and felt like a foreigner. I struggled with minute things, like not knowing when trash day occurred (because my husband took out the trash) or not knowing the exact dollar amount for household bills (I contributed to the joint account but by husband already had automatic drafts set up).

This created small arguments surrounding how I used to do things in my house, how he did things in his house before I moved in, and how we had to do things in our now shared home.

In many marriage ceremonies, scriptures are often quoted such as, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” This explanation from Mark 10:7-8 about marriage sounds easy enough, but what do you do after the two of you are joined together? How do you effortlessly transition from being solely independent to joining and creating a home with someone else, forever? I truly believe that can be a struggle for a woman who has taken care of herself before marriage, as she has to relinquish some control over certain things in her life once she gets hitched. And it doesn’t help that we’re often fed mixed messages.

My mom told me, in my formative years, to “never financially depend on a man,” meaning get your education and a job so you don’t have to rely solely on anyone else. I took that advice and followed suit. But conversely, while in a serious relationship, she told me that a man wants to “feel needed” and it was important to offer that. For example, let him kill the bug or fix something that you can probably fix yourself. While this advice made sense, it seemed contradictory and didn’t prepare me for cohabitation.

When asked men the question, “What’s something that makes you feel emasculated?” a respondent mentioned that he feels emasculated when it comes to his lack of basic car maintenance knowledge in comparison to his partner’s. If you know how to change oil and change a tire and you meet a man who doesn’t know how to fix a car, in any way, would you teach him? Or would you pretend like you don’t know how and just take it to the shop? The former would be the ideal situation, but if you’re dating a sensitive man, it could create unnecessary drama.

I’ve been married for four years and trying to maintain my independence is still a slight struggle. I wish my husband and I had discussed this more in depth during premarital counseling, but I really don’t think we would have known what to discuss, as we really didn’t know this was even a topic worth tackling until our nuptials. Although we don’t have it all figured out, we have done a lot better in communicating how we feel in certain situations and I’ve been more honest with myself, and respectfully vocal to my husband, at times when I feel like I’m losing myself.

While there’s no pamphlet to guide you, make sure that you talk to your fiancé about any fears or concerns that you may have upon entering your marriage. Not emasculating and allowing him “to feel needed” doesn’t mean that you lose your identity, as your union should be the two of you coming together to build a home and family. If you’re always butting heads about who should do what, how can you do that? After all, your independent characteristics should be an asset to the relationship, not a hindrance.

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