Worth it

That First Year Of Marriage Is No Cakewalk — Especially In A Blended Family

It’s not all bad and there are so many warm sweet parts.

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Shot of an affectionate young couple spending time together at home
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The morning after the first night I spent with my now-husband, I became acutely aware that I was on the edge of falling in It, and fast. Perched on the kitchen counter wearing his flannel button-up, I admired how his thin T-shirt pulled across his shoulder blades as he ground coffee beans. The autumn sun filtered picturesquely through the window, and I thought to myself, “Self, you’ve done it now — this is It.” And it was. Falling in love with him was the easiest, most incredible time of my life. I was so enamored, enchanted, brimming with hope and wine (and lust), that I am grateful now for the silly phone photos I snapped periodically, otherwise the entire chapter would just be a love-dazed, Edison-light lit blur. I didn’t know heirloom quality love, the falling in love scene from “Shakespeare in Love” kind of love actually existed, yet there I was, completely immersed in it.

On October 14th, 2021, exactly 358 days after our first date, we said “I do” in the local courthouse, reciting our vows so gleefully the tears were impossible to separate from the laughter. It was the happiest day of my life.

Soon thereafter, as is so often the case, it began to cool. There are countless stories that highlight the glory days of the newlywed period — blissful lovemaking and laughter every day, meshing homes and lives, boxes of books and holiday decorations and schedules all blending together seamlessly. But what about the rest of us? Where are the quirky articles about newly blended families with not quite enough room, two very full-time schedules, and who are now sharing space with another adult for the first time in years?

We both came with children as attachments, too. My college-age son was home with us all summer. A young adult, still boyish enough to be underfoot, but in an oddly “kind of a dependent, kind of a roommate” way. It was a tightrope walk for all of us, a lesson in patience.

My husband’s children, much younger than mine, bring another set of technical challenges to the table. I want to ensure they have all the time alone with their dad that they need, and do everything I can to facilitate that. The downside of that balancing act is that it means I deprive myself of developing a deeper relationship with them, and keep a feeling of… casualness in the air that I worry about. Earnestly we are striving to navigate the rostrum of blended-family-with-widely-differing-ages-and-also-visiting-schedules, but there’s no GPS for this, and I predict it is going to be a long, learning-curve-filled road for everyone.

This first year has had some moments of tension. I have been on the edge of running shrieking into the street, incensed by my husband’s insistence on military style, inhospitable sheet corner tucking. I’ve overheard some less-than-flattering mumbles about the aftermath of my plant trimming frenzies, and our combined failure to create a semi-regular laundry schedule irks us both. Many an audible sigh have been sighed over choices of bummer Spotify playlists, stacks of unread New Yorkers spread around, differences in house-keeping priorities, and (ok, fine, mostly my) abandoned DIY projects. Chippy swipes about “how many pairs of shoes do you actually need?”, and, “have you always snored this much?” aren’t uncommon. Side-eye aside, we are both learning to recognize jaw-clenching triggers either one of us may be pulling unintentionally, and once aware, work on them wholeheartedly.

It’s not all bad — far from it. Every morning, he brings me coffee in bed. I have guided him into the coziness of an over-decorated house around the holidays (including Halloween). We’ve learned we love HelloFresh during his busy season of work, and he’s helped me learn to ride a bike around the city with a level of terror much lower than I was experiencing before. We hold hands all the time (forever my favorite), and are working on making what was his house, our house. We’re creating new routines and fun traditions when we have any/all of the boys. We’ve taken lovely trips together, do superb porch sitting and neighbor chatting, found shows to binge and quote endlessly, and every day move the needle a little closer to hitting that stride that seems to come only with experience, learned levels of patience, and time.

This first year has been arduous, but worth every blunder. The warm, sweet parts echo that ethereal time when we started dating… only somehow better because we’re married now, and — if we can get it together — can live in that bubble as much as we want. As we venture into Year 2, I am confident we’ll manage it with more finesse, and when the ditch inevitably gets muddy, we’ll know a) how not to make it worse and b) how to get out of it together, emerging stronger and ready for an even better future, how-to guide provided or not.

Katherine Mueller-White is a freelance writer living in central Kentucky with her husband, in-and-out college student son, and part-time step-sons. When she's not working, writing, or napping, she travels with said husband, and talks to her two cats like they are humans. An invested community builder and volunteer, she subscribes to a "we all do better when we all do better" mantra. She also enjoys canceling plans in lieu of a good under-eye mask and binging The Office from bed.

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