Fifteen years ago when I got married for the first time, it was so easy to merge households– we both had nothing and were basically starting from scratch. When we had to untangle everything, we remained civil and amicable for the most part, and ever since, I have continued to keep all my accounts and everything separate. However, on a weekly basis my clients that are marrying later in life, or for the second time, often ask me for practical advice to ensure a smooth transition, and here is a check list I go over with them:
(1) Talk about what your shared/joint expenses are going to be and how they will get paid.
(2) Open a joint account and one joint credit card, where you can earn points together. You should both review this monthly and set a limit for how much someone can charge without the other’s consent.
(3) Update your address with all your creditors, etc. Notify DMV, voter’s registration, and all your service providers.
(4) Notify your insurance companies and add on additional drivers as needed.
(5) Avoid arguing over what should stay or go in terms of furntiure or artwork, etc.
Let’s talk about point #5 as the rest are pretty self explanatory. Instead of getting into heated battles over whose crap should go, try to create 3 categories: 1) yes, we’ll keep it; 2) no, can’t stand it; and 3) maybe I can live with it. If you have different tastes, resist putting everything in category 2 because you need to be cognizant of the fact that there may be some things that someone is sentimentally attached. While at first glance it may seem there is very little you can stand, try to avoid automatically exerting veto power without any discretion. Trust me– this won’t end well.
Ultimately, you can’t force someone to get rid of everything, but that also shouldn’t mean you need to deal with it all in your sacred space. Maybe he gets to have his man cave, where the things you don’t like will be out of sight. Or perhaps the office away from home can house some things. Maybe you need to ask a relative to keep a few family heirlooms for you. Storage facilities are another option. What I found to be one of the best solutions was to sell or donate a few items and just start new.
Merging households later in life is not easy, but if you can keep in mind that the reason you are going through such difficult tasks is because you love each other and want to be together, it should all work out okay. Just be considerate of each other’s wants and desires while trying to find solutions that will work for everyone in the new household. Just remember- finding the right house and spouse is the hard part, the rest should be a walk in the park.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.