I’m like many others: when I heard the word “adult” used as a verb, I scoffed, and probably rolled my eyes a little.
But, it didn’t and hasn’t gone away. Adulting, as Millennials have coined, is here to stay. This is what language is all about—it’s a reflective evolution that isn’t worth getting mad over; “literally” doesn’t mean what it used to, and we all just have to deal with it. So, instead of stewing in the silliness of it all, I’ve adopted adulting as a viable term. My husband and I use it pretty frequently, usually paired with long sighs, venting sessions, and moments of existential dread.
All young adults have to come to terms with their changing roles. We go from students to active members of society. We transition very quickly, moving from a classroom to a cubicle in a blink of a Lasik-needing eye.
Sometimes, we’re just not prepared for what we have to deal with. We’ve all joked about learning more about the mitochondria (it’s the powerhouse of the cell) than taxes in high school, and suddenly you go from using the free university health center to figuring out if your insurance covers this visit to the doctor.
It feels like uncharted territory, with many twists and roadblocks that you never knew to anticipate. Most Millennials go through this transition alone. For me, I’ve had to experience these changes as a teammate, especially since I got married right in the thick of my young adulthood era.
What it’s like to experience these 5 adulting trials as a married couple
Adulting trial #1: Buying a Car
What it’s like: Something you learn in marriage is that there is a lot of compromise when it comes to shared things; it’s not all about what you like and prefer and want. Buying a car really expedites that learning process. Not only do you have to pick out a vehicle that is within your budget and deal with the ins and outs of sales and car dealerships and finance lingo, you also have to both agree, communicate, and negotiate, all at once.
Even for the most go-with-the-flow couples, there’s a lot of pressure when it comes to buying a car. It’s a big commitment. We bought our car brand new (a huge surprise to us, and not at all what we were expecting to do), and spent an entire day trying to navigate our realistic needs with our limited budget. It was tough. Even with things like automatic windows—something I never thought I’d have to go to bat for, but came up once or twice—there was a discussion involved.
We ended up agreeing on our new whip, but it was a pretty big process to get there—a long day of going back and forth. But that feeling of driving out of the lot, excitedly, into a new chapter together, was completely worth it.
Adulting trial #2: Paying Bills
What it’s like: I’ve been paying bills since I left home and went to college. It started with rent (my college dorm was a little weird, since they made us make monthly payments), and then grew once I moved off-campus with other utilities. Since graduating college, student loans have popped into monthly circulation as well. Then, a car payment, from that lovely new set of wheels mentioned above.
This is all normal. As you get older, you tend to get more bills. I think this is something that everyone can expect.
When you’re married, you just have to be ready for some bills to just double. And that can take a little period of adjustment. And, sometimes there are some unexpected payments, that you didn’t realize you were walking into.
For example, I had some credit card debt. Not much—I used my credit card to pay for a summer class that didn’t accept financial aid, plus I ordered a plane ticket to Alaska when my best friend got married. So, we’re talking maybe a little over $1,500 total, which took me a while to pay off on my student-editor salary. And, upon getting married, Chad absorbed the debt too. It became our debt. And here’s what’s important when dealing with this kind of adulting trial: you can’t be judgmental. You just have to make a plan, together, and use each other’s strengths to get it paid off.
(Guess what, we did. Quickly. And what did we do? We high-fived and said, “Go us, we’re adulting!”)
Adulting trial #3: Making Appointments
What it’s like: To summarize in a word: UGH. Making appointments, whether it’s for the dentist, the doctor, or to schedule someone to come take a look at the furnace, is never, ever fun. And for us Millennials with social anxiety, it’s never really easy, either. This is something we all learn very quickly in Adulting 101: you’ll wonder why you ever took your mom calling on your behalf for granted.
In terms of being married, making appointments does not get any easier. Sorry. Unless you happen to marry someone who is more than willing to hop on the phone and take care of everything for you (which would be weird, since they are a partner and not a parent), you’re out of luck.
Here’s the truth, and nothing but: you are going to wish your mom could make that appointment for you. You might even wish that your spouse could do it for you. Well, they can’t. It’s on you. And if you turn to your spout for support, they’ll most likely just be glad that they aren’t in your position, but they probably will be kind enough not to admit it.
Adulting trial #4: Health Scares
What it’s like: If you are unlucky enough to face a health scare that needs urgent medical attention, it feels like adulting on steroids. You have to sort through insurance information and hospital websites while assessing your health, which is not usually an easy task.
When you’re married, it’s complicated. You’re not alone. There is someone who can be by your side, helping you to navigate and hold your hand. You’ve got a built-in support system, and one that will go to bat for you and help you get the care that you need.
It’s not easy. It’s not the same as having a parent who has been there before and knows how to fill out paperwork or which entrance to use at the hospital. They are learning as they go, just like you, and are stepping into a role riddled with worry and concern.
Health scares are hard. But having a loving spouse there, who is able to join you in the emergency room, can fill out your medical history, or make the phone call updates to family, is a relief.
Adulting trial #5: Housework
What it’s like: It’s crazy what you can go through in school—late nights, homework all evening, getting up early to finish projects—versus the struggle of doing one simple adult task after going to work all day. I’m talking laundry, doing dishes, or wiping down counters.
Housework as a married couple can be filled with a lot of tension. It needs to get done, but usually both partners have a limited, depleted resource of energy. #JustMillennialThings I suppose.
Here’s how we cope: I am blessed with a husband that gags at gender roles as much as I do, so that’s one less stress-inducer to worry about. However, since cleaning is not easy for either of us, resentment can pile on when housework is not equally shared. The solution typically comes with communication, and a little bit of compromise.
Sometimes one of us has to pick up slack while the other simply can’t. Whether it’s extra stress from work, seasonal depression, or a period of soul searching that pushes folding laundry out of the focus, it happens. So, we understand and communicate. We always, however, maintain some level of clear expectations, and talk about what we need from each other.
The best part, though, is knowing that it’s not all on you. You have a partner, and are able to both work together and get things done. Being able to rely on someone else is priceless, and makes the daunting tasks a little easier, especially when they decide to turn on the music and dance their way through the pile of dirty dishes.
Keep Things in Perspective
In the end, each of these adulting experiences come down to how you make it and approach the situation. You’re not alone, and have a partner to rely on. Even when things get complicated, you always have your person to get through it with.