I’ve heard that the first year of marriage is the hardest, but it’s actually been pretty smooth sailing for me. I think that’s because my husband and I are both pretty chill and adaptable, not because there haven’t been any challenges or surprises. I’ve learned a lot of important things about relationships in the past year and I’ll never see love the same way again.
Marriage feels undeniably different than an unmarried serious relationship. Being together long-term and even living together is fine and I’ve done it, but that kind of relationship felt like an endless wife audition and it got old. I felt like I had to be perfect every single day or my boyfriend would lose interest in me; being married feels different because we have those vows in place and we both take them seriously. As the Eagles would say, it’s a peaceful easy feeling.
You might not want to have sex with your spouse 24/7 and that’s OK. When you’re in the honeymoon phase of dating, you can’t keep your hands off each other. It’s a fun stage of the relationship, but it doesn’t last forever. The change isn’t as bad as TV makes out, of course—the stereotypical sexless marriage where the flame is gone is silly, but there is less focus on the constant nookie because now you’re sharing your entire life: work stress, finances, chores. The stress and responsibilities can contribute to having less sex, but chances are you’ll also have less sex because other forms of intimacy will take its place sometimes. Cuddling, talking about life, and going on random late-night walks together feel just as intimate within a marriage.
Even though you may have less sex, the sex is better. Despite dirty dishes and piles of dog puke making daily life less sexy, you’ll still make time for sex, and it’s even better after the wedding. It goes right along with the general feeling of marriage being different than a dating relationship: he’s not just a boyfriend anymore, so you don’t have to worry about him ghosting if you accidentally fart in the middle of the action or if your body isn’t positioned in the most flattering way. Married sex is by far the best sex I’ve ever had.
Spouses absolutely need to spend time apart. I love my husband, but I would lose my mind if I didn’t have some time to myself and I know he feels the same way. We’re a family and a team but we didn’t magically become the same person when we married; we’re still two individuals and we don’t share all the same interests. Whether it’s hanging out with our own friends separately or just going in different rooms for a couple hours to watch shows or movies we don’t agree on, alone time is key to a good marriage.
Compromise is your best friend. No matter how much you have in common, no two people are exactly alike, and that’s where compromise comes in. He wants to watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but you don’t like gore and have vowed to yourself never again to watch anything with the words “chainsaw massacre” in the title? You can compromise by finding something you agree to watch together or by agreeing to take some time apart and watch whatever you want. There’s no need to argue about it when you can come to a peaceful agreement.
Communication about money is so important. Money is the number one reason couples fight, so it must be made a priority. I handle the bills in my household because my husband is a bit forgetful, so my overanxious type-A personality is the perfect fit for keeping the bills paid on time. Even though I’m the one handling the accounts, I always keep him in the loop and we communicate about everything so there are no surprises.
You might not want to go out as much, and that’s OK too. I went out to bars a lot when I was single and I don’t want to think about how much money I unnecessarily blew through. At the time, I thought every opportunity to go out was an opportunity to meet my future husband, so I kept going. It got exhausting and expensive, so it’s a relief to just relax at home now, where the drinks are cheaper and nobody has to drive.
In-laws can be a great addition to your life. Despite all the terrible stereotypes about parents-in-law, the right in-laws can be a great asset. Earlier this year, in a twist of fate, I ended up accepting a temporary contract position working with my mother-in-law. To most people, that sounds pretty unsettling, but we ended up getting along really well and my relationship with his entire side of the family is now much stronger. There’s no such thing as having too many caring family members around.
Life goals seem so much more attainable as a team. As a single person, I had many of the same goals I do now: buy a home, travel, and adopt lots of dogs. However, those goals were much harder to accomplish as a single person with a single income. By the time I paid all the bills, I was lucky if I had anything left to save. Marriage has been wonderful because now I’m not the only one on the team; we both make money and share expenses, so we can advance towards our goals much more quickly.
Life will never be the same. That’s a good thing because I wouldn’t want to go back. Sure, the single life was fast and fun sometimes, but it was also anxiety-inducing and uncertain. I consider myself very lucky to be half of such a dynamic team, and I can’t wait to see what the coming years hold for us.
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