I feel like after you complete a season of life and begin a new chapter, you look back and think man, I wish I knew __________________.
That’s how married life was for me.
The minute we said I do, so much changed and I was disappointed that no one told me that we’d be fighting about things like which brand of toothpaste to buy and not having time for sex, or even whose family we would spend the holidays with.
For us, dating was easy. Engagement was a blast. And once we said I do, the work began.
I heard from all my married friends that marriage would be work, but I didn’t know how much work it would entail. I decided to write to all of you who are single, dating, engaged and even the newlyweds out there and share with you all the things people don’t talk about, because what’s magical about trimming your husbands nose hairs or cleaning your wife’s hair out of the shower drain? Gross, but it’s real life.
Here are 10 things I wish someone told me before I got married:
1. The first year is the most important year!
This is the time when you set the foundation for your next 60 years together. That first year is filled with so many new memories and traditions. You find your rhythm and start experiencing the day-to-day routine of married life. It can be so good, but it can also be terrible (it was for us), especially if you fight more for your independence rather than being together. Our best advice for that first year of marriage: turn off the TV for an entire year and focus on building your marriage.
2. Keep dating each other.
Okay, this sounds obvious but we stopped dating each other once we got married and by year 3 were completely disconnected. It wasn’t until we started dating each other again that our marriage turned around. Date nights are about having fun, making new memories, having heart-to-heart conversations, and laughing. Schedule weekly dates and you won’t grow apart.
3. Childhood baggage does exist and doesn’t go away.
The identity of who we are as it relates to love and belonging was primarily shaped by our family of origin. From handling conflict, emotions, communication, money, to holidays and traditions, all have a root from our upbringing. Look for clues to help explain (not excuse!) your spouse’s behavior. The BEST question to ask your partner: How did your parents show you love?
4. You will be apologizing and forgiving all the time, so get really good at it.
Since we all make mistakes and say stupid things and do stupid things, you have to make sure you’re owning your mistakes and giving an authentic apology. And “I’m sorry babe” isn’t what we mean here. We’re talking about saying I’m sorry… I was wrong… How can I make this better?
5. The little things really do matter.
If you put a little effort into your relationship every day, you will reap the rewards big time. The small gestures, the common courtesy of saying thank you and I love you, even holding hands in the car all add up and create security in your marriage.
6. Schedule sex.
Say what? You heard me. If you’re a very busy couple, sex will be the first thing to go. We have found that scheduling sex helps keep it a priority and we make sure we’re not too tired or too busy for it. I know this probably sounds bizarre for most, so if you’re having spontaneous sex often, don’t change a thing and keep going. But if you find yourself wanting it more or having less and less, talk about carving out a chunk of time on your calendar for sexy time.
7. Marriage counseling is actually a good thing.
There sure is a stigma that getting help or using resources for your marriage means something is wrong with you and your spouse. And this is absolutely not true. Every couple gets stuck and getting help for your relationship means that it matters to you and that you have the courage to do something about it. The average couple waits 6 years to get help and often times it’s too late at that point!
8. Debt is DUMB.
We dit it anyway, racking up $200k in debt in the first 3 years of a marriage. It nearly crushed our already fragile marriage. Money fights are listed in the top 3 reasons couples will divorce, so this is an area you have to talk about. At least once a month, you must sit together and look at what money is coming in and what money is going out. Talk about what things you want to save for (purchasing a home, a trip, a car, etc.) and make financial goals together. Discussions about money are rarely sexy but they have to happen in order to be on the same page.
9. It’s okay to disagree.
I can promise you that you didn’t marry the wrong person just because you disagree on things. You’re two different people, with different upbringings, cultures, likes and dislikes, and thats a good thing. You’re actually stronger together than apart because you balance each other out because of your differences. So when you disagree on a particular issue, be sure to still show respect. Pro tip: take the Strengthfinder assessment so you can focus on what you guys are naturally good at.
10. Judgement and criticism will destroy trust.
A healthy marriage means that both partners are sharing their deepest thoughts, fears, desires, stories, and feelings with one another. They’re a safe person to go to in good times and in bad. The second that one of you judges or minimizes what the other is going through, trust is broken, an emotional wall is built, and communication slowly stops. Watch yourself. Be sure you are a safe person for your spouse to be real and messy with.
The best way to protect your marriage is to learn the healthy habits of successful couples, before you get started. Learn how to in our self-paced online premarital course.