People always say the first year of marriage is the hardest, and even though we achieved some really big things this year, I can firmly say that being engaged was definitely harder. Planning a wedding as our first big project together created a lot more tension in our lives and gave us a great foundation for our marriage, so being married was more a breeze than we thought. Although, being married changed a LOT of stuff in our day-to-day lives: merged bank accounts, name changes, buying a home – a things that take some negotiation.
As my husband and I celebrate our first year of marriage together, I can’t help but look back at the lessons I’ve learned in the first year, and few tricks to help couples, married or not, to prepare them for life ahead.
TREAT YOUR SPOUSE EVERYDAY LIKE YOUR BEST FRIEND
My husband is the kind of guy I can just be stupid with – I can tell him everything, laugh at inappropriate jokes together, and I can bitch about that stupid girl at work to him without any judgement. He listens to me, knows my routines, and understands what I like inside and out. This has been absolutely revolutionary in our relationship. He feeds me when I’m hangry and don’t want to admit it, and loves me when I need it. He knows he’s my everything, in love and in friendship, and that truly is our foundation together.
DON’T LET ANY CONVERSATION BE OFF THE TABLE
He’s my life partner and my best friend forever, so I’ve learned nothing can ever be off limits in your conversations. When I am mad or uncomfortable with something, I need to be able to tell him and vice versa, or else it just piles up into resentment. Sometimes conversations are hard, but trust me, they just get harder as life goes on. I’ve really learned that if you have questions or something to say, you really just need to ask them or say it because leaving them unanswered or unspoken is worse.
STUPID, ADULT THINGS SUCK, BUT YOU HAVE EACH OTHER
Taxes, major purchases, money – these things are the biggest stresses in relationships, but they have to be done. In our first year of marriage, we bought a house, bought him a new car, both changed jobs, and managed to find ways to pay off debt. These things are all POSSIBLE – and without fighting too. It really means you have support each other in these conversations and make sure you lay your cards on the table from the start. My advice for a big purchase like a home or car: have both of you write down what features and benefits you want from that purchase, calculate how much you can afford payment each month based on your income (don’t forget insurance and related expenses not in the base payment), and find a common ground. Which leads me to the next point…
COMPROMISE, COMPROMISE, COMPROMISE!
The BIGGEST lesson is that marriage isn’t 50/50, it has to 100/100. You each have to give it your all, and giving it your all means taking a loss individually time-to-time. Sometimes you have to sacrifice something to make the other happier, or to make a lifestyle work the way you want. Push your pride aside and accept the fact that you have to compromise. I hate the saying “wife’s always right” because as a wife, I think us women rely too much on that – we have to compromise too and being selfless for your husband means the world to them.
IT’S OK TO NOT ALWAYS LIKE EACH OTHER, BUT ALWAYS LOVE EACH OTHER
I get so mad at my husband sometimes (mostly about stupid stuff) – it’s OK not like each other sometimes. But one thing for sure, no matter how mad we are at each other or dislike each other, we still love each other. Your spouse is the closest, most important person in your life – it’s unconditional love as best friends and life partners, and it’s OK to say you love each other even when you don’t agree.
INTIMACY DOES NOT EQUAL SEX
Too many people think they need to give their partner sex to satisfy them, and if they don’t, they fear the dreaded dry-spell. Well, being intimate doesn’t have to equal sex. Just being together brings intimacy to your relationship and makes you love each other more. I love snuggling with my husband after a long day at work, in the few minutes we get before he has to jet off to training. It gives me warm sense of love that refills my life cup and makes us feel close.
ACT FOR WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP, NOT SOCIETY
Society tells you to do a lot of things – have kids, buy a house, own two cars, each have stable jobs. But this isn’t the mold that fits for everyone. Each relationship is different and your life is what you live with, no one else has to live with it. Don’t let the pressure of societal norms put pressure on your relationship. When my husband said he wanted to quit his job and train full time, I knew we would make all of the other things like finances work, but I will admit that it was hard at first for me to tell people my husband didn’t have a full time job. Now, I completely embrace my husband as a “stay at home dog dad” and I’ve seen everyone else embrace the modern ideal that the man doesn’t have to be the breadwinner in the family anymore.
LOVE YOUR SPOUSE FOR WHO THEY ARE, NOT WHO THEY COULD BE
Too many people dream about what their spouse can be, whether it’s a ripped fitness model because they start going to the gym or a CEO because they have a new job. Love them for who they are now and not who they can be, because loving them for who they can be makes you feel disappointed when they don’t meet your expectations. You loved them and married them for who they are, don’t change that when they change something in their life. My husband is the best at living this, because even when I want to be a more fit person and lose weight, or change my appearance because of an insecurity, he loves me unconditionally for how I look at that moment, and tells me it every day.
NEVER FEEL PRESSURED TO CHANGE OR DO SOMETHING
Just because one of you is ready to take a big life step, doesn’t mean the other is, and you should never pressure them to do it. My husband was beyond ready to be a dad even before we were married, but my career was just hitting a huge milestone and I have a lot of goals I always thought I would achieve before kids. When I told him I wasn’t ready, I was worried he would be mad, but since we compromised and conversed about what we as a couple wanted to achieve before kids, the pressure has been relieved and if anything, we’ve stepped up together to work toward our goals one at a time to knock them off our “pre-kids” list so that we can make our family dreams come true.
SOMETIMES, YOU JUST NEED TO AVOID THE ARGUMENT
When you see someone every day, it’s easy for little things to add up and annoy you, but sometimes you just have to do something to avoid the argument. For the first few years we lived together, I harped on my husband because his clothes never make it into the laundry basket – and they still don’t! But, I changed my attitude about it and now it’s become part of my routine to pick up the trail of clothes to avoid the argument that could ensue. Sometimes it’s just easier because it’s unnecessary to fight over such little things.
IT’S OK TO DO STUFF ON YOUR OWN, EVEN THOUGH YOU FEEL GUILTY
During my first year of marriage, I felt so guilty going out with my girlfriends without my husband because we always went places he would love to go, like out for sushi or to the movies. I wanted to bring him along but didn’t want to be that girl that was attached at the hip to her husband. What I’ve had to learn is that it’s OK to feel guilty, but embrace the private time (I’ve heard it gets worse with kids with mom guilt!). You deserve your own independence as long as you give your husband the attention he needs too. Some husbands require more than others, but never forget those people who were there for you before your spouse was in the picture too, like family and friends.
DON’T STOP DATING JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE MARRIED
Date nights have become my favorite thing – when we go out, we wear cute clothes, get delicious food, and don’t talk about the stresses of life. It’s just like a first date all over again and I remember every reason why I fell in love with my husband. Just because you’re married, it doesn’t mean that you stop dating your husband and I think a lot of couples forget that when they fall into their daily routines. We have habits of treating date nights like another night at home, but really work to separate yourself into another mind set where hot button topics of your life don’t come up, like work.
NOT ALL LIFE GOALS HAVE TO BE MUTUAL
It’s OK to have personal goals, as long as the other person knows this is what you want to achieve. When my husband came to me and said he wanted to start MMA fighting, I refused because he was already injury prone and I didn’t want him to be gone for training so often. I soon realized I was being selfish just because his goal didn’t involve me (plus I didn’t want him to get injured), but just as my mom tells me about raising kids, sometimes you have to let them do what they want to do and if something bad happens, they learn their own lesson. I support my husband in the goals he wants to achieve, just as he supports me in my personal and professional goals. They may affect us as a couple, but mutual knowledge and understanding help us work together, and formulate our couple goals around them.
IT’S OK TO FEEL A LULL IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP POST-WEDDING
The first year of marriage feels… empty. You’re not planning a wedding and if you’re not planning to have kids right away, it just feels stressful because there’s nothing to look forward to but boring daily routines. Give yourself some time to explore passion projects or hobbies rather than rushing into the next big life step. For us, I started this blog and wanted to explore more of my personal interests, and my husband wanted to try new sports, and now we fill our time with things we actually enjoy, together and apart.
IF SOMETHING ANNOYS YOU, FIX IT EARLY
If you find something that you don’t like or that really bothers you, step up early and say it because resentment is very possible, no matter how much you love someone. Negotiate a resolution and find an equal compromise that works for both of you. If you find this difficult, couples therapy is a great option, or even seeing your local clergy to have a couples session. When we were going through marriage counselling for our pastor to officiate our wedding, there were a lot of tough topics we had to talk about, and we ended up coming out stronger with more transparency in our relationship.
EFFORT MAKE A MARRIAGE, NOT A WEDDING
Just because you have a $50,000 wedding and a new ring on your finger, it doesn’t mean life is all peaches and roses forever. Marriages require a lot of work, and it doesn’t always mean physical. The mental and emotional work are the biggest parts, making sure you’re supporting and loving each other through the demands you each need. I highly encourage every couple to know your love language (read the 5 languages of love book!) because it truly helps you better understand what makes your partner feel loved.
TIME TOGETHER DOESN’T ALWAYS HAVE TO MEAN INTIMACY OR ACTIVITIES
My favorite part of the day is eating dinner with my husband. It’s a rare occurrence because we work on opposite schedules, but on occasion, our time together is the best thing after a long day at work, even if he’s turning the TV on to his show without asking me what I want to watch. It’s important that you make time together to do whatever you want and relax.
SOMETIMES, YOU HAVE TO BE AN EXECUTIVE DECISION MAKER
The best part of marriage is that you can legally represent each other, and most the time one person steps up as being the decision maker more often. In our relationship, I handle all of the bills and big business negotiations simply because that’s where my skills are best suited, and sometimes you just have to step up to be that support for your relationship. Instead of both of us managing all of our bills and money, causing serious confusion, it’s just easier for me to do it and keep him in the loop if something changes or is wrong. It’s OK that some heavier decisions weigh on one person versus the other – really sort your life choices based on your strengths and weaknesses, and you’ll find that you’re not destroying your mind trying to figure something out you’re not good at.
GIVE EACH OTHER SPACE
The best thing you can do is create a designated physical space for both of you. Now, living in a small apartment doesn’t always allow for that, but in our current home, my husband has his designated “man cave” for all of his gaming and sporting stuff, while I usually spend most of my time in the living room or my office. We both have areas to decompress and relax when we need to recharge on our own – and yes, you sometimes need your private time rather than couple time. When we did live in our one bedroom apartment, Jeff had his gaming desk in the living room, and I spent most of my time in the bedroom on my computer or watching TV when we were home together. Even that little physical separation gave us room to breath.
ENCOURAGE EACH OTHER ENDLESSLY
It’s easy when you see someone every day to lose sight of the big picture, but it’s important to tirelessly support each other, even in the little things. When my husband didn’t want to stay at his job anymore and to just train full time, I was unsure of how that would impact us and our relationship, but I supported him because his passions are more important to me than anything else. I want him to be the best self he wants to be and achieve things he dreams of, and supporting him is the first step. When people called me stupid for letting him do MMA fighting (after being so accident prone the last year), I told them they’re right, but I love that man and I support his dreams. Whatever he breaks or bruises, I will be by his bedside telling him he was stupid, but that I love him and that I’m proud he tried his best.
To me, this is how I love. You may not agree on everything, and don’t expect to because you won’t – you compromise, you love unconditionally, and you grow together. That’s what marriage is all about. The first year of marriage is no walk in the park. I always joked before our wedding that nothing will change after the big day except a piece of paper, but the reality of forever really sets in when you call each other husband and wife. Once the big decisions start to roll in on top of the daily pressures of money and work, you find yourself in weird spots you’ve never been before, and navigating these tight trails is where couples come out stronger.