As I get ready to celebrate my first Valentine’s Day as a married woman (still not used to that term!), I started to think about how life has changed since we said “I do” back in October. The most surprising part of all is that, well, nothing’s really changed. Except in one way—we’re so much happier!
Sure, wedding-day bliss is nothing short of magical. But when I really thought about what made me most excited to marry Dan, the man I’d been in love with for the past six years, none of it had to do with a photographer in my face every single second, a DJ emcee asking me to remind him how to pronounce my last name, or even the hundreds of people who watched as we sanctified the most intimate union—our marriage—under a chuppah my father had made specially for the occasion. It was about us, what we’d built during our years together and the future that we would some day share.
So what I wish I knew most about marriage, now that a second ring has been added to my finger, is that while the wedding day is beautiful, it’s not better than the the day-to-day life the two of you continue to share, through good and bad. Because that’s the stuff that real love is made of.
As a writer, this idea sparked some curiosity in me. What do other people wish they knew about marriage before slipping into the white dress and tux? I asked 14 folks who had very unique, but inspiring answers.
Don’t take unsolicited marital advice
“Of course, there will be times when you need to vent to friends, family or co-workers, but be wary of those who are constantly offering you relationship advice or seem overly interested in meddling in your affairs, especially when they’ve been unable to maintain a healthy one of their own. During a rough patch in my marriage, I had both a close friend and family member constantly criticize not only my spouse, but also my decision to try and work things out. I eventually realized that neither of them had ever had successful relationships in the first place and decided to make my decisions independently. Sometimes people who carry baggage or harbor ill feelings pertaining to their own failed relationships will present you with negative advice or a grim outlook on yours.”
-Danine Manette, married for 23 years
Talk about your goals
“When we got married, we were so caught up in the romance and love that we never realized how we differed in the way we set and achieved goals. One of us is a planner who has an organized desk with a calendar that includes all of the important dates, circled and annotated. This partner always wears a watch and cringes when we’re late. One flies by the seat of their pants and just lets the day flow. One has a one-year plan, a five-year plan and a 10-year plan, while the other has a plan to go skiing this weekend—that is, if the weather is good. The old saying ‘opposites attract’ can only take you so far, so at some point, there has to be some common ground and sense of the relationship moving forward.” -Stacey Greene, married for 30 years
There’s a lot of paperwork that comes with marriage.
“When my husband and I got married, we both worked at really small companies without HR departments, so no one told us that we needed to re-file our W2s with the updated status of married, so we got a really hefty tax bill that first year. Though stressful, accidentally driving yourselves into several thousand dollars of debt in your first year of marriage is a good boot camp for how to roll with the punches and remind you of what really matters: working as a team and actually calling yourself a team, officially. “ -Tyler Williams, married for three years
Men are very gassy
“I got married for the first time, at the age of 50, after decades of dating men and having boyfriends. But the one thing I never did was live with a guy before my husband. The biggest realization for me was that men are way gassier than I thought! I think my husband burps and farts a lot, but he says all men burp and fart a lot. Not sure what to believe. The good news is, I find it funny and kind of adorable. He loves letting it rip, while I, on the other hand, suffer in silence (you gotta keep a little mystery in the marriage, right?)” -Treva Brandon Scharf, married for three years
It’s OK not to have kids
“My husband and I both assumed we’d have kids, though we didn’t spend much time questioning whether we really wanted them. Thankfully, we each came to the same conclusion years later that we didn’t want them. But knowing this before we got married would have saved us a lot of angst. I think couples today have a better understanding of the important conversations a couple should have before saying ‘I do.’” -Amy Blackstone, married for 22 years
My husband loves to host parties
“I’m a 45-year-old newlywed madly in love with my husband. After hundreds of hours of dates, I thought I knew how he operated. And, for the most part, there have been very few surprises, but one was how much he likes to entertain at our home. I was aware that he was a social person, but I had no idea just how much he loves to entertain family and friends. It’s ironic to me that he likes to host, because he’s a terrible one. He gets so caught up in a having good time that he’s oblivious to whether or not we need more ice or if the food needs replenishing. He never seems to notice spills on the floor or when the trash is overflowing. One time, our neighbor called the police because someone parked in her driveway and my husband missed the entire incident because he was on the backyard patio laughing, playing dominoes and smoking cigars!” -Andrea Molette Bradford, married for two years
Some men do give flowers for no reason
“If I ask my husband of 15 years to pick up something at the grocery store, he’ll almost always pick up some flowers along with everything ‘just because.’ While he might not have gone out of his way to grab every single thing on my list, it’s the thought that counts. Knowing that he picked out a bouquet and gave them to me along with the flour or eggs I asked him to get always brings a smile to my face and a true appreciation of his character.” -Rochelle Peachey, married for 15 years
Your spouse will always be your roommate first
“Before getting hitched, my wife and I went through marriage counseling, read all the books, discussed all the issues and thought we’d be golden. But what they don’t tell you is that no matter how much you love each other, that person is still your roommate. Each of you has spent decades forming habits and rituals for how you do everything at home and those don’t change overnight. Your habits will probably clash with your spouse’s. Call it an unexpected learning exercise in compromise.” -Kenneth Burke, married for two years
Managing your joint household is a full-time job
“When I met my husband, we were both working professionals living and managing separate households. I expected it would work similarly after we moved in and got married, but I was wrong. After we got married, I somehow become responsible for all things regarding our household and outside life—not my grown-up husband. From setting up medical appointments (and making sure he attends those appointments) to paying the bills and of course caring for the kids, I handled it all. In talking to my other married friends, I found out I wasn’t the only one.” –Kemie King, married for four years
Marriage makes your relationship even more secure
“I mean this both in the security of knowing you’ve made this commitment to your relationship, but also in that it gives you the security to be more honest with each other about your needs and pet peeves, and to have stronger, more open dialogue. For example, I never knew how bad I was at cleaning up until my wife had a serious talk with me about how many crumbs follow me around the house. I also never realized I wasn’t communicating as fully as I could be, which she helped me see. No matter how long you’ve been together, using the term ‘my girlfriend’ or ‘my fiance’ doesn’t have the same power that ‘my wife’ does.” -Ethan Warren, married for two years
How to listen more empathetically
“Learning how to clarify things and truly understand what my husband means in situations and the reasons behind how he feels really would have helped us that first year of marriage. We learned empathetic listening through a lot of trial and error. We like to pay attention to what works in our relationship and if things aren’t as peaceful as we’d like them to be, we do what it takes to get to the root of the problem. Being completely honest with each other about everything, especially our feelings, has helped us better understand each other, which makes it easier to give each other the benefit of the doubt and be open with about everything. Having this ability to empathize with one another before we got married would have helped us communicate more effectively and lead to less miscommunications and fewer misunderstandings.” -Ashley Kusi, married for six years
Marriage is like getting into a rowboat with someone
“Once you’re strapped in and have your life jackets on, the two of you have to navigate the ocean together. Sometimes there will be days under a calm sun with birds flying overhead and other days there will be huge waves and rainy storms. There are other boats nearby (parents, siblings), but the main person in the boat with you is your spouse. So no matter what happens, they will be there for you and you for them. That’s the marriage bond.” -Jean Garrard, married for 10 years
There’s always more to discover
“Before I got married, I thought I knew my wife backwards and forwards. But now, after eight years of dating and 10 years of marriage, I discover new mysteries about her every day. For example, she doesn’t like when her two different foods touch on her plate, always drinks her coffee in her left hand (though she’s dominantly right-handed) and loves happy endings in movies—and, no matter how amazing the movie is, if the good guy doesn’t survive, find love or win in the end, then it’s terrible! I’ve also learned that she wants to have a baby boy followed by a girl so he can take care of his little sister. She loves deep discussion, but will rarely initiate them, and, no matter how much I would like to believe I’m wiser, she has a deep and patient wisdom that leaves mine in the shadows. Most of these, if not all, I could only learn by treating my wife like a beautiful plant or precious piece of art. I love her deeply, treat her delicately and study her intently.” -Steve Noga, married for 10 years