Time has really flown, and Thad and my first anniversary was today. It’s been a fantastic year full of many exciting changes and going on fun adventures together. One year of marriage seems premature to write something focused on “all we’ve been through” and I’m also a pretty private person, so my public blog doesn’t seem like the place to share lots of feelings – although I’m pretty sure I’m even more hopelessly in love than ever. But I did think I could write about things I’ve learned over the past year. One year is not that long, so I don’t think of myself as terribly wise in terms of marriage – I don’t want to be like a blogger I saw recently who was dispensing marriage advice based on her honeymoon! But a lot of the advice I got leading into marriage was solid, but extremely vague (“communication is important!”) or counter to my own beliefs (“Submit to your husband and let him make all the big decisions!”) So I wanted to write about the specific concerns that came up and were resolved, or things that helped me transition from being single to being married. I know I would have appreciated a list like this, and I hope it helps you, too.
1. You will sleep normally again
The first thing I noticed about being married was how poorly I slept. As a light sleeper, sharing a bed with someone for the first time in my life resulted in about a month of poor sleep that left me cranky and frustrated. Since then, I’ve heard from other people that they had similar problems, but I wish I would have known that going in. It would have been easier dealing with the added fatigue if I hadn’t also felt guilty or worried about it.
2. Having your own routines and rituals will help make life feel “normal” as soon as possible.
If you haven’t lived together before you got married, it’s definitely a big adjustment, no matter how well you communicate or how much you like it. I felt like everything went smoothly and I was very excited to finally be married, but it was still confusing to adjust to. Getting into some nice shared habits was a way to give structure to what seemed to be the constant changes of being a newlywed. Simple things like saying the same silly greeting when you wake up, doing devotions before bed, or always making pizza and watching a movie on Friday night are ways to make familiar moments of intimacy a reassuring part of your routine.
3. Split chores as evenly as your situation allows
I’m a big proponent of equality in relationships, so that’s where this is coming from, but ideological reasons aside, I think there’s a strong practical case for both spouses being able to do most household jobs. In addition, sharing work more-or-less evenly can make sure that both partners have energy for each other and can keep resentment from creeping into your relationship from one spouse feeling like they’re shouldering an unfair amount of work.
That being said, inflexibility is a killer of happy and productive relationships. I had three different employment situations in the past year and each one involved reconsidering what we each did around the house to see what was best for us. We’ve tried to keep things even throughout, but legalism about it doesn’t do you any favors. An exact 50/50 split itself doesn’t usually happen because our lives are always in flux, but when we both live with an attitude of wanting to contribute and help each other, we enjoy accomplishing things together.
4. Let go of your pride
We’re both straightforward people, so we didn’t put much effort into trying to make an unrealistically rosy impression while we were dating. By the time we got married, we already knew each other very well (~10 years of knowing each other and 5 years of dating will do that) and had seen each other in some rough situations. But nothing really beats the everyday kind of vulnerability of sharing a living space. All the minor things you cover up naturally are now on display – from your horrible morning breath to your bad habit of leaving clothes all over the floor.
You also can’t really retreat or hide in order to save face. Whether you injure your leg and can’t walk around your apartment unassisted or lose a job you love and need someone to keep you company while you eat Pizza Hut and cry all evening, it’s just going to put a strain on your relationship if you want to maintain any illusions of being the perfectly well-adjusted and got-it-together person you might have seemed like before. Not to say that you give up on looking nice for each other or stop making romantic gestures like you did when you were trying to win each other’s affections, but letting your spouse really know you at your weakest and weirdest will help you take care of each other in the ways you need it the most.
5. Don’t worry when you’re not always happy with each other
They say you fight a lot your first year of marriage and I have to say I haven’t really found that to be the case. But even if you’re not arguing, living with another person can lead to many situations when you get irritated with each other, disagree, or are just in a bad mood. Obviously you’ll want to address important issues and live in an emotionally healthy home, but learning to make peace with with everyday negative emotions can prevent bigger arguments.
Sometimes you’ll get annoyed with each other and learning not to fret over small conflicts can keep them from escalating. Also, sometimes your spouse isn’t happy, it doesn’t have anything to do with you, and you’ll both be happier if you recognize it.
6. Have your own spending money
Money is something I’m pretty opinionated about, so I don’t want to be too divisive. I personally don’t think you should be marrying someone if you have totally different financial goals or habits and I also don’t see why you’d marry someone you don’t trust enough to share finances with, but that’s just me. Even in a situation where you’re well-matched in terms of “big picture” spending, saving and investing, though, you probably have different priorities in terms of small-scale spending, or individual hobbies you enjoy putting money into. Each keeping some of your own spending money as your budget allows can save you from getting into conflicts over things that aren’t important.
7. Take time to focus on each other but don’t forget to do separate things
With the excitement of being newlyweds and the time it takes to get established to living together, it can be easy to get sucked up in only spending time with each other, much like often happens when you first start dating. I’m absolutely glad that we’re each other’s top priority and that we enjoy and value time together, but I also appreciate the space we give each other to maintain other relationships that are important to us. Taking a couple hour break to get coffee with a friend, go out for drinks with a group, or spend one-on-one time with a family member have been helpful ways to maintain other relationships and and help yourself be mentally or emotionally renewed. (Plus, your friends probably still need you, too.) No matter how in love you are with each other, if you’re only spending time with each other, your relationship can get stale, like a house with the windows closed. Go get some fresh air and come back refreshed!
8. Learn and respect each other’s needs
Just because you’re married, that doesn’t mean you stop being your own people. In fact I’d argue it’s even more important to keep each other’s personal needs in mind when you’re around each other often. Learn to negotiate what amount of alone time you need, when you prefer doing “us” activities vs. “me” activities, and when are good and bad times to bring up external problems or relationship concerns. Giving your spouse what they need to take care of themself – whether it’s alone time, time with other people, or a particular kind of attention – is a great way to love them and help your relationship.
9. Embrace your spouse’s quirks
People are weird, and sooner or later in your relationship, the wonderful husband or wife who can do no wrong will turn out to be a weird person with annoying quirks, too. It takes some time to tell the important from the unimportant, but decide for yourself what really isn’t worth pointing out.
10. Sharing your space and lives will eventually feel normal
Our first morning back from our honeymoon, Thad woke up before me and took a shower. (I had already lived in our apartment for a couple months, while he had just spent his first night there.) When I went in to shower, I noticed he had used the travel shampoo and soap, because I’d forgotten to tell him where I kept mine! Kind of a silly story, I guess, but it helped me realize that learning to live together was a process that would take some time. While you get married on one day, it’s the following weeks and months where you really become married. Eventually, you don’t need to have conversations about every chore and activity, you instinctively say “we” when it comes to making plans, and you become familiar with the rhythms of your individual and shared lives. That’s when it really starts to get fun!