Marriage is complicated. That’s a given.
When I was getting married I was so stressed about balancing my new family, new responsibilities and new life, I was one seating chart switch away from eloping.
But somewhere between tears, nerves and mini meltdowns, I found beauty in my relationship that couldn’t be replaced with any other kind of bond – although there are a few things I wish someone had filled me in on before my big day.
Here are a few pointers from someone who’s been there and done that:
You’re not just marrying him, you’re marrying a family
I was absolutely heartbroken leaving my family behind for our second Christmas as a married couple (I won going to my parents our first year!). I had never, in my entire life, spent a Christmas without my family. In reality, I wasn’t spending it without family – I was spending it with my new extended family, but that didn’t make me feel any less home sick.
Balancing families can be one of the hardest transitions to deal with in marriage and frequently it puts a wedge between partners – leading to defensiveness and disagreements. I always try to remember two things: first, always be fair – if you spend Thanksgiving with your parents this year, spend Thanksgiving with his next year. And second, never let family disagreements affect your relationship – you can’t control how family members will react to you or your spouse, but you can control how you and your spouse handle these arguments.
Changing your last name is a big deal
Gone are the days of women changing their last name without a second thought. I didn’t change my name for a number of reasons. For one, I feel a deep connection with my name. Secondly, as a professional writer, I’ve written under my maiden name for years. My contacts know me by this name. I wanted to avoid confusion and keep it.
My husband was ok with my choice, we discussed it at length and he understood. However, the general public doesn’t seem to share that sentiment. I get a ton of shade from complete strangers – insurance agents, accountants, doctors, TSA agents – you’d be shocked. Don’t let it get to you though – your name is well…yours, and you have every right be called what you feel comfortable with.
Don’t take advice from other couples
No two couples are alike and therefore the same set of rules and advice do not apply. Sure, you can look to your parents or a couple you admire for the occasional ancedote, but doing the exact same thing as another couple will never work out. So many of my family and friends told me I was too young to get married, simply because they were older when they did.
I knew I was ready to get married and felt truly mature enough to handle it. I trusted my gut and it paid off. Just because something works for your sister and her husband, doesn’t mean that’s healthy for you and your spouse. Deep down I knew what was best for me and my marriage.
People will pressure you to have kids
For one reason or another, extended family members love to ask newly weds “when are you guys having kids?!” One of my own cousins was convinced I was pregnant at Thanksgiving shortly after my marriage. After some awkward encounters I learned to make jokes and not to let these comments stress me out.
Fighting is ok
Just like any other relationship in your life, you’re not always going to get along perfectly and that’s ok. In fact, some research shows that couples who wage small fights on a regular basis tend to avoid big blowups and are happier in the long run.
My key to arguing is that there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. The wrong way includes name calling, shutting down or leaving before the conflict has been resolved. The right way occurs when each partner takes a turn explaining their side and feels that the other is intently listening. Good things are always worth fighting for, and that’s particularly true when it comes to marriage.
You work in unison, but you’re not one person
Sure, the whole process of marriage is about joining forces and becoming the ever-elusive “one,” but in reality, that’s not healthy. My friends were really worried about the prospect of me disappearing post wedding, but I didn’t, and you shouldn’t either. It’s so important to continue to be your own person.
For me, I love taking workout classes and going out for drinks. Conversely, my husband likes attending sporting events. So we each go off on our merry way, have a great day and meetup later. In my opinion, that is the only way you can survive newlywed life and your future without resentment. Plus, it gives you more stuff to talk about when you’re not constantly living the same narative!
Get on the same page financially before the ceremony
My husband’s a saver, I’m a big spender. Together we decided what wedding costs were priorities and which were not and set up a plan to save. I got the wedding I wanted, and he didn’t panic about the bank account afterwards saving us some arguments down the road. If you plan ahead, your wallet and your wedded bliss will thank you.
Plan some alone time during your big day
On my big day, my husband and I took pictures with friends, family and the bridal party then set out on our own for pictures. We spent about thirty minutes together while the rest of the guests enjoyed canapes and cocktails. That was honestly one of the most memorable parts of the wedding for me.
I remember him really taking in all the details of my dress, getting to share a kiss in privacy and laughing about how nervous we both were to be in the spotlight. Things don’t slow down the day of, so if you don’t make time with your new spouse nobody else will either.
Don’t plan a 15-day excursion through Europe for your honeymoon
After months of planning and a long, but fun wedding day, the LAST thing you’re going to want to do is go on a two-week excursion through six European cities. You are going to want to sit in a Cabana on a beach and wait for the Mai Tais to start hitting your system – trust me.
While other couples we knew spent their honeymoons arguing about directions and which side of the road to drive on, my husband and I were enjoying a boat trip through the Balearic Sea in peace and quiet. It was bliss. To this day, when I’m feeling overly stressed I channel what it felt like to be on the sandy shore of Mallorca.
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