Pretty soon, my husband and I will be celebrating our first year of marriage. These last 12 months have been filled with love, excitement, growth, and most of all, love. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our fair share of challenges and growing pains.
Back when we were planning our wedding, we got a ton of advice for a happy marriage: tips for remembering to leave the toilet seat down, financial planning ideas, and even some unsolicited (ahem) “intimate” advice. And while there were some good tidbits mixed in, there was so much more that we learned in our first year of marriage that helped us grow as a couple (and as individuals). Here are the most important things we learned in our first year of marriage.
Before my husband and I got married, so many people warned us that our first year would be really hard: we’d have to learn to adjust to each other, make compromises, and learn how to make our marriage work. And while there were certainly some adjustments to make, married life wasn’t nearly as challenging as we’d been led to believe.
Of course, every married couple will have some challenges, but our first year of marriage was way more fun than it was work. Marriage is a never-ending sleepover with your best friend. It’s always having someone to go to Target with. It’s collecting a never-ending supply of inside jokes with the person you love. All in all, marriage is amazing.
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I heard it a million times, it’s the go-to marriage advice to give young couples at bridal showers across the nation: “Don’t go to bed angry.”
“Why?” I kept asking. Would it give you bad dreams? Would you wake up with a stomachache? Is it really that bad to drop an argument and just go to sleep? I didn’t understand it but I kept thinking that if so many people stood by this, it must be really important to remember. And yet, after a solid year of trying to figure it out, I’ve given up.
Sometimes you might go to bed angry and that’s okay. In fact, if you have the option between staying up and arguing about who used the last of the ketchup or just going to bed… go to bed. I’ve found that most disagreements only turn into arguments when we’re tired and grumpy. Whenever I found myself feeling upset with my husband late at night, I’d tell myself to go to sleep, wake up, and see if I was still mad. Most of the time, with a little time and a little sleep, big problems turned into small ones .
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I remember the months before my wedding, I was working out day and night, doing squats and cardio like it was my job. But after the wedding… I’ll admit that I got a little lazy. Don't be like me.
Working out after you’re married is just as important as it was before, so keep yourself motivated. Not only does exercise make you feel good (everyone loves a healthy dose of endorphins) but it also tells your spouse that you want to keep looking good for them.
Plus, if you take your partner to the gym, it can make for some excellent bonding time. You can help set goals for each other, encourage one another, and reward each other with kisses after every set of sit-ups.
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My husband and I love eating delicious food together. I mean, who doesn’t? From tacos to raviolis to noodles, there’s so much to enjoy. In fact, the only thing we love more than eating together, is cooking together. We love to find new recipes, experiment with flavors we love, and make meals neither of us has ever tried.
This is great news because when we first got married, we thought of making dinner as a chore. Neither of us knew how to cook so we had to go through a lot of trial and error. Now, we know that it's exciting to try to create different foods and it’s always nice to work together. I’ve even found that when we pair our culinary experimentation with a bottle of wine, we’ve got ourselves an impromptu date night in.
While cooking together can be a ton of fun, you won’t always feel like cooking. Some days will get busy, time will get tight, and you’ll want nothing more than to go home, shove a bunch of food in your mouth, and watch TV.
But did one of you pick up dinner? Did someone go grocery shopping sometime in the last few days? Maybe not. Make sure you always have a couple super easy meals in the back of the cupboard for those busy nights.
For my husband and I, our “we’re both starving and don’t want to stop by anywhere on the way home” meal is pasta. We always make sure to have some spaghetti, sauce, frozen vegetables, and bread at home so that if all else fails, we have at least one option.
On that note, if you’re in charge of grocery shopping, do yourself a favor and stock up on snacks. Nothing is worse than when you and your honey are starving and you've still got an hour before your dinner reservation.
Admittedly, I'm not the best to give person to give advice on the subject of cleaning. Before marriage, I was so bad at keeping my apartment clean. More than once I left a dirty plate in the sink so long that I had to throw it away. More. Than. Once.
However, probably the most important thing I learned in the first year of marriage was that it’s important to set up cleaning responsibilities with your spouse. If you both assume the other person will do the sweeping, the floor will never get swept. If you decide you’re the kind of person who “doesn’t mind a mess” your partner will end up always cleaning everything, and that’s simply not fair.
Agree on responsibilities ahead of time so you both know what you’re supposed to do. If it’s your job to take out the trash, keep an eye out for when it gets full. If it’s your job to clean the counter, give it a good swipe every so often.
My husband is my best friend, so whenever we have free time to hang out, we always want to be with each other. It wasn’t until I made special plans to go out for drinks with my girl gang that I realized how long it had been since I’d seen them. Hanging out and catching up was amazing and I realized how much I missed them.
You might want to spend all day and night with your spouse during that first year of marriage especially, but it’s so important to keep a up with your friendships too. Sometimes you need some support from your friends or want to catch up on all the latest gossip with your bestie. It will give you a chance to miss your spouse (which makes seeing him or her even better) and it enriches your social life. Set up regular hangouts. Trust when I say you'll cherish it.
It simply doesn’t matter who was right about the calorie content of those nachos or who knew the name of the lead actor in the latest Star Wars movie. No one else cares, and neither should you. You’re a couple and a team, if one of you was right about taking a left on Main Street to get to the frozen yogurt shop, you’ll both get to eat dessert and everyone wins.
The most important things is that you can work together to find the right answers. Each of you will be right and wrong at different times, you can’t keep score or let the details get the better of you.
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My husband and I always knew that it was important to keep going on dates after marriage, and we had no problem following through with that. We love going out, eating food, seeing movies… the problem was that we always went out to the same place for dinner and did the same activities. While it was fun thinking of certain restaurants as “our place” it also started to get boring.
So, instead of simply going on dates, focus on going on going on new dates and having new experiences together. Going to new restaurants and trying new things will keep your dates feeling fresh and it might even help you get closer.
There’s nothing quite like an adventure.
While you might feel like you just got back from your honeymoon, that doesn’t mean you don't deserve another trip. Of course, traveling doesn’t have to be a big deal: you don’t have to go out of the country or spend a fortune. Maybe your vacation is just a weekend get-away. You can take a couple days to get out of the city or playing hooky from work to go camping.
Going new places and seeing new sights helps you bond in your marriage, and it’s a whole lot of fun too!
Think back to the beginning of your relationship: there were probably flowers and chocolates and lots of sweet text messages. You were probably working hard to impress your mate, trying to convince them that you would make a good partner. But just because you’re married doesn’t mean you can stop doing those things. Keep it up; it'll make your boo feel special.
Time alone with your spouse is special and should be treated that way. When you spend time together, you connect, you grow in love, and you’re able to support each other when you need it. But it’s not always easy to make time for each other.
Sometimes you need to schedule time to hang out together, and that’s okay. Maybe you set aside thirty minutes in the evenings to sit together (with the TV off!), and just talk. Maybe you like to plan ahead and set up fun activities for the weekends. No matter what you have to do, make sure you get that quality time in there and appreciate it.
When I used to get stressed out at work, I didn’t want to bother my husband with my problems so I’d try to forget about the anxiety and try to just be happy when I got home. This never worked. My husband could always tell when I was upset. He’d wonder why I wasn’t telling him what was wrong. Then, he’d feel left out or like I didn’t want to talk to him.
We found out early that if we were upset or stressed, we couldn’t be shy about it. Even if it was something small, or something we knew the other couldn’t help solve, we both felt so much better after sharing and being open made us feel closer to each other.
While venting can be important, it won’t work if your partner isn’t a good listener. You can’t vent if your partner is getting bored every time you want to complain about your never-ending emails or Carol from accounting. That’s why it’s just as important to learn how to listen, as it is to know to open up. Make time to listen to your partner and know when to ask if your spouse wants help brainstorming for solutions to problems and when they just need to talk about something.
Of course, no one can be their spouse’s therapist, but trying your best to listen actively and making time to support each other goes a long way.
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