Ever walked into an exam feeling like you're going to ace it, only to realize
"Hey! That wasn't on the study guide!"
That's how I felt about marriage. As prepared as I thought I was, there were definitely some things that took be by surprise...
Here's what I wish I had known before getting married.
1.It won’t be what you expected, but that’s ok.
You’re riding the high of your wedding and honeymoon, loving life and loving marriage, and somehow, some way, the reality of real life sets in. The "honeymoon" phase doesn't last forever, and in some ways leaves before you even have a chance to unpack!
It might feel "off" to not be drowning in marital bliss all the time like you imagined... but that doesn't mean you have a "bad marriage" or that things are "wrong".
So don't freak out and go all "we need to talk" on your new hubby. Just embrace it, and know it's ok to be disillusioned with how "real life" pans out. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s bad.
In fact, things are actually really good! You just got married! So don't let the bummer of real life cloud your judgement on the state of your marriage. Enjoy being newlyweds. Even if it's not quite how you thought it would be.
2. You won't be the perfect wife, but he won’t mind.
If you're anything like me, then the moment you return from your honeymoon, you'll be motivated to make your man happy by being the "perfect wife". (You'd hate for him to have a case of buyer's... or in this case... husband's... remorse, right?!) And if you're a lot like me, you might have a teeny tiny bit of anxiety on delivering on this overwhelming expectation.
My mother-in-law gave me some good advice on this topic after I was married and it went something like this: cut yourself some slack.
Translation: don't be so afraid.
Don't run yourself ragged out of fear you won't live up to his expectations. The reality is, you'll mess up and make mistakes. You'll have pizza or frozen dinners all week long, or have piles of laundry to be done and guess what? He won't mind! You'll lose the debit card, or scratch the car, and he won't send you packing! (Yes, all of these were discoveries I made while first married...)
When it comes down to it, he will probably be more forgiving than the voice inside your head.
Also, the chance that you and he will have similar expectations for your new role as a wife is pretty much ZERO!! Ask him what his expectations are, and listen. It’s probably not perfection… so just allow him to love you. Imperfect, messy, you.
If you set the precedent that perfection is the standard, he won't have room to fail and be imperfect in his new role, either. Do yourselves both a favor, and don’t stress about the small stuff.
3. Intentionally Commit things to Memory
Take mental pictures while at your wedding, honeymoon, and throughout your first year together. Make it a priority to commit to memory your first kiss as husband and wife, your first dance, your wedding night, the romantic evening you had on your honeymoon, your first Christmas together, how they look or feel when they sleep next to you, and the time you both cried so hard you started laughing.
These memories are some of the BEST! And they happen so fast it's SO EASY to forget them.
Your brain will not automatically remember the most beautiful moments you've shared, but it will remember the stories that get told again and again. So revisit these memories often in your mind, and together with your spouse.
4. All of a sudden, you will have a "sex life", and you are in charge of maintaining it.
You get married, you have sex, and poof! Just like that, you now have a "sex life" and everything that comes with it. Congratulations!
When you have sex with someone, you are introducing an entirely new dimension, a qualitatively different kind of relationship - into your existing relationship. With that comes a pretty big learning curve. Be patient.
You have learned how to relate to one another as friends, and as romantic partners, and you have learned how to manage and maintain both of these types of relationships ... but after you get married you have to learn how to relate to this person as a sexual partner. (And if you have kids, you will eventually have to learn how to relate to this person as your co-parent!)
Each time you integrate a new form of relationship into your existing relationship, it gets more complex. Tread lightly, be adaptable, and be attentive to the needs of this new area of your relationship. Don't get me wrong, sex is great and is so fun when you're newly married! But the point is, don't think this area of your relationship will magically "come together" or "figure itself out". You will need to figure out how to integrate this new relationship into the relationship you've established, and it may not happen naturally. It may take some effort (aka: intentional conversation) on your part to ensure all is well.
4.5 Just because your sex drives are not equally matched does not mean there's something "wrong" with you, or "wrong" with him.
Don't start doubting how God has made you. In every relationship there is a "higher drive" spouse, and a "lower drive" spouse. And throughout your many years together, you may trade off being one or the other since a variety of things can influence a person’s libido. Know that now, and accept that. Talk about it candidly, and (after some trial and error) you'll figure out how to come to a mutually agreeable balance where no one feels pressured or deprived.
5. The way that you handle conflict will set the tone for your entire marriage.
He will not be the perfect husband, just like you won't be the perfect wife. He will fail. He will be insensitive, and hurt your feelings. And in that moment, you will want as much emotional distance from him as possible.
But don’t. (I know it’s hard… but don’t.)
Instead, make it a priority to address the heart of the matter gently and openly, WITHOUT turning away from one another.
What you do in these moments will determine the “norm” for handling conflict in the future. And if you set the precedent for putting up your walls when things get tough, then there’s no way you’ll be able to come together to solve your conflicts in a meaningful way.
Establishing a positive approach to conflict now, while your marriage is still in its infancy will help it become habit -something you just “do” with one another without even thinking.
6. There will be nights where you cry yourself to sleep.
Yup. Just keeping it real.
There are times where feelings get hurt, and there are problems that can't be resolved by just "talking it out" in one night. There will be struggles, sometimes they last for minutes, sometimes they last for days, sometimes they last for weeks or even months.
If it can't be resolved in a day, that's ok. It's no reason to panic. There will be times where you've talked the problem to death and all that remains is silence. That's ok, too.
That's when you pray.
Although you will experience the "worse" parts in "for better or for worse", know that resolution and reconciliation eventually will come and emotional wounds will heal. Be patient with one another, and understand that you may need to go to sleep while you're still in the thick of it, hurt feelings and all.
When this happens, communicate your love for one another, and your commitment to solving the problem together. Then, agree to a time when you will address the conflict again.You will feel better knowing that your concerns won’t be swept under the rug.
So yes, it may mean a rough night's sleep for the both of you, and maybe some tears are shed, but some things can't be resolved in one conversation. Certainly not when you're emotionally and mentally exhausted at 1am, when you both need to work the next morning!
Take a break, and get some sleep.
You will work things out eventually.
7. This is what makes marriage hard: You are still called to love, honor and cherish him, even when it feels like he's not doing the same.
Now, I’m not talking about abuse here… let me just begin with that. There is no excuse for causing someone that kind of pain.
What I am saying is that in marriage there will be times where you give and get very little back…. times when your spouse makes a decision that hurts you. Or disregards your needs. You may bend over backwards to please your spouse, or work on certain areas of your relationship without equal enthusiasm on their side.
Whatever the situation is, you will begin to feel as though you are giving more than you are getting.
And the hard part? Love him means choosing to give more still.
In any relationship, a certain ebb and flow is to be expected. It won’t always be an even 50/50. There will be times where the burden is split closer to 60/40, or even 70/30. And sometimes it will be you that gets the short end of the stick, and sometimes it will be him. But when times get tough, Don’t allow yourself to become cynical, bitter, and cold.
Don’t pull away.
And that’s one of the truest measures of love there is: allowing the one you love to make decisions that hurt you, or that you don’t agree with… and loving them still.
That’s how Christ loved us.
And that’s how we are called to love our spouse.
8. There is no substitute for prayer together.
Not talking together, not sex, not going to church together, not ANYTHING can unite your two hearts, solve your problems, increase intimacy, and attend to your daily spiritual needs the way that praying together does.
Make it a priority from the beginning, because it's a hard habit to get into if you don't. (Another lesson I learned the hard way!) Besides increasing the spiritual intimacy between yourself, God, and your spouse, there are a few relational benefits to praying with your spouse:
It is eye-opening to hear your spouse pray for areas of your relationship you didn't know were on their mind, and hear how they picture the problems you are facing. It gives you a chance to see through their eyes, and clarify points of their understanding (at a later time) if necessary.
Praying with them through a conflict or problem re-orients you from a "me-versus-you" mentality to a "us vs. the problem" mentality. Even if you can't come to a resolution yet, praying over a problem with your spouse affirms your common goals and values, softens your heart, and gives you peace about the outcome.
What do you wish you knew before you got married? What took you by surprise?
What aspect of marriage do feel the least prepared for? What do you wish you knew more about?
I'd love to hear your thoughts!