Wait! Before You Get Married

A bride and groom extended their arms out in front of a beachWhat are the things your really need to know before marriage? By the time you decide to get hitched, you may think you know your partner well. After all, you’re best friends who’ve agreed to spend the rest of your lives together. But married life often turns out to be full of unexpected disappointments and joys.

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Sometimes it’s the least romantic parts of marriage that have the most to teach you about yourself, your partner, and the nature of love. Read on for some simple truths that will unlock the surprising treasures and pleasures in your imperfect, unstorybook, real-life love.

You’ll work harder than you ever imagined.

Early on, when people say, “Marriage takes work,” you assume “work” means being patient when he forgets to put down the toilet seat. In your naiveté, you think that you will struggle to accommodate some annoying habit, like persistent knuckle cracking or flatulence.

If only it were that easy. Human beings, you may have noticed, are not simple creatures. Your man has mysterious, unplumbed depths — and from where he sits, you’re pretty complicated, too. You have to learn each other the same way that you once learned earth science or world geography. And getting married doesn’t mean you’re done — it just means you’ve advanced to graduate-level studies. That’s because every time you think you’ve mastered the material, he’ll change a bit. And so will you. As two people grow and evolve, the real work of marriage is finding a way to relate to and nurture each other in the process.

Families matter more than you think.

Once you’ve had a few holiday meals with your future in-laws, you may feel that you know how to negotiate your relationship with them. But doing so can be surprisingly hard.

Some people are most surprised by how much their marriage is like their parents’ marriage. Couples often underestimate the role that each individual’s family history plays. They vow that their marriage will be different from their parents’ marriage and then are surprised and often horrified by the similarities. They may argue about finances, for instance, or make failed assumptions about the division of household chores — just like their parents did.

You will sometimes go to bed mad (and maybe even wake up madder)

Whoever decided to tell newlyweds “Never go to bed angry” doesn’t know what it’s like inside a bedroom where tears and accusations fly as one spouse talks the other into a woozy stupor until night meets the dawn. If this scenario sounds familiar, I’ve got three words for you: Sleep on it.

You need to calm down. You need to gain perspective. You need to just give it a rest. I’ve found that an argument of any quality, like a fine wine, needs to breathe. A break in the action will help you figure out whether you’re angry, hurt, or both, and then pinpoint the exact source. Maybe the fight that seemed to erupt over the overflowing garbage can is really about feeling underappreciated. Could be you’re both stressed out at work and just needed to unload on someone. Taking a break will help you see that, and let go. Or maybe you really do have a legitimate disagreement to work out. Without a time-out, sometimes a perfectly good argument can turn into an endless round of silly back-and-forth, rehashing old and irrelevant transgressions as you get more and more wound up.

Even when you do manage to stay focused and on topic, there are some fights that stubbornly refuse to die by bedtime. And if you stifle your real feelings just to meet some arbitrary deadline, your marriage will surely be the worse for it.

Compliments are key.

Experts say they’ve been surprised to learn how essential it is to long-term happiness to compliment your spouse and to celebrate his or her achievements.

Look for opportunities to get excited about your partner’s successes. It really strengthens the relationship. Research shows it’s even more important than supporting your partner when things go badly.

It’s so significant if you feel your partner frequently makes you feel special, cared for, and loved. You can do this by complimenting your partner, thanking them for helping around the house, or saying simple things like, ‘I would still choose you if I had to do it all over again.’

You will go without sex — sometimes for a long time — and that’s okay.

Sexless periods are a natural part of married life. A dry spell isn’t a sign that you’ve lost your mojo or that you’ll never have sex again. It just means that maybe this week, sleep is more important than sex.

A good marriage isn’t a guarantee of happiness

After the excitement of setting up house and getting married you may be surprised to feel the same old frustrations.

People are sometimes dissatisfied with their marriage when the real problem is that they’re depressed or have other problems in their life.

If you’re unhappy in your relationship, it makes sense to look at how the rest of your life is going. You can always find excuses in what the other person is doing if you’re feeling bad.

You’ll be surprised what you get through together.

The fact that we’ve survived so many challenging situations and somehow move on to others is something that will continue to surprise you. Getting through a particularly tough situation together can put things in perspective.

When a big issue like a serious illness arises, couples often realize that their disagreements that seemed so important are really trivial. This renewed perspective can be the catalyst for a more positive, intentional relationship focused on what the couple truly values.

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