The first thing everyone asks when you get married and come home from your honeymoon is, “how’s married life?” If, like me, you were already in a committed, long-term, monogamous relationship and living together you don’t really know what to say. You might feel relief from the stress of wedding planning and possibly a bit more touchy-feely after vacationing with your best friend, but at that point everything is pretty much the same. My husband and I were inseparable since the moment we met four years before we got married. We fell in love fast and hard, which goes against everything I’ve ever believed about love and lasting relationships, but nearly five years of the most incredible love story I’ve ever known have proved me wrong so far. Everyone made jokes about how we were already an old married couple. It just felt official when it finally happened.
Now that I’ve had more time to actually be married and reflect on dating life vs. engaged life vs. married life, I’ve realized things have changed.I can’t speak for my husband, but there are some significant lessons I’ve learned from our short nine months of marriage so far. Several of these can apply to just about any relationship, whether you’re married or not, so I thought they might be worth sharing.
1.) Marriage is a commitment.
Okay, DUH. I knew this going in. However, there are a lot of things you inherently know that take on a different meaning when put into practice. When you’re dating or engaged, if you get into a big argument, either one of you can decide it’s too much, cut your losses, and walk away. Of course, you have that option available when you are married, but it’s much more difficult. Petty, drama-filled fights that may have caused me or previous partners to end a relationship are now obstacles that must be overcome and worked through. We’re forced to deal with the problem at the root and find a solution (or at the very least find a way to improve) so that we don’t get in relationship-damaging arguments in the first place, which brings me to my next point…
2.) There is such thing as fair and productive fighting.
When I look back at the arguments we had when we were dating, they seem childish. We fought like children, and not in a cute way. I think that’s fairly normal, considering we were teenagers when we met and had never been in the kind of relationship we were in now. We were each other’s first adult relationship, the kind where you don’t live at home and there aren’t any rules- you make the rules. We didn’t know how to fight. It took time to realize that picking on each other’s insecurities just because we were angry was not getting us anywhere. I’m not going to lie and say that now we always have grand, logical discussions full of “I feel” statements and that we never raise our voices, but I think we have definitely learned how to be more productive and not damage each other by poking at each other’s weak spots. We also know how to better calm the other person down when we become angry or upset. All it really takes now is for my husband to yell, “I LOVE YOU! CAN WE MAKE UP NOW?!” for us to both burst into laughter and work through the situation calmly. When we’re calm, we’re more apt to listen, drop the stubborn “I’m right, you’re wrong” act, apologize if necessary, and move on.
3.) The dishes can wait.
I don’t ever want to have the kind of relationship that feels like a business meeting. Communication about bills, household chores, schedules, in-laws, kids (or in our case, our fur babies), etc. is important, but not as important as asking about the other person’s day and really listening, especially when you’re struggling with life. There are times when my husband and my work schedules are so crazy different that we might have twenty minutes at the end of the day to really communicate. If we always use that time to talk about what bills are due and whose turn it is to do the dishes, we’d not only be ten times more stressed, but we’d probably lose track of who the other person has become and why we fell in love in the first place. Marriage is legally like a business contract, but it shouldn’t feel like it. I love when my husband takes the time to tell me about a dream he had or tell me a silly story about our pets. I love giggling and staying up an extra half hour in bed just to tell each other about our ambitions or about a new craving for waffles. In the long run, it’s worth it to be a little sleepy in the morning.
4.) There’s no such thing as a fairy tale ending or a “perfect” relationship.
This took longer than I’d like to admit for me to realize. Getting into a bad fight doesn’t always ruin a relationship. Having doubts or fears about getting married doesn’t mean he’s not the “one.” Proposals and stories about how you met don’t have to be perfect or even make a lot of sense to anyone but the people in the relationship. My husband proposed to me a couple times before we officially became engaged and that doesn’t mean we’re not as in love as someone who had a fairy tale proposal with a big diamond ring. My husband doesn’t have to buy me fancy shopping sprees or gifts for every anniversary to show he loves me. The “relationship goals” trend on Twitter really irks me. Putting pressure of what society or the Internet thinks our relationship should look like on each other is only going to fail. It’s easy to see posts on Pinterest and think, “my spouse doesn’t do this or that for me” and forget about the positive things in the relationship. Appreciating what you have with your spouse is just as important as appreciating the material things you have in life. A big part of loving someone is accepting who they are, flaws and all. I’ve learned to let go of the unrealistic fantasy I had before of marriage, because that’s not fair to my husband. My life is not a romantic comedy and I love my husband enough to let go of that. Real love stories are far more interesting anyway.
5.) Courtship is still a thing.
Even though we don’t live in a fairy tale relationship, I don’t believe the honeymoon feelings should ever end. Because we have been together for several years now, my husband and I have encountered a couple lulls in our relationship even before we got married. I think that’s fairly normal as long as we realize it’s happening and work to fix it. Since we’ve been married, we’ve encountered some challenges, such as moving 300 miles away from all our friends and family and starting over in everything: new careers, new house, new town, new culture…and we’re broke, which will always be hard on a relationship. Somehow, all of those things have only driven us closer than ever before. I now understand what couples mean when they say they were happiest when they had nothing but each other. We’ve discovered that courtship is still very important. And it shouldn’t have to be hard or cost a lot of money. Doing little things for each other makes all the difference. He makes me dinner when he knows I had a long day at work and don’t feel like cooking even though I’m typically the chef in our relationship. I’ll text him loving messages or inside jokes if I know he’s having a bad day at work. He’ll record a show for me or buy me a used book he thinks I’ll like. In our relationship, courtship has evolved from surprising me at work with flowers to bringing me a cup of coffee in the morning, but it still feels the same. I’m head over heels for him and he’s crazy about me. At the end of the day, we’re still each other’s biggest fans and I know we’re both willing to work to make sure that never changes.