I feel like after you complete a season of life and begin a new chapter, you look back and think man, I wish I knew __________________. That’s how married life was for me.
The minute we said I do, so much changed and I was disappointed that no one told me that we’d be fighting about things like not having time for sex, whose family we would spend the holidays with and following through on promisees you make.
For us, dating was easy. Engagement was a blast. And once we said I do, the work began.
I heard from all my married friends that marriage would require effort, but I didn’t know how much it would entail. I decided to make a list of the things I think are most important to be aware of.
1. The first year is very important.
This is the time when you set the foundation for your next 60 years together. That first year is filled with so many new memories and traditions. You find your rhythm and start experiencing the day-to-day routine of married life. It can be so good, but it can also be terrible (it was for us), especially if you fight more for your independence rather than togetherness. We did so much damage in our first years of marriage that it took us years to recover and heal. Our best advice for that first year of marriage: turn off the TV, put down your phones and focus on creating healthy habits that will sustain you your entire marriage.
2. Keep dating each other.
Okay, this sounds obvious but did you know that most married couples get a little lazy and slowly drift apart? It’s not intentional but for us, we stopped dating each other once we got married and by year 3 were completely disconnected. It wasn’t until we started dating each other again that our marriage turned around. Date nights are about having fun, making new memories, having heart-to-heart conversations, and laughing. Schedule weekly dates and you won’t grow apart. Get date ideas here.
3. Your childhood does impact how you show up in marriage
Whether we like it or not, our upbringing influences our marriage, our approach to conflict, and how we give and receive love. The identity of who we are as it relates to love and belonging was primarily shaped by our family of origin. From handling conflict, emotions, communication, money, to holidays and traditions, all have a root from our upbringing and what was modeled. Most people enter marriage with unrealistic expectations that their partner will restore something that was broken from their childhood. The best thing to do is to be aware of the healthy and unhealthy behaviors from your childhood and start to share them with your spouse.
4. You will be apologizing and forgiving often, so get really good at it.
Since we all make mistakes and say and do stupid things, you have to make sure you’re owning your mistakes and giving a 4-step apology. And “I’m sorry babe” isn’t what we mean here. In a 4-STEP APOLOGY, there’s validation, accountability, and boundaries created so it doesn’t happen again and trust can be rebuilt. And forgiveness is critically important so spouses don’t hold grudges towards one another.
5. The little things really do matter.
If you put a little effort into your relationship every day (365 days a year aka Marriage365!) you will reap the rewards big time. The small gestures, the common courtesy of saying thank you and I love you, even holding hands in the car all add up and create security in your marriage. It’s the couples who put their marriage on the back burner and don’t make effort who slowly drift apart and then have to make huge attempts to heal, connect and repair.
6. Schedule sex.
Say what? You heard me. If you’re a very busy couple, sex will be the first thing to go. We have found that scheduling sex helps keep it a priority and we make sure we’re not too tired or too busy for it. I know this probably sounds bizarre for most, so if you’re having spontaneous sex often, don’t change a thing and keep going. But if you find yourself wanting it more or having it less and less, talk about carving out a chunk of time on your calendar for sexy time. We make time for the things that matter to us and that includes sex.
7. Everyone can benefit from marriage coaching.
There sure is a stigma that getting help or using resources for your marriage means something is wrong with you and your spouse. And this is absolutely not true. Every couple gets stuck and getting help for your relationship means that it matters to you and that you have the courage to do something about it. The average couple waits 6 years to get help and often times it’s too late at that point! Learn about our relationship coaches here.
8. Having debt is stressful.
We dit it anyway, racking up $200k in debt in the first 3 years of a marriage (lots of student loan debt). It caused so much stress to our relationship and we kept spending money we really didn’t have. Money issues are listed in the top 3 reasons couples will divorce, so this is an area you have to talk about. At least once a month, you must sit together and look at what money is coming in and what money is going out. Talk about what things you want to save for (purchasing a home, a trip, a car, etc.) and make financial goals together. If you have debt, create a plan to pay it off and you’ll experience the financial freedom we’ve had for over a decade!
9. It’s okay to disagree.
I can promise you that you didn’t marry the wrong person just because you disagree on things. You’re two different people, with different upbringings, cultures, likes and dislikes, and that’s a good thing. You’re actually stronger together than apart because you balance each other out because of your differences. So when you disagree on a particular issue, be sure to still show respect. Bonus tip: take the Strengthsfinder assessment so you can focus on what you guys are naturally good at.
10. Judgement and criticism will destroy trust.
A healthy marriage means that both partners are sharing their deepest thoughts, fears, desires, stories, and feelings with one another. They’re a safe person to go to in good times and in bad. The second that one of you judges or criticizes what the other is going through, trust is broken, an emotional wall is built, and communication slowly stops. Watch how you show up and respond during conversations. Be sure you’re a safe person for your spouse so they can be real and messy with you.
If you’re seriously dating, engaged, or newlyweds, we encourage you to check out our online premarital course. The best way to protect your marriage is to learn the healthy habits of successful couples, before you get started.
Written by Meygan Caston
Meygan Caston is the co-founder of Marriage365 and lives in sunny Southern California with her husband Casey, their two children and dog Hobie. She loves her family, the beach, writing, spa days and helping couples connect in their marriage. Her life long dream is to live with the Amish for a month, walk the Camino and have lunch with Brené Brown.