Thinking back, there are so many things I wish I knew before I got married. I loved my husband, but lots still came as a surprise. So today, for top 10 Tuesday, I thought I’d share some of the biggies. And thanks to everyone on my Facebook Page who chimed in with what they wish they knew before they were married, too!
And so, in no particular order, here we go:
1. Sharing Finances is Hard–so Talk About it Early
Don’t wait until you get married to develop a budget, talk about saving, or make financial plans. Start doing this right after you get engaged, so that you’re on the same page. Figure out how you’ll budget and how you’ll decide what to spend money on. Money is one of the hardest things to learn how to share, and it’s so much easier if you talk it through first.
What if one of you has debt and one of you doesn’t? Then you both have to start working hard at paying off debt! And you need to have those serious conversations BEFORE you marry about setting a plan in motion to become debt free.
These things are not easy, and most people don’t know how to do them. So ask whoever is doing your premarital counseling (likely a pastor) if there is someone smart with money that you can sit down with who can help you work through basic budgeting and make some of these plans. Get some help now–before you walk down the aisle!
Oh, and here’s another gem: once the debt is paid off, live on one income. ALWAYS live on one income. If you expect that one parent will eventually stay at home with kids, then you need to learn how to live on one income now. Take the second income and save it for the house, or a car, or whatever. But live within your means early, and it will put you on such better ground moving forward.
2. In-laws matter more than you think. Get along with them now!
When we’re dating and engaged we’re so focused on the person we’re marrying. But, as one Facebook reader said,
You marry a whole family, not just one man.
Once you’re married, that family will be a part of your life, whether you like it or not. So make an effort to be friendly and get along with them as much as possible. You don’t have to be best friends, but it is so much easier if you have goodwill between you. Often when you’re dating you live away from in-laws, so they don’t seem like a factor in your life. But that changes. So Skype with them now. Go with his sister out to get your nails done. Do a craft with your mother-in-law, or ask her to help you cook a turkey dinner. Reach out. Don’t wait for them to make the first move, and pout at home because they’re not. You make that first move and build that relationship.
3. Great sex isn’t automatic–but that’s okay. You have decades to get it right!
We start marriage with such “great sexpectations”. We figure it will be just like the movies, where it works perfectly and it’s always amazingly passionate. But it’s often not.
One reader wrote,
I wish I knew that things in the bedroom would not just happen as spontaneously as we thought and communicating about intimacy and our expectations of it would be much harder than I expected.
I wrote The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex to help women transition to great sex once they’re married–but it does take time. And here’s one neat thing I found: if you take the women who had lousy wedding nights, and then you take the women who had great wedding nights, and look at how they rate their sex lives ten years later–it makes absolutely no difference. No matter how great or awful your wedding night was, ten years later it will be good. So don’t fret the early stuff! Just relax and have fun getting to know each other. And if you’re wondering how to do that, get the book!
But once you do get married, one big piece of advice: I know you’re shy, but tell him what feels good and what doesn’t. Tell him early. If you don’t speak up on the honeymoon, it gets harder and harder to say anything. So try to talk about it then.
Oh, and another thing about sex:
I wish I had known that the man is not always the one with the greater sex drive.
In about 24% of marriages, according to my surveys, SHE has the higher sex drive. If that’s you, you are not a freak. And with good communication and lots of grace, you can still have a great sex life.
4. Marriage Isn’t 50/50. It’s 100/100.
Don’t go into marriage thinking, “we’ll each do our share”. If you start marriage measuring who does more work, you’ll always find that he doesn’t measure up. That’s because all of us have unrealistic expectations, and all of us expect our husbands to do things our way. At the same time, he expects us to do things his way. So since we’re expecting what is virtually impossible, we’ll find that he never does enough.
We have to get over this idea that we each put in half the effort, and think of marriage more like 100/100. We each jump in and dedicate ourselves to making the marriage great. The more you do that, the more benefits you’ll receive. One woman wrote:
Marriage isn’t always a 50/50 deal. Most days it is 60/40 or even 80/20. It all depends. BUT being married means meeting that other person wherever they are at that time. The more you tend your marriage the more it will flourish. You absolutely need to be totally selfless at times for it to work. It took me awhile to realize this and now that I do my marriage is the best it has ever been.
5. Marriage doesn’t necessarily change everything–especially him
Here’s an important one to understand, that has both a warning and a reassurance. First the warning.
One woman writes:
Pay attention to “habits” and don’t overlook them so easily just because you’re a starry-eyed girl in love. Sometimes, that habit is really an addiction and no matter how hard you try or how much you think they love you, you can’t and won’t make them stop. Please heed addictions (to anything) and give them time to get help and get healed before you marry them. I can’t stress that enough.
That is so true! The number of women who write to me saying, “he used porn before we were married but he said he’d stop”, or “he’s on video games six hours a day still, just like he was before we were married” is so sad. Before you’re married, don’t just date. Do life so you can see how he actually lives. Do errands together. Do mundane things together. Hang out. If you find there’s a major habit he has that annoys you, remember: this will only be magnified tenfold when we marry. It won’t go away. Marriage will not change that habit. So keep your eyes open.
Now for the reassurance. Another woman writes:
I wish I knew that marriage doesn’t always start a new chapter in your lives. Sometimes you continue in the chapter you are in and have to learn to grow together and be content where you are. For some reason, I just expected that getting married would bring us new and exciting things.
We had been together for almost 4 years before we finally got married. I just thought that marriage would be something new. It would close the old chapter, and we’d walk hand-in-hand under a rainbow into this new and glorious chapter filled with prosperity and travel and babies and a super clean house. But it just didn’t happen. Life kept going as it had been going. We both had our individual struggles and had to learn to grow together…and we have!
I’m thankful that it wasn’t as I imagined it. I’ve grown so much these three years. Above all I’ve learned that marriage–and life– is hard work, but with Jesus, it is made light. I love my husband and I’m so thankful that God kept certain doors closed and let us grow and know each other first! Now we are ready for that next chapter!
If you’re super close before you’re married, it’s not always that you develop an extra level of closeness once you’re married. Sometimes life just continues. And that’s okay.
6. It’s not easy sharing toothpaste
Sharing a life isn’t natural. Sharing a bed and sharing a bathroom sink is even harder–especially the older you are. When you’re entrenched in your own home and you’re used to having your own space and your own way of doing things, marriage is a hard adjustment.
One woman wrote:
I wish I knew that the move in together part of a marriage doesn’t just happen smoothly and automatically– How to share space, split household duties and manage joint time and money is something you should think and talk about before the wedding.
7. Plans don’t always work
Friends of mine had a ten year plan when they were married. They married in university, and planned to both get their graduate degrees and start teaching for one or two years before starting to have kids around age 29. That way they could have a downpayment on a house, and school would be done before the kids came.
But she got pregnant six months after the wedding.
Another friend of mine, within a year of getting married, was all of a sudden caring for a mother-in-law who had had a stroke out of nowhere.
It’s wonderful to plan and dream, but never invest all of your joy into any one plan. Remember that life happens, and the neat thing about being married is now you have someone to have it happen with.
My own girls have always said that they want 3-4 years with their future husbands before they have kids, and I completely agree with that. But when you’re walking down the aisle, you need to know that there is never any guarantee, and you need to be able to go with the flow.
8. Conflict can make you stronger. Don’t run from it; work through it.
Your first fight when you’re married may scare you. But that’s okay. Conflict isn’t always bad as long as you handle it well. One woman wrote:
Marriage is like two rough rocks being thrown in a tumbler. You smooth each other out as you bang and hit against each other.
Talk through your conflict. Tell him about what you’re thinking. Keep communication open, even if it’s hard. Before you’re married, develop a plan on how you’ll have these difficult talks. Maybe every Thursday after dinner you’ll go for a walk to “check in”, and that will give both of you time to bring up anything you want to. Maybe you’ll have breakfast Saturday mornings and plan through the next week and talk about these things. Plan beforehand, and arrange natural times to talk, knowing that there will always be something to talk about, and life is smoother.
And don’t shy away from conflict! One woman writes:
I wish I had known too, that trying to please him in every way possible, even going against my beliefs, to placate and prevent arguments is not the solution.
Conflict is always either a win/win or a lose/lose. Don’t aim to win an argument, because if you defeat your husband and he loses, you lose, too. You lose intimacy. Instead, find the win/win in everything. When you do that, conflict doesn’t seem so scary.
9. Listen to the little things
Don’t focus on yourself; before you’re married, practice focusing on him and what he’s thinking and feeling. Let those things matter to you.
One woman writes:
I wish I had known to really listen to the little things your husband says; I’ve found if I pay attention to the little things, the “big” things are fewer and far between.
When you pay attention to the little things he wants, he feels important. And that makes big conflicts less likely to happen.
Another woman says,
Un-met expectations are likely unknown expectations, speak up!
Don’t expect him to be a mind reader; ask for help in the little things. You may just find he’s more than happy to oblige, but he just didn’t know you needed anything.
10. It’s wonderful to go through life with somebody else.
Finally, we hear so much negative stuff about marriage. Marriage is hard. So many people divorce. You’ll never work harder at anything in your life.
I suppose that’s partially true, but overall, what I’ve found after 23 years of marriage is that it is such an amazing privilege to have someone else to walk through life with–someone who knows me inside and out, someone who has been there for everything, and someone who is always sticking around. That joy makes up for so much.
Let me end with this woman’s words:
It doesn’t have to be hard! If you are willing to learn and show grace, marriage will be such a joy. 3.5 years in and my husband and I have only had one minor fight because we have this perspective
It doesn’t have to be hard. Love in the little things; do 100/100; know that there will be transitions–and you just may find marriage is one of the best rides of your life!
Now it’s your turn: What do you wish you knew before you got married? Let me know in the comments!
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