When you’re engaged or recently married, people love to give unsolicited marriage advice.
The second someone pops the question, neighbors, friends and elderly aunts come out of the woodwork to impart their conflicting, yet well-meaning advice.
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me “don’t go to bed angry,” when I was engaged, I’d have….probably about $12—which is, nevertheless, a lot of times to hear the same phrase during an eight moth period of time. But no matter how much free advice I got, some things about being married still took me by surprise. Now, after two years of marriage I’ve realized there are several things no one ever told me about married life.
1. What the heck “quality time” actually means
I was told “don’t give up on date night,” and “make sure you have quality time together,” but no one ever explained what quality time really means. When you’re newly married every night looks like date night because you spend most of your time alone together. But when every night is date night things can sometimes become status quo. If at any point you’re just going through the motions without investing in the relationship, no activity feels like quality time. Even lavish dates only count as quality time if both parties are emotionally present.
By that same token, quality time doesn’t always mean planning something unique and expensive. Having spontaneous conversations until two in the morning counts as quality time. Walking to the grocery store because you’re craving ice cream and there’s none in the house, counts as quality time. Reading out loud on long car trips, making dinner together on a Tuesday night, or grabbing a Red Box DVD and popcorn for an impromptu movie night can all count as quality time, as long both parties are devoted to relationship building and togetherness.
2. Your spouse is going to smell everything
Marriage means living in close proximity with the love of your life. This seems like a major positive, but occasionally it also means sharing the less pleasant aspects of day to day life. The end result of a Taco Bell binge? Your toilet isn’t the only witness anymore. Taking off that 10 year old pair of shoes you love? The smells that have soaked into the crevices of those things over ten years will linger in your shared bedroom until the end of time. Not to mention that you get to smell all the scents created by your lovely spouse.
Somehow the smelly parts of life just serve to bring you closer together. There’s no room for shame in marriage. It is equal parts vulnerable and strangely comforting to be your true self with your favorite person.
3. It’s okay to not feel lovey-dovey and romantic all the time
Before I got married people used to warn me that marriage is not all rainbows and butterflies. “Wait until you’re out of the honeymoon phase. Then you know what your relationship is really like,” they’d say. But no one ever told me that having ups and downs in romantic feeling is actually a good thing. Being married has so many more facets than just romance. Sometimes your spouse is your business partner, your therapist, your sounding board, and sometimes just someone to watch Netflix with. Frequently he or she will be all of those at once and more. The romantic aspect of marriage is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of a healthy marital relationship.
4. Silences are just as important as conversations
Everyone will tell you that communication is key in good relationships and that is incredibly true. But what they don’t tell you is that comfortable silence is also vital, because no one can sustain consistent conversation over an entire lifetime of marriage. You have to be able to just sit with each other in the same room doing separate activities. Relationships thrive off of quietly reading next to each other in bed.
On the other hand, when silences feel uncomfortable or heavy, I try to have a conversation about whether something is bothering my spouse or myself. Comfortable silences should be enjoyed; painful silences must be resolved.
5. You’ve got a built-in gym buddy for life
And movie buddy/dance partner/plus one for any event. Marriage means you never have to wonder who you’re going to hang out with at the party. The word companionship seems inadequate to describe the condition of a healthy marriage. It is like a legal friendship contract with bonus making-out.
6. Sometimes you still need “me” time
Maybe extroverts don’t experience this, but if you’re an introvert like me, even the person you love most in the world can cause some energy drain. Sure, I spend most of my free time with my husband, and that is super fun! Every once in a while, though, I have to take a few hours to recharge and reflect solo. Nobody talks about this, but it’s only natural, and it doesn’t mean anything’s wrong with the relationship.
7. Marriage is different for everyone
Once I was married I realized that half of the the advice I got from others doesn’t apply to my relationship. Maybe you won’t fight about the correct way to squeeze the toothpaste tube, or leaving the toilet seat up like everyone talks about. But you will disagree about something and those little disagreements will help you navigate your early relationship, as long as you work through them with compassion and understanding. Those relationship building moments will be different for each couple. No one can tell you exactly what your experience with marriage will be like, because you and your spouse are two completely unique people.
8. What you put into it comes back to you tenfold
People will tell you that marriage is a lot of work. It doesn’t come easy. You have to really try for a solid marriage. Yes, a successful marriage does require a certain amount of investment, but it also gives back so much more than you put in. With a moderate amount of effort, married couples can find fulfillment, companionship and more from a healthy, happy relationship. All of that “hard work” people talk about comes with an overflow blessings.