In the chaos of selecting the perfect wedding invitations and planning your dream honeymoon, it’s easy to forget that there’s a whole life set to happen after the ceremony’s behind you. While we have faith that your relationship is destined for many, many years of bliss, we also know that it’s perfectly normal to be so caught up in the planning excitement that you maybe miss out on considering what your married life will look like. In that spirit, we spoke with several relationship experts to find out what — in their experience — couples wish they’d known before tying the knot.
1. You don’t need to join finances right away — or ever. “I had it in my head that’s just what married people did,” says Meghan Ely, owner of OFD Consulting, which specializes in wedding-related PR and marketing. “I remember crying in the bank parking lot when we were about to go in [to join accounts]. We ended up doing it and it was fine, but I’m confident the transition would have been smoother if I hadn’t pressured myself into joining accounts ‘just because.'” There is no one right way to organize your new life with your spouse, particularly where finances are concerned. Don’t make major decisions simply because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do.
2. You and your partner may have different expectations for how responsibilities will be divided in the relationship. According to licensed psychotherapist Sepideh Saremi, “Couples wish they’d talked in greater depth about how to handle division of labor in a household, especially after kids are born.” Prior to the big day, make sure you and your S.O. have candid conversations about who will handle chores, pay the bills, etc. in your home. Do you or your partner expect the other to stay home full-time with kids down the road? Talking through these big questions now will make them less stressful in the future.
3. Marriage is often boring. Certified counselor Jonathan Bennett warns couples to have reasonable expectations about the “thrill factor” of married life. “Early on, relationships are exciting,” Bennett says. “That thrill increases through the excitement of the engagement, the wedding, and the honeymoon. However, as time progresses, those feelings of excitement gradually fade and you’ll come to realize that marriage is actually pretty boring.” The good news is that boring doesn’t have to be bad! The trick to a successful marriage is simply finding happiness in the predictability of the day-to-day routine.
4. It’s okay not to feel perfect in the relationship all the time. Just because you have a ring on your finger doesn’t mean that your life suddenly feels like a fairy tale every minute of every day. Psychologist Helen Odessky says that she sees many couples who seem concerned that they don’t always feel perfect. “It’s okay to go through rough patches, to disagree, and to sometimes feel like you’re not on the same page — and to still have a great marriage,” Dr. Odessky says about married couples.
5. Living together is different than being married. Moving in together prior to “I do” gives you a chance to learn your partner’s quirks and living habits, but it’s not quite an early preview of marriage. Even if you’ve already shared a home, “Marriage changes your relationship to each other and [changes] how you’re seen in your community of friends and family,” says counselor Julienne Derichs.
6. You won’t change someone in a marriage. If you love almost everything about your S.O. and expect that time (and some gentle prodding) will change the one or two things that you’re less than crazy about, think again. “Marry the person you know, not the one you imagine,” says relationship counselor Mindy Utay. “We are hopelessly idealistic about our ability to change people. Change is hard. Don’t count on it.” What this really means is that you may have to learn to more effectively live with those annoying quirks. “What irked you about them then will likely irk you now, but your strategies for how to cope should change after committing to a marriage,” says relationship coach Shula Melamed. “A sense of humor and acknowledgment of your own quirks and annoying habits help!”
7. Personal growth outside of the relationship is important. Amanda Dobra Hope, who works as a non-denominational wedding officiant and pre-marital counselor, has seen too many couples lean on each other for individual growth, rather than prioritizing and taking responsibility for it themselves. “They must do their own personal growth work in order to be happy and healthy in their relationships with themselves and their partners,” she says. “No one can do their healing and soul searching but them. Partners can help, but the expectation that [a partner] can fix or heal all of the other’s lifetime wounds is unrealistic and can create a nasty hamster wheel effect of disappointment.”
8. Expectations about sex can be different for everyone. Talking about sex often feels just as uncomfortable now as it did in middle school, but having open conversations with your partner about your expectations in the bedroom is an important part of pre-wedding prep. Psychotherapist Avi Klein says that one partner often tries to rationalize their sexual dissatisfaction by simply hoping that the problem will correct itself, instead of addressing it directly. “I’d suggest they find ways to talk about it now, because you can find ways to fix it before you’re so unhappy you want to leave,” he adds.
9. Spending and saving habits are worth a serious discussion. In your relationship, who is a spender? Who is a saver? How much do each of you expect to have in savings? What debt do each of you bring to the marriage? How will the bills get paid? What are your financial goals? While far from romantic, these questions are important to discuss before getting married — because they won’t get any easier after the big day. “If this is discussed ahead of time and boundaries are established — and consistently revisited and revised — this can create a nice balance in the relationship,” says Christine Baumgartner, a relationship coach who also spent 25 years as a wedding coordinator.
10. Alone time is perfectly okay. You may not always want to be around your partner — and there’s nothing wrong with that! “Living with your best friend is awesome,” says Ayo Gathing, a psychiatrist and relationship expert. “It’s like a slumber party every night — but, there will be times that you want to be away from your spouse. You will just want to be on your own to pamper yourself and do things you enjoy. Do not feel bad about this. It’s healthy to carve out time to take care of yourself in order to function at your best within the relationship.” Read: Me time is still as important as ever.
What do you wish you’d known before you got married? Tweet us @BritandCo!
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