The Top 10 Things I Learned in my First Year of Marriage, Part 2

In part one of this series, we discussed the first five of the top ten lessons I learned in my first year of marriage:

  1. Be grateful and say thank you.
  2. Learn to not take things so personally.
  3. Teamwork makes the dream work.
  4. Establish your new life together.
  5. Live, laugh, and love.

Now that you have digested those, I want to give you guys the remaining five of my top ten first-year-of-marriage lessons. So from our home to yours, enjoy.

6. You will fall off the grid a little.

You’ve probably heard people say (and may have experienced this in other seasons of life) that once you get married your friendships will change. Of course, the well-intentioned, doe-eyed, naïve nearly-newlywed will deny this up and down. “It won’t change anything!” “Best friends forever!” “We’ll still talk every week!” “We’ll see each other!”

For me, knowing that I’ve always been bad at maintaining relationships from cities away let alone states away, I knew that the struggle would be real. But I was still in denial that there were factors apart from distance and time-zones that would end up affecting my already-poor communication standards.

You see, in marriage your life melds into that of another person. You now have to consider the priorities, needs, and schedules of you and your spouse when trying to fit in your phone dates or Starbucks meet-ups. When will he be home from work? Do I have dinner decided yet? Can I use the car today? What deadlines do I have to meet today? Etc. For me, I need to either meet my priorities first for the day or determine when and if I can multitask effectively (i.e. calling my mom while grocery shopping).

Unfortunately, having another person to coordinate around does affect your ability to keep in touch with others. So keep that in mind and be honest with those you want to keep up with – things might change and it might be harder to get together, but those relationships are still important to you.

7. Freedom looks different in marriage.

These days, most people are marrying in their late-20’s to mid-30’s. So you’ve probably already completed your undergrad degree if that’s your thing, and you’ve had your all-nighter crazy roommate chick-flick fests and dance parties. You may even be used to running to Sonic for a Slushie during happy hour and spending every Sunday afternoon reading your favorite novels at a local park. Maybe you love those last-minute invitations to dinner with friends or sometimes you just need to go for a drive. You enjoy doing what you want, when you want, with whomever you want.

Now welcome to marriage. The adage “the old ball-and-chain” comes to mind. Things are different because it’s not just you anymore and you have to be considerate of this person you’ve pledged your life to. No, I’m not saying that that means all freedom goes out the window. Freedom just looks a little different in marriage.

Consider the classic argument when children question their boundaries: “The rules exist for a reason.” Similarly, in marriage, you and your spouse are establishing your life, your routine, your boundaries, and you have to figure out collectively what works for your family.

For example, we live about twenty minutes from the beach, and if I were single and in my early 20’s, I would try to be there every single day! But the things I would have shrugged off before (responsibilities at home, travel expenses, etc.) now affect not only me but more importantly my incredible husband who works hard so that we can go to the beach on the weekends and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of God’s creation together.

Thus, I’d like to propose the following change to Uncle Ben Parker’s famous words:

“With great [freedom] comes great responsibility.” And in marriage, we must consider both our responsibilities and our freedom.

8. Take financial responsibility seriously.

Speaking of responsibilities, one I wasn’t great with in my single life was financial responsibility. I made my credit card payments and watched my bills, but I didn’t do well with my savings and was probably a little too reliant on retail therapy to cheer me up. To this day, my husband tries fervently to keep me away from Target, haha.

Needless to say, our first year of marriage has been eye opening for me! It’s the first time since I was 15-years-old that I haven’t had a job. That means that I am completely financially dependent on my husband – yikes! And while this has been an incredibly stretching and humbling experience for me, it has also given me an opportunity to rise to the challenge. Gabe has put me in charge of our budgeting, tracking our expenses, and finding deals on the things we do purchase (from groceries to travel to outdoor equipment, etc.). Although I fall short at times, I don’t take this responsibility lightly.

According to The Huffington Post, finances are the 7th leading cause of divorce. Another survey by Certified Divorce Financial Analyst professionals stated money issues as the #3 cause of divorce in North America. In other words, money is a big deal in marriage and financial responsibility must be taken seriously. If you and your spouse can start off strong, praise the Lord! But even if things are shaky at first, develop a plan together to get your finances under control, reduce your debts and unnecessary spending, and build a strong financial foundation.

9. Fight fairly.

My husband and I are human. That means that we get offended and we offend. It happens. That also means that fights happen. We argue or discuss or whatever word you want to call it, just like every other couple out there. And if you and your significant someone haven’t had a fight, don’t worry… you will.

When I was little, my mom told me that fighting showed that you care. And while that might not be true in every situation, it does make sense that we argue about the things that mean something to us and we care enough about the other person’s opinion of us or of the topic to argue it out with them. So, while fighting certainly isn’t fun, it can certainly be functional as long as it’s done fairly.

What is fair fighting? For starters:

  • Leave old battles in the past. If you’ve had a fight and reached a conclusion, apologies have been expressed or decisions have been reached, leave it at that. Don’t tear open old wounds.
  • Don’t do name-calling. Seriously, you’re not five anymore. And if you have siblings, it may come second nature to you to pull this old trick out of your sleeve, but just don’t. All it does is make things worse, and you probably don’t really think your spouse is a “poopyhead.” (I know no one in their right mind would use “poopyhead” as an insult, so feel free to insert your own imaginative nicknames. ☺)
  • Storming out isn’t an option. If you need to take some time to cool off or think through the argument or what made you mad in the first place, then tell your spouse you need some space. We’re all adults here.

10. Communication is key.

You may have a BFF you talk to about everything. Or maybe you tell your parents everything. Maybe you love to share your life on your blog or tweet about anything that happens during the day. These aren’t bad things, but your spouse is your new go-to.

If you didn’t marry your best friend, over time your spouse will become your best friend. They are the one person you share every aspect of your life with, so why not include communication? Talk to your spouse about your day, about your dreams, about your hopes and fears. Talk about your goals, your stresses, your expectations, your disappointments. Talk about your friends and family, about your childhood, about your victories, about your marriage, about your responsibilities. Heck, tell your spouse all about feng shui, your favorite foods or cravings, the cool thing you found on Amazon that day. Talk about travel, about sex, about entertainment – talk about everything.

One of our favorite parts of our daily routine takes place every evening when Gabe gets home from work. We cuddle up together and tell each other all about our days: what we did, what we ate, who we talked to, what went right, what went wrong, etc. This is our undivided time to talk to each other – to talk to our best friend.

So whether the topic is fun or uncomfortable, meaningful or meaningless, talk to each other about it and talk to each other first. If there’s a problem, you can work it out together. If you’re keeping an open line of communication with each other, you won’t be surprised about that dinner you were supposed to attend on Thursday night or the crazy electric bill that came in the mail. You’ll be on track with each other and functioning better as a team because you have good communication.

So there you have it, my top ten lessons from my first year of marriage. Some people say it will be the hardest year of your marriage, others say the best. For us, it’s been a journey and a joy with a few downs but a ton of ups. Every marriage is different, and depending on the circumstances of yours, you may learn some very different lessons of your own. But whatever the surprises, hardships, or insights you experience early on in your union, I can guarantee that the love and growth you will experience is worth it.

May God bless your journey no matter what stage you’re in!