So you met someone special and have been dating for a while. You’ve gotten to know each other, they don’t exhibit major red flags, and you’ve met their parents. You want to keep this going forever, so you want to propose and get that special someone locked down. 

When I first got married, I had some idea of what to expect. My husband and I were not living together before we got married, and both of us were moving into new jobs and life circumstances – on top of this new adventure of permanent partnerships. There were unexpected twists and turns, new negotiations, and even moments of uncertainty.

In the movies, the film ends with commitment or marriage. Liz gets her Darcy and Harry his Sally. But in real life, that is when the fun and excitement begins. Unfortunately, many people feel unprepared for some of the newness. 

So what is it really like when you get married?

It can feel different

Most people will say it. Whether they were living together before they got married or not, something feels different. Whether it is a change in chemistry, a deepening of intimacy, or an adjustment to seeing this once familiar space as something new because of a change in dynamics, few couples will deny that marriage changed things. 

This isn’t bad!

Different is good, especially when you’ve changed something. Often change and things feeling different can lead to anxiety, causing one party or both to react by withdrawing. This is the wrong approach. It is best to lean into the newness. Relish and explore it.

Sometimes this change can feel negative, whether it is because two people with different habits and expectations are now co-habitating or because it doesn’t feel as different as you want, or because you feel trapped in the marriage in a way you didn’t expect, this is where communication becomes key. Express these feelings and concerns calmly, and try to have smart discussions. Flying off the handle, or holding it in, will lead to a bad start and – overtime – resentment.

If you weren’t already living together, it will be an adjustment

Not everyone lives together before they get married. One of their biggest shocks is how hard it can be to merge lives. Suddenly you have two, three, or four of something of which you really only need one. Boxes are everywhere! 

And then there’s their personal habits

The longer you live alone, the more personal habits you will develop, and people tend to want things just how they like them. When you marry someone and move in with them, you will be exposed to their quirks, and they to yours. Using that time as an opportunity for both of you to engage in a little self-improvement is a great way to prevent future fights and grow closer together. I learned very quickly that I did not know how to wash dishes properly. On the other hand, I am much better than my spouse at putting things back in their proper place after I use them. Create a chore list based on your strengths and weaknesses, and life will be a lot easier. 

You will also have to decide what stays and what goes based on how much room you have.

It can be hard to be fair here, but communication and compromise are key.

You will be part of a team

When you get married, most people vow to love and support each other in sickness and in health in some form or another. This manifests as a lifetime commitment to be there for another person. Whether it is emotional support, a run to the pharmacy for NyQuil, or help making important decisions, you’re no longer alone. That does mean those who want to control will have to relinquish a little power, and those who want to avoid making choices will have to step up to the plate and be willing to be more assertive. 

But once you figure out how to work together, being married means being part of a dynamic partnership that will allow you both to cultivate a new life, one that uses the best of both people. It also means learning the joys of living life with and for someone else. While that can be a struggle, it is also one way people grow and mature emotionally. 

It will be challenging but worth it

Anyone who tells you marriage is pure bliss for the remainder of your days is not telling you the truth. There will be challenges, many of them from exterior sources. In fact, the better you can improve your communication skills, the fewer interpersonal conflicts you can have between you are your spouse, the more prepared you will be to tackle issues that come from the outside. Sometimes you will be hit with emergencies like broken vehicles, electronics, or health issues, and hospital bills. Family dynamics can present new and interesting challenges. There may even be opportunities to be unfaithful, periods where you’re not in sync with one another, and tragedies like the passing of a loved one or a miscarriage.

What matters is what you do in those moments. 

Choosing to stay committed to your partner and your vows is what will make your marriage stronger – but it is a choice. Choosing to forgive, to adapt, and to communicate will keep your marriage strong in the hard times. 

There’s a reason you want to marry this person. Deciding to propose and get married is an important step to creating the life you want and can be one of the most rewarding things the two of you will do. If you go in prepared to have fun and grow, as well as face trials and difficulties, you are starting married life well.

And figure out their favorite take-out orders…..that one goes a long way in all circumstances.

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