Marriage isn’t always as easy as happily ever after. In reality, committing yourself to someone for the rest of your life can come with plenty of surprises, both delightful and less than pleasant. And sometimes, there’s so much pressure to seem blissed-out that it’s hard for people to, as The Real World says, stop being polite and start getting real. Here, 12 women open up about what they really wish they’d known before walking down the aisle.
- Being married isn’t like being in a long-term relationship, and that’s a good thing.
“It’s different, even if you’ve been living together in a long-term relationship. For me, the minute we got married was a new beginning of life together as a team and a family. Everything we do now is for the benefit of our family, today and in the future. There’s no guessing, no game-playing. Just teamwork, all day, every day. It’s the best.” —Alison F., 30
- Nighttime routines are no laughing matter.
“This has nothing to do with sex. If your significant other is the I-need-silence-and-absolutely-no-lights-please kind of bedmate and you’re more into hitting up your iPad to kill time before you doze off, you both need to adapt. Our compromise is to each sleep so the side we like to lie on faces the wall, meaning our backs are to each other. That way, I can use my Kindle without him noticing the brightness. Or he heads upstairs to bed while I get tired with TV or a book, then head to bed when I realize I’ve fallen asleep on the couch.” —Jenna A., 31
- Honeymoons aren’t perfect 24/7.
“The honeymoon will be fun, but it might not be magical. One night my husband fell asleep before 8:00 P.M. We also stayed in the room another night and watched Project X — not a movie you would think of as a honeymoon choice! But it was fun night, and one of the things we remember well.” —Sarah P., 39
- At this point, what you see is what you get.
“Accept them how they are now, because you literally can’t change anything about them.” —Mary M., 35
- Remembering to have fun makes it all so much better.
“Before we got married, every fight started to feel huge — the wedding planning pressure is so real. But now that we’ve said our vows and are spending the rest of our lives intrinsically tied together, things have loosened up a bit. It can be hard when things get tough, but laughter is the best medicine.” —Meredith S., 26
- Ben Affleck was right: marriage is work.
“After the glitz, fun, and excitement of the wedding die down, and after the honeymoon phase of being newlyweds, relationships take a crapload of work. And in my case, sometimes they don’t work out.” —Amanda M., 35
- Figuring out how often you’ll visit your families is key.
“If it’s important to divide time equally between your families, start doing that before the wedding, because after it will become harder to backtrack. Speak up about it, especially if you live geographically closer to one family than another, and don’t be afraid to split up sometimes if you’re really craving some time with your own parents and siblings.” —Sara L., 28
- Having another adult on your side doesn’t mean it’s not still stressful to be a grownup.
“Filing taxes does not get easier.” —Samantha Z., 29
- Sometimes your happiness dips, and that’s OK.
“People told me that there would be peaks and valleys in our marriage, but I didn’t realize that those valleys could last for a few months, or even a few years. Realizing it was a normal part of the relationship was important. We have never thought of divorce as an option, so when we hit those lows, we try to be aware of what’s going on and just do our best to get through. The plus side is that there are years at a time I would describe as peaks, too.” —Jackie C., 35
- Holidays can cause even more tension than usual.
“I didn’t think about the fact that we’d have to alternate Thanksgivings. That turned out to be an issue, fast.” —Liza G., 28
- If you’re waiting to have kids, talk about your game plan.
“I wish I’d known to freeze my eggs! So many women are trying to get pregnant later in life, including me. It would have been great to freeze my eggs at 27 instead of 34 with a fertility battle.” —Abby F., 34
- After getting married, love takes on a new form.
“I’ve realized what a true gesture of love really is. I no longer expect grandeur, like a rose petal-covered bed. Instead, I appreciate the little things, like him folding my laundry or getting up early on Saturdays to play with our daughter so I can sleep in. That is true love.” —Ann R., 34