One Year of Marriage

If I’ve learned one thing over the past year, it’s that every single marriage is completely different. No single piece of advice fits all, but we’ve been able to learn from others and from each other to build what we think is a strong foundation for our marriage. After four years together and one year of marriage, we’ve put together the four most important things we’ve learned and wanted to share.

Newly Wed, Not Dead is first and foremost about finding your own path to happiness in work, relationships/marriage, and family. I know that our advice might not be for everyone, but I think it’s a good start for couples (married or unmarried) as they navigate creating—and enjoying—a new life together.

Never, ever engage in “Spouse-Deprecating Humor.” Yes, I just invented that term. When we first got married, I wasn’t sure how to define the balance between taking our vows too seriously and not seriously enough until receiving a post-honeymoon “Congratulations” card which read, “With Deepest Sympathy,” containing a short note and a generous gift.

I decided to wait for my husband’s reaction, bracing myself for a joke about “the ol’ ball and chain,” or another cliché about the end of bachelorhood, hoping I could act like a laid back wife instead of the uptight one I feared I’d become.

After reading the card, he looked up at me and said, “That is not okay.” There—that’s where the line sits. You shouldn’t be married at all if your idea of a “Congratulations” is a sympathy card. This card represents one of the most important promises we’ve made to one another: we’ll never engage in public spouse-deprecation. How many couples do you know that tease one another for their shortcomings during on a double date? How many times have you heard a husband or wife point out one of their spouse’s intimate flaws to get a few laughs at the dinner table?

Marriage is resilient. For your sanity, it’s important to remember that your marriage isn’t a shiny glass object that will shatter into a million pieces of you drop it. It can sustain a few bumps and bruises, and it’s important that you take risks and challenge your marriage in order to reach your potential as a couple. This year, exactly six months into our marriage, I left my job. We, in turn, lost almost half of our monthly income, leaning on my husband to pay the bills while I carved a new path for myself.

We’ve also decided to sell our house, adopted a dog, and have made countless other changes and missteps over the past 12 months. Whenever we’ve made a mistake or even just a change, we’ve always been focused on moving forward. We will get on each other’s nerves, we will say the wrong thing, and we will want to walk out the front door once in a while. The only thing that matters is that we decide to stay, apologize, forgive, and move on.

It’s about starting your new family. When we first got married, it was so easy to get lost in our new twosome. Every night became a date night, and we didn’t know how to balance our hectic family lives as well as everyone’s expectations for us as a couple. One day, we realized that it was impossible to continue to be a member of a family of five, a family of four, a family of two, all while being a married couple with a new and growing set of goals, priorities, and obligations.

My dad was always the first to remind us: When we said, “I do,” we became a new family unit, and we have to make our new marriage our focus. While we’ll always be our parents’ children, it’s now our job to concentrate on building a family of our own. We feel very much a part of our old “family units,” and struggled to find our footing as a new couple while still being a part of our families. Once we started seeing ourselves as our own new family, it was easier to find balance in our work, family, social, and even married life. This has been the most difficult obstacle for my husband and me.

Do not marry anyone other than your very best friend. While I’m sure some couples work well without being “best friends,” I think that our marriage is stronger than ever because of our friendship. Just like your everyday life, your marriage will be hugely affected by your work stress, family obligations, taking care of pets and children, maintaining your home, paying the bills, etc. It’s rarely about champagne and strolls on the beach. If you were stuck on a deserted island with your husband for two weeks straight, would you end the two weeks in silence, sunburned and frustrated with each other? Or would you end them tanned, grateful, and happily married? I always think back to something that my Matron of Honor, cousin, and best friend said: “Well, you’re my best friend, but my husband is my best best friend.”

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Over the past year, we’ve grown into our roles as husband and wife, adapting our preconceived notions to find our happy medium. We have continued to be the best of friends, being honest, kind, and respectful to one another above all else. So far this year, we’ve brought home a puppy, traveled to Hawaii, stayed in Raleigh, Lake Placid, and Kennebunkport, put our first home on the market, quit a job, and made plans to relocate to Boston. We’ve said the wrong thing, driven the other crazy, created our first “five-year plan,” and took hundreds of leaps of faith in each other. As we embark on our second year, I hope we remember what we learned in the first and stay open to the new travel adventures, friends, and opportunities the universe might  send our way.

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