Five requirements for a smoother “I-do” transition (other than learning to share covers)
- Know that being in love and being in a marriage are two different things.
Here’s the reality: Things change once you’re married. Even couples who live together before tying the knot learn that relationship dynamics are just different once it’s official. There will be conversations you’ve never had before. About doing taxes. Retirement. When to have kids. Cleaning out the garage. There will be days where romance takes a back seat to practicality. And that’s OK. It doesn’t mean the lovey-dovey, hearts ‘n flowers side of love no longer exists, only that it’s now one of many dimensions to your relationship instead of the primary one. And with this shift comes a newfound security as you realize that discussing such non-romantic subject matter as dishwasher repairs means you two are actually in this for the long haul. So remember that during the moments things feel more domestic than Danielle Steele.
- Choose your battles.
In the beginning, your loved one can do no wrong. Following the vow swap, however, the ratio seems to gradually reverse until you are sieged by the nagging suspicion that once-faultless spouse of yours is now intentionally provoking you. (No way he left the mayonnaise on the counter by accident.) Your best plan of action? Learn to get over seventy-five percent of it. You’ll rapidly learn that marriage comes with more than its share of legitimate conflict. The harmony between you is best served by reserving energy for the conflicts that are necessary. While it may be tempting to go three rounds over a toilet seat that’s been left up, it’s important that the good experiences between the two of you outweigh the bad. You can help keep the scales tipped that way by knowing when to speak up—and when to stay mum.
- Accept that there is an adjustment period.
Every significant transition comes with a significant breaking in period. In other words, be prepared for a plethora of snafus, misunderstandings and less-than-eloquent exchanges. What’s more, know that it’s supposed to be this way. This isn’t a swapping-out-your-breakfast-cereal kind of change; it’s the I-joined-my-life-with-someone-else’s kind. In other words, it’s a big deal. Right now, you’re both learning not just new things about each other, but a new part of yourselves. What you look like with your “spouse” hat on. You’ll both struggle to break free of the “me, me, me” mindset from your single days. You’ll get on each other’s nerves and have no talent for concealing it. (That comes with practice.) You’ll even wonder if you’re actually cut out for this marriage stuff. What makes it a lot less traumatic is accepting the reality of a bumpy beginning as you both learn the ropes.
- Look for role models.
Today, marriages of longevity are a rare thing. If you’re committed to being one of the “lifers,” it’s important to find real-life examples. Whether it’s your parents, grandparents, a pastor and wife, or family friends, look for a couple with some serious years under their belt (twenty and up) and find out if they’ll let you pick their brain over lunch. Better yet, look for someone close enough that you can benefit from the “learn by watching” approach. You’ll learn a ton just by observing how they interact with each other, you’ll glean some gems to store away for the future and you’ll come away with the assurance that lasting, happy marriages aren’t just the stuff of fairy tales.
- Realize it’s not just you anymore.
This lesson sinks in quickly, if not gently. Right around the time your favorite TV show airs in the same slot as his. Ideally, you’ve been practicing this philosophy since you two got serious. But if you’re, in fact, selfish like the other ninety-nine percent of us, you’ve probably resisted the concept. Getting married leaves you with little choice. Now, your weekend plans, where you’ll vacation, and what color to paint the bedroom require a more democratic approach, meaning there’s whole other opinion to take into account. That doesn’t mean constantly giving in to the other person’s wishes. It means considering and valuing their take on the matter as much as your own. Learn to do this and do it graciously and your marriage will be all the better for it.
That, and, of course, your ability to share the covers.