When I tied the knot at 22, I was pretty sure I knew what marriage was all about. I mean, I loved him, he loved me, and really, how hard could marriage possibly be?
As it turns out, pretty damn hard sometimes.
But my naïveté wasn’t even the biggest surprise. Here are 12 things you learn by the time you’ve got 16 years of wedded hit-and-miss under your garter.
1. You don’t know the secret to marriage. In fact, you barely know the secret to yours.
Honest folks who’ve been married for a chapter or three will tell you they don’t know much about marriage. All anyone really knows is what works for them, and even those secrets have been known to change without warning.
2. Your spouse’s family is every bit your family (and that means you get to talk sh*t, too).
Having been coupled for the last 20 years, I can confidently say that grandmas are everybody’s grandmas and fathers are everybody’s fathers. If my husband is annoyed with my mom, that’s cool because his sister probably did something to irritate me, too. If I’m proud of my brother, my husband’s just as proud because there’s no yours and mine when it comes to family.
3. It’s OK to go to bed mad. No, really.
If it’s late and you’re fighting about that lemon of a car he should have never talked you into buying or whose turn it is to stay home with the sick kiddo tomorrow, take a time-out with the lights out and sleep it off. A wise couple knows this fight isn’t ending any time soon.
4. A wedding is just a really expensive party.
A wedding does not a marriage make. Sure, your wedding is a beautiful day worthy of celebration, but it ain’t nothing compared to a lifetime of love. That said, still invite us; we clean up real nice.
5. Together, you have a pretty decent memory.
There comes a point in a marriage between careers and kids that you begin to forget things — big things. He won’t remember how old he is; you won’t remember the name of that Santa Barbara inn you swore you’d never forget, but together, your memory is like a steel trap.
6. Intimacy takes many forms.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, sex is important in a marriage —WE KNOW, but true intimacy takes many forms. Sometimes it’s a hand hold when you can’t find the words. Sometimes it’s a long hug, or a safe space to share your deepest fears. Sex may be an amazing expression of love, but it isn’t the only one.
7. Love is a morning cup of coffee.
For some, love is quality time. For others, it’s physical touch. For me, love is a freshly brewed cup of coffee in my favorite mug prepared by my husband. It’s taken me at least a decade of marriage to recognize love in the little things. Grand gestures are lovely, but everyday devotion is so much better.
8. Your vows weren’t kidding.
Sooner or later, for better/worse/richer/poorer/sickness/health will come. You’ll be called upon to love and cherish in ways you never have, and honestly, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
9. Marriage isn’t for everyone. Neither is your marriage.
If you want to get married, get married. If you don’t, don’t. And if you are married, love your way, but never expect others to.
10. Nobody knows you better — not even your bestie.
Your best friend may know all about that make-out sesh with a cute bartender in the back of your ’89 Integra, but she probably doesn’t know what makes you feel beautiful, confident, sexy, or safe when you need it most.
11. “Thank you” matters.
Say thank you. Say it a lot. Mean it a lot. Lather, rinse, repeat ’til death do you part.
12. Good sleep is for singles.
Whether your spouse snores like a grizzly, chatters in their sleep, tosses and turns, or wakes up hours before you do, there’s a pretty good chance that your sound sleeping days are over. Sharing a bed is arguably the most bittersweet share in a marriage. Well, that and cell phone chargers.More On