6 Things I Learned in 6 Months of Marriage

My husband Jason and I recently passed the half-year mark and we came full circle by celebrating at the same restaurant where we had our rehearsal dinner. While digging into a plate of crab cakes and The Perfect Storm cocktails, we reminisced about all of the milestones we've had since saying "I do." The ink is barely dry on our marriage certificate and we still have a lifetime of memories to make.

However, even in this short amount of time, it's incredible to witness how much our lives have changed. Here's what we've learned so far — newlyweds, what other lessons would you add to my list? Everyone's experience is different!

Photo Credit: Josh Lynn Photography

1. Discuss expectations for being an awesome spouse.
During our first week back to the real world, I silently wondered what Jason expected from me now that I was his wife rather than his fiancée. Despite nine happy years of dating under our belt, a small and irrational part of me worried that I'd fail to balance everything: household chores, my career, our love life, friends and family, etc. I'd witnessed with other couples how resentment could build up over time because of a lack of give-and-take. Jason reassured me that he didn't fall in love with me because of how well I could iron his dress shirts or cook interesting meals. 

We learned to balance each other out. For example, he knows I could pass for a Walking Dead zombie in the mornings, so he's happy to handle breakfast duty and drive me to the train. I'm more of a night person, so I usually make dinner and do a quick sweep of our apartment. Yes, creating a sense of home was important — it took a few months for us to settle into a routine — but all it did was add another dimension to our relationship. The qualities that made us want to get married became even more attractive after the fact.

2. Be each other's biggest fan.
Anyone who's in a committed relationship has had their partner lean on them at one time or another. This isn't exclusive to marriage. However, the stakes just get so much higher. Saying "I do" really means "I will be there for you no matter what" and the time will come sooner or later when you will have to prove it.

Case in point: When we returned from our honeymoon in Hawaii, we found out that the new job Jason was supposed to start had been misrepresented to him. They gave him less hours than they had promised but there was a chance he might reach full-time status again at an indeterminate point in time. He asked for my opinion about what he should do. I confirmed what he already knew: He'd have to find someplace else to work or else risk being jerked around.

The next few months of job searching that ensued weighed heavily on both of us. There was a lot of waiting and hoping and praying and worrying. He fretted I was disappointed in him and I was frustrated that I couldn't make him happy again. What we thought was a curse turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise because he's very successful where he works now. I'm thankful for that early shake-up because it proved that we will tackle any obstacle that comes our way — together.

3. The little things mean more than you ever thought they would. 
When people ask, "what's married life like?" the truth is that there is no simple answer. Marriage encompasses a hundred little gestures or moments that occur within a given week.

For example, Jason covered me from head to toe with a sheet one night while I was sleeping. When I woke up, he explained that a mosquito had gotten into our room and he didn't want me to get bit. He couldn't sleep so he made me pancakes. This made me just as touched as when he bought me diamond studs and a necklace for our first married Christmas!

Being married means waiting to have dinner until he gets home at 8:30 p.m. on late worknights. Being married means having him kiss me on the forehead every single night before we turn in. Being married means losing my sh*t when he says he'll hang our key holder and it sits on the desk untouched for two weeks. Being married means hearing him scream when I raise the thermostat to an ungodly high temperature for the umpteenth time. Being married means open communication when we transfer money from our joint savings to our personal accounts. What are the little things that define your marriage?

4. Your relationship with relatives and friends may change.
Now that we're our own little family of two, this has shifted our family dynamics (which we fully expected). When we were engaged and one of us couldn't make it to dinner or family event, no one batted an eyelash. Now there's more pressure for both of us to see all of our relatives as much as humanly possible. At times, we've felt guilty for not staying as long as they may have liked or for griping about how tired we were and just wanted to veg out at home. My family always has lots of parties and casual get-togethers, so we found it was easier to see my relatives but just as important to make Jason's side feel close to us, too.

We also experienced some growing pains when it came to our friendships. It was difficult for me to accept that my once-weekly girl's nights were dwindling down to once a month, if that. Jason wasn't invited when pals went out for an impromptu drink or to go see a movie because they assumed (rightfully so, to a certain degree) that he was too busy settling into married life. Now that we are each other's number-one priority, everyone was afraid to intrude on our marital bliss. But as lovely as that post-wedding afterglow is, living in a cocoon gets old after a while. Slowly but surely, we began to balance our time better and bond with friends again. We just had to adjust our expectations (back to that word again!).

5. Learn how to fight more fairly.
Like many other couples, our first married blowout began over something idiotic. I think I bought a product at Costco that he thought we'd never use up. In that argument, we broke every rule they taught us at Pre-Cana: no yelling, no profanity, no sulking. But Costco wasn't the true root of the issue — it was communication about finances. I was naive to think that we'd had more than enough practice with wedding spending. If we wanted to save up enough for a house someday, we were going to have to buckle up!

Since then, we both make a concerted effort to try to understand where the other person is coming from without jumping to quick conclusions. We're a team for better and for worse, so the goal isn't for one of us to "win." If we get super heated over something, we've learned to walk away and then discuss it later when we feel calm again. When you're married, it's less tempting to throw in those can't-take-it-back jabs (i.e. "maybe we're just not meant to be together"). We're far from perfect — I still have the terrible habit of needing to get the last word in — but knowing we're in this forever has changed our outlook for the better. 

6. Remember that your wedding day is just the first of many dreams.
While I was engaged, there were always momentous occasions to look forward to: scouting our dream venue, going dress shopping with my mom, attending my surprise bridal shower, jetting off to Miami with my girlfriends for a pre-wedding getaway and finally getting married. I'd heard about the post-wedding blues and I figured that wouldn't happen to me since I had soaked in every wedding experience.

Boy, was I wrong. In my opinion, "post-wedding blues" is a misleading term. It implies that wives get sad because they can't wear their wedding dress again or celebrate their relationship with loved ones, but the reality is much more complicated. After devoting hours each week to either brainstorming for our wedding or actively working on it, I was SO relieved to have more free time after getting married. 

However, as the weeks ticked by, I slipped into this emotional funk. I couldn't seem to snap out of it...until Jason and I began talking about all of the other goals we have. We're not rushing into The Next Big Thing, but knowing that we're going to be home owners, parents, and maybe even CEOs of our own companies someday gives us amazing things to look forward to. In the meantime, we're focusing on fun, short-term goals like saving up for a trip to Tahiti and getting in great physical shape.

Photo Credit: Josh Lynn Photography

Plus, check out the 10 Biggest Post-Wedding Mistakes That Newlyweds Make.

—Stefania Sainato