10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Getting Married

How do you make a great thing even better? You prepare. After almost 10 years of marriage, these are 10 things I wish I had known before tying the knot.

By Alicia Bittle6 min read
Pexels/Leeloo The First

Marriage is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It's made me a better person, it’s given me a family, and I have a best friend who knows the entirety of my soul and still loves it all the same. I just wish things could have been easier at the start. In a lot of ways, it’s been a learning curve. But for you, it doesn’t have to be. Yes, everyone will have their own lessons to learn in life, but the 10 tips I’m going to discuss are extremely common issues that most marriages face. Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t even have to deal with them? Or at least you could be prepared?

If that’s you, and if you want to stay in that honeymoon phase a little longer, read on. 

Make a Plan

Marriage is more than a perpetual sleepover with your favorite person. Like, duh, I know, but this was actually my idea of marriage before actually getting married. Those first years would have been so much easier if we had just sat down and hashed out roles and responsibilities beforehand. Who’s going to cook? Will we take turns? Who will be doing the laundry? Will we each be in charge of our own clothes? Who will clean the bathroom? The kitchen? 

You’re most likely perfectly capable of taking care of yourself, and you probably even have a little rhythm going. But often, throwing two separate rhythms together can create discordant chaos instead of a melody. It’s best to prepare for this transition ahead of time instead of attempting to figure it out from within the cacophony.

Gender roles aren’t as clear-cut as they used to be. And for all the new freedom it’s given us, it has also proven to be an ample source of confusion. It’s not necessarily good or bad – it just is. It’s just something that you’ll need to learn how to navigate. And I recommend doing so ahead of time, before it interrupts your marital bliss.

My suggestion? Make a date out of it. Discuss the familial roles that you each grew up with, discuss your expectations and why, and then come to an agreement together. Obviously, this isn’t a plan that’s set in stone. It will change, I assure you. But it’s a fair and excellent place to start.

Learn How To Fight Fair

Even if you both grew up with good parental examples, theory and execution are two completely different things. Especially once your own hurt feelings are involved. 

The reality of marriage is that because the two of you are so close and love each other so much, you can both help and harm each other more than any other person can. It’s a weighty responsibility. That’s why you must learn how to fight fair, before you fight.

My honest advice, and something I’m doing myself but wish I had done sooner, is to go to marriage counseling before dysfunction sets in. Not everyone needs it. And if you don’t, that’s awesome! You can just stop going. 

But if you do find it helpful, even if just to learn a little more about each other and what makes each of you “tick,” and you’d like to be taught how to “fight fair” and properly handle your emotions when they feel really overwhelming, I’d go. 

Discover Each Other’s Turn-Ons and Pet Peeves

What are the things you should avoid doing once you’re living together, and what are some reliable things you can do for each other to brighten the other's day and feel connected? What are some sturdy olive branches you can extend after a fight to soothe any leftover hurt feelings? Does it look like grabbing take-out? Cuddling? Playing a board game together? Conversely, what are things that should be avoided at all costs? 

Make this a game and give it genuine thought. Some of these turn-ons could even become future date nights. 

Figure Out Your Relationship's Weak Spots and Strengths

We don’t have to dedicate our lives to becoming good at something we’re just not good at, but we do have to learn how to manage it. We also need to pour into our strengths so that not only do we feel more fulfilled in life, but our husband benefits as well. My advice to you is, before you get married, learn about your weak points, become ruthlessly honest about them, and then learn how to work with them. We’ll never be perfect, we can’t be. But we can learn how to play to our strengths. 

The other half of this tip is that more often than not, the couples who ultimately end up getting married have weak spots that fit together like puzzle pieces. As an example, you may frequently find a girl who really craves lavish displays of affection and a guy who is just not good at doing that. On the other side of the aisle, you may see a guy who really craves soft, sensitive care and a girl who hasn’t learned to access that part of herself yet. 

So why did they even get married, you ask? Because these things aren’t typically made glaringly obvious until after marriage. You may catch glimpses of them during dating, but they usually get written off as quirks or things that will “change” later on (*hint* these things don’t change without a lot of work and patience). But the thing is, everyone has these idiosyncrasies. There is not a single perfect person out there, including yourself. So, don’t write these things off when you see them – pay attention and work on them. And remember, for yourself as well as your husband, positive reinforcement is how you get more of what you want.

Learn What My Needs Are and How To Communicate Them Effectively 

Unmet needs are where resentment breeds. We all kind of automatically expect that the person who knows us best in this world will just flawlessly meet our needs. But nothing could be further from the truth. 

If all you had to focus on in life was each other, sure, your relationship would probably be akin to a fairytale. But, as it stands, life is far more complex than that. There’s work, bills, stress, travel, sickness, working out, grocery shopping, child rearing, lunch dates, play dates, and just absolutely everything else in between. You are busy, your husband is busy. Things fall through the cracks. 

So what can be done? Well, it may feel awkward at first, especially if there is already some built up resentment, but we need to ask our husband for what we want. And don’t be vague about it, either. Does cuddling and talking about your day together make you feel loved? Ask him. Are flowers each week really important to you? Ask him. Do you want to hear at least one compliment a day? Ask him. And then once he gets it right, even if just a little bit, praise him. This praise is what will keep him going. Our husbands want acknowledgment of a job well done, just like we do. They want to love us in ways we find meaningful. We just have to ask. 

My advice? Figure out meaningful love habits before you get married and implement them early. Then do the same for your husband. Get him to ask you for what he wants.

Think about the Care and Keeping of Your Husband

Boyfriend privileges are very different from husband privileges. Meals, sex, interior decor (let’s be honest, he’d be living on a mattress on the floor if it weren’t for you), confidante, and chore helper are just a few of the perks that come with being married to you. If I’m being honest, though, I hadn’t thought about any of that in any sort of structured way before getting married. I’d heard it described before as just a “sleepover that never ends.” And unfortunately, that’s the mentality I carried with me into marriage. All play, no provision. It got real old, real fast. 

Maybe your weak spot is more of a blind spot – you just don’t know what you don’t know. Unfortunately, this might be pretty difficult to figure out before living together, that's why I (again) recommend pre-marital counseling and asking the counselor to help mediate what marital roles and expectations will look like for the pair of you. How would you like to be cared for as an adult? What are your attachment styles? How will this affect relationship dynamics? How can you help one another grow through the hard times? All good things to talk about before getting hitched.

Decide To Be a Team

When life gets tough, sometimes we lash out at the person closest to us instead of leaning on them. This has a lot to do with attachment style and the sort of behavior that was modeled for you growing up.

This was me for the first few years of my marriage. I had to learn and remind myself that my husband was someone I could rely on in the hard times. He’d always be there for me. I just had to ask him. Unfortunately, because I would lash out when I needed help, understandably, I got the opposite of what I wanted. Instead of support and care, I got someone who was justifiably upset with me. What’s worse is that after the fight I caused was “resolved,” I still expected him to care for me as if nothing had ever happened.

All this is to say, please don’t do what I did. Learn to be vulnerable (premarital counseling can help you do this!), if you haven’t already. You don’t have to do things alone anymore. Your husband wants to help you. You just have to let him

Know Your Husband Isn’t Your Girlfriend

If you tell him your problems, he’s going to try to fix them. If he tries to fix them, you might not feel heard or “seen” in the ways you were hoping. If you don’t feel seen, you may come to resent your husband for something that’s not really his fault. Yes, it’s the If You Give A Mouse A Cookie marriage edition, but it’s true. If you want to vent or chat like a girl, that’s what girlfriends are for. 

Your husband can, of course, learn how to listen thoughtfully without trying to fix the issue at hand (teaching him to ask “hug or help” is an easy way for him to find out if you want to be listened to or advised), but he will never be able to replace the emotional high a good team of girls can give you. And he shouldn’t have to. You married a man because he’s a man. To expect him to behave like a girl is unfair to you both! You both need you to have girlfriends. 

Make Friends Who Will Support and Uphold Your Marriage

Friends can make or break your marriage. They really can. A study out of Brown University done in 2009 shows that if a close friend or relative gets divorced, your own marriage’s risk of divorce increases by about 75%. If a friend of a friend gets divorced? There’s still a 33% risk. Interestingly enough, pregnancy and obesity have also been shown to be “contagious” among friend groups…

So, what’s to be done? If you don’t have them already, find like-minded friends. Friends who don’t vent about their husbands, friends who don’t view divorce as an option. Friends who will fight for their own marriage and yours. Because, as science has proven, that’s literally how it works. 

Sex Gets Way Better with Time

Honestly, I’m surprised year after year by just how good sex is. Not because I was expecting my bedroom to get stale or boring, but because it was already a good thing, such a good thing in fact, it was hard to imagine it getting any better! 

Hollywood, porn addicts, and people who haven’t had enough sex with just one person to know any better like to joke that sex after years and years of it with the same exact person loses its thrill. But this simply isn’t true.

I’m only saying this because, before I got married, society's worst voices were the loudest. There wasn’t anyone “mainstream” telling me that, no, you don’t need to have a threesome, cheat, have an open relationship, or watch porn in order to have an amazing and fulfilling sex life. If your relationship is healthy, your sex life will be too. 

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, marriage will be the most lovely adventure of your life. It will become your life. And it’s only natural that it should – you're no longer doing it alone anymore. Why not get a head start and make your days even more rose-colored?

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