The truth is, marriage can be wonderful and rewarding, at the same time that it’s challenging, complicated, and, sometimes, really hard. No matter how prepared you think that you and your partner are to make the step into legally-wedded, you can't anticipate how being married will affect your relationship until you're actually in it. 

Of course, everyone experiences married life differently, but these are 11 things about marriage that my own life has taught me:



1. It Changes Things In Ways You Wouldn’t Expect

By the time a lot of people get married these days, they have already started integrating their lives together; they might already live together, make decisions together, and share finances, so it’s natural to expect that marriage might not change how you and your partner relate all that much. And to a certain degree, that’s true — your day-to-day routines might not suddenly alter just because your partnership has taken on a more formalized dimension.

But things will change in a lot of ways that you might not expect. Having signed some paperwork might not seem like that big of a deal when you’ve already committed to someone emotionally, but being legally tied to someone — for life! — is a major step. You’ll look at your future differently, knowing that the decades ahead will be filled with this person, and conflicts between you will take on a new dimension (There’s no “maybe we should just break up” safety net anymore). ­The way that other people think about you and treat you will change as well; in the public eye, you’ll now be seen as part of a unit with someone else, and the people around you will make certain assumptions about what your married status means and what it says about you.

2. “Never Go To Bed Angry”

Some cliches are completely true (“Actions speak louder than words,” for example, and "Everyone loves cheese"), but the common adage that a couple should never go to bed angry is terrible advice. Of course, one shouldn’t let an argument fester indefinitely, but, sometimes, exactly what a fight needs is for the two combatants to calm the down, go to sleep, and wake up with more level heads.

3. You’re Marrying An Entire Family, Not Just Your Spouse

Of course you know ­before you get married that your future in-laws will be your family, but it might not be until you’re actually married that you fully realize what that means. Becoming part of your husband or wife’s family can be a truly wonderful thing (who doesn’t want more love in their lives?), but it also means that your priorities change, that you have to create more room in your life, and that you have to learn to negotiate the needs of your spouse’s family alongside that of your own parents and siblings. Figuring out that relationship can be complicated, but also totally worth it.

4. Your Marriage Will Have Bad Days (But It Will Also Have Great Days
Sometimes, you’ll have days when being married is not your favorite thing in the world. But you’ll also have days when it is your favorite thing in the world, and you think it was the best decision you ever made. Both of these days are going to happen, and both are OK. In fact, knowing that there are good days ahead can help to get you through the bad ones; one bad day here and there doesn’t equal a bad marriage.

5. Sometimes You Will Not Be A Very Good Partner, And Sometimes Your Spouse Won’t Be A Very Good Partner

Of course, you want to try to be the best partner that you can be, but the fact that you are human means that some days you will not be your best self. Once in a while, you are going to be a jerk, and once in a while, your partner is going to be a jerk. That’s OK. When you are not a great partner, you will apologize, forgive yourself, and try to be better in the future. We’re all human — that’s all we can ask for, from our partners and from ourselves.

6. You Still Have To Date

Because your spouse is also your roommate, your financial partner, and maybe your co-parent, it’s important to make time for yourselves to also wear the label of “romantic partners.” You have to date. This might mean that you go out to dinner, or to a concert, or on a long walk together. Maybe you simply set aside time to make dinner together after putting your phones away and vowing not to talk about whose turn it is to do the laundry. The form isn’t really the important part — hanging out together simply because you enjoy each other is.

7. It’s Fun

A lot of discussions of “what marriage is really like” tend to be rather dreary, as their primary purpose is often to deflate the impossible romantic fantasies that a lot of people have about long-term relationships. But I think it’s also important to let you in on the secret that marriage is fun. Like, really fun. It’s not easy or perfect, but you’re spending your life with someone you love, and the two of you know each other better than anyone else. You’re going to have weird in-jokes and strange habits, and you’ll both send each other into fits of uncontrollable laughter on a regular basis. Sometimes, being married really is just the best.