Marriage is no easy feat — especially when it involves two strangers.
Marking their first wedding anniversary this week just in time for the season finale of the show’s ninth season, the spouses are opening up to PEOPLE exclusively about all the lessons they’ve learned over the last 12 months of matrimony.
Keith Dewar and Kristine Killingsworth
“The easiest part of marriage this year was taking risks together. We started with what we feel was the ultimate risk, so every decision we’ve made since has flowed easily,” says Kristine.
Not that it’s all been smooth sailing. Learning to live with a new husband and merging their finances has been the “hardest part” of the relationship.
“While we got a taste of it during production, the real work really did begin once the cameras left. Neither of us wanted to continue renting, so we had to buckle down more than ever on our spending,” she says. “A lot of personal purchases had to be put on hold and it caused some friction.”
But all’s well that ends well! Says Kristine: “At the end of the day we knew it was what we both needed, and we moved forward with buying our first home together without hesitation!”
Not surprisingly, the couple are also still learning new things about each other every day.
“What I’ve learned about Kristine is her willingness to do what ever it takes to win. Being able to share the triumphs and failures of life with someone who accepts you as you are is one of the greatest gifts to come from marriage,” says Keith. “My spouse encourages me to be my best and consoles me when I fall short.”
Similarly, his wife appreciates his endless amount of “patience when it comes to dealing with certain situations,” she adds, like “piecing together electronics.”
“But nothing has touched my heart more than his dedication to learning how to get our home together. He has been working under the supervision of my father to get the job done,” she adds. “He’ll literally work 12-plus hour shifts, come home, change his clothes and get straight to work. All in the name of making sure we are good and comfortable in our new home. I love his drive and I’m grateful for it.”
AJ Vollmoeller and Stephanie Sersen
While moving in together was a struggle for Keith and Kristine, AJ and Stephanie tell PEOPLE cohabiting that has been a breeze for them.
“The easiest part of this first year of marriage has been living together because we both have the same living styles, like cleanliness, sleeping habits and respect of space,” they say. “We don’t assign ‘chores.’ We simply just do what’s needed when it’s needed. It’s a natural healthy balance!”
Rather, the toughest part of marriage for them has been “understanding and learning each other’s triggers and pet peeves,” add the couple, who also struggled with meshing their personalities while filming. “We are both very independent people so understanding that we both have strong opinions on a lot of things is taking some getting used to.”
Still, Stephanie says her “favorite” part of marriage has been “going to bed and waking up” to her husband every day.
“I’ve learned that Steph loves and laughs at all my stupid dad jokes and it makes me love her a little more each time she does,” adds her husband. “We’ve also learned how and when are the appropriate times and ways to deal with conflict. Meaning sometimes, in the exact moment, is not the right time for us to address an issue. We’ve also learned we are both very inquisitive people and always want to know the ‘why’ rather than just take something at face value or someone else’s word.”
And at the end of the day, the newlyweds have no regrets about their decision to sign up for the show.
The season finale of Married at First Sight airs Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. EST on Lifetime.