That doesn't have to be a bad thing, thanks to these expert tips for resolving the not-so-good stuff. By Nicole Yorio Jurick, REDBOOK.
"We weren't prepared for the extent to which our families would influence so many aspects of our relationship--from who is expected to clean up after dinner to how many weekends a season it's acceptable to go golfing." -William S., Hartford, CT, married four years Truth is, you don't just marry a person--you also marry their family. "The way we grew up influences how we treat, talk to, and divide responsibilities with our spouses," says Gary Chapman, Ph.D., author of The Five Love Languages. Conflict arises when those values don't quite line up. "The key is to spend your energy seeking solutions rather than defending your perspective." Next time you have a disagreement, try to focus on why your husband thinks and feels what he does. Then say, "What you're saying makes sense to me. Now let me share where I'm coming from so we can figure out a way to make this work." Instead of setting you up as enemies, this approach helps affirm everyone's feelings, which brings you closer--and makes it easier to come up with relationship rules that work for both of you.
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"Nothing prepares you for the impossible marital skill men need but will never have: being a mind reader!" - Paul K., Scottsdale, AZ, married 15 years If you've ever endlessly hinted about the birthday present you wanted only to be told he had "no idea what to get you," you know that men aren't great at picking up on subtleties. "The danger of expecting your husband to know what you want, think, or feel is that it may cause resentment," says psychotherapist Marcia Naomi Berger, author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love. "You feel like your needs aren't being met, and he feels like his efforts aren't valued." If you feel resentment building, remind yourself that he's not a mind reader, and work to be specific about your wants in a noncritical, non-naggy way. So rather than complaining that he never buys you flowers, say "I'd love if you would surprise me with flowers sometime" the next time you pass a florist.
"I wish I knew how much we would both change-between becoming parents, getting older, and life in general, it's impossible not to. She's not the same person I married, but neither am I." -John P., Bellflower, CA, married 18 years "She went from lawyer to nurturing mother; I went from laid-back to a worrier, especially with finances and planning for our future," explains John. And that's totally normal. "Your needs, expectations, and even what attracts you to your partner change as you go from newlyweds to first-time parents, or deal with major life events, such as a job loss," says clinical psychologist Steven Craig, Ph.D., author of The Six Husbands Every Wife Should Have. "Most marital spats and disagreements occur when those changing needs and expectations aren't communicated. I recommend couples carve out a half hour at least once a year to discuss what is and isn't working and what they need from each other now," says Craig.
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"I didn't realize how the little things that bothered me before we got married--in my case, the fact that my wife doesn't always clean up after herself--could become big problems fast." -Ralph K., Temecula, CA, married three years Maybe you once found it sweet that he called his mother every day, but now those phone calls are cutting into bath time. "Before you react to bothersome behavior, try to put the issue in perspective by asking yourself, Is this worth an argument or is it something I can grow to accept?" suggests psychologist Brian Doss, Ph.D., cofounder of the marriage counseling service Our Relationship. "Actively deciding to look past it can help you realize that some of what irritates you is related to other characteristics we really appreciate about our partners." You may hate that he keeps you waiting at restaurants, but a tendency to run late is often part of a fun, spontaneous personality. But if you do decide the issue requires a change, approach it by asking yourself how you would want your husband to approach you about a quirk that bothers him. Then go from there.
"Sex quantity goes down, but--this would totally shock my 20-year-old self--I'm okay with that." -Brian D., Newton, MA, married six years "The number-one question I get from my clients is, 'We have less sex than we used to-is there something wrong with us?'" says relationship researcher Terri Orbuch, Ph.D. There isn't. "Research shows that excitement and passion decrease around 18 months into a relationship, but in my studies of happy couples, 80 percent said that sex, though less frequent, was just as or more enjoyable than when they first got together." Still, if you're craving more, you can potentially reignite your initial feelings simply by remembering them. "Mentally replaying those first steamy encounters can make you feel more loving toward your spouse because it helps you remember how sexy you found him in those moments," Orbuch says. Try reminiscing with your husband about your early adventures--then come up with a list of ways to create some new sexy scenes.
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"When we were dating, it was all about us and the plans we made together--where we should explore or weekends or how to spend our next date night. But marriage has a way of making us fall lower and lower on each other's list of priorities, so 'we time' is rare." -Keith J., East Rutherford, NJ, married five years "Now our Saturdays are booked with to-do's--usually apart from each other," adds Keith. "It's easy to inadvertently take your relationship for granted by putting everything and everyone else first-and that can lead to feeling more like roommates than spouses," says Howard Markman, Ph.D., founder of Love Your Relationship. "There's a myth that love should continue naturally, but relationships need to be nurtured both when they're going well and when they're not." Successful couples never stop dating, so block off a weekly calendar slot for activities that are fun and challenging for both of you--learning a new language, taking cooking classes, setting out on local bike paths. "It seems hard to do at first, but you'll find that the together time will quickly become something you both look forward to and that brings you closer than ever," says Markman.
"On my wedding day, I saw my wife as close to perfection as a woman can be. I realized that wasn't true, fast. And I'm pretty sure she realized the same about me." -Kevin D., Fort Lauderdale, FL, married nine years When we first fall in love, feel-good chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine flood our brains, making us foggy to negative qualities--hence the phrase "love is blind"--research shows. Typically, when those hormones levels go back to normal, the rose-colored glasses come off-but they don't have to. In fact, how you perceive your partner's behavior is a better predictor of marital success than his actual actions, according to research from the University of Buffalo. "The more you train yourself to seek out positive qualities, the more you'll find and the better your relationship will be," Scott Haltzman, M.D., author of The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity. "And your husband will pick up on your vibe and start showing the same appreciation back at you." The result: You'll both be nicer and less nitpicky.