By Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW. Photos: KATE POWERS.
“The number-one thing I learned is being married is different than just being in a relationship. I had dated my husband on and off since high school. After we married, we became a unit, part of a team. You can't have a winner and a loser between you; it just means you're both losing.” —Rachel
“Back when we were engaged, during an argument I would often say, ‘Fine! Then maybe it’s not going to work. Maybe we should just break up.’ I was purposely trying to make him angry. Obviously, we’d then work past this flippant comment and compromise to find a solution. After we wed, I just said my usual snarky comment with a tweak: ‘Fine! Then maybe we should just get a divorce.’ Whoa. I unintentionally deeply wounded my husband in a way I didn’t expect because to him ‘breaking up’ after we had taken vows had a different significance. And that’s how I learned that there isn’t an ‘easy’ way out of marriage. It takes work, and choosing my words carefully is part of that work.” —Kelly
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“In my first year of marriage, I learned how to let go of something that was not important. After discussing the point of contention and seeing that both parties acknowledged what happened, I just said, ‘I love you again.’ And I was able to shift my energy to the higher ground and return to the magic of peace, love, and contentment!” —Biba
“We played the what's-for-dinner game. Being young, we were both learning to cook. Every couple of nights I would ask, ‘Honey, what would you like to eat tonight?’ He would say, for example, ‘Pork.’ I took that as a challenge to come up with some new way to create a dish. It became a fun and healthy way to keep dinner interesting.” —Alessa
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“I learned to listen more. When two of you are making decisions about how to decorate one room of the house or how to raise a baby, there has to be input on both sides.” —Stacey
“My wedding to Justin was the best day of my life. Shortly after, my grandma, who I called Dodo, passed away. She was my everything—my best friend, my soul sister, like a second mom. Losing her so early on in my marriage, I lost sight of what was important: building a foundation with my husband. I stayed out too late at events for clients, didn't always communicate, didn't check in. I came to realize there's always going to be hard times, and we have to work through them together. I can't shut down even when I want too. Push communication, expect to fight, don't think the fairy tale has to be there, especially in the beginning. Marriage is a commitment, a bond. It's major work, but there are amazing rewards that come with it. At the almost-five-year mark, Justin and I are in a very good place. I now understand that when our parents would say, ‘Do things together, find hobbies, make plans,’ it‘s because spending time together helps you grow together.” —Ali
“In the beginning, I took Dan a little for granted. Like, now that we were legal, I could just let things be. But I came to realize being complacent was a bad strategy. I let him know every day what he means to me: saying ‘I love you’, making sure to always have his favorite snacks on hand, asking him how his day went and really listening!” —Beth
“We are each other’s priorities, but in the beginning we let our friendships slide, and it got a little claustrophobic. So I try to get together with the girls a couple times a month, and he does that with his guy friends. It makes it more interesting when we get home and can share stories.” —Lisa
Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, is a New York City–based marriage therapist and author.
This story originally appeared on Brides.
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