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The First Is The Worst


Marriage is spoken about in such hyperbolic terms (OMG IT’S BLISS! JUST KIDDING, SAY GOODBYE TO FUN.) that sometimes it’s hard to suss out where the kernels of truth lie. Take the first year of marriage. I kept hearing it was going to be awful. For me that ended up being true, but for a pretty unorthodox reason. For some of my friends it was bliss. And for Ashley today, it was downright crappy. The point is, our experiences are not universal, no matter what the rom-coms say. And the more we acknowledge that, the more we can move past the hyperbole and instead deal with what’s in front of us: messy, complicated reality.

—Maddie

The First Is The Worst | A Practical Wedding

I think the things we’re ashamed to say are most often the questions we really, really need answers to.

For the longest time after my wedding I was embarrassed every time anyone asked me archly, “So, how’s married life?” What was I supposed to say to that? That it was horrible; that within the first week of our marriage I was half-wondering if it was too late for an annulment; that we had each declared that if we’d known what it would be like, we wouldn’t have married each other because it was so completely different from what we expected?* Clearly not. But that being the case, I didn’t feel comfortable smiling brightly and saying, “It’s great!” either.

To be clear, we love each other. You only have to look at our wedding pictures and see our radiant joy to be sure of that—and I did look, many times, in the first few months.

But after too many months of feeling alone and ashamed, I finally admitted that it was difficult, that we were fighting a third of the time, at least. And the older woman who had asked said, “Only a third of the time? You’re doing well! All marriages are like that at the beginning—it seems to get better about the one-year mark.”

That, I admit, just made me mad. You mean all those married people who had been asking me how it was going already knew the answer and were, deliberately if unthinkingly, putting me in an awkward position? I immediately vowed never to ask anyone, “How’s married life treating you?” again. (I still haven’t settled on a more considerate question. I’d love to hear suggestions.)

Still, none of that changed the fact that people kept asking. Eventually I settled on a standard answer, which was, “Like all marriages, it’s nothing but roses and butterflies,” said in a lightly ironic tone. It worked extremely well. The responses I got seemed much more self-aware, less glib. One woman was honest and cute enough to turn to her husband and say, “Roses and butterflies! We didn’t have any of those, did we?”

The thing that made it so extra painful and so disillusioning was that I honestly wasn’t expecting a fairytale. I knew good marriages aren’t effortless. But I thought I was prepared.

I’m fairly intellectual. I like thinking about cause and effect and how to change the pattern. I learn well by reading. And I was interested enough in relationships to read everything I could find about how to have a good one. Not just silly fashion-mag features but serious how-to manuals: Dr. Laura; the “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” feature in Ladies Home Journal; research articles. I had come away with a pretty strong viewpoint on what the important issues were and how to deal with problems. I’d made sure to discuss it with my fiancé, and he had seemed to agree with it even more strongly than I did. And yet, when we got married…wham.

(Perhaps it would have been different if we had lived together, or even slept together—yes, we were one of those couples—beforehand. But I don’t really have any way of knowing.)

Eighteen months in, it makes absolutely no sense to me why the first year (or in our case, the first sixteen and a half months) is so hard. Okay, so there are things like finances or in-laws or each other’s little annoying habits that will prompt some discussion and maybe even some fights. This makes sense. This is what I expected when my mom warned me, “There’s an adjustment period when you get married.” But in my experience, saying there is an adjustment period when you get married and saying surgery without anesthesia “might hurt a little” are about equal understatements. I’ve said this to a few people, and they all agreed with me so I know I’m not totally crazy.

Nor do I understand how it gets better even though you can’t always see what has changed. But it does get better.

The first six to eight months were pretty uniformly miserable, I won’t lie. By three months I thought we needed marriage counseling, and at six months I insisted. The counseling didn’t seem to make much of a difference. But one day at about the ten-month mark my husband texted me at work, “Do you want to go sailing?” I replied, “When?” and he said, “Now.” It was the middle of a Friday afternoon and we were supposed to go to counseling in less than three hours. But one of his complaints was that we didn’t do enough fun things together. It somehow seemed important to say yes, so I did. We had a great time and never got around to rescheduling our appointment. There was no really logical reason for it, but somehow our problems didn’t seem so desperate anymore.

It wasn’t miserable anymore, but it wasn’t great either. We were still muddling through. There was still one really big unresolved issue—something that made me feel betrayed since we had discussed and agreed on it when we were dating, but my husband hadn’t followed through on his part after the wedding. But I finally decided that he knew what I wanted, and if he wasn’t doing it after all the times I’d asked, asking again wasn’t going to change anything. Not asking didn’t change anything either, but it did save us a few arguments and it felt like a step toward maturity.

And even though things weren’t great, the longer we were married the more I understood why I had felt so strongly that my husband was the man I was “supposed” to marry; why, even though it was so hard, he was better for me than any other man would have been.

A little over a month ago things jumped forward again. We had a couple of difficult conversations that would usually have turned into arguments…and didn’t. I don’t know why or how we were suddenly mature enough to manage that when we couldn’t before. One of the conversations was about our big unresolved issue. While we were having it, I felt the world shift around me, and since then, I’ve seen a big change in my husband’s behavior. I don’t know why or how it suddenly clicked, but I couldn’t be more grateful.

It’s still not a fairytale. Of course it’s not. But it works. It feels like a real marriage. It feels enough. And I know it will keep getting better over time.

*Fortunately for us, we both believe in marriage too strongly to give up that easily.

Editor’s Note: We understand that there are a lot of strong opinions within our community when it comes to discussions of saving sex and cohabitation for marriage. As always, we ask everyone to please respect the author’s choices and frame comments in a way that speaks from your own personal experiences without shaming anyone else for theirs. 

Photo by Sarah Welch

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  • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

    I really admire the work you and your husband have done and the thought that obviously went into your account of it here. This is tough stuff, and I feel like I need to mull over a lot of what you wrote some more before really engaging with/responding to it.

    For now, on “So how’s married life treating you?” – I actually always thought that phrasing sounded admirably neutral! It’s open ended, not leading or assuming like so many engagement/wedding/baby questions (although tone of voice and body language matter a lot – I bet you could definitely tell when many of those who asked expected a “sunshine and unicorn farts” answer, and I can imagine how frustrating that must have been). Alternatively, I have tended to ask my married friends and coworkers “Do you feel different?” It lets them stick with yes or no if they don’t want to go into detail, and in many cases it’s led to some really cool discussions as they’ve shared their thoughts about what the act of marriage has, or hasn’t, changed for them and their relationship. Would that have been a more considerate question to ask in your situation, or would it have posed the same difficulties for you?

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      Second Liz’s question. I’ve been known to use the “How is married life?” mostly with colleagues who recently got married. When I use the question, I’m asking partly out of curiosity and partly to acknowledge, “Whoa, things are different now. How’s that going?” I’m realizing I ask a parallel question of new parents, that could have similar issues. I’d love to hear other suggestions of alternative ways of asking.

      • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

        Honestly, I usually just ask “How are you?” and depending on their tone and body language I might ask “How are you and *insert spouses name here*?” I have a number of close girlfriends, and if they seem a little stressed or I know there’s been some big changes I’ll ask the second question. I think if you come across as sincere there’s less of a negative reaction, but I like how asking it my way it’s not necessarily different than what I would ask before their wedding.

    • AshleyTheAuthor

      Liz,
      Yeah, I have only every heard people say it in a very coy, winking, “Do you get anything done other than have sex?” kind of way – or, as you said, sunshine and unicorn farts. That goes for whether I was asking or someone was asking me. I tend to think the question lends itself to that tone but it’s possible that with thought you could avoid it.

      I think “Do you feel different?” might be a viable alternative – I’ll have to try it. Thanks for the suggestion!

    • http://www.mollyeverafter.com/ Molly Ever After

      I always feel like “how’s married life?” is a loaded question, even if it is open-ended. I feel like there’s a right answer, and that answer is “It’s great!” It’s kind of like asking someone “how are you today?” You don’t really want them to tell you how shitty their day has been; you’re asking as small talk.

      • http://www.agaishanlife.com Revanche

        I definitely felt this way: everyone always asked and since my first year was so fraught (not just because of the relationship but also because my mom died immediately after the wedding) it felt awful.
        But what, am I really going to say: “I got married and my mom died, and somehow we (I) forgot how to communicate and oh he’s now definitely stuck w/my chronic illness and supporting my family so I have to work extra hard to overcome my guilt… it feels impossible!”?
        No… not really. Even when my closest friends asked it was in front of other people. I didn’t expect the first year to be easy but I had no idea it could be so hard. And yeah, I have no clue whether it would have been easier had I not had another Enormous Stressor. Bottom line was: There was nothing truthful I could say without feeling like it was a betrayal of the relationship.
        “How are you?” would have let me answer more easily, I think.

      • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

        That’s a really good point. For me, as with “how are you,” it’s all about tone and context – a coworker tossing either phrase to you at the water cooler probably would never expect an answer more genuine or in depth than “fine;” the whole dialogue doesn’t really mean much besides “I acknowledge your existence!” “I acknowledge yours right back!” A good friend asking the same question sincerely and kindly, though, is likely to be after the real story rather than a perfunctory conversational placeholder. I definitely share the consternation at questions (any question, really) asked in such a way that there’s clearly only one acceptable answer!

    • Amber

      Sunshine and unicorn farts, hahahaha!

      • Audrey

        Somewhere on another message board someone talked about “farting rainbows” with regards to marriage (during a very similar discussion of people assuming things must be awesome after marriage).

        To this day, farts are now “rainbows” in our house. So my husband and I have unicorn farts all the time!

  • http://www.unabodaconvencional.blogspot.com Miss Chloé

    At the beginning I felt like I dint’t know what to say when people asked me “how’s your life in common?”. Because there were days when everything was fine (not fairytales, just fine), but there were days in which I seriously meditated about my decision of being married.
    It is nice to hear that these feelings are common between new wives. I think we all tend to “enlarge” the good moments (maybe because of the influence of social webs??) and simply hide the bad, and with this behaviour we do not do a favour to our close friends at all (they need our sincere experiences, in good or bad, not our “dramatic” experiences that we want/like to show to others).
    Sorry for the mistakes but I am not English-native speaker :)

  • Shawna

    I agree. The first year of marriage was hard for us too. I wouldn’t say it was awful, but we definitely had more fights than we do now (we’re 2.5 years in). And, like you, we now are much better at talking about the big issues without having them turn into a fight. Also, I agree…. I have no idea what changed. We dated for 2 years and were engaged for one year (during which time we lived together). And then we got married. And it seems to have followed a similar trajectory to your story. I think the first year of being married was harder than the year of being engaged, even though we had lived together (and this was the first time we had each lived with a romantic partner). We never got counseling, (although I am a big fan of counseling). But yet, sooo much better now. I read, here on APW, that someone’s dad had told her, on her wedding day, that she would love her husband more in a year, and more in 2 years, etc. And she thought it was hard to believe because, on her wedding day she was so happy and in love. And I agree. But yet, I definitely love my husband even more now than I did when we got married. Makes me excited for the coming years!

  • MTM

    THIS. My response to the “how’s married life” question has been “pretty much the same as living in sin life”. Two months before we got married, hubs and I moved to a new city with new jobs. And then a week later he won custody of his two little ones, so I went from living by myself for 10 years to living with hubs to instafamily all in a week.

    • Jashshea

      Holy isht. If you have two minutes to write it, a post on this would be unreal.

      • MTM

        I’m in month six of this adventure…once I can make sense of the whirlwind, I would love to write about it.

    • Liliana

      I’m in a similar situation. would also love a post on this!

  • Teresa

    We had been living together for nearly five years when we got married, so these past six months have mostly been awesome, but…the first year we lived together, OH BOY. We fought constantly, we were quite unforgiving, and it was really hard. We were both unhappy a lot of the time, but the love was there, so we never gave up. That adjustment period is seriously challenging and most people don’t talk about it, so it feels like a dirty secret. I was embarrassed to talk about it with my friends b/c I didn’t want people to judge us. After living together for two years, we decided that our new years resolution was going to be to work on us. We moved to a new apartment in a neigbhorhood that had so much more to do, so we went out more together. I worked at talking to my partner when I was upset–not giving him the silent treatment until I blew up at him b/c he didn’t get why I was mad. He worked at being more helpful at home and telling me that he appreciated it when I did things for him. Just trying to be more considerate of each other helped so much. When we got engaged, we were in a wonderful place in our relationship. Now that we’re married, we’re doing pretty awesome, but I truly think that is b/c we got that adjustment period out of the way much earlier. I wish that more people talked about this, but it is so easy to feel protective of your relationship and to feel afraid of being judged and/or seen as a failure. It’s totally normal for this to happen, though I do envy you if your normal is not having this adjustment period!

    • Ashley

      Yes! We are just engaged but have lived together for 4 years and the first nearly two years of living together, we really hard. So much harder than I had expected. We knew we loved each other, and we wanted to hold on but there was so much out there that said, when you meet “the one” it’s just easy. I call BS on that statement. I realize that there is a good chance that is true for some people but for others, creating a life together takes work and the only way we got through it was to do it, time after time to put in the effort and try to work things. Try to understand. Through that process I truly learned that for some things, there is no magic answer, and that has been a valuable lesson for so much. Now 5 years later, I can say that those fights and those hard years have made us who we are. And we are finally good, really good.

    • Amanda L.

      Yes! As I read this post, I kept wondering why our first year (ok, six months… moving across country has made the last five months more challenging) wasn’t so hard on us. I chalk it up to the fact that we had been living together for 2.5 years before we got married. I’m not saying that that is the RIGHT way to do things, just that we ironed out some of the co-habitation issues in our relationship pre-marriage.

      I love how today’s post talks about letting certain things go. I found myself coming to that realization a few months ago. I married this man because I loved him. I fundamentally do NOT want him to change, so I will not waste my time and energy being annoyed by ‘little’ things. We are still in a tug-of-war on some issues, but our bond has only grown stronger during this first year.

      • Ashley

        I totally agree on letting things go. I had to let go the idea what we would have this perfect, story – we met, we moved in together, everything was SO easy! That was really hard, it was hard to shake the doubt that because things weren’t easy, they were wrong. Now I know that for us that wasn’t true but when I was going through it, it was so difficult to know the difference and no one was talking about the hard stuff. Until I found APW which basically saved my sanity and likely my relationship.

      • Teresa

        Yes! If I kept arguing with my now husband about leaving crumbs on the counter, we would be fighting literally every single day or our lives. And for awhile, we were. Until I read a commenter’s dad’s advice on APW–Do more than you fair share and don’t keep score. Literally, a life changer and a sanity and relationship saver. I found it was so much easier to just let the little things go and save our energy for working on the Big Stuff, the things that really matter.

        • LifeSheWrote

          I also hold that advice near and dear, “Do more than your fair share and don’t keep score.” (Obviously, this works best if you BOTH subscribe to it – but I think we do.) I seriously think this has saved my sanity – there comes a time when it seems like there’s NO POINT in fighting about the little things, other than to make both our lives unpleasant. Yes, I find myself putting up his dishes (loved the post about Feminism and Zombies, that is exactly how I feel http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/01/chores-and-gender-roles/) but I also know he does a TON of little things for me – I love our give and take and wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s what makes us, “us.”

          • Teresa

            Exactly! And I found that when we both started giving a little more and asking for nothing in return, we were a lot happier together and both willing to give more and more to our relationship. I want someone to needlepoint that saying for me so I can hang it on our apartment, that’s how much of a life changer it was!

    • Elizabeth

      Right- I’m not married yet, but the first 8-9 months after we moved in we’re really difficult. I think the adjustment period comes from having to fit someone into your life in every sense. It’s forced change, and it can be pretty painful. Things have been much smoother sailing and I’m hoping that will continue after our wedding in 2 months!

  • http://www.cantabridgette.blogspot.com Cait

    Thanks for writing about your experience, Sarah. I know the cohabitation or not question is intense and culturally rooted, and just as I’ve always known that I would live with my partner for a significant amount of time before marriage (it’s been wonderful for us), some people would never want to cohabitate. My first thought upon reading your non-cohabitation disclosure was that it made sense, not because not living together “caused” the challenges, but because you just hadn’t had time to have them before the wedding.

    For us, it will be interesting to see what might change after the wedding, since we already have the day to day of living together as a financial and emotional partnership squared away. From APW and our family and friends, we’ve heard about the full gamut of experiences even from cohabitators (“Everything changes!” “Nothing changes!”).

    • http://fourfeeteightpaws.blogspot.com/ Rowan

      I was definitely on the “nothing changes” end of the spectrum – because, as you put it, we had the day to day of living together as a financial and emotional partnership squared away. The big picture ground shifted –we were a family and recognized as such by society (which was AWESOME) — but the everyday stayed the same. It is interesting to hear others’ experiences differed.

    • Athena

      I wouldn’t say that nothing changes or everything changes…but there definitely ARE changes. I lived with my hubs for four years prior to our wedding and the first year of our marriage (now it’s 1.5 years) was REALLY hard. I couldn’t understand what changed or why it was so hard because we’d been together for five years, lived together, and had dogs together. But it was tough.

      Part of it was coming back from this amazing stressfree three week honeymoon just to go back into the world of stress and financial woes that was the final year of our undergrad degrees, but part of it was that something had changed. Looking back, I sometimes think it was more me than him. He said he felt more secure now that we’re married, safer somehow, whereas I suddenly felt trapped. The reality that my decisions were no longer mine alone was excruciatingn (especially when I got into grad school and wanted to move to another province for it and he wanted to stay home and start an apprenticeship). I struggled with resenting him, feeling like he wasn’t living up to our wedding vows at times, but neither was I. Both of us became depressed to the point of utter despair and anxiety, but we eventually pulled out of it. We had to make some sacrifices and get back on the same team.

      And now we are on the same team, but sacrifices still need to be made for us to be where we want to be, and things aren’t exactly perfect. But we’re working on it and we’re working on it together, which is really the whole point of marriage. We love each other desperately, but in order to be together, we must be a team and we must make sacrifices and not resent each other for it.

    • Denzi

      We did not cohabitate before marriage (well, we did for the last three weeks before the wedding, out of necessity? but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count) although we only waited until we got engaged to have sex. I mention that part because we had both planned to abstain for religious reasons, and then discovered that once we had the “oops, I fell on your dick” sex, moving forward with a sexual relationship in a mature, loving manner made much more sense for our relationship with each other and with God than waiting again. And I don’t mean that in a “if you have sex once, you’re dirty, so it doesn’t matter!” sin/shame way at all, just sharing my idiosyncratic lived experience.

      Anyway, we didn’t live together before marriage, and I would still say for us, nothing changed. Or if anything changed, it was only after about 11-12 months and a little marital counseling.

      • http://blindirishpirate.blogspot.com Blind Irish Pirate

        I busted a laugh when I read “oops, I fell on your dick.” :-D

  • http://kristyshealthrevolution.wordpress.com Kristy

    I’m not even married yet and I’m already feeling it. I had this idea that I was going to float through my thirteen month engagement on cloud 9, happy as a clam. Not so much. So far, it’s been stressful and we have had more fights than EVER and it’s hard. I hate that feeling like, “If I don’t pretend to be happyhappyhappy, people are going to think we shouldn’t get married.” — because obviously I LOVE my fiance and without a doubt I want to spend forever and ever with him, but it’s been rough this past few months.

    • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

      What helps me: remembering that happy and joyful are different things. Perhaps I’ll liken them to the difference between the terms weather and climate (My take on the differences is more rooted in my Catholic upbringing, but it’s a good comparison). Remind yourself that it’s what you and your fiance think, not what other people think, that’s the most important :)

    • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

      You are so not alone! That’s been my experience as well – engagement has been HARD, and we’ve lived together for 7 years. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not right.

      In our case, I’ve realized that my gent and I seem to instinctively view engagement as a boot camp of sorts – a time to get in there and tackle the stuff we’ve talked about but never fully hashed out, to figure out for ourselves and together what we want our marriage and our lives to be, to really prepare for this step we’re about to take, and it’s sometimes a pretty raw and ugly process. Knowing that both of us have “forever” intentions has paradoxically freed us to fight like we’d never fought before – although luckily they’re monumental-type fights, not circular snipe-fests where nothing gets resolved. When answering inquiries about “engaged life,” I’ve answered that it’s been great preparation for married life – which seems to satisfy people without making me feel like a fraud.

  • http://www.stalkingsarah.com Stalking Sarah

    Just as a note here, I cannot imagine why sleeping together before marriage would have had any serious impact on this process for you. Yes, sex is a Big Deal, and waiting/not waiting has lots of Emotions, but I think Marriage is A Pretty Huge Fucking Deal and has a way of dwarfing everything else.

    • Corrie

      While I agree that sex doesn’t seem like as big of a deal when one is comparing it to marriage, I think that not sleeping together until marriage can amplify the other emotions that come along with a new marriage – good or bad – when one is experiencing both at the same time. At least for me, when I’m dealing with a big stressful thing/change and another smaller stressful thing is going on at the same time, it seems like the combination of two often find a way to merge into a Giant Stressful Thing that is much worse than dealing with one or the other individually. I’m sure that not everyone handles stress this way, and I don’t know if that’s the case for the author, but I could see why she decided to mention it.

      • Rachel

        I agree. I would add that I think its important to think of Moving in Together, Having Sex for the First Time, Moving to a New City, Starting a New Job and lots of other big changes as having a similar effect. Just like a couple might move to a new city and start a new job at the exact same time that they get married, they might also move in together and have sex for the first time. Those big changes could pile on to the big change of getting married. This could be no big deal, or it could be a HUGE deal. It all depends on the couple and how smooth the change goes.

        Just to share our experience, we waited until we were married to live together and have sex (5 years, 5!!! of waiting) and getting married, moving in, and sleeping together have all gone pretty awesome. Mostly sweet contentment interspersed with occasional surprise big arguments and discussions.

        • Kara

          I’m in a similar place. We only waited 2.5, but I’m in my mid-30s, so it was a LONG place. Granted, we’re now facing a second cross-country move in 9 months (this time for both of us, not just me) and a baby, and new job (for him) and I feel like a lot of our great ground work is being put to the test. But…fortunately not crumbling.

    • Beth

      Well, for me, i know that it isn’t just “having sex,” but also the dynamics of “why am I in the mood and he isn’t? Does that mean he’s not as attracted to me? Do we have mismatched sex drives and am I stuck in an unsatisfying relationship?” or any other sexual issues that either or both of the partners might have. I think a LOT of women deal with insecurities that are exacerbated by cultural expectations that men always want it, every day, twice a day. Which is tied up in their masculinity and our beauty. I imagine same sex couples deal with sexual issues as well. There’s the shift from, potentially, sex every day when you first start out, to a shift, or maybe sexual incompatibilities start to emerge, of style, duration, eye contact, words spoken, outfits worn, and body parts that don’t always get with the program.

      So yeah, mid-way through the first year (of a relationship that involves intercourse) there is a whole sexual dynamic going on, of whether you’re having enough or too much, whether it’s good enough, etc. I know that personally, it took me years of sex with boyfriends to eventually be able to orgasm. I know my husband and I probably could have worked through that, but it also would have added to the stream of things to adjust to. Not that it can’t be done, and not that it can’t be rewarding in its own way to go through all of that stuff together.

      • Anon for This One

        I hate that narrative of men always wanting and needing sex on a daily basis. Some men that’s the case, some relationships that’s the case but so much can change. Add aging or getting married later in life and so much confusion and hurt feelings can arise.

        If there’s any sort of physical performance issue in the bedroom that can be its own terrible mess. One of our worst fights ever was over appropriate and inappropriate ways to deal with those thing, and it’s a hard issue because whether you’re the person with the physical end of the problem or not it’s easy to feel like you’re somehow a failure or not living up to your end of the sexual bargain.

        Which is all hard enough if you’ve had some time to figure your way through that before marriage. If something like that came up only after marriage? I have to imagine that it adds even more weight and stress to the issue.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          We “waited.” On our wedding night and honeymoon and the first whole 2 months of our marriage, we found I had a “physical performance issue.” I dealt, deal with a lot of what it means to be a wife if we can’t have sex – what it even means to be human. There’s guilt and lots of confusion. I know it bugs my husband, too, because he brings it up with his therapists at every visit. I go back and forth between being so grateful he’s not pressuring me (or lobbying for an annulment) and wondering what’s wrong with a man who’s not demanding sex.

          • Rebecca

            If you want to read some really smart stuff about desire and responsiveness and sex and stuff written by a woman through a scientific lens, I totally recommend The Dirty Normal. Obviously NSFW, but really, really good.

          • Gytha

            I highly recommend looking into vaginismus, a sadly unknown but very manageable condition that a surprising number of women face when they first try to have sex.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

            I thought I was going to wait until marriage, but when I ended up sleeping with a loving boyfriend at age 24, I discovered that I had some enormous issues with sex.

            I realized that I had been using waiting for marriage as an excuse not to deal with them (definitely not saying that’s true of anyone else!)

            I have to say that I’m glad now that I worked that all out before hand.

            However, there is plenty of good hope for you. I had vaginismus and was completely unable to have sex for the first six months of trying. I had massive psychological reactions to even trying. It was miserable. But I got through it and now I love sex. It feels wonderful. It took a few years and a willingness to look into my psyche very deeply and a good therapist, but your relationship to sex can change (not just your relationship with another person, but your relationship with your own sexuality).

      • Anon

        “body parts that don’t always get with the program”… this! made me grin.

  • Anu

    I don’t know, I don’t think the first year of marriage or living together necessarily has to be hard. That’s what my fiance and I were told prior to moving in together, so we were both a little apprehensive, but we honestly did not fight at all. We talk about how overjoyed we are to see the other person first thing every morning a lot. This could get changed when we get married, which will be soon, but I would be surprised because very little will have changed. He is the neater one of the two of us, so he from time to time he does have to remind me to make the bed if I’m the last one out of it, or to not put my dishes in the sink but he never does this in a nagging way. He does 90 % of the cleaning and I do 90 % of the cooking and both of us enjoy these chores so we rarely argue about them. I have a feeling that things will change once we get out of grad school and acquire real jobs and kids.

    • Samantha

      Thanks for acknowledging the other side of the coin. My fiance and I have been living together for almost two years now and I don’t foresee huge changes after we get married in September. Of course things will be different, but in a good way. Although living together and getting married is challenging and provides unique experiences and emotions for everyone I would hate for couples to feel like this hard time is inevitable . . .

    • 39bride

      We’ve had an amazingly easy time, too (5 months, didn’t live together before we got married), with just a couple of fights. I’ve been starting to feel like there’s something wrong with us or that I’m denying reality, but maybe it’s just that we’re older and have more skills/experience with resolving conflict before it escalates into a full-blown fight?

      • Amy

        We’ve been the same way, happy as clams, married 6 months, didn’t live together beforehand, and my biggest fear before the wedding was that we had never fought. It’s not in how we handle our relationship. For us, I think stems from the fact that we both had big, BAD relationships before. I lived with my ex for a few years, my husband was married previously. Those relationships were fraught with fighting over big issues and little issues. When it comes to us, we see eye to eye on big issues (money, dreams, family), and refuse to let little issues phase us (chores, etc). We realize we’re the exception and not the rule, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with us. We’re just so happy to be in the right relationship, finally.

    • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

      Pre-engaged here, and have been living in sin with my manfriend and our two cats for about two and a half years. Moving in together was so easy. IT WAS SO EASY. I almost feel bad about how easy it was. We have the same idea of what constitutes clean, we both take turns cooking, we rarely “fight” and even are fights are more slightly intense discussions about things such as finances (we have a joint account for utilities, groceries, and cable/internet but otherwise keep things separate) or religion (We’re interfaith, with me being Jewish and him being a lapsed Catholic who is now more or less an atheist). We know when to give each other space but we also do plenty of things together. Will marriage change things? I have no idea. The big thing I’m assuming it will change is finances. I really thought it was going to be weird and difficult but the first years of our cohabitation have been great. We’re fortunate that both our sets of parents have long and loving marriages so maybe we’ve just had good examples from which to pull?

      • Ashley

        I totally understand what you’re all saying here and I’m sure you’re coming from a good place but I had great role models (both me and my partner’s parents have been married for 40+ years) and we weren’t super young when we met (25 & 30). I like to think I’m pretty emotionally aware and yet we still had to work hard on making our lives work together. I think it’s important to just accept that everyone’s experience is different and that means me accepting that for you it was easy and you accepting that for me it wasn’t and not projecting that I wasn’t mature, didn’t have good role models etc. I would also hate for people to think it had to be hard but I think this post was saying, everyone EXPECTS it to be easy and that no one tells you that sometimes it’s HARD. So yes, your experiences are valid (and awesome!) but easy is the cultural norm (or what is portrayed as the norm) and it’s the hard stuff that no one is talking about.

        I hope this doesn’t come across bitchy or insensitive, but the “it was SO easy” comments were making me feel sad (for myself and for the writer of the post) so I just wanted to make this point.

        • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

          Actually, I’ve never ever had anyone tell me it was easy–almost everyone has told me it was hard. Hence why I said I felt guilty about how easy it has been for me and my manfriend. Everyone’s experience is valid, I was just a bit surprised at the beginning of the essay when I read that most people told her it would be easy–I’ve heard the exact opposite from most of my married friends, and most of the things I’ve read.

          • AshleyTheAuthor

            Ashley, thanks for the support. Some of these posts really did make me a little sad.

            The Dilettantista – I’m surprised it came across that people told me it was easy, or that I was expecting it to be. I really wasn’t – I was expecting hard. I was just expecting a bearable level of hard, not months of total, mind- and emotion-numbing misery. Would I, even now, hit the easy button and go back to single life if it were possible to do so without the mess of going through a divorce? I really might, because it is SO hard. There honestly aren’t words to describe HOW hard it is. Yet I don’t think my marriage was a mistake. I’m thrilled for you that it was easy.

            But if there’s one thing I’m learning from this conversation, it’s that sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s easy, and there is no way of knowing which it will be (my parents, for the record, have been happily married for almost 40 years).

    • Maddie

      You know, I think that’s sort of the point, right? It can go either way, and none of us have any way of knowing, really. When Michael and I moved in, it was an adjustment, and there were some fights, but otherwise it was fine and we were excited about putting our lives together. Then when we got married, I had a weird adjustment period where I found myself frustrated that he was just always…around. I think I was settling into the reality of what we’d done and was having a bit of post-commitment anxiety. For me it was hard and then easy and then hard again and then really hard and then sort of blissful. It’s been a wave, and the extremes on either side don’t really represent my relationship.

      I do think it’s perhaps a bit more difficult if you’re expecting easy and end up with hard than dealing with things the other way around. Which is why this post leans this way. (Though we’ve actually featured both sides of the coin in the past!)

      Hard: http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/05/moving-in-before-you-are-ready/

      Easy: http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/05/moving-in-after-marriage/

      • Athena

        I totally agree. I guess my point of view is that living together easily before marriage does equate living together easily after marriage. For us, it wasn’t even the living together part that made that first year hard (although I do at times get annoyed when he’s home too much and I can’t get any time to myself- but that’s normal). Marriage was hard for us the first year because it IS a big deal to get married and somehow, for me anyway, VERY different from living together for years. There is something about marriage that makes it different from living together, otherwise why would we bother getting married?

    • Hannah

      Yes! My fiance and I have been living together for over 4 years – we’ll be going on 6 years when we get married. Sometimes I actually worry about the fact that we hardly ever fight and living together is pretty easy. I mean, yes, there are disagreements, and I really wish he would pick up his socks, but it’s certainly been easier than living with any roommates I had in college, and much more enjoyable and fun than living alone!

      Although, I do think it’s important to say it might not be easy. You just don’t know until you live together. And even if it’s not easy, it doesn’t really say anything about your relationship. For example, I love my sister more than anything, but I know for a fact living with her would drive me crazy only because we have such different habits. That doesn’t diminish my feelings for her though!

  • Allie

    I agree on the bit about it being hard, but it happened in ways I couldn’t foresee. Neither of us are big argument types- when I moved in (1.5 yrs before wedding) the only argument which ensued during all the stress of merging my accumulated belongings into his place was where the ironing board was going to live. So our first year wasn’t marked with increased fights, rather with some internal uneasiness that needed to be worked through. For me, I had to come to terms with what commitment really meant- saying a very definite, final ‘yes’ to us meant a ‘no’ to a lot of other potential options, options that I probably wasn’t going to take regardless, but which I definitely had to let go of as being possibilities. So for me, the issues which made it hard stemmed from working through how to process and grieve for single me while simultaneously also feeling/processing the responsibility and enormity of what I had promised myself to.

    My take: everyone’s symptoms may be different, but what we’ve signed up to is huge- maybe we shouldn’t expect it to be painless and easy…?

  • Lauren

    First, thank you so much for writing so candidly about this topic. As Maddie said, all we ever get is hyperbole, so it’s nice to have someone rational talk about it.

    I tend to ask my married friends (of which I only have a few) “How is life?” just like I would anyone else. They have tended to bring up their spouses anyway since – hello! – the couple is obviously a big part of her life, so I get to hear about that part anyway.

    For me, my fiance and I don’t live together and likely won’t before we get married. It’s a logistics thing for us, but any reason is totally valid. We dated in high school and fought fairly regularly – not all the time, but with some frequency. Then, we went to college 30 minutes apart, which really toned down the arguments. I could only see him once a week for a few hours, so everything became a little less urgent. But when we spent holiday breaks in the same town, arguments would crop back up.

    On the flip side, we talk on the phone every night and have for the last five and a half years. This also causes problems, like the other day when I felt he was talking down to me and flipped out, causing a two-hour cryfest. If he had been there with me, the situation would have diffused much less dramatically.

    I’m nervous about living together because we’ll be up in each others’ grill All The Time, but I don’t think it will be worse than horrible phone misunderstandings and not being able to be there to talk it out together, or worse, getting in an argument and then having to go back home for the week.

    I’m a big fan of The Five Love Languages (http://www.5lovelanguages.com/), which seemed very pop-psych and trash-self-helpy when I thumbed through it, but actually has been very helpful in my life. My fiance is a Physical Touch kind of guy and I am an Acts of Service/Words of Affirmation type. Just realizing where he might be coming from emotionally has stopped a lot of the smaller arguments before they even began.

    • Martha

      I moved in with my then-boyfriend-now-fiance-soon-to-be-husband 2, almost 3 years ago. I will be the first to admit we also used to fight (we were also long distance up until we moved in together). I am generally not an over-analytical person and I think this helped immensely. A friend of mine asked the other day if we had any issues when we began living together, and whether or not I think it was a good decision for us in hindsight. Yes, but not no? We certainly had an adjustment period, but there’s nothing I can recall in the past 3 years that we wouldn’t be able to work through which would have caused me to question marriage if we had waited to move in. For us, moving in together strengthened our relationship in ways I didn’t realize we needed. I had never thought about the pros and cons of moving in together. I just jumped – and sometimes that’s what love is. Try not to over-analyze too much, you could drive yourself crazy.
      As with Ashley’s story, love is not effortless – whether you’re married, co-habitating, or still in free-fall, it takes work and two people willing to try and fight for all they have. Follow the great minds behind Nike: Just do it.

    • JC

      As someone who was long distance for 5 and a half years also, and then moved in with then-boyfriend-now-fiance, it can get easier! That doesn’t mean it will, but we definitely found that arguments diffused themselves more easily in person than over the phone. That doesn’t mean that they happened any less, but just that it didn’t seem quite as catastrophic as it did on the other end of a phone. Maybe that’s why the transition to living together ultimately seemed pretty painless, because arguing in person felt so much better than arguing over the phone!

  • http://sarabittner.wordpress.com One More Sara

    It makes me a little… sad? that you felt you had to qualify your decision to put off sex/cohabiting until after marriage (calling yourself one of those couples). You and your fiancé decided to wait until marriage to do these things. Period. I think some people find it off-putting when couples make this decision, get high and mighty, and then rub it in everyone’s face. From what I can tell from this short essay is that you are not one of THOSE couples. It’s impossible for anyone to know if one option is “better” than the other, bc no one can try both and compare. It’s up to you to make the best decision you can with what you know. Neither decision is wrong, and you shouldn’t feel bad about choosing the less popular option.

    For me, my fiance and I were (really) long distance when we accidentally got pregnant. We weren’t engaged until our son was almost 3. Sometimes I wonder if we would have given up without the extra motivation of having a child together, missing out on something that is turning out to be pretty awesome. When I finally moved to be with him we definitely had some growing pains, but I think for us, we were already SO OFF the “normal” timeline/order of operations, we didn’t feel very restricted by generic cultural expectations.

    • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

      I would love to read a post on this if you ever feel the urge to share!

  • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

    I think we went through this while engaged. We’ve been married five months now, and it’s been tipping toward the blissful side of things most often.

    But when we got engaged, we had a “rough patch” that lasted essentially 10 months of our 14 month long engagement, starting about 15 minutes after he proposed, when I excitedly said, “What should we call everyone and tell them?!” and he completely blanched and stammered out “…do we have to tell people?”

    We had the usual stresses engagements and wedding planning and combining finances usually bring (the latter was so emotional and difficult for us we did it in stages). But beyond that there was some plain old ickiness in our day to day lives and they way we treated one another. I’m not sure why, even now. We had lived together for two years, and had been having sex for four, so those typical adjustments weren’t factors for us at that time.

    And like you, I’m not sure how it ended, either. But suddenly it did. Hope things are only better for you from here on out!

  • Amy March

    Ending a marriage in its early days doesn’t have to mean you don’t believe in marriage enough. It can mean you believe in marriage too much to stay in one that is a mistake.

    • Kate

      I appreciate that you said this. I ended my marriage after 21 months, not because I didn’t believe in it enough, but because my husband didn’t. It hasn’t changed my feelings about marriage at all and I look forward to one day sharing my life with someone again, but it certainly did cement the fact that I need to be with someone who believes as strongly in the commitment of marriage as I do.

    • Holly

      Yes….I was wondering when someone was going to make a comment about how sometimes, the marriage is that bad, and shouldn’t continue. It sounds like the OP is in a good place now, and I’m happy for her. In my case, needing counseling at 3 months was a sign of things some abusive behaviors showing up, things just never got better, and I never had that sense that despite our troubles we were meant to be together. But I stuck in out for 4 soul crushing years. Getting divorced was like being able to breathe again after being held underwater by the person who had promised to love and cherish me. Since then, I’ve gone on to other wonderful, healthy, relationships. So, just wanted to shout out that, if you’re reading this thinking you want to leave your marriage, and thinking it may not get better for you, that’s ok, too.

  • http://somethingshavehappened.blogspot.co.uk/ Siobhan

    We lived together before we got married but the past eight months have seen us renegotiating things we thought we’d already decided. Its cool now but there was a point where all the stuff we had pinned down became unpinned down and we started trying to be what we thought a marriage was rather than who we really were. There was also a fair few deaths in the family on both sides and we were both ill and exhausted and moving house but I think part of it came from us feeling a shift from “might as well be married” to “married” and it did make a difference.

    So though some people feel they got this out of their system by living together I don’t think everyone does. The whole thing has made us feel a lot more solid now though as we race to our first year together but it was a bit of a surprise.

    Having said that it could be that this was the moment we could really renegotiate things from a point other than necessity (he made a transatlantic move to be with me and we had no money so we just made it work, and were so pleased to finally be together that we toughed that spell out a lot). We were in a better place to make those decisions firmly together once we were married but that involved some hard work. We already knew the big picture was the same but have different ideas about how to get there and are constantly negotiating from there.

    So yes – I think more honest narratives about how hard it can be are great. I also think it feels weird when people say to me “the honeymoon is over now, right?” as if they mean a time when we get on really well and feel really just plain lucky that has only really just begun.

  • Katrina

    Given that we’re nearing our first year, this post was very comforting, thank you so much for sharing your marriage with us!

    What’s been interesting is that the hardest times in my marriage so far have been when I didn’t say anything. My husband and I aren’t very good at arguing, we tend to talk and I tend to cry incessantly. So when there was something on my mind, and I thought that if I said something to him he might become upset, it was worse for me because I bottled it up. As the worrier of the couple, I’ll usually take on most of the work because I feel like it’s my job to make things run smoothly. I forget that I’m apart of a team, and that it’s okay to share the workload so that I can do some fun things for myself.

    Recently we were eating dinner, and I was acting a little callous towards anything he said. After a while, he asked me what was REALLY wrong, and instead of saying, “Nothing.” like I had been doing most of the night, I finally told him everything that had been on mind, which was a wide range of topics. After I finished, he pulled me into his arms and said, “You don’t have to act tough around me. It’s okay to be vulnerable sometimes.” And THAT was when I knew I made the right choice. Just like you, I had some doubts from time to time, but that was the moment I knew he was the man I was meant to marry, and I’m glad I did.

    • Karly

      Biggest challenge for me too is remembering that I married a capable man. Well that and keeping my mascara from running! He tells me often that it’s not my job to do EVERYTHING and gently reminds me that we are a team. In our vows, I promised to let him know what is going on inside my head – and he promised to bug me until I tell him what is wrong. (That one got a chuckle from the people who know me well.) It might take a couple days to get it all out and sorted, but it’s worth the effort. : )

    • KateM

      THIS! I think it is so important to learn how to fight. I think marriage is the first time many of us are truly able to vulnerable with another person and we don’t realize it. We are passive aggressive about fighting ignoring the fact that this is the person in the world who knows you best, guess what, they already know you are upset and are just waiting for it to come out. It can create an atmosphere of tension. Or we are finally comfortable enough to let it out without being afraid even subconsciously that our partner will leave.
      Also to the comment further up about the 5 Love Languages, everyone should read it. It makes so much sense. I also think that after we get married we forget to “date” each other. We slack off on the small things that make the other person feel special, that we did when trying to impress the other person. Learning to speak someone’s love language is a learned process for most of us.

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    For us the hard period with adjustments was the pre-engaged stage. We’d been living together for awhile but there were some major life/career changes going on and it was the first big step of really rearranging our lives for each other, working with new and sometimes difficult ways of supporting each other and figuring out ways to make sure both our needs were being met when we were clearly putting one person’s dreams to the top of the list for the time being. It wasn’t awful by any means by there were some really frustrating parts. I’d liken it to suddenly developing a new muscle or or limb and trying to learn how to use it and figuring out how it worked with the rest of my body – painful, sometimes awkward, but there was no question about things being a poor decision. Once we hit “engagement” everything turned into much smoother sailing for us.

  • Megan

    Ashley, thank you so much for your honest and thoughtful exploration of what is definitely a sensitive issue! I wish you and your husband only the brightest of days ahead, and I’m thankful to have read your post this morning.

    With nine months to go until our wedding, my fiancé — already a homeowner — is more than ready for me to move in . . . and I’m still living at home, with my parents, in my childhood bedroom. Until we got engaged, I’d never realized I wasn’t actually comfortable moving in together before marriage (or immediately before?). I’m not religious, so I know that isn’t the root, but there’s — something? I don’t know. Maybe my fear of growing up? My fear of moving on? My fear that my parents won’t be okay without me? (I know that’s all silly, but it’s rattling around in my brain.)

    Either way, we’re on a timeframe. I will probably move in this summer, a few months beforehand, and am trying not to panic about my imminent adulthood (ah, maybe that’s it). Thankfully, my guy is very understanding and patient — so patient! — and I know we have a big “adjustment period” to come, but I’m choosing to be excited instead of scared. It’s a process.

    • 39bride

      Thank you so much for sharing that! I wasn’t comfortable with moving in early, either. I even said early on in our relationship (with a friendly smile), “I don’t live with men I’m not married/related to.” For me, it didn’t feel loving to ask someone to risk so much by completely combining their life with yours without a definite commitment to spend that life with you (and that “not loving feeling” applied to both partners, in my mind). YMMV, of course.

      Then, by the time we got engaged and had to set a date for only four months later, it wouldn’t have been practical, even if I wanted to (my mother and I had been living together the last few years to share expenses) because having mom “next door” made for good wedding planning, he had a ridiculously small apartment and I worked from home, the upheaval of moving and then trying to settle in AND plan for a wedding four months later seemed crazy (and in retrospect I’m sure it would’ve been a disaster for us, haha), and it would’ve caused enough of a stir/disappointment in some corners of my family that it wasn’t worth the fight just to have four extra months.

      For us, waiting made the actual combining so smooth because making financial and living arrangements (decor, etc) in the aftermath of the powerful experience of the wedding really helped us keep those challenges in perspective.

      I guess I’m saying, I understand you. I think many people tend to underplay what a huge thing it is to move in with an SO. For me, I definitely needed the commitment of marriage before I was completely comfortable with it and I’m so grateful that my patient fiance came to the same conclusion.

      • Megan

        So nice to know I’m not alone, 39Bride — sometimes I get so caught up in needing to “justify” my decision to others that it’s overwhelming. But we’re all on our own journey, and that’s what I remind myself almost daily! :)

      • Laura

        Strangely, our decision not to move in together before getting married was the number one thing that people — from friends to total strangers — felt that they should comment on and judge us for. Even some of our more unorthodox wedding decisions didn’t get half the negative comments that not cohabiting before marriage did.

        We dated for three years in college before moving to the same city for grad school. We decided to get separate apartments reasonably close to one another, because we weren’t ready to move in together or get engaged. I can’t count the number of people who took it upon themselves to express what a misguided idea this was.

        “You’ve been dating three years, don’t you think it’s time?” “But think of all the money you’ll save!” “You must not be truly committed if you don’t want to move in together.”

        Although moving in together before marriage was not the right choice for us, I think it can be wonderful for many couples. I think our society has moved away from much of the stigma associated with cohabiting, but it seems to have swung too far in the other direction (at least in our progressive, urban social circle). I never thought that I would be shamed for choosing NOT to move in with a guy before marriage. And why the “you’ll save so much money” argument is employed most often is totally beyond me. Unless I have absolutely no other option, I try to make my choices based on what is best for me and my relationship, not based on the money I’ll save in shared rent.

        Okay, rant over. Megan, your post just resonated with me because the cohabitation decision is a big one in its own right….and that’s before you even consider the rocky road (or smooth sailing, who knows!) that lies ahead when you actually take the plunge.

        • B

          I think this is why you see studies that say people who live together pre-marriage are more likely to get divorced. So many people move in because it’s convenient and saves money, and sometimes that can lead to a marriage that they’re not really ready for, or with a person that’s not right because it seems like “the next thing to do” since you’re already living together. Not that living with someone you’re not totally committed to is always a bad idea, but it is harder to extricate yourself if/when you realise it’s not the person you want to marry, and there is still pressure to get married if you’ve been living together for a while.

          I personally would not have married someone I hadn’t lived with (because oh boy was living with someone else an adjustment for me!), but I also wasn’t going to live with someone I didn’t intend to marry. But I think we all approach these things in different ways and it can work out well whatever path you choose as long as both partners are on the same page.

          We’ve been married for a month and living together for a year and a half, prior to which we were long distance (trans-atlantic) for a year and a half. It’s been a learning process, but I think we’re learning how to live with each other and I wouldn’t have had it any other way – for us. You can do it whichever way you like.

          • Jules

            Amen, Sister (or brother)! I collaborated–golly, what a fancy word–with my ex because of pressure from our families and him to save money. All it did was act as the catalyst to our break up. Afterward, I swore to myself I would not live another man unless I thought he was it. Then I met my fiance and now we cohabitate, and have done so since about 8 months in to dating. The difference is that I felt ready and excited to move in with Banks, and our time together has been better than I thought possible given my history with cohabitation.

        • Megan

          Ditto. I can’t believe the number of negative/shocked comments I’ve heard about why I haven’t moved in — and acquaintances (I wouldn’t even call them “friends” . . .) ask me point-blank when I’m moving. “Like, the spring? The summer? June? When?”

          And I think: none of your business.

          And then I think: why do you care?

          And then I think: I’m not really sure. But my fiance will be the first to know.

        • 39bride

          “Strangely, our decision not to move in together before getting married was the number one thing that people — from friends to total strangers — felt that they should comment on and judge us for. Even some of our more unorthodox wedding decisions didn’t get half the negative comments that not cohabiting before marriage did.”

          Exactly! Even within his extended family who aren’t part of our daily lives, it was met with astonishment when they found out in casual conversations after we were married. And it was amazing how often I had to explain things to wending vendors, etc., because they just assumed. It was so tiring (and felt somewhat invasive) to have to explain over and over (while reminding myself, “I don’t give a damn what they think”). And then I got these wry comments that tended to pat me on the head for being such a “virtuous” woman and implying I must be unsophisticated and rigid. And then I would remind myself again, “I don’t give a damn what you think!”

      • kyley

        I just wanted to chime in to say that for years we have had a definite commitment to be together, but only got engaged in October. I wouldn’t even say we were pre-engaged all those years–just partnered. For us, the engagement was about sharing our longstanding private commitment with our community.

      • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

        This was one of the first real compromises in our relationship, living together before marriage. He felt very strongly that he needed to live with me before he was comfortable getting engaged, and I had a long held belief that I was never going to live with a man I wasn’t at least engaged to. People don’t always have the same internal timelines even if they’re compatible and make each other happy. I happened to come around to his view and I couldn’t have been happier with the result as for the most part living together has been a combination of blissful and mundane.

        I defintely think it’s a very personal decision and one each couple has to make for themselves though. There was a lot of thought process that lead up to moving in and while for us I wouldn’t have those years any other way I can definitely understand why other couples would choose a different route.

  • never.the.same

    I DO think a lot your struggles may have been about not living together or sleeping together pre-marriage. For you, marriage was a fundamental life style change. A lot of couples who do these things before marriage have less change after the wedding. There is paperwork and often a new appreciation for the relationship and emotional change, but there isn’t a fundamental life style change in the same way. Marriage is already a Big Deal, but marriage + moving + new sex + spiritual/emotional change + paperwork + “unresolved issues” is A LOT. I’m feeling miserable just thinking about it, so I can understand why living it would take sixteen months of hard work and adjustment!

    Which isn’t to say one choice is better than another. Just that I do think your choice meant you got slammed all at once with issues that might be spread out over time for some other couples.

    • Ris

      I don’t think you can make that statement with such certainty. There is no perfect storm of variables that can explain why some couples have it easier than others.

      I’m in month 9 of my marriage, and it has consisted of your exact equation – we didn’t live or sleep together before the wedding and we moved multiple states away from our hometown one week after the wedding (with no work lined up). And I was moving out of my parents home (let’s just say I saved a ton of money through school).

      Marriage has been a fundamental life change for me, and my experience thus far shares almost nothing with the OP’s. Wedding planning was difficult and stressful, but marriage has been wonderful – peaceful, happy, content, we pursue shared goals and gracefully split chores, etc. I’m not even sure why it’s been so painless a transition – I can just as easily see it having gone the other way. I even expected it.

      Lines of causality can be awful hard to draw.

      • Jessica

        I agree here. My husband and I had a long-distance relationship until we got married. We didn’t live together and didn’t sleep together before our wedding night. I packed up and moved several states away the day after the wedding, drove to our new home, unpacked, went on our honeymoon, and then came home to a new state and new life. I loved every second of that. The minute we landed back home and began to take phone calls and emails again, other people intruded on the bliss. I can honestly say that 99% of the arguments in our first six months of marriage were about other people and really had little to do with our marriage itself. Our actual marriage life and sex life was (and is) awesome. Once we finally figured out how to deal with people as a couple, together, we haven’t had the issues we had at first.

        In fact, we’re getting to our seventh anniversary in a couple months, and people tell us that we act like newlyweds. Ha! We didn’t act like newlyweds the first six months, but we have ever since due to our understanding of being a united front. We thought we had that down until parents and siblings, up until that point the most influential people in our lives probably, intruded on what was really none of their business without regard to the fact that (a) we now had another person in our lives that we needed to include in decision making pretty much at all times and (b) their thoughts and opinions on those personal decisions were now less important than this other person we had vowed to remain with until death.

        I think those first six months were more about “who are we now, this unbreakable couple, compared to who we were before we could say, ‘screw it all’ and walk away if we wanted to?” Before, we didn’t necessarily think, “This is a decision that could potentially affect two people and not just me,” because we hadn’t made that commitment yet. We talked about it a lot up to the wedding and thought we had truly made and understood the commitment, but the actuality of it didn’t really hit us until people started making demands that really did make a difference to us as a married couple.

  • http://twitter.com/irisira irisira

    Living together and/or having sex beforehand may have made a difference, or maybe not. I have friends who not only lived together, but *bought a house together* and *had pets together* before they got married, and she still said the first year was hell. They’re very happily married, with a second baby on the way (and more pets, lol), but I don’t think those things are lines of demarcation. I also have a friend who didn’t live with her husband before marriage (they both owned their own houses, and she actually timed her house sale around the wedding date, which is very tricky!), and she’s had a very happy first year of marriage.

    I think it’s just different for everyone. Our first year of marriage was a lot like our non-married life. We did not notice a huge WHAM shift right away, either blissful or hellish. The shift for us was more gradual, it kind of snuck up on us. One of the things I found, which I know sounds kind of weird, is I find it safer to fight. Not that I didn’t feel like I could fight with C before we were married (we really don’t fight that much, actually, which is just our dynamic … he’s a calming influence, which I really needed!), but I realized after we were married it was not as scary? Like I wasn’t holding this fragile thing in my hands that could break easily if I dropped it? That it was now solid, and while I should still handle with care, it was not as breakable. This made me feel so much safer, like it was something that had transformed into a foundation while I wasn’t paying attention.

    • http://fourfeeteightpaws.blogspot.com/ Rowan

      The same happened to me. My husband and I don’t fight (really at all) but I do feel safer fighting now versus pre marriage. Not that either of us are doormats (we compromise really well) but I do now feel like I can hold my ground a bit longer than I used to without risking the whole relationship. The other big change for me was I immediately felt safer saying no to his mother (I no longer feel like I need her approval). This new, I’m saying no and let the chips fall where they may approach immediately made my life so much better!

    • Naomi

      Sorry, I just reported your comment when trying to exactly it- stupid smart phone.
      I can completely relate to arguments feeling safer now we are married. We had some horrible, horrible arguments in the few months leading up to our wedding, over the most stupid, inconsequential of things. Partly this was due to me finding wedding planning, and having just bought s house together and combined finances just six months before the wedding very stressful. Bit looking back I also think it was partly that we hadn’t yet made the marriage commitment, and were testing each other to see how strong the bond was. Almost like we were seeing how far we could push each other. We are both quite fiery tempered when pushed so this really wasn’t much fun. Fortunately we’re both also pretty quick to kiss and make up. Since the wedding, 3 months ago, I am do much more relaxed, we’re fighting less and having more fun. I love it.

      We did both lose family members in the run up to the wedding too, with my nanna dying just a week and s half before, which put some of our petty disagreements into perspective.

      • http://twitter.com/irisira irisira

        Sorry, I just reported your comment when trying to exactly it- stupid smart phone.
        No worries, I’ve definitely done that before! :)

    • http://becomingbrown.wordpress.com Jennifer Lyn

      This is sort of how I think we ‘devolved’ into fighting too. I felt safer telling W my true feelings and what I thought, and when he disagreed, I felt a lot safer adamantly arguing my thoughts. So we fight more. Also, I was living in a situation before where I felt like I had to be on guard all the time, so I never fought about things or asserted my real opinion until after we got married and he basically told me to.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      I like how you put this:
      “…like it was something that had transformed into a foundation while I wasn’t paying attention.”

      • http://twitter.com/irisira irisira

        :)

        It’s true, though. We both felt pretty strongly that “nothing was changing for us”, not really, that is was different for everyone else. But that’s part of how weddings are community events, too, I think. It’s why it is so important for your community to support your marriage, because that’s part of the foundation. Not all of it, but an important part.

        So, yeah, it definitely did sneak up on us. In a good way. :)

  • GalFromAway

    It’s interesting to read this, and the comments.

    Maybe the fact that my husband and I met in our 30s and had been in previously serious relationships made our relationship a little different. We moved in together after about six months, and even before that, certain things fell into place naturally. (We host kick-ass BBQs, for example, and fell into what each of us is best at very easily – he does the meat grilling, I look after the potatoes and veggies, and we both are good at setting up the eating area) We got married two years after we moved in together.

    For us, marriage didn’t feel any different than our relationship leading up to our engagement and wedding. We were still the same people, we were still in the same house, and life for the most part carried on as normal. Neither of us changed who we were or how we behaved in the relationship. We still had our communications issues that we had to work through, and our first year of marriage was rough in different ways. But all in all, we found our way through the challenges that we faced.

    • Sara

      Thank you for this comment. I feel…I don’t know, guilty? about how well everything has fallen into place for my fiance and I, but simultaneously terrified that we’ve never had to settle any major differences. Like you, we’ll be married about two years after we moved in together. Our financial and emotional lives are completely intertwined and even that was pretty much effortless. We’ve had exactly two arguments in nearly two years and one of them was about where to place the sofa (aesthetics vs. surround sound sweet spot). I can’t help but worry that everything will change rather suddenly after the wedding and that we won’t have a language for fighting to help us through. It’s nice to know that that won’t necessarily be the case.

      • one more sara

        Did you marry Sheldon Cooper, lover of acoustic sweet spots?

        • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

          Impossible, because I am totally married to Sheldon Cooper.

  • Kristen

    THIS “I felt the world shift around me, and since then, I’ve seen a big change in my husband’s behavior. I don’t know why or how it suddenly clicked, but I couldn’t be more grateful.”

    Thank you. Thank you for letting me know this happens to other people too. I think of myself as self aware and an observant person in trying to navigate my relationship yet I have experienced this so many times that my therapist finally told me that some people like me, work things out all in the open and on display for everyone involved. You can literally see me trying to change. My husband doesn’t do that. He works it all out inside his head, all the while doing the exact same infuriating thing I’ve asked him to please be aware of and to change. Then one day, he suddenly acts differently than he has before. Often this is paired with an attitude that there’s been no big change, he’s always acted the way I wanted him to. I’ve given up getting frustrated at him and simply embrace the joy of being with someone willing to alter behaviors for my happiness.

    I think if we look at our own relationships honestly, whether we co-habitated, had sex or did not before marriage, the first year you LIVE TOGETHER is kind of hard as hell. For a lot of folks at least. I think there are pros and cons to waiting to experience it until after marriage but no matter what I did myself, you’ll never convince me one choice is better than the other.

    • Ashley

      “…some people like me, work things out all in the open and on display for everyone involved. You can literally see me trying to change. My husband doesn’t do that. He works it all out inside his head, all the while doing the exact same infuriating thing I’ve asked him to please be aware of and to change. Then one day, he suddenly acts differently than he has before. Often this is paired with an attitude that there’s been no big change, he’s always acted the way I wanted him to.”

      I feel you, completely. That is me and my fiance to a T. He just seems to change one day whereas I talk every little change through. It’s hard but it works over time and with patience to understand each other. But I just wanted to give you a virtual hug because honestly you just described my life.

      • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com Rachel Wilkerson

        Yes, that line of the comment stuck out to me too! It describes the difference between my fiance and me so perfectly.

      • Kristen

        Thanks! I need all the hugs I can get today, virtual or otherwise. Thanks for being the kind of person who doesn’t hold that stuff back.

        And thanks to Meg and the ladies for giving us a place to be girls and emotional and supportive. It’s like my emergency therapy spot. And its taught me as much about love and healthy relationships and friendships as I’ve learned here in the real world. Love all you ladies!

      • Louise

        Yep. My husband is the same way, but I thought about it a little differently. This makes tons of sense though. I realized it recently (a year ago, actually, now that I think of it.) when he decided to lose weight (after thinking about it for years) and dramatically changed his diet overnight and hasn’t gone back: he is slow to commit to change, but once he commits, he never goes back on it. The same thing happened when he quit smoking, but I hadn’t noticed the pattern yet. He bought the gum one day, treated the directions on the box as religion and has not had a cigarette since. I, on the other hand, am quick to start things and only stick with some of what I start. I am sure that personality trait is as baffling to him as it is for me to wait as he ponders change for what seems like an eternity. I guess in the long run, though, his habit of making lifelong commitments bodes well for our marriage. :)

        • Ashley

          Yes! That makes total sense to me and really it was the same in our decision to get married. I was ready, way before I should have been and he took a lot more time to be “sure” but now that he is and he’s proposed I know there is no going back. When you think of this character trait that way, it’s such a great one. It’s the reason I trust him completely, when he commits, he commits, end of story.

  • Rachel

    I don’t know how to answer the “so how’s married life?” question either.
    “Its amazing! We are so happy!” – sounds like BS, pressures struggling couples to lie
    “Its tough at times, but we’re doing great” – close to true, but implies our marriage has issues

    I have gone with, “Much better than I thought it would be!” which the nice people asking me have no idea what to do with.

    • KC

      I LOVE THIS ANSWER.

      (and that was totally us, too. Great, but tough, like a hike up a mountain with awesome views but also mosquitoes.)

  • http://andwontonmakesthree.wordpress.com Heather

    I enjoyed and appreciated your honesty – for me, since my husband and I lived together already when we got married, our first year of marriage wasn’t that bad, but I wish someone had warned me how potentially difficult the first year of having a baby can be on your marriage. Never have my husband and I fought so much, and I dreaded the question (similar to the “How’s married life?”) “How’s life with a baby?” As with marriage, there are great moments, and there are really hard moments. As you mention in the latter part of your post – communication is just so important and without good open communication it can be so hard to get through the rough patches.

    • KC

      We don’t have a baby, but when we are both sleep-deprived, we have a harder time behaving rationally, which results in more-fraught everything. I can totally imagine that the sleep-deprivation *plus* All The Choices (and the choices feeling more important because they affect this helpless little human being you’re responsible for) would be a pretty good recipe for lots of tiffs (or outright fights).

      (if no sleep deprivation is going on, I would be really interested to know what sorts of things are fueling the first-baby-year difficulties, so as to be prepared ahead of time; having some idea of where the rough ground would likely be really helped our first year of marriage)

      • http://andwontonmakesthree.wordpress.com Heather

        I would say sleep deprivation definitely plays a part, but I think it was other things as well. We weren’t as intimate – not just physically, but mentally – as we used to be (partly due to sleep deprivation, but also due to having so much less time and not having our priorities in order). I also found that I play a huge part in some of our difficulties because I’m a worrier and having a baby is such a massive responsibility, and my husband and I handle things very differently to a point where I felt like I was doing everything, and we both have full time jobs. We failed at properly communicating our feelings and needs in this new situation and we’ve been working on this a lot and dividing responsibilities as well.

        • KC

          Thanks! It’s really useful to have more information on things to watch out for. :-)

    • Jashshea

      Yup yup. We were relatively seamless during first year of co-hab and for the very initial parts of married life (only been 3 months), but I imagine we’re in for some MAJOR culture shock when we have kids. Like Maddie says in the post she’s linked to in the intro: Sleep deprivation doesn’t do anyone any favors.

    • Rebecca

      Clearly you needed this post: That Baby Wants to Break You Up. Possibly don’t read this if you are actively expecting a baby.

  • Anon for now

    We’ve been married 4.5 months, and I feel like I could’ve written this post. We fight all the time and have discussed counseling. On top of moving in together and all the adjustments that entails, I am also unemployed and trying desperately to find work in a field where there doesn’t seem to be any. I never feared breaking up when we were dating and engaged, but now I fear divorce almost constantly.

    I guess what I’m saying is, thank you for making me feel less alone.

    • Ashley

      I’m so sorry you’re going through that. I just wanted to lend you some support. I’m not married and when we do get married maybe it will change things again (we’re recently engaged) but our moving in together story is not pretty. It was really really hard and I feared breaking up constantly, to the point where it became what every fight ended up being about. At the time I was employed but very uncertain of my future and that definitely made things extra hard. I just want to tell you that we made it through, slowly but surely, one fight at a time and things are so much better now, better than I ever really thought they could be when they were really bad. We never went to counseling but we probably should have. I don’t have a magic answer for you but one day, when things were just really bad and I didn’t know what to do anymore. I made a decision to just be. To just let it go and try and be happy. I knew that if we broke up and I lost him (which I know is probably not as scary as divorce but was REALLY terrifying for me) I wanted the last few months to be happy ones, I wanted to enjoy the things I loved about him while I still could. And you know what? It worked, we stopped fighting about fighting and we just enjoyed each others company. This didn’t mean we didn’t disagree anymore (that’s never going away for us) but when we did we worked it through and it stopped being about whether or not we should be together anymore and was just about whatever it was about. I have no idea if this is helpful for you but it saved me and it saved us and I just wanted to tell you because I can hear the pain in your comment and I know that pain.

      • Anon for now

        Thank you so much for your comment. It’s really helpful.

    • KC

      Counseling is good even when you’re not having trouble communicating, so I’d say go for it, if you can! (at least, my experiences with premarital counseling were awesome and really helpful and really made things easier later)(we got three batches of premarital counseling, due to weird quirks of the wedding process, and they were all helpful in different ways)

      Trying to get a job… that’s a huge stressor and trigger for inadequacy and all sorts of things for me. (plus then there’s financial stress, usually) It is not surprising that that would make things enormously harder for both of you (and especially for you!). If it is at all possible to disentangle the immediate cause of the disagreement (brand of dishsoap? percentage of income spent on beer?) from the underlying stressors, that can really help. (“I’m reacting to this more strongly than I would otherwise because …”)

      I hope things get better for you soon! (and hope you find a fantastic job soon, too! I would note that I also tend to have inadequacy kittens for the first week or two of a new job as well, as I’m learning all the people and processes and feel swamped and don’t feel useful yet, but that may be unique to me, and it does pass quickly in any event!)

      • Anon for now

        Thank you for your comment. When we fight, I tend to project my own feelings of inadequacy into them, which obviously makes it worse and turns a discussion about cleaning into a sob-fest about my worth as a wife. I’m working on that.

    • Maddie

      Oh man, this was us when I moved in with Michael. No work for months, no prospects in sight. It was terrible. I have no advice except to say that it got better for us. When I started working and realized that the misery was coming from our circumstances and not from within our relationship, it got better.

      But for now, I’ll just give you a hug. A big hug.

      • Anon for now

        Thanks. It’s nice to hear from someone who’s been there.

  • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com Rachel Wilkerson

    After a hell of a first year of living together, I decided that perhaps it’s less about the first year of marriage and more about the first year of living together that’s hard for a lot of people. Because holy crap, that was a rough year. But I agree with a lot of the others here — I don’t think living together first means you have an easier time of it overall, I just think you end up dealing with these things sooner.

  • Cathleen

    My husband and I started living together (in a studio, no less) fourish months into our relationship. We share a big common interest/lifestyle in martial arts and our daily habits are in perfect synch. We moved, I graduated from my masters program, he got a job in his field. Wedding planning began, a ring landed on my finger, and I thought we had it made. Then something so big from long ago (and long before me) surfaced from his past that I felt like I was being punched in the stomach for three weeks straight- two months before our wedding. Every day, our marriage is a lesson for me in understanding, forgiveness, and the power of love. I know I married the incredibly supportive, funny, and wonderful man I fell in love with. Basically, my point is regardless of where you are living or sleeping before marriage, there are unanticipated situations that will make you question your decisions and sometimes knock the breath right out of you. If there is a true, healthy love it will sustain you even in the darkest of moments.

  • Noelle

    I always kind of hated the “how’s married life” question right after we got married. Right after the wedding my husband started battling some serious anxiety issues – so bad that for awhile he couldn’t even leave the apartment to go to work or school. So, how was married life? What else would I answer with other than “Fine”. Things weren’t fine, but it’s not something you really want to get into with a coworker or a casual acquaintance.

    (Thankfully his anxiety is much better now, and our marriage is better than ever for going through that portion of our lives together, but our first year was rough. It’s comforting knowing we weren’t alone)

  • http://townhousetohome.wordpress.com adria

    I think it’s incredibly brave to get married before you live together (and I’m not even talking about the sex part of it, because that’s a totally different can of worms). I remember coming back from our honeymoon to a house filled with wedding gifts, decor, and associated “crap” and looking at my husband and saying “Thank God you already lived here. If there were boxes of your things included in this pile, I might have had to throw them all away, never mind finding room in the closet for your clothes.” It was overwhelming after living together for a year and a half to all of a sudden be married and have whatever fundamental shift in our relationship that brought, but to have to figure each other out in new ways? I would have gone mad.

    The first year of marriage is an interesting year of growth in a relationship. So many things change and so many others remain the same. Love is what it takes…it brings commitment, compassion, understanding, passion, and respect along with it.

    • 39bride

      I think you might be imagining worse than it was is far as a house upside down.

      Not everyone has the same experience, but I suspect it’s pretty much the same for most of us not living together.

      For my husband and me, we came back to a mostly-unpacked house because I’d moved the majority of my stuff over ahead of time (and he’d moved in a month earlier). It probably helped that we both had pitifully few possessions due to some rough patches. And of course, all the wedding craziness was at my mom’s house and had been dealt with while we were on our honeymoon, haha! We also planned to have three days before we had to go back to work, so that gave us a bit more time to get settled. Still it was a process that developed over the course of the first month or so (was about three months before pictures went up, and we still have some memorabilia/decor boxes that are sitting within reach as I write this).

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Different people react differently to the stress of moving and to clutter. I hate moving, so if I combined a wedding day with a moving day, or a wedding month with a moving month, I’d have been beyond miserable. I’m OK with clutter I put there, not so OK with my husband’s clutter.

        On the other hand, my husband was in such a horrible situation before he moved in with me, he said that sleeping on the floor of our one-bedroom, sharing in chores, etc., was better than living at the Four Seasons – and that’s without sex.

  • Jashshea

    We moved in together about a year ago and got married 3 months ago. We’d both lived alone for years pre-cohabitation, so I actually anticipated that we’d have some troubles “making space” for each other, literally as well as figuratively. We did, but they were relatively minor. As I said upchain, I anticipate some major lifestyle changes and the attending growing pains when we tackle the “kiddo” issue (when, how many, what if it doesn’t work, etc etc).

    Me and mine aren’t fighters by nature and try to space out the Big Picture (money, kids, bad stuff) conversations and keep them neutral (meaning, what would we do if situation XYZ vs. how would we feel during situation XYZ). I’m what I call a worry-planner: I make plans for many possible negative outcomes (loss of job, sickness or untimely death of parent, what if something is wrong with our child, etc), so our system works for me.

    The way I see it – some people are good at transitions and some people aren’t. Some transitions are easier than others and you went through a set of major transitions all at once, which is STRESSFUL. And it’s possible you (and your husband) may not have been your best selves during that time. You’ve got to give yourself and your partner the time and space to grow into what you’re building together, which it sounds like you’ve done.

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    We lived together and had a fairly easy transition to that (it helped a lot that he worked a ton of hours, so I felt like I was still living alone a lot of the time, which helped me ease into it) but have found the transition to married life more stressful. I think mostly because we kept our finances separate before. He makes a lot more than I do, which makes me feel guilty now about spending any money since I have a hard time seeing it as ours instead of his. Stuff like that is new to deal with. There’s also a lot more family stuff that comes with being married, at least for us. And now, just over a month after the wedding, we’re moving to Okinawa. So yeah, I expect some rough times ahead. It sounds like we’ll be in good company though as we work through all of it.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      My aunt and uncle lived in Okinawa early in their marriage years ago. I think they really enjoyed it. I wish you a fun adventure…

  • http://www.yarnvi.blogspot.com Holly

    I found your post brave and encouraging. My wife and I got married in September, but due to work circumstances couldn’t move in together until late November. We came with one daughter each, 5 and 6. We went from two incomes to one. And from being independent women raising children singly, to a family unit… with a dog! At times it’s been beautiful and joyful, and at times incredibly hard. I feel like I tried to be prepared for it to be hard, but sometimes I feel like I wasn’t prepared for the level of hardness. So when people ask me how it’s going, I find myself wanting to stare at them blankly and ask them if they’ve ever tried to merge two whole families into one. “How do you freaking THINK it’s going?!?!? IT’S COMPLICATED!” But, I think I will start using your answer instead. Seems I might be less likely to have a stroke that way.

  • http://www.devabydefinition.com deva by definition

    We moved in together in a different city in our homestate, over two hours from our hometowns after being together for just over a year. Our first year living together was not easy. I had untreated depression. The first time I got sick I broke down in our comfy bed and sobbed that I wanted my father (not my finest moment, I’ll admit). It was just Not. Easy. We had fun, went places, did things, tried to explore our new city, but it wasn’t until our second year together in a new apartment that was just us and the cats with no room mates that things got easier. We had adapted to each other’s routines and quirks in a way that living separarately in dorm rooms wasn’t possible. We are now 11 months into a 14-month engagement, and being engaged has been a whole new level of the first year, but after living together for five years, we know enough to let the first year-ness go, to talk it out and to figure it out as a team, instead of fuming all the time.

  • Sarah

    I think we had an easier time than most. We are due to get married in October but have already been living together 7 years (I moved in with him when I was 19 years old and he was 21). Around years 2 and 3 in our relationship we fought, but we are remarkably compatible, even though we are so different. We’ve always had a joint account since our 1 year anniversary when we moved in together but at year 3 or 4 we completely merged our finances (we were moving overseas to teach and it was just easier). At this point we’ve been together nearly eight years and I don’t see anything changing when we actually get married! (Our friends already consider us married.)

    • Louise

      I thought this would be true for us too…together 8 years, cohabitating for 5, like you, everyone considered us married already, so what difference would a day make? I was actually pleasantly surprised. I can’t even put my finger on what changed..but you know how a relationship grows simultaneously more comfortable and more exciting over time, but maybe you don’t notice it because it happens so slowly? It was like we went through a period of intense growth in a very short amount of time, so I actually noticed it while it was happening. Anyhow, not saying this will happen, I am sure a variety of factors went into this change for us (both being in a good place in our careers probably contributed) but it was unexpected and interesting a least…

  • http://www.palindromeathome.com Melinda

    Obviously we all react differently to challenges due to personality, family culture, societal narratives, etc. I think a larger theme regarding this topic is giving ourselves and others the room to feel and work through the challenges. My chronological story might be a point of contention for some (we waited until marriage for cohabitation), but I think there are aspects of my story that most people can relate to – such as these challenges:

    Having a permanent roommate and adjusting to that life.
    Wrapping one’s head around what marriage means day to day.
    Navigating major life changes like a new job or new home.
    Converging two academic and professional lives.
    Learning how to sleep with another person (awake and asleep time).
    Experiencing traumatic family events/spending a lot of time in the hospital.

    Maybe others didn’t experience them all in the same concentrated time period, but one can imagine that experiencing them at the same time can be difficult. Sometimes the paperwork is the only thing that changes for people, but a lot of times, other big life changes happen to occur around marriages. Whether it’s a choice (cohabitation) or a circumstance (job loss), we need the space to struggle and grow as we take on those challenges.

  • alyssa

    It’s so nice to hear this from someone else. On my wedding day, all I could think is, “How could I possibly be any more in love than now?” And all my married friends and family members kept telling me, “It only gets better and better.”
    Enter week one of marriage, with so many tears, fights, confusion, and it only continued. There were so many breaking down of habits and barriers, and the two of us being first-borns, an incredible amount of unwillingness to change, or to admit wrong. I didn’t know how I had missed the boat on the “gets better” part. And I definitely looked at our wedding photos a LOT!
    My husband and I also waited to live together or sleep together before we got married, and I went back and forth between wondering, “Did we do this backwards?” and feeling, “I’m SO glad we waited, because if I’d known what this was like maybe I would have been too scared to get married.”
    I guess all I can say is that I really resonate with you when you say that things change slowly, and then all at once. It’s hard to describe, but at month 14 things really are better than they were in month one. It’s better, different, now than it was when we were dating! I’m excited for the future, having felt a little bit of what it means for marriage to get better and better. We just have to continue to fight our own stubbornness, and let ourselves challenge each other, and discuss without raised voices, and work, work, work.
    Best of luck to you and your husband! I’m in the trenches with ya!

  • RACHEL102712

    Sometimes I Google what I’m thinking just to see if I’ve ever had an original thought. The other day, I found myself typing “newly wed and”… You know what popped up? “Newly wed and quickly unraveling.” “Newly wed and fighting.” “Newly wed and sexless.” “Newly wed and miserable.” This tells me that a lot of us struggle with the adjustment period of getting married, whether or not we cohabited beforehand. Thank you for taking some shame away from this topic by so candidly writing about your experience and opening the discussion for those who really needed to read this today. This is not to say that we are doomed. We just need to know it’s OK to talk about marriage honestly when it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.

  • http://www.whitneyhuynh.com Whitney Huynh

    I really needed to hear all of this today! What a raw and honest post that all married or engaged couples should read.

  • Christina

    I just started writing a post to this that is so long that I cut and pasted it and its now going to be a submission for the Decisions theme next month. Thanks for the inspiration Ashley and best of luck to you guys!

  • Karly

    My husband and I just hit the 6-month mark. It’s been a rollercoaster…. I was freaking out for about a month after the wedding because I felt like I didn’t know how to be a WIFE – and I didn’t even like the word. Over the past 5 months I’ve found some equilibrium in that. But then add his dysfunctional family who doesn’t particularly like me (or him actually), an ex-wife, a custody battle to be able to have his AWESOME kids more often that is likely to take more than a year in the court system, officially being a stepmom, dealing with paying an ungodly amount of child support, uncertainty with his job, him going to night school, me taking on more in my job and we’re just coming up to living in our new city for 1 year. Oh… and we think we *might* want to buy a house. WHA?? Are we NUTS?!

    When people ask, I tell them, our life is crazy. But mostly good. And that’s true without giving TMI. I pin good marriage quotes/advice/tips onto Pinterest and share with him. I read articles and study devotionals on what a healthy marriage means and looks like. We both talk to my mom and dad to gain knowledge from their long-lasting marriage. And when life REALLY sucks he lets me cry and he listens. It doesn’t matter how incoherent or inarticulate I am being at the moment. He doesn’t always get it, but in fairness sometimes I’m misconstruing his words or actions or placing unreasonable expecations upon us. (Things I realize AFTER the weepy meltdown.) I want love, he wants respect, and we both want someone else to do the laundry. And when I feel hurt or confused or overwhelmed I tell him. Without accusation or agenda. Because at the end of the day, he’s my best friend. And maybe, just maybe, that’s what our marriage is all about.

    • Lisa

      Crap I think I hit the “Report” simultaneously as I hit exactly! Definitely meant EXACTLY!!! Damn iPhone and fat thumbs!!!!

  • Lisa

    Thank you for this post!!! I was thinking I might be the only one not totally enamored with married life. Here’s a tip: don’t get a 10 week puppy a month into married life. All the energy we should have been pouring into growing our fledgling marriage got diverted to growing this furry little being that didn’t even come from my uterus! Our marital compromises turned into who was going to clean up the potty accident for the hundredth time or who was going to take the dog out at 2:30am or whether we should let her on the couch or not (true argument). All this leaving little energy for the sexy fun times or those other magazine worthy newlywed moments. When people would ask “how’s married life?” I didn’tt have the wearwithall to go into details i.e: that I couldn’t remember if we’d had sex that week, dinners were eaten as quickly as possible with one eye on the dog making sure she didn’t go to the bathroom on the carpet or pounce on the cat, and our sleep cycles were so royally screwed up there were a few nights we slept apart just to give the other a chance to catch up. Instead, I smiled and nodded and said “oh it’s great. We got a puppy!” To which the unsuspecting asker would exclaim that puppies are the gateway to babies, never mind I broke down on the living room floor sobbing that if we couldn’t deal with a dog how would we ever deal with a real baby?! We love that fur baby fiercely and now that we’re out of the worst of the puppy stage, we’re starting on the meat and potatoes of marriage. I suppose if we survived puppyhood we can make it through anything!

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    “Nor do I understand how it gets better even though you can’t always see what has changed. But it does get better.”

    I’ve noticed that’s kind of how just about all change in life is (with the rare dramatic exceptions). It’s like watching a sunset. You don’t realize how dark it’s gotten outside until you go inside and can see the contrast. The daily changes are really hard to see. It’s only when looking back over years often times that you can see any real difference.

    I was expecting to suddenly feel different when we got married. And I didn’t. We didn’t even live together before marriage and that change didn’t feel that huge to me after the wedding. But looking back on it even from a year or so out I could see how slowly I’d gone from single me to married me. It took a long time.

  • http://www.agaishanlife.com Revanche

    I don’t *think* that cohabitation makes that first year any easier as a general rule. I thought it might but I hadn’t ever planned on doing that. Then I kind of had to for practical reasons. The first year of cohabiting had some struggles but was smooth overall. The real kick in the gut came in the first year of marriage and that was so unexpected, given everything but Two Major Life Changes had stayed the same, that I wondered if marriage was a mistake. I wondered if marriage had ruined what we had enjoyed and built together because we felt so solid before.

    It’s been a year and some months and slowly, somehow, life that felt and seemed impossible has improved. Attitudes improved, rough edges were smoother. And I don’t particularly know what part of the “working on it” or “leaving it alone” worked for us. I just know that there are a lot more bumps in the road than you can anticipate and trying to work through it is all we can do.

  • Mary

    Thank you for writting this brave post. And you are right we should talk about this more. Our first 18 months were very tough and I remember feeling alone so often. We did not live together nor sleep together before either.

    And then around the 18-ish month it started to change. It was a process, we learned to trust each other bit by bit, communicate better, fight fair, learned about how or what to do so that the other person felt loved (5 Love Languages was a fantastic book for us) and now at the 3 1/2 year mark we are pretty darn proud of where we are given how we both felt at the beginning.

    It goes back to one of the APW posts (I can’t remember which one, perhaps one of Meg’s?), where someone said there will be good days and bad days and even good years and bad years. And now I hope when another bad patch hits us we have the memories of the good and the skills and tools to work through it.

    Best of luck Ashley to you and husband!!!

    • Jules

      Gonna go ahead and up vote the 5 love languages book–great reading for anyone, ever!

  • Not Sarah

    My boyfriend and I don’t live together, but we spend far more time at my place than his (it’s way larger). I actually haven’t been to his place in over two months and we’ve only been dating for 6.5 months.

    This relationship thing is HARD. I want to call it quits almost every single day and go back to being single. When I was single, I was productive at work, had a great, rewarding, and fulfilling career, was physically active 3-6 times a week (curling, rock climbing, softball, and running), walked 2 miles to and from work, and infrequently ate out because I really like my home. I would play sports with my friends – that’s my main way of hanging out with them or have girlfriends over for dinner and a chick flick. I had a great daily routine, talked to my mom 2-3 times a week (I’m really close with her), and saw my parents about once a month. I read books.

    Now? I haven’t been productive at work in months (probably about 3). I am physically active 1-3 times a week (usually only once or twice) because my boyfriend doesn’t curl, doesn’t play softball, and can never get out of work or bed to go climbing during the week or on weekend mornings, which is when I used to go. I quit one day a week of curling because the relationship was taking so much of my energy. I still manage to go climbing ~once a week with some friends, but my boyfriend always gets annoyed that he’s not going as well. But then I feel like I never hang out with friends anymore if he does go with us because that was my friend time when I was single. I don’t go running because I used to do that on weekend mornings and he doesn’t get out of bed until 10 (I get up at 7) and I don’t feel that I should get up and go and leave him at my place by himself sleeping while I go running. I talk to my mom maybe once every week or two and see them once every 2-3 months. I don’t read books. We eat out because he doesn’t like cooking at home. I have zero routine and zero meal planning, which results in eating crappy boxed/frozen food for dinner instead of doing batch cooking. I just got an email about signing up for the next season of softball and I feel like I can’t because it’s during the time we normally spend together and he doesn’t want to play softball. He wants to go snowboarding on the weekends and I don’t want to go, so then he doesn’t go either. He is never on time, usually 10-60 minutes late. He never wants to have sex when I want to and only when I’m not in the mood. He never wants to just kiss either. He wants to stay up late and get up late. I want to go to bed early and get up early. He is regularly sarcastic and I simply *do not* get sarcasm whatsoever. He drives me crazy all the time. I thought that I was falling in love with him, but now I think that maybe it was just attachment to the person who was there.

    On the plus side: he takes out my garbage (I don’t notice that it smells) and recycling; when we find time to communicate, he is really easy to talk to. Neither of us is sure that we want kids. We are both financially stable.

    Some of these things could be fixable, but his disinterest in curling and softball is not fixable. I’ve been curling since I was 6 and it is a HUGE part of my life from September through April and it sucks dating someone who isn’t a curler because it significantly decreases my interest in this sport that is incredibly soulful to me (one of my exes – who also curled – and I compared the part of our soul it took up to religion). Maybe I need to go back to only dating curlers even though that narrows the dating pool significantly. I don’t know how to bring up all of these things that are issues for me without it sounding like a break-up conversation. It just honestly feels like since about the 3-4 month marker where we started trying to mesh our lives together, it just hasn’t been working. I’ve been going crazy every single day.

    One of my friends commented that we could be having issues because we were at one point almost living at my place and that is really hard to adjust to. We have different views on making messes, cleaning up, tidying, etc. Mess and dirty apartment drive my anxiety levels through the roof.

    I just…I don’t know if the big enough things (i.e. deal breakers) are fixable. I realize that I need to give something up from my single schedule to have time with him, but that would be so much easier if we had shared activities. Since we don’t, it feels like I have to give up my life to be in this relationship.

    Sorry…I didn’t mean to just completely rant about this to the internet. I’m at such a loss of what to do and terrible at making these decisions. I’m starting to think that I would be happier without him though.

    • Catherine B

      From the outside: if the first plus you list is that he takes out your garbage, you may have answered your own question. Good luck!

    • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

      Totally agree with Catherine B.

      Something that tripped my concern in your comment is that he seems to be unhappy with you taking part in all the activities you enjoy. If not participating in those activities makes you feel less like yourself, then it makes sense that your support network would encourage you to take part in them more rather than less. It sounds like hanging with him is a chore.

      I don’t think you need to limit yourself to only curlers, but your significant other would need to understand the type of dedication you have to the sport.

      Again, good luck!

      • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

        Seconding this. It really stuck out to me as well that it sounds like your lifestyle has changed pretty significantly due to being with this person and that you are clearly unhappy with it. It’s definitely possible for a couple to have very different interests and still encourage each other in the things they enjoy, rather than both sort of dragging the other out of everything they don’t personally want to participate in.

      • Not Sarah

        You’re right – I dated a non-curler a couple of years ago and when I said I had curling on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, he specifically arranged social gatherings with his friends on those nights or alone time. We always saw each other on Thursdays. He actually didn’t tell me he did this – I realized it after a little while, but I thought it was really sweet.

        We both had our own things that we were really passionate about and that part of the relationship worked pretty okay. (We had other issues.)

    • Amy March

      You mention that being in a relationship is hard, but actually it is THIS relationship that is hard. There’s someone out there who loves that you love curling, who wants to get up and go with you, or who wants to welcome you home for a 10am brunch. If he’s making your life worse, free yourself.

      • Not Sarah

        Thank you.

      • Jules

        I also think relationships are hard, but also not. Lol. Sorry. I remember when my ex and I broke up it relief because I felt like we had passed our expiration date. Then I dated my next boyfriend and though it didn’t work long term it was so much easier because of our shared interests. The first relationship was hard because we were so different, but the second one was hard because we wanted different things from each other–I wanted long term, and he didn’t. So both ended, and both hurt, but the second one felt easy–the exact wording I used–while we were dating.

    • RJ

      Again, from the outside…

      I spent 6 years with a boyfriend who ended up moving in with me only when we moved to London (I went first, he came along 3 months later).

      We didn’t take the conscious decision to move in together – it was just easiest.

      We drifted on, until a crisis came along, and every value I had, every belief I thought I relied on, came crashing down.

      After the relationship ended, my mother remarked that while I was with him I didn’t do anything musical (put it this way – I sing, dance, act, compete in dance competitions, love following Rugby and Cricket, swim distances and I did absolutely none of that when I was with him). I’m an adventurous eater and cook, and he ordered the same thing most times when we ate out, and liked to eat peas at every meal.

      I wasn’t living my life when I was with him, I was fitting into his life.

      He was compromising too, and we both compromised so much that we were both preventing us from being happy.

      It was my first major relationship, and I thought that relationships meant you should do everything together. I stuck with it because we never argued, he was polite, tidy, solvent and had a good career and good future, parents who had been married as long as mine, and most of all I thought it was probably as good as I could get. He was also the first guy who was interested – my major relationship problem is that my major criteria is “they like me” (I wasn’t a popular child or teenager)

      I now know that maintaining strong separate interests can be healthy, and keeping my own life, values, habits going is important.

      It’s fine for one person to get up 2 hours before the other (three of the strongest relationships I know involve a couple who overlap 2 hours at each end of the night, in one case he goes swimming, she stays up late writing, in the others they each get their alone time at the overlapping hours, as owls married larks.

      I also learned that “when a couple never argues, at least one person is bending over backwards” (my ex was very diplomatic, which meant he evaded deep conversations).

      My major regret is that I didn’t leave after 2 years, when I was overwhelmed by the instinct that this wasn’t right, rather than trying so hard to make it work for another 4. 2 years was long enough.

      Anyway, this is my story, but it sounds to me like your relationship at the moment is in a state that leaves you both unhealthy- physically, emotionally and work-wise.

      Whether you leave is up to you, but I would suggest your mental models of what a relationship consists of could use some reframing.

      You absolutely don’t have to do everything together, and it’s fine to get up and do your normal morning stuff – if he’s sleeping between 7 and 10 there’s no reason you have to be beside him.

      Relationships don’t have to be a 24 hour thing – six good hours a week can be healthier than two dozen compromised ones.

      Anyway – your mileage will vary, but good luck, and be brave!

      • Not Sarah

        I don’t feel like we have to do everything together – I get that feeling from him when I do stuff with my friends. I do somewhat do my morning stuff without him, but I can’t do laundry or vacuum while he’s still sleeping. Saturday mornings used to be really awesome – I would get up at 7, enjoy some alone time, then go back to bed and snuggle and have sex, and then we would make waffles.

        I’ve found that commuting together is terrible for me, but it’s something that he really seemed to value and enjoy, so I tried it for months, but it was making me miserable most days. I really value my alone time. I actually like the work days where he sleeps in past when I leave and I get to walk all the way to work by myself. But I also value the days where we walk home from work together and make dinner and then have alone time before falling asleep together. Those two ideas don’t mesh together, unfortunately. If I go into work earlier than he does, we can’t leave at the same time.

        I don’t feel like we need to do everything together, but I want there to be *some* shared activity/activities. I want a relationship where we eat dinner together most nights, but on most of those nights, we have alone time after dinner.

        I’ve been trying many things over the past month or so to try to make this work. One of the things I’ve tried is not seeing him after work during the week or commuting together. That allowed me to be somewhat productive at work and in general, be a bit happier. But in doing that, I’ve realized that I don’t really miss him during the week and I don’t really look forward to seeing him on Fridays. I think that’s the key here – I’ve stopped looking forward to seeing him. (I’m not someone who really misses people very easily, so looking forward to seeing someone is a better measure.) The “bad” days used to be less frequent, but now it seems like the “good” days are the infrequent ones. I feel like I’ve run out of ways to make myself happy again within this relationship.

        I’m your ex – I am completely happy to eat the same thing day in, day out. What I take for lunch to work now is what I’ve taken for lunch every day in elementary and high school.

        I have always kept a gmail draft titled “Primary Concerns” in which I make a prioritized list of the things that are bothering me in our relationship and then I pick the most important one and talk about it on Saturday afternoon while we’re curled up under a blanket. I’m trying to figure out what to talk about this afternoon that might help things, without making him think that I want to break up.

  • Rachel

    Like so many have already said, thanks so much for being brave enough to share! I appreciate your honesty in exploring this topic. Five months after getting married, I can relate so much! I’m in a very, very similar place (plus throw in a cross-country move and unemployment for me) and it’s just nice to know we’re normal. :) Or at least not the only ones struggling with our first year living together and being married. I, too, felt like I knew it wasn’t going to be easy — my parents are in the middle of a messy divorce so I am fully aware that marriage is hard and doesn’t always work out — but I didn’t expect quite so hard. It’s not all bad but hard enough. I find it so encouraging that, hopefully, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  • Laura

    Just want to say that I really appreciate this post – thank you to Ashley and APW! This, for me, highlights what is valuable about APW to me. While my situation is very, very different form Ashley’s (My beloved and I have been together for five years and have lived together for three and are not married.), her story was both comforting and inspiring. I can so relate to much of what was said here. Living together and making a commitment turned out to be much harder than I expected. We have also seen an evolution in the things that were initially very difficult for us (as well as an evolution in things that I thought wouldn’t be but are).

    I think this was a perfect post for the theme of “Decided” because there is something profound and very moving to me about persisting even when things are very hard, harder than you ever expected, and then noticing the shifts that can occur (I say “can”, knowing that this is not always the case) as two people with good intentions and a commitment learn how to be better partners.

    I’m also reminded of something my Grandmother told me recently. She and my Grandfather were married for 63 years. When I asked her about this, one of the things she said was that the first ten years were definitely the hardest. I was surprised and she went on to explain that for them, just learning how to live together, especially with young children, was fraught with frustration and shock. They have always had a very affectionate relationship and made no secret of being crazy in love after many years so I found this honest and practical reflection very encouraging.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    So my experience is a bit in-between, because my husband did move in before the wedding, but 3 months after the wedding, we still can’t have sex, having not started trying to have sex until our wedding night.

    It’s all hard.

    When he moved in, it was unexpected, and I felt like I was under siege. Every day I’d come home to more of his stuff cluttering up a place I took pride in keeping neat and clean. Getting all his stuff moved in helped.

    Even before he moved in, he was helping with chores, but I still struggle with sharing chores. I love the “do more than your fair share” advice, but I still resent all the chores he can’t do or can’t do as well because of his disability. Any time I’m home alone for more than an hour, I get incredibly frustrated considering all the chores that “need” doing. So I don’t stay home alone.

    My husband is also unemployed, and his food, health insurance, and gas for his car add up to enough that it’s a lifestyle hit for me, despite the tax advantages. I’m not so blissfully in love that I don’t notice I can’t afford meat or any entertainment expenses.

    I didn’t get the “Aren’t you so excited?!” comments before the wedding, but after, I got the, “Aren’t you so happy?!” comments. I finally resolved I’d answer the next one honestly: “We’d be a lot happier if we could have sex and were living off of something approaching the local median wage for 1 person.” I think every day for the first 2 months of marriage my internal dialogue included screams of “I want out!”. As we approach our 3 month anniversary, I finally don’t want out, but I also have killed my libido trying to fix the medical problem.

    Ugh. Again, it’s all hard.

  • Adrini

    The flip side are the couples that don’t have these emergencies.

    My now husband and I moved in together for money based reasons, and survived by doing so. We didn’t fight about forks or where to put the tooth brushes as we were facing very real dangers outside the relationship ( There were shooting, rapes and drugs near us at the time. Puts the forks into context.) Even getting engaged was a headache from the outside only as we, when we could forget the wedding for a few hours, were fine. It was when the Moms and the various relatives called that drama followed. Getting married has followed the same pattern. We’re fine, great even. Most of the stress has been from the outside, with Looking at moving and looking for work and such. Both sets os parents pushing for us to move near them does not help.

    I do get cautious when someone brings up the “waiting till marriage” bit, though it was presented perfectly here. My sister tried to poison my relationship with my grandmother over it. I had to face a full 2 weeks of grilling over it from my catholic relatives after that as well. My Mother in law told me two days before the wedding that as we didn’t “follow the rules” the wedding (and marriage) wasn’t real. I haven’t told my husband. I think it would just hurt him at this point. There is alot of hurt on that topic.

    I will say that the theory that the more life changing events you face at one time the more likely you are to freak out seems sound. I did that to myself some years ago (moving out/going to school out of state/not knowing anyone/starting new job/loosing the one relationship I had/finding out who I was) and it was terrible
    . It makes sense to me that moving out/getting married/unpacking/having sex for the first time/taking on 3 or 4 news parts of yourself would also carry that risk. There is something to said for spacing them out.

  • natalie

    Kudos to you for your choices. Mine were not the same, but I admire yours. I have respect for the way you did it, and in many ways, I wish I had done the same. It’s awesome that you stood up for that in your relationship.

    Like you, my husband and I aren’t quick to give up, either. We’ve been married since June, and honestly, it has been up and down. When it’s up, life is so sweet. But when things get bad, they get really ugly. Not abusive, but there’s definitely very unkind words exchanged and every issue brought up–from groceries to who paid the rent–becomes an emotionally charged, Federal case-level argument, complete with accusations and objections in the cross-examination. (I married a lawyer…don’t hold it against me.)

    Anyways, I am totally with you when you say that you feel betrayed by the question of ‘how’s married life treating you’ because I sort of felt like they were expecting me to say something profound, yet they kind of knew how miserable I was. And I couldn’t hide it, because I truly have been miserable at several points in my marriage so far.

    For the record, we didn’t live together either, and I think the adjustment period can be somewhat CRAY CRAY because my husband and I were so accustomed to living alone and then BOOM one day we were living under the same roof with the understanding that we were going to be there forever. How’s that for a sick joke?! ;)

    Hang in there. I will be thinking of you and wishing you the best. Know that you’re not alone.

  • Louise

    This is such an important post. Although our transition to being married has been pretty great (with a few bumps too), moving in together was pretty tricky. There is a huge difference between always being available to each other and having to be intentional about seeing each other. Also, how your significant other spends what used to be alone time is now potentially affecting your alone time. Ugh there are just so many new ways to annoy each other that you haven’t even imagined or prepared for. It worked out, over time. I was pretty bitchy through it all I am sure, and I am lucky my husband is so patient with me. I am glad we got that part over before we got married, because it was probably much easier to take it one day at a time back when we were just boyfriend/girlfriend. (Not saying it was the “right” choice. i certainly had no idea it would all work out like it did… there are plenty of downsides to the way we did it too!) There was this feeling of permanence when we were engaged that made the littlest things WAY more annoying! This along with cohabitation for the first time does sound like a recipe for a challenging year. I’m glad things are turning around for you. Good for you for sticking it out and working through it together. We are now planning a huge, international move that will take place about a month before our first anniversary. This post is making me think about how that might stretch our marriage, so thank you for that!

  • http://www.lyssabeths.com/write_your_own_wedding_ceremony_book.html Maureen

    Funny, when I read the first couple of paragraphs, I thought “Hmmm…I don’t think that ‘first year of marriage being so difficult’ applies any more since so many couples live together before marriage.”

    Then I read a bit further and saw that you chose not to do that.

    “Ah,” thought I, “Now it makes sense.”

    I’ve been married more than once. I’ve had a not-living-together beforehand marriage and a living-together-beforehand marriage. Either way, it is a huge adjustment–and yes “surgery-without-anesthesia” huge. And it’s especially huge when you’re battling that “one big thing.” Been there, battled that–and for us, it took years to completely resolve.

    So, clearly, you’re not alone and clearly you’re handling things very, very well. (LOVE the sailing story) I think the thing to remember is that marriages are not on a straight-line trajectory but more of an ebb and flow.

  • ItsyBitsy

    Girl, I hear you. I’m sorry things have been so rough. While I’m not yet married, when my fiancé and I moved in together it was crazy hard. I loved him, he loved me, but we fought about *everything,* and not in the rom-com-pretty-fight kind of way. (We literally once had a balls-out fight about how to properly heat up water for tea: kettle vs. microwave that ended in me sobbing. Thankfully this has since become a bit of a joke between us. “Hey, at least we’re not fighting about how to heat up water!”) I had the same feelings of not wanting folks to ask how things were because I didn’t want to lie, but I didn’t want to tell the truth either. I could have used some serious shame-blasters at the time.

    In any case, I’m glad things are getting better for you. Here’s hoping that they’ll keep moving up. While I know that no experience is the same, I can at least say that in my case things definitely have gotten much better after living together for 2+ years. You’re not alone in this stuff!

  • Natalie

    I needed to re-read this post today. Thank you for your honesty in posting this, because I have been married for 8 months and I feel like I am wading through the brown stuff. BIG TIME. We didn’t live together before marriage, which I felt was the right decision at the time of our engagement. Now I look back and wonder if our marital adjustment had been different if we had lived together before. He lived 45 minutes from me when we were dating, so our once a week dates were super planned and special and seeing each other was definitely intentional.

    Now I come home and I don’t know if our time together is spent intentionally or WTF I am supposed to do when he is there. I feel like every day is groundhog day; do you know what I mean? Like we sometimes fight and bicker over the same stupid s***, but then again, sometimes it feels like every day is a brand new experiment in how to be miserable out of my mind. (“You want me to put the dishes away THIS WAY? You don’t even cook. Why do you care how I put away dishes?”)

    You are not alone. I will keep you in my thoughts and I sincerely hope that things get better for all of us. ;)

  • http://seekingeudaimonia.com Melissa

    I have only been married for 4 months, but it has been completely awesome. We are both unicorn and rainbow kind of happy all the time. Having said that, the first year of living together was HARD. I can only imagine that it would be more so with the pressure of marriage and FOREVER attached to it. Good on you for sticking it out!

  • http://www.ashtreecreations.etsy.com Ashley

    Though we are not married yet, I definitely experienced an adjustment period after moving in with my boyfriend about 6 months ago. It makes a huge difference and you learn a monumental amount from seeing each other every day, so I can completely understand where you are coming from after you got married and then taking that step. I never thought I would be the girl that lived with the guy before marriage, but I knew that he was “The One” and did it anyway.

    I’m really glad I did: we are genuinely happy after our “adjustment period”, and while we still spat now and again, I really feel like our relationship is stronger than ever. I did the same thing you did as well – read every article, books on marriage, relationships, etc…thought I knew everything and how to approach every issue we had or would have had. And after all of our problems (including some out-of-our control surrounding bad luck with our apartment, vehicles, bills, etc.) I feel like it has brought us closer together and we can and will get through anything as long as we have each other.

    I think for me it all comes down to communication, making time for each other (we always have weekly “date nights”), and understanding / complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Just the 2 cents from the unmarried lady ;)

  • Katie

    We were one of those couples that lived together and consummated before marriage, so to us getting married felt like nothing changed… almost. And we must have been lucky because overall I think the first year was pretty blissful.

    We did have some pretty ugly fights when I was looking for a new job and we were both stressed about money, my job and some job-related legal issues. That was not fun… but I would say we actually started fighting more in our second year of marriage… about cleaning! It seems to be a huge issue that we always get pissy about. It may have something to do with our current flat, which seems much harder to keep clean than our old flat, but it’s been a point of contention more than when we first started living together.

    In the past year we’ve been working on how we fight and figuring out a way to do it better so that we don’t end in angry silences that last for days. Our fighting style evolved into this angry silence and so we’ve been communicating how to avoid that because it’s so unhealthy. We’ve also both been working on how to recover and forgive even when we’re both still mad and both feel like we are right. I think it’s a good direction and I don’t have any doubts in our marriage, but during some of those angry/crying/silent fights… I did wonder “Is this what I signed up for forever?” Marriage is tough for sure!

  • Nicole

    As a newlywed dealing with several heavy issues, this very honest perspective is both comforting and inspirational.

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  • Shaarc714

    Between the actual blog and the comments I suddenly felt like I could breathe! Finally, someone can saying its not always happy & grand. We didn’t have a fairytale wedding and certainly no roses or butterflies. For months I felt like I’d been robbed. Where was the wedded bliss? The newlywed glow? The walking on a cloud feeling. We’ve also just reached the 6mth mark. We are 26 & 27, each having a child of our own under 5. Not only are we trying to find our footing as husband and wife but we also have to juggle life!  Kids, jobs, moving, in laws, the kid’s other parents, etc. We love each other there is no doubt but it’s only been 6mths!!! This feels a lot like a snowball going down a mountain side. Lol. I have no positive examples of marriage and even  told my husband when he proposed – I love you with all my heart but what if im bad at this whole wife thing? Blessing & curse. No one to look to but also no pressure to follow any example. I have the freedom to be exactly the kind of wife I want and that he needs. You know after we get past …. this part. 

  • Jennifer

    I’m 10 months into my marriage. I’m so glad I found your post. I am absolutely utterly miserable in my marriage. I’m hoping it will get better eventually. We did live together before our marriage (intent to save up for the wedding day) and honestly those were some of the best times. There were few adjustments. It seems that after we married things went downhill. Your post gave me hope. Thank you for that. Things will get better.