We learn as we go. Marriage works that way. No matter how painful the lessons, we appreciate the wisdom that follows them. Our marriage will turn two this year, and the other night over dinner Man and I had a great conversation about our successes and failures from year one. This is a list of some of the mistakes we made that we’ve seen or heard of other newlyweds making also. Can you relate?
Succumbing to baby pressure.
“When are the babies coming?”…“You don’t want to be too old to keep up with your kids do you?”…”There’s no such thing as the ‘right time’!”…We’ve heard them all, hundreds of times — mostly after we got married, but a few times before also. It’s been exhausting coming up with new and polite ways to say, “Please, mind your business.” My husband and I have always been very clear on why we’re choosing to wait, but I’m here to tell you, enough of this talk from your FWKs (Friends With Kids) and you’ll actually find yourselves going, “Wait…what are we waiting on again?” Luckily, we snap out of it before we wind up on a road we’re not ready to travel, but we have seen other newly married couples catching baby fever from their FWKs and throwing their original plan out the window. Let me be clear here: Having a baby is not a mistake. But, I do believe that if you and your spouse decide to become parents because you feel like it’s what all the other adults around you are doing or because your friends and family want you to, you’re making the mistake of putting others’ needs and goals before your own, and that’s just no good.
Ignoring the money discussion.
Money is the root of a lot of evil – this we know – and not discussing it properly with your new spouse can also mean the demise of the trust in your marriage, if you’re not careful. (Trust me, we’ve experienced some of this first hand.) Before the “I do”s it’s easy to justify keeping your finances separate, especially if you’re both very private people. But, when you agree to share a last name, a life, and a home, like it or not, you’re agreeing to share finances too. If you’re resistant to this idea, and you’re juggling a lot financially within your marriage, suddenly you’re using phrases like “my money” and “secret savings” and being very defensive and petty about the earnings you bring to the table. How you choose to divvy out your finances is a decision you must make together – I’m just suggesting you talk about it day one, not the day after you find out one of you has been stashing cash and lying about it. Those arguments are brutal, dangerous, and totally avoidable.
Comparing themselves to other couples.
They have a house but you rent. They can afford a housekeeper, but you can barely afford premium cable. Your last romantic getaway was courtesy of a Groupon deal to Jamaica, and they just posted fabulous photos from their luxurious Turks and Caicos getaway. So you’re living different lives – who cares?! If you let what other couples have turn your eyes green, you’ll be so distracted by trying to keep up with their marriage you could lose track of your own. Enjoy your married friends; don’t envy them.
This trap is hard to miss. We sure fell in it. On our honeymoon we actually made a list of goals for our first year of marriage. There were at least 15 things on it – most of them a bit more complicated than, say, “get organized”. It wasn’t until we were looking back at the list on our one-year anniversary, and feeling like total failures, that we realized we’d only set ourselves up for failure. That list should have had the three – four tops! – things we truly felt passionate about accomplishing together year one.
Spending more than saving.
The first thing my husband and I did when we returned from our honeymoon was cash all of those wedding gift checks (thanks again everyone!) and start making over our apartment. It was because we wanted our house to “look like married people lived there” (whatever that means!) and settle into the married life we’d always envisioned. We splurged; we’ll admit it. Then, later that year Dog got sick and the vet bill was astronomical. We barely had the savings to cover it. A few months later, Man’s car broke down and the maintenance alert lights on the dashboard lit up like a rainbow. We couldn’t really cover that either. I remember looking up around the living room and thinking, your new alternator is hanging on our walls. (Damn those pricey crate and barrel wall art pieces!) Any way, I digress. We spent way more than we saved trying to keep up with what we felt mature and accomplished married couples should be doing. It was an epic fail, and we learned from it – the hard way. Here’s to hoping you won’t have to. Save, save, save your money, from the start.
Putting friendships first.
Remember that annoying saying you and your girlfriends would always say to each other doing a breakup? You know the one: “Guys will always come and go, but true friends are here to stay.” Well, when you get married, that one no longer applies, and I recommend replacing it with this edited version: “Husbands are here to stay, and true friends will understand.” As a married woman with single friends it’s easy to fear that they’ll accuse you of blowing them off or “changing” because you got hitched. We’ve all seen it happen, and heard them complain about other girlfriends who have done the same thing. The problem is, keeping up with a single girlfriend who still expects to monopolize your Friday nights, like always, may not bid well with keeping things happy at home in your marriage. Balance is everything here. You can enjoy your girlfriends and your marriage – I do it! – but you can’t let one pushy friend cause a rift between you and your news husband because she can’t understand why you can’t “just go to the party” with her all the time.
What mistakes did you make year one? How did you learn from them? Add to my list below.