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10 Things About Marriage You Wish You’d Known As a Newlywed

10 Things About Marriage You Wish You’d Known As a Newlywed

Too many people go into a marriage thinking that it’s going to be great fun and not much different that any old long-term relationship. Living together with another person, who is both a lover and friend, has its ups and downs, and it is certainly a whole lot different than regular dating. Experience comes with time and plenty of couples eventually learn to live in relative harmony with each other, but it always helps to get a basic understanding of what you are getting into beforehand. With a few years of dating, five years of marriage under my belt and a beautiful daughter to show for it, I have learned a few things about marriage that people don’t tell you when you are young. Here is a list of ten things I wish I knew as a newlywed, as they would have saved me plenty of time and nerves.

1. Living with a partner can be much more difficult than you think.

Moving in together

    In the beginning, i.e. your first year or so together, it can all seem like sunshine and rainbows between the two of you. Your relationship is still fresh, you are slowly learning about each other, you have sex all the time and you spend some time away from one another regularly, so every time you see each other, there is plenty to talk about. However, once you start spending all or most of your free time with someone and living under the same roof, you suddenly become a strange mixture of friends, family and roommates.

    The thing is, you are both used to a certain lifestyle and like things to be a certain way, which can cause a bit of a problem if you aren’t able to back down. My wife and I had plenty of arguments about choosing the right color for the walls or arranging furniture, and there will always be debates about leaving the toilet seat up, throwing towels on the floor, not doing the dishes after a meal, etc. Just know that these things are a part of being married and that both of you will need to change a few things about yourself, which takes a bit of work.

    2. You’ll need to learn to handle constant meddling and tips from your family.

    Everyone will want to give you some advice, whether they have been there and done that and know some things about marriage or have just heard of a study on TV or read something online. Your single friends will get on your nerves from time to time with gems of wisdom on married life, and although you’ll know they just want to help, it won’t make things any less frustrating. When it comes to meddling and unsolicited advice, the worst offenders are the in-laws. We all know how difficult our parents can get, particularly if you come from a cultural background where families like to stick together and everyone abides by the “it takes a village to raise a child” mentality.

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    Now imagine having to deal with two sets of parents who don’t seem to realize that you are grown adults and insist on giving you advice on everything from basic things like doing your laundry and choosing furniture, to important issues related to planning your future. The way my wife and I deal with such meddling, apart from occasionally reverting to sarcasm or losing our temper, is to acknowledge their input and agree to consider their suggestion as a valid option. Shutting off your brain, nodding politely and letting them finish their tirade, followed by a quick change of subject is also a great strategy.

    3. The question about having a baby will be brought up by others frequently.

    This ties into the last paragraph, but is a big enough issue that it deserves its own place on this list. Not a month will go by after you’ve exchanged your vows and people will already start to give you the old “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” routine, asking if their might be a third family member on its way any time soon. Comments can be simple, like when our friends commented on us buying a house: “A beautiful home—spacious too. Plenty of room for one or two more (nudging and winking go without saying),” or even serious and somewhat worried inquires like when my parents asked us when we were planning to have our first kid.

    This kind of behavior is understandable—after all, your folks are getting older and want to have a chance to play with their grand kids while they still have plenty of life energy left—but it is incredibly infuriating. You will feel like you are being pressured, like it is expected of you, but ultimately, it is your decision whether you want to have kids now, later or ever for that matter. Take your time, get settled in and when the right time comes, the two of you will come to a mutual decision.

    4. Married sex often lacks spontaneity and you’ll need to work at keeping the passion alive.

    All the movie clichés and standup comedy routines aside, married sex becomes less spontaneous and more predictable over time. It can be both one of the best and one of the worst things about marriage—you fall into a routine and because you know each other so well you start approaching the subject casually. Young couple sex comes straight out of the bloom, gets hot and heavy quickly, with very few words spoken or can be a long and delightful game of teasing leading into a big finale. Married sex can sometimes come down to:

    Person one: “Wanna do it?

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    Person two: “Are you that horny? I’ve got to be at work in an hour, and we haven’t even had breakfast yet.”

    Person one: “Oh, come on, there is plenty of time.”

    Person two: “Alright, alright, we’ll just have to be quick. And you’re making breakfast afterwards.”

    There is nothing inherently wrong with a bit of routine or scheduling sex around your daily obligations, but by breaking the taboo and being somewhat formal about it can kill the passion to an extent. Married couples need to pick up a few tricks and learn to keep sex interesting. You can role-play, dress up in sexy costumes, try something different or schedule a romantic evening where you court each other and take things nice and slow. It is just something you’ll need to work on.

    5. You’ll need to accept that you and your partner enjoy different things.

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    Dissinterested couple

      While having a lot of things in common can bring the two of you together, it’s impossible to have the exact same hobbies and interests as another person. Your significant other might be somewhat of a slob and you may be a bit of a control and hygiene freak. One partner may enjoy listening to loud music while doing chores around the house and the other might prefer peace and quiet. You might enjoy most of the same things, but hate the fact that your partner watches a boring and predictable TV shows that just has to be on every single night. They are probably aware of all the plot holes, broken laws of physics, quasi science and faulty logic, but enjoy the show regardless, so pointing all these things out serves no purpose. Learn to accept your partner’s interests and be tolerant of them—you don’t have to like the same things, but don’t complain about the things they like and try to be supportive and understanding.

      6. A good marriage is all about compromising and doing your best, and not about “being right.”

      Let’s first say a thing or two about an overwhelming sense of entitlement many people today feel. A big part of growing up is about learning that no one “owes” you anything, that you can’t claim to “deserve” anything and that a “right” to do something needs to be earned and protected, and can easily be taken away by others, whether it seems fair or not. That’s another big one—life isn’t fair and it’s all about giving it your best, hoping nothing really bad happens and surviving catastrophes when they happen and moving on.

      This is true for all aspects of life, but relationships in particular. You can’t act like a petulant child and throw tantrums or get mad and put every time something isn’t going your way. However, there will be moments when one partner is simply too emotional and irrational, just looking for a fight or a way to blow off some steam by yelling at whoever is closest to them. In such cases you need to swallow your pride, forget about being right or fighting for justice, and focus on keeping your cool and doing damage control. Most times a simple compromise or leaving your partner alone for half an hour to cool off is going to be enough to keep the peace.

      7. It’s easy to misinterpret your partner’s actions and overreact.

      You will have plenty of things on your mind at times and an innocent comment from your partner might set you off. You might feel angry, tired, undervalued, self-conscious, etc, and this will cloud your judgment and determine how you interpret what has been said. There were times when I came home from a very long and frustrating day at work, did some more work at home and was in a very depressed mood, when something that was meant as joking comment—a sort of good-hearted lover’s banter—threw me over the edge to the point where I was raising my voice and trying to defend myself from the perceived insult.

      With time, you learn to pick up on the things that easily trigger you to go overboard (body image issues, low self-esteem, feeling inadequate in a professional or social sense are the most common triggers) and work on controlling your anger and coming to terms with the underlying issues. You can also let your partner know which comments are off limits and set some boundaries. In the end it’s all about not letting your fears and doubts get the better of you.

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      8. Fights over all kinds of things are common—learn to swallow your pride and apologize.

      Even when you learn to let things slide, stay calm during an argument, and become incredibly understanding of your partner, you will still get into an occasional fight. This is very healthy for a relationship, as it means that you are both playing with your cards open and don’t keep your feelings bottled up so they can fester and ultimately cause you to explode. There are certain common “scripted responses” among higher primates as social creatures, which allow a unique scenario to play out and keep the group together even when faced with big problems. It goes something like this:

      • Two people have very strong opinions on a matter and don’t want to back off..
      • Both people want to assert their dominance and things start escalating to yelling
      • Posturing, loud noise and aggressive language persist until one of the two comes out as a clear “victor” or someone storms out.
      • In the end either the dominant person or the person who has messed up extends an apology, which is then accepted.

      Even monkeys end serious arguments with an apology and make up, so think about this the next time you want to keep pouting and keep refusing peace offerings from your partner because you feel you were wronged on a non-issue like who is going to do the vacuuming.

      9. You don’t have to do everything as a couple and some alone time only strengthens your bond.

      Enjoying some peace and quiet

        When you get married you start to do a lot of things as a couple. You go shopping together, you relax after work together, you go out with friends as a couple, etc. However, your schedules won’t always overlap and neither will your interests, so it is a good idea to do some activities on your own. You may want some time alone with your friends, or one of you may just want to sit in front of the TV all day while the other wants to go swimming. This is where friends and family come in—you can get someone else to go with you and your partner can spend the afternoon doing what he or she enjoys. In the end you both get some alone time, you recharge your batteries and you have something new to talk about when you see each other again.

        10. It’s important to take time off from the mundane life every now and then.

        It’s easy to get into a rut after a while. Your mundane life can quickly bore you and cause you to be lethargic and even depressed. Most people enjoy a change of scenery every now and then, and as a married couple, you’ve got plenty to worry about both at work and at home. This is why an annual vacation is important. You can even have a few mini-vacations during the year. You can go on a weekend getaway, go camping, drive to another city and check into a hotel for a day or anything else that seems fun and exciting.

        I’d like to end this article by saying that, despite it being a lot of hard work and a constant balancing act, marriage is a true blessing and it affords you some extremely wonderful moments that cast a huge shadow over all the little problems and squabbles. I am a better man for having spent all this time with my wife and I look forward for what is to come.

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        Ivan Dimitrijevic

        Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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        Last Updated on October 22, 2020

        8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

        8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

        How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

        Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

        When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

        Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

        What Makes People Poor Listeners?

        Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

        1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

        Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

        Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

        It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

        2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

        This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

        Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

        3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

        It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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        I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

        If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

        4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

        While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

        To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

        My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

        Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

        Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

        How To Be a Better Listener

        For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

        1. Pay Attention

        A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

        According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

        As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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        I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

        2. Use Positive Body Language

        You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

        A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

        People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

        But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

        According to Alan Gurney,[2]

        “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

        Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

        3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

        I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

        Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

        Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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        Be polite and wait your turn!

        4. Ask Questions

        Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

        5. Just Listen

        This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

        I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

        I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

        6. Remember and Follow Up

        Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

        For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

        According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

        It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

        7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

        If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

        Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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        Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

        Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

        NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

        1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
        2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

        8. Maintain Eye Contact

        When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

        Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

        By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

        Final Thoughts

        Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

        You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

        And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

        More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

        Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
        [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
        [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
        [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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