So you’ve finally tied the knot and embarked on your happily-ever-after journey. Everything’s perfect, you’re cruising in honeymoon mode… until you hit the occasional rocky road or trundle over potholes big and small. It’s nothing that will bring you to a screeching halt, but it’s not exactly the smooth-sailing life of marital bliss you’d envisioned.
Welcome to your journey of self-discovery and mutual learning, as the reality of “for better or for worse” sets in.
Living together, you’ll quickly notice personality traits and lifestyle habits that you may not have realised about your spouse before – and understandably, not every discovery will come up roses. You’ve heard all the relationship advice before: If it’s gnawing at you, whether it’s a major bugbear or a seemingly minor issue, you have to talk about it and try to come to an understanding. Aim to come to a compromise, or accept some things that can’t be changed.
Expect that it’ll take time, and a lot of love and commitment, to work through your differences. Who knows, you might even end up celebrating some of these differences. How’s that for #couplegoals?
But before that happens, you have to let go of your fantasies of fairy-tale endings. Here are some bubbles full of unrealistic relationship expectations that need bursting right now:
YOU CAN CHANGE HIM
It’s said that men marry women with the hope that they will never change, while women marry men with the hope that they will change, and both end up disappointed. The message: Don’t go into marriage expecting that you can polish away those rough edges, and transform him into Mr Perfect. If he was quiet around your friends or combative with your dad before you got married, he’s likely going to be the same after marriage. A happy relationship is all about acceptance – after all, you’re not Mrs Perfect either.
HE SHOULD BE ABLE TO READ YOUR MIND
Ever played the game: “Guess what I’m mad about?” It’s where you get really angry with your partner, but believe he should know how you’re feeling and why. So instead of communicating with him, you sulk around the house, and sigh a lot. Newsflash: It doesn’t work. It’s childish, and all it’s going to do is prolong the tension. If you’re annoyed that he spends too much time at the pub, or leaves the seat up, tell him.
LOVE MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY
This myth was started by the schmaltzy ’70s movie Love Story, and it’s really nonsense. If you screw up, you acknowledge it, and apologise. That’s what being a grown-up is about. On the other hand, you don’t need to prostrate yourself before him and beg. Say sorry, talk it out, and let it go – and be gracious enough to accept his apologies too.
"NOT TONIGHT, DARLING" WILL NEVER CROSS YOUR LIPS
You move into your new home, and you do it in every room, twice a day. A few months down the line, you can barely be bothered to lift up your old Snoopy T-shirt. Don’t panic – it’s inevitable that, in a long-term relationship, the sex cools off a little. Accept the fact that the swinging-from-the-chandeliers phase is over, and you’ll have reached a new stage: real intimacy.
YOU DON’T NEED TO MAKE AN EFFORT ANYMORE
One of the great things about being in a long-term loving relationship is that you can be yourself – let your bikini line grow wild, and admit that you don’t really like olives. But there’s one area where you need to continue working on: showing that you care. Too many marriages have failed because one or both partners don’t feel appreciated. One simple life hack is to have a "go" word or prompt to remind you to cherish your other half. For example, every time someone mentions Taylor Swift, you kiss your spouse or send him an "I love you" text message. Or every time you remove your wedding band to wash your hands, you take a few seconds to think about his best quality, or something nice he’s done for you recently.
YOU SHOULD AGREE ON EVERYTHING
It’s best to know where you stand on the big issues even before you wed. Do you both want kids? Does he also want to live overseas for five years? Disagreement on these things can break a marriage. But if he’s gregarious and you’re quiet, or he’s ordered and you’re super messy, you can make it work for you. His outgoingness will pull you out of your shell, while your calmness will temper his wilder side. Your indifference to dust might make him unclench, and his tidiness could make you realise that it’s actually useful to be able to find your stuff. It’s not just compromise – it’s acknowledging that both your approaches have merit, and that you should celebrate your differences.
GIFTS ARE JUST FOR THE COURTSHIP STAGE
When you were dating, you surprised him with a weekend in Bali, and he bought you those shoes you were eyeing. Now that you are married, you feel like that’s an extravagance. Of course, you shouldn’t empty the joint account to fund a trip to the Maldives, but thoughtful gifts and treats are always appreciated. Maybe you noticed that his keychain is broken, so you buy him a new one, or he picks up your favourite ice cream sandwiches on the way home from work. It’s not about spending lots of cash; it’s about showing that you still notice each other and care about the little stuff (though those shoes would be nice too).