It dawned on me that this past week marks the two-year milestone of when my husband showed up to my office and proposed with a full-page ad in the newspaper I wrote for. One wedding, honeymoon, and deployment later, and two years is not that long in the scheme of things, but it has been enough time to change my perspective on a few things that I didn’t know then, but I do now:
- Being engaged is a beautiful chapter not to be rushed. I miss the title of fiancee! With a looming deployment and an eagerness to tie the knot, we planned our wedding in six short months. Instead of treating it as a transient phase, I wish I had paused to celebrate it more for the enchanting chapter that it was.
- Your wedding is not the best day of your life; it is one of the best days of your life. There are so many more milestones you will share with your partner that deserve this label. Don’t get caught up in the industry’s hype over making your wedding your “perfect” day. It is a celebration of your new beginning, but it does not deserve all of your time, energy and money. Invest more into your life after the wedding – when the real journey begins. Fortunately we agreed on this before our big day, making for a stress-free start that made a world of a difference.
- Where you do spend money on your wedding, spend it on a professional wedding photographer and videographer. This advice was passed down to me, and I am so glad I took it. Now the photos are all we have, and I treasure them deeply. The one regret I have is skipping out on a videographer. There are days when I want to re-live the small details of our big day, and a video would have been so sentimental to have.
- Your vows will be tested sooner than you might think. Sure there is something to the “newlywed phase,” but it doesn’t shield your fragile new marriage from previous issues and new ones that will arise. And it’s perfectly normal.
- Marriage makes you a better fighter. Compromise is your only way out of a disagreement when you’re in it for life, and it’s a commitment that weighs on you when you’re in the tougher days. It causes you to take a good hard look at how you fight with each other, calling out and nixing the unhealthy habits and trying to help each other communicate better even while at your worst. There’s actually something refreshing about this, because in the days of dating it’s easy to take the short route and leave things unresolved, or leave all together. Marriage proves that the hardest of issues can be tackled, and it’s pretty cool.
- True love does strengthen in time, but it is not immune to the pitfalls of routine. Having a strong marriage doesn’t mean you have a healthy relationship. Your new titles of husband and wife do not mean it is time to stop dating each other. If anything, spontaneity just got even more important.
- Next comes a baby – only if you want! Many couples choose to embark on parenthood later in life, while others dive into it right away. It’s entirely a choice between the two of you, yet for some reason, the world loves to chime in on this milestone, advising couples on when is too young or too old. Take it with a grain of salt and remember that only you and your partner should be the ones writing your love story. We were overwhelmingly advised after our wedding to “wait to have kids,” but at the end of the day, that’s what others wanted for us and not what we wanted. Have confidence in your decisions together and don’t think twice.
- Yes, money will cause tension. Even if you keep separate accounts, your new life as one brings finances to the forefront. From questioning if you really need that many shoes to navigating the stress of of saving for the future, it is an inevitable topic. Stay transparent and be on the same team. Make the big decisions together, and leave the small ones be. Confronting this does not have to be a bad thing; work hard to keep it positive even when the math is just not adding up.
- Some of your friends will fear that they have lost you to your new life. And they’re perfectly right in feeling that way. While your marriage is a gain, it is also a loss as you divorce the old single version of yourself. But this doesn’t have to steal your identity or change how you are as a friend. Invest time in your new marriage without losing sight of investing time in your friendships – and yourself. It will be more to balance, so admit when you’re overwhelmed, and never apologize for needing to choose time with your spouse, with your friends, or alone with your own thoughts.