So You're Married! Now What?

It was not that long ago you were in the throws of wedding planning. You just spent the past year or so of your life visiting venues, taste testing, dress fitting, and Pinterest-ing. You still remember the excitement of taking your "I said yes to the dress!" pic and sharing your "100 days left!" post. There was the engagement photos, the shower, and the Bachelorette party, all building up to your Happily Ever After. It was without a doubt the most exciting and action-packed time of your life.

And now you are married, and the real work begins! If you're like me, you and your new spouse did not live together before you got married, and you may now find yourself feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the changes.

When my husband and I got married, we had both been living very comfortably on our own. He had a house, I lived in my own apartment, we had established our routines and ways of doing things. Once we were married, we were suddenly thrust headlong into the other person's way of living, which did not always align with our individual preferences.

Our first month of marriage was full of joyful discoveries, but was not without its growing pains. It was a crash course in adapting to life as a "we", instead of a "me". We came out on the other side stronger than ever but are always eager to share the lessons we learned with others who may be going through the same experience.

Here are our top 5 suggestions for navigating the unfamiliar waters of a new marriage:

1. Be patient. You may have been expecting marriage to be a perfect, fairy-tale romance all the time (I know I did). And when you realize how much work it can be, you may be tempted to panic. Don't. This is normal. And it may take some time to adjust to this new life. That's ok, too. Like a fine wine, marriage gets better with age, so be patient during the transition.

2. Never look back. There were moments in the beginning when I felt that our differences would be insurmountable, and I started to ask myself if we made the right decision. This is the first step toward a destination of brokenness. Instead, as any success guru will tell you, you must set your eyes on the desired goal, and concentrate all of your efforts toward that end. Do not give into the temptation of doubting the sacred vows you have made. Only look forward to what you can do together with God.

3. Use your words. When things get tense, there is sometimes a tendency to stop talking, for fear of a fight breaking out. But this just means that hurt feelings are building up, and intensifying, until they eventually explode. Instead, say what's on your mind, in a patient and loving way. Keep the lines of communication open, even if the conversation is not easy.

4. Seek guidance. If you feel you are stuck on a particular issue, seek out a shared mentor couple, a priest, or a therapist. There is no shame in reaching out for help. Rather, this is a sign of courage and commitment to the marriage to recognize that this is a road block that needs to be overcome in order to persevere in your vocation. Be sure to find someone that both you and your spouse will feel comfortable talking to in order to make the conversation fruitful.

5. Take it to prayer. During our rocky start, prayer together did not feel natural. But my relationship with God grew tremendously as I came to rely 100% on Him to help us. The more time I spent with Jesus, especially in Eucharistic Adoration, the more I began to pray for my own conversion, rather than for my husband to change. I started to see how much I needed to grow in love and asked God to teach me His ways.

It is easy to look at your married friends and assume that everyone else has, and always has had, a perfectly happy marriage, especially during the "honeymoon phase". But for me and my husband, the "honeymoon phase" did not start until a while later. The school of love features some tough courses, especially at the beginning. But I can confidently say that this rocky time in our marriage was fundamental for our relationship. Surviving the tumultuous start gave us confidence that together, we could tackle challenges and come out stronger. We learned so much about one another during that time and are closer now than ever before. I thank God for the opportunity He gave us to go through love "boot camp" and I thank Him everyday for my husband, my best friend in the whole wide world.

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