I was never one of those girls. You know the ones—girls who read Martha Stewart Weddings cover-to-cover at sleepovers and pick out their dream wedding dresses by age eight. Who get “married” to Eric V. at recess with a twist-tie ring (then divorced and re-married to Eric P. by Friday). In fact, after a rotating cast of long-term boyfriends in my 20s, I didn’t know if I ever wanted to get married, and at the time, I was completely cool with that.
Cut to my now-husband getting down on one knee in Central Park, then taking me to the Boathouse for Champagne and brunch while we gazed out at the lake. Getting engaged is now one of my favorite memories, but it was so damn…traditional. It didn’t feel like me. Wait, am I going to be one of those “married” people? I remember thinking with panic as I munched my eggs Benedict. I can’t let this change me. I have to figure out a way to keep my identity. I made every effort not to get sucked into the wedding whirlwind—and I did, for the most part. I didn’t have bridesmaids, I picked out my wedding dress alone and I didn’t do any of that typical catching-the-bouquet/first-dance/throw-the-garter stuff. We had a fantastic wedding day on our own terms, tossing aside the traditions we felt were cheesy and keeping the stuff that really mattered to us, like exchanging vows privately in our hotel room and having a special brunch with our families the morning after the wedding.
And now, 365 days later, we’re celebrating our first wedding anniversary. I’m very much a married person, that thing I thought I might never be. And I’ll admit, it’s definitely different. Here’s everything I’ve learned in the last year—for better or for worse—about myself, my husband and marriage.
1. Family Trips Are Way More Fun
When I was single, I’d typically take solo trips to visit my family—what was the point in dragging some poor guy I’d been dating only a year across three states to hang out at my Aunt Mildred’s musty one-bedroom apartment for the weekend? I’d quickly and efficiently cross these family obligations off my list. But now, Aunt Mildred wants to see both of us. (In fact, I think she likes my husband more than she likes me.) And, amazingly, my husband is more than happy to tag along. Instead of spending the whole weekend drinking tea and watching Matlock, we’ll get in our quality family time during the day, then check out that new bar downtown after Aunt Mildred goes to bed. (And now that there’s two of us, we always have an excuse to grab a hotel room instead of resigning ourselves to Mildred’s half-inflated air mattress.)
2. Those Little Things That Annoyed Me…Still Annoy Me
My husband loves shoes. And he has a lot of them. That doesn’t bother me. What annoys me is that there’s enough room to store his 50-something pairs of shoes in our closet, and yet they somehow all find themselves strewn all over the hallway. And the living room. And the dining room. And the bedroom. He did this when we were dating, and he continues to do this now that we’re married. Sure, I could give him an ultimatum (or maybe more effectively, throw a shoe at his head). But here’s the thing: I’ve been known to take 45 minutes in the shower. I know it annoys him, but he doesn’t say a thing. So I’ll give him a pass if he gives me one.
3. It’s Easy to Slip into Gender Stereotypes
I happen to like cooking and doing laundry. And I don’t know about like, but my husband happens to tolerate taking out our trash, recycling and composting. Early on in our marriage, we’d placed ourselves right into stereotypical gender roles without even realizing it. So, we talked about it. Now he does the dishes. And I’m the official house botanist. We both do the grocery shopping. Now that we’ve made deliberate choices about who does each task, things feel much more balanced.
4. Date Nights Are Essential
Going to the hardware store together is not a date. Watching Veep and eating ice cream at 10:30 on a weeknight is not a date. There’s still something so nice about calling ahead for a reservation, getting a little dressed up and going to a new restaurant we’ve been meaning to try. It helps us bring our best selves to the table, rather than settling for those scraps when we’re sitting on the couch, exhausted from the day. We try to make time for a special dinner like this at least two or three times a month.
5. I Owe It to Him to Take Care of Myself
Here’s the one that surprised me the most. Now that I’m one part of a married couple, my health and well-being is equally important to my husband. When I was single, it was easy to skip out on a dentist appointment because I didn’t feel like going, or stay up all night watching Netflix even if I knew I’d feel awful the next day. But now, there’s an unspoken rule that everything I do is in the best interest of both of us, as a unit, and vice versa. If I’m not taking care of myself, I’m creating a weak link in the chain. So, we hold each other accountable: I’ll eat healthier if he goes to the gym three times a week. Deal.
6. …And to Take Care of My Finances, Too
When I was single, I’d frequently put big purchases on a credit card (hello, two-week trip to Italy), then not pay off the full balance for a few months (or, um, years). But now that my husband and I have shared financial goals, there’s a new responsibility that comes with pulling out my credit card. If we don’t have enough in our budget to pay off the card in full, is paying back the interest really going to be a good use of our savings? Is there something wiser we could be doing with that money?
7. It’s Different with My Single Friends
Whether I like it or not, my relationships with my single friends have changed. I still make an effort to connect with them and spend time together one-on-one, but there’s something different about the dynamic. When they complain about dating apps and not being able to meet the right person, I find myself trying to offer advice (“Don’t worry, you’ll meet someone when you least expect it,”) or help (“I’ll set you up!”), whether they’ve asked for it or not. I’m working on it, but it’s tough to remember that they’re probably just looking for someone to listen—and commiserate—and that until recently, I was in that same boat, too.
8. Our Married Friends Have Been Waiting for This
Now, our calendars are packed with hangouts with all of our couple friends. We’ve officially been welcomed into a club where the conversation revolves around light fixtures and kids’ preschools instead of bottomless brunch and music festivals. On one hand, I get it—there’s so much we have in common now, and I’m happy to be invited into the fold. We alternate going over for dinner at each other’s houses (usually while several of our longer-married friends’ kids sleep in the other room). It reminds me so much of the social life my parents had, and while we don’t have kids yet, it seems like this may be part of our future, whether I like it or not. I’m just trying to go with the flow and not take it all too seriously—and I’m definitely not learning how to make cheese balls or crab dip.
9. These Two Words Are the Most Important
Nope, it’s not “I’m sorry.” The two words I find myself saying the most (and really meaning it) in marriage are “thank you.” I go out of my way to make sure my husband feels appreciated whenever I can, and I’ve noticed he says “thank you” way more often, too. It could be tiny things, (“Thank you so much for picking up my favorite ice cream when you were at the store”) to more major things (“Thank you so much for occupying Aunt Mildred for five hours while I took a nap”). But at least a few times a day, I make sure to say it.
10. I Should Have Written My Thank-You Notes Faster
Speaking of “thank you,” my biggest post-wedding regret—hands down—is not knocking out my thank-you cards more quickly. Because we got married in the summer, I figured I’d wait until winter, when things were slower, to get them done. Fast-forward to the holidays, when things were most definitely not slower. By then, a bunch of my friends had moved and I needed to track down their new addresses, which set everything back even more. Let’s just say I’m really happy I have kind, understanding friends and family members. If I had a do-over, I’d set aside a day on the calendar to get them done as close to the wedding as possible. So write your damn thank-you notes. (What, you thought I’d end this on a sentimental note about our eternal love? Nope, I’m still not that kind of married lady.)