Unless you’re psychic, there’s no way to predict what your marriage will be like three, nine or 12 years in. Of course, we all hope for smooth sailing and continued closeness, but marriages — like so many things —take work, and not all newlyweds realize the full extent of what that means, standing by one another day in and day out.
Anyone who hopes for a long, healthy marriage would probably love any insider intel that can help make that happen. That's why we asked self-proclaimed happily married women what they wish they'd known as newlyweds. Maybe their advice will help you if a wedding is in your near future (or recent past).
"What I didn't know when I was a newlywed is that I should treat my relationship as its own entity. Every decision that’s right for your marriage is best for both of you, not one person individually. For instance, when my husband and I moved from New York to Atlanta, I didn’t want to leave New York, but the pros for our life together in Atlanta outweighed the pros for our old life. Our decision had more to do with where our life together would thrive versus either one of our individual wants, feelings or desires." — Kristen, 33, Atlanta, Georgia; married four years
“Don't hold onto negatives from the past; it creates resentment. Resolve issues as soon as they occur to avoid bitterness festering in the marriage. This also means that you must forgive your spouse genuinely to be able to move forward without resentment. A disagreement doesn't have to turn into an argument. We often get defensive when our spouse doesn't share our feelings or opinions, but there's no need to do so since that will create unnecessary conflict.” — Lauren, 28, Nashville, Tennessee; married three years
Learn to embrace change
“Contrary to popular opinion, people change. Or perhaps it's less that they change, and more that they reveal their true selves after challenges like job loss, illness or death. My husband and I weathered the tragedy of 9/11 as New Yorkers, my unexpected stroke at 33, his unexpected heart attack in his early 30s, a child with Down syndrome and a child diagnosed with autism. Sometimes you need to change to survive these challenges and with that, your relationship will change drastically.” — Gina, 51, Allentown, Pennsylvania; married 19 years
Enjoy your youthful lust while you have it
“I thought our sexual energy would be parallel throughout our marriage, but it became perpendicular as we got older. Women's sex drives go into stealth mode as they age, while men's sex engines go into the shop. As men get older they don't perform the way they did in their 20s, so women had better appreciate everything they can get when they're younger. I understand the cougars now! Also, lubrication is your friend when you're exhausted and he can't sleep!” — Shannon, 40, Charlotte, North Carolina; married 22 years
“Ours is an arranged marriage, which is different than most Western marriages. I wish I knew that marriage is like a plant. You need to water it every day with care to let it grow. Also, happiness in marriage is not a destination. It is an everyday process.” — Surabhi, 35, New Delhi, India; married eight years
“I wish I had realized that once your child leaves home, it's just you and your husband. Kids leave, a husband is forever and we all need to remember that!” — Jane, 66, Burbank, California; married 36 years
“I've learned things during my second marriage that would've been helpful during my first. Date each other as often as possible! Make time for each other. There's more fun dating after marriage than before because you know the person you're going home with and you get to go home with them without feeling guilty — ha.” — Shellye, 46, Arlington, Texas; married eight years
“There's no perfect marriage. It takes time and effort. You can either grow apart or grow together. Sadly, it can be very easy to grow apart because life gets hectic. I have seen many relationships deteriorate because of life. People try to stay because of the kids and I see now why affairs occur as a result. My life as a wife keeps growing in ways I didn't think possible. Because of everything my husband and I have gone through, I can unequivocally say I love my husband more as a wife than I did as a newlywed; which I didn't think was possible.” — Jill, 35, Charlotte, North Carolina; married eight years
“I've learned that it's imperative, if you have children, to show them visually what it looks like to come out intact from the other side of a fight with your spouse. Children model in their future relationships what is shown (or not shown) in what they see. I wish I had learned earlier that it can be healthy for them to see the process of a disagreement — and the making up too — as long as you keep them out of the bedroom during the making up!” — Naomi, 40, Washington D.C.; married 14 years
“He will always think I'm beautiful, even if I don't have my 25-year-old body anymore. And he's still handsome, even with gray hair and a bit of a paunch.” — Welmoed, 57, Frederick, Maryland; married 31 years
“I really wish I'd known that the time we had together, just the two of us, was precious and to appreciate it more. As we've grown into a family and each become busier with our careers, finding time to be alone together has become a huge challenge. There's also the importance of friendship. There have been some challenging moments, of course, but having a solid friendship, things in common and a shared sense of humor makes the challenges fleeting and our foundation stronger.” — Jacqueline, 30, Stamford, Connecticut; married four years
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