A memo to newlyweds: It gets (way) better
If you're reading this while sipping wine you poured through the Waterford decanter you just scored from your wedding registry and thinking this is as good as life gets, brace yourself. I’m about to tell you why being married for a few years is 100 times better than being a newlywed.
The year after I got married — in May it will be seven years — our teeny Brooklyn apartment was filled with things. We had things everywhere. A 12-piece thing that, I believe, you were supposed to use to hold the spiked punch you served guests while pretending it was 1958. Three things to make different types of coffee and three different things to put them in. A thing that made paninis (damn good ones. Both times we used it). A museum of fun new props that were perfect for the spectacle we made of ourselves as newlyweds.
That first year was a rip-roaring gas. When you're a brand new couple, people don't expect a whole lot from you yet. They treat you like your combined age is 12 and you lived in a cave up until you exchanged vows.
It takes more money than you realize to pay your mortgage. Here, take this generous gift. I insist.
Oh, let's leave the kids alone this Christmas and let them figure out where they want to go. (Yes, you will get called "kids" by certain older, more established couples).
We lived the way I imagine Oscar Wilde did. Champagne on a random Wednesday night because we're goddamn newlyweds and we can. Four restaurants in six days because I'll be damned if I'm going to transform into a housewife who cooks every night. Not a dime put toward savings because children are so far off in the distant future.
And because, I may have mentioned: We were newlyweds, dammit.
But that first year is also a lot like living inside of a pressure cooker. When you just spent $30,000 to have a fairy tale ceremony and you wind up having a blow-out fight on your honeymoon about whether you should pay for a cab back to the hotel or walk, you haven't fallen out of love already — that's just the pressure building.
When the holidays roll around and you feel like stomping your feet because you realize you'll never be able to spend each of them at your childhood home, it's not because you hate his in-laws (I hope). It's because the pressure to live a life that isn't entirely yours is finally hitting home.
A few months after the wine decanter becomes a pain to clean and you've grown tired of throwing dinner parties just so you can break out your China because, ugh, you can't throw them in the dishwasher, you may spend the latter part of the newlywed year wondering and fearing that your marriage will never be as great as you'd hoped. You may feel pressure to live up to a myth you've been sold about wedded bliss and fear it won't be possible.
Fast forward seven years and two small children and perhaps, like me, you will discover you're right — it isn't possible. But that's only because 99 percent of what you thought marriage would be like is completely false. And, if we are being honest with ourselves, more than a little dumb.
You are going to fall into a comfortable routine — if you're lucky. Your side of the bed will be molded to fit your body and it will feel plain wrong to sleep on his side when he's away on a business trip. You'll walk into a Sephora and buy a five dollar lip gloss from the samples bin because you can't bring yourself to spend $60 on eyeshadow if you can deposit it into your joint savings account.
These past seven years have served as the best education of my life. Our newlywed phase was first grade, where we ran wild in the back of the classroom and got glue and sparkles all over the furniture. Now, in seventh grade, we still smoke cigarettes out the bathroom window when the kids are asleep (just kidding, but replace cigarettes with wine and so not kidding), but we've also built so much together.
We've put each other through school, created two beautiful babies, learned how to manage our money, bought a house, discovered the hard way how to fight fairly and are experts at making our own fun at home when it's impossible to jet out at 10 p.m. and break bread at the hippest restaurant in town.
Once everything stops being new, marriage becomes less about holidays and shiny new objects and more about two people who have agreed to grow up together. And the actual growing up is the best part of all.