The Day After ‘I Do’
Article By Jess and Carlos Rios
So often people prepare for their weddings, but how often do you prepare for the day after “I do.” Your wedding day is an absolutely magical moment, planned to the very last detail, a glimpse of dreams fulfilled and the beginning of dreams yet to be had. But it also flies by. The next day you wake up, the wedding is over, and you’re face to face with the one you’ve committed forever to. Now what do you do? Marriage is a long, intentional journey between two people who will become intimately acquainted with each other’s failures and victories for the rest of their lives.
“In a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.” -Beverly Clark in Shall We Dance (2004)
My husband and I have been married for 7 years, not a lot, but enough to share some stories, experiences, victories, and defeats. We have been through several moves, career shifts, school, two boys, family deaths, health issues, job losses, financial struggles, and other seasons, bearing witness to the many tears and deep longings of one another. We have gone on many adventures both physical and metaphorical. There are a lot of things we have yet to learn about marriage and one another, but we’d love to share the pieces of gold we’ve discovered along the way.
Golden Nugget #1 Expectations! Talk about how you envision your life. Will you prioritize saving, investing, or spending your money? How many kids do you want? Do you expect a home cooked meal every night? Do you expect your spouse to work while you stay home with the kids? Ask other married couples what they wished they would have known about before they got married. While you might not cover every aspect of life, talk about what is valuable to you. It’s okay to disagree on these, but know there will be compromise.
Golden Nugget #2 Be ready to sacrifice. Marriage is ABOUT sacrifice. Are you ready to skip your family fun Christmas Tradition every other year to spend Christmas with the in-laws? Are you ready to put your career on hold while your spouse goes back to school? Are you ready to eat the foods you don’t like or watch movies that put you to sleep, for your spouse?
Golden Nugget #3 Communicate! Your spouse can’t read your mind and you can’t read theirs. Even if you don’t know what to say or how to say it, you can say that. And even if you fumble over your words and emotions it’s better to fumble with someone who deeply cares about you. You cannot address what isn’t shared, so don’t sweep anything under the rug, even if you think it’s small. “The sock on the floor” that continues to go undealt with can turn into the bitter pen that writes “irreconcilable differences” on divorce papers. Communication doesn’t have to exclusively be about negative things. Talk about the life you both want to create together. Dream out loud with one another and share the deep desires and longings of your heart. Vulnerability is the most beautiful quality you will forever steward in a loving marriage.
Golden Nugget #4 You’re both different, and different isn’t bad, it’s just different. Traditionally, men have different needs than women, and while that can be frustrating, it can also be freeing. Find out how each of you function at fundamental levels and celebrate the ways you are different, the ways you complement each other, the way that one of you initiates dreams and plans and the way the other one may bring in the “well have you considered…” grounding pieces. Celebrate how your differences make you stronger when you walk in unity. Practice gratitude and find something to be thankful for about each other every day, and don’t keep it to yourself, but share it. Leave a sticky note in their shoe, on their night stand, send them a text, whatever you do, let them know you see them and love them even in their quirkiest ways.
Golden Nugget #5 You are transitioning, leaving behind a huge part of who you are, maybe even adopting a new name, have grace on yourself. Give yourself space to mourn singleness if you feel the need, without guilt. You haven’t done this before, you’re doing something new, it’s foreign, sometimes it’s hard and other times it’s fun. It’s very exposing and vulnerable discovering someone else fully and having yourself be discovered, so be kind to yourself. Work hard, grow together, but also play hard and have fun! Forgive yourself as often as you realize you carry resentment or disappointment and forgive them just as much, they’re also just trying to figure it out.
Golden Nugget #6 Be intentional. Plants, trees, organizations don’t grow overnight or on their own, they need intentional care and attention. Don’t stop noticing each other, studying each other, asking questions (even if you’ve asked it before a million times and keep forgetting), be cute and cheesy, write each other notes and journals, share your heart, go on dates, check on each other’s heart, cancel that meeting to stay home and bring them the box of chocolate and tissues, go on that trip, have that talk, press and lean in instead of escaping and disengaging, even if it’s hard.
Are you ready? Readiness is both being fully prepared and fully willing. Are you fully prepared? The truth is, probably not. Preparedness is never fully known or assessed until after the thing you’ve prepared for has passed. But willingness is equally vital. You can work through anything you’re willing to see through, no matter the cost because the value of what will be gained will always be worth it. If you’re willing to work hard, be vulnerable and intentional, fight for love, then any level of difficulty or pain will be worth it.
Some of the biggest reasons why couples come in to seek counseling, regardless of how long they’ve been married, are because they feel disconnected, they feel they no longer know each other, because they feel they’ve lost their “spark,” they no longer have joy in their marriage, they struggle with emotional or physical intimacy, and they long to rediscover who they are and what they want. These tips will help foster connection, intimacy, and keep you learning and discovering who you are with great joy and intentionality. And if you need additional resources, please see below a list of recommended books that are great before and after the wedding day.
Keep your Love On: Connection, Communication, and Boundaries by Danny Silk
Cracking the Communication Code: The Secret to Speaking Your Mate’s Language by Emerson Eggerichs
His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard F. Harley Jr.
Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts by Les & Leslie Parrot
The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
The Power of a Praying Husband by Stormie Omartian
Jess Rios works at Oakwood Counseling Center in College Station, Texas. She is available to see couples, kids, adults, parents, and young adults. For more information or to schedule an appointment you can email Jess at firstname.lastname@example.org