The vows have been said, the gifts have been unwrapped, and the thank you notes have been sent. The wedding is officially over, but now what? Now you're married, which is a huge commitment. You may have vowed to not become like every other old boring married couple out there, but that's a bit easier said than done.
Luckily, we have 20 tips to start a marriage strong and keep that bond as you continue on your lives together.
1. Keep communicating.
The number one most important thing that every married couple needs to do is communicate. This doesn't mean you need to text nonstop throughout the work day, but never stop getting to know your spouse. Talk about politics, music, food, and whatever else is important in your life. When you are entirely comfortable having meaningful conversations, you'll find it a lot easier to broach more difficult topics.
2. Learn the art of compromise.
No matter how well-suited a couple is, it's just not possible to see eye to eye in every situation. From ordering dinner to renovating the kitchen, nobody is going to be 100% happy with every situation, but it's important to pick battles and take turns making decisions. The reality is that if you're mature enough to be married, you're mature enough to listen to your spouse and give a little.
3. Learn to attack problems, not each other.
When things go wrong, it's easy to assign blame and use that as ammunition to win a fight. Marriage isn't about being right; it's about being a team. Rather than wasting energy attacking one another in an argument, just focus your attention on the problem at hand instead. There will always be problems and things that go wrong, and how you choose to handle them will define your marriage.
4. Know that it's okay to have separate interests.
While it's important to share interests with your spouse, there will eventually be something they like to do that you have zero interest in. This doesn't mean that you'll never have to suck it up and tag along for a car show or a night at the ballet, but acknowledge early on where those differences lie, and let them just go do that with their friends. Togetherness is always good for a marriage, but each person needs to take time for themselves as well.
5. Set aside time to connect every day.
If you can, try to eat dinner with your spouse every night. It'll be a great time to connect about the day, destress, and enjoy one another. If work schedules make dinner out of the question, try breakfast or lunch instead. If you get in the habit of making time for each other right out of the gate, it'll be a lot easier to keep that connection as time goes on and if your family expands to include children.
6. Get your finances in order.
Money is the number one cause of divorce, so set yourself up for success right out of the gate. Meet with a financial planner to discuss your goals and how you can best achieve them. While you probably should have done this before getting married, figure out where each one is sitting in terms of debt and credit rating, and decide what to do about improving both of those. Be proactive, and you should be fine.
7. Be open about what you want out of your sex life.
Waiting for marriage to have sex isn't nearly as common nowadays, so many couples have usually found a sexual rhythm before walking down the aisle. However, it's still important to talk about what each person wants so no one is dissatisfied with the level of intimacy in the marriage.
8. Figure out what you're going to do for holidays.
When you're dating, it's okay for one person to spend a holiday with their family, while the other visits their own family. After getting married, however, it's a team effort. Talk about what holiday traditions are the most important for each person and figure out how to best accommodate both sides of the family.
9. Continue dating each other.
After you've been married for a while and jobs, kids, and routine start to set in, married couples don't always go out as much as they used to. While date nights might need a bit more planning ahead of time, but you need that time to reconnect. Even if you just get some steaks to cook on the grill and have date night at home, taking time out to remind yourself how special your spouse is is incredibly important.
10. Sometimes, it's okay to go to bed angry.
2 a.m. is not the time for a fight. If you and your spouse are annoyed at one another, the middle of the night when you are both exhausted and not thinking clearly will not produce a productive conversation. If it's something that won't get resolved quickly, remind your spouse how much you love him or her, and then set a time to resume the discussion later, when cooler and more well-rested minds can prevail.
11. Love your spouse the way he or she needs to be loved.
Not everyone views love the same. Some people think material possessions show affection, while others prefer physical connections. If you are constantly telling your spouse how much you love them but they would prefer that you show it in a different way, do what you can to let them know where your affections are.
12. Don't give up on each other.
When you are with someone for several years, your lives are generally entrenched in routine, which can feel boring at times. Sometimes things happen and you think you never want to speak to your spouse again, but all isn't lost. Don't give up. If something isn't working, figure out a way to fix it.
13. Take them for who they are, not who you want them to be.
Getting married does not change a person. At least, it shouldn't. Quirks or bad habits that your new spouse had before saying "I do" will still be there. Let them be themselves and don't force them to adopt a new persona just because that's what you think they should do. Time has a way of changing people, so when you love them for who they are without judgment, you'll grow closer over the years.
14. Never stop kissing.
It sounds strange, but there is a certain point in marriage where having sex comes easier than kissing. Take time to kiss your spouse every day, as couples who make time to smooch are less likely to get divorced. Don't make it a quick peck as you're rolling over to go to sleep; take a few seconds to kiss them properly and really mean it.
15. Have fun!
You and your spouse are sharing a life together, and what good is that if you can't even have fun together? Remember that it's okay to be silly and to laugh. It'll actually be pretty helpful when tough times come in life if you have someone who can always make you smile.
16. Figure out the roles of in-laws.
When two families blend, it's not uncommon for the respective matriarch and patriarch to be unsure of their new role. Talk to your spouse and have a frank discussion about in-laws coming over for visits, how involved they will be in your day-to-day lives, and things of that nature. While in-law relationships are hardly the dramatic situation you see on TV, it's still helpful to get things settled up front.
17. Don't talk badly about your spouse.
Yes, your spouse will annoy you at times, and you'll want to vent that out, but think of a better way to do it than to run your mouth to other people. Your spouse is the person you promised to love and share your life with, so why would you want anyone to think badly about them? Don't make a negative Facebook status about them, and just work out your problems in private.
18. Compliment your spouse and show your appreciation.
Of course your spouse knows that you love them, otherwise you would not have just gotten married. Over time, it becomes really easy to take them for granted. Make sure that you use basic manners and thank them for doing things, and pay them compliments. It's a good way to make sure you don't slip into complacency with letting them know how great you think they are.
19. Even if you don't want them right away, talk about kids as soon as possible.
The decision to have kids is not one that should be taken lightly, so it's best to plan ahead. Discuss when you think you'd like to have kids, how many you'd like to have, and it wouldn't hurt to discuss parenting styles either. Even if you both think you don't ever want kids, it might be nice to have a hypothetical conversation, should anyone change their minds down the road.
20. When all else fails, remember what is important.
At the end of the day, marriage is a commitment between two people as you journey through life. Life will bring happiness, hardship, opportunity, and loss, and you will experience it all with your spouse. Marriage won't always be fun, and it certainly won't always be easy, but as long as you keep that mutual love as a center point in your life, it'll all be worth it.