It’s 2017, and a growing number of couples live together before making their union legal. Because they already know what it’s like to pick dirty socks off the floor and fight over taking out the trash, they doubt much will change when they decide to get married. But are they right?
To find out, we consulted 13 real women and were surprised to learn that actually, the opposite is true. From dealing with tricky in-laws to the truth about how hard kids are on a marriage, here’s what you should keep in mind if you’re considering tying the knot:
1. You’ll finally be treated like an adult.
“I wish I’d known how differently the world would treat me. Somehow my nine-year relationship was finally considered valid in the eyes of my co-workers, family members, friends, and strangers. My husband and I are suddenly treated like ‘grown-ups,’ which is advantageous, albeit strange, since we’re exactly the same people we were before.” —Margaux, 31
2. It’s all about compromise.
“This is naive to say looking back, but I wish I’d known how much compromise is involved in marriage. I got married young, and to me marriage seemed like the easiest thing in the world. Now, I can see how much of it is give and take—and especially when our kids were young, it was a lot of ‘give.’ Still, I wouldn’t trade my 30-year marriage for anything.” —Ellen, 55
3. Beware of the in-laws.
“I wish I knew how much I hated his mother.” —Caroline, 45
4. Don’t forget about the little things.
“I wish I’d known how important it is to keep talking to your spouse and telling them about what’s going on in your life. Once you’re married, so much of your relationship becomes management of day-to-day life. Don’t forget to tell them about new friends you’ve made or funny things that happen throughout your day. Oh, and ignore the ‘don’t go to bed angry’ advice. Sometimes you need to.” —Molly, 36
5. The word “husband” is tricky.
“I’ve been with my now-husband for almost 11 years, and we eloped a few months ago. I liked the word boyfriend, and I had no idea how much I would hate saying husband. Maybe I’ll get used to it over time, but for now it feels unnatural and strange!” —Tanya, 30
6. Don’t forget that you’re getting a new family.
“I wish I had known how much I’d be adopting a family as part of the marriage. I always call my mom on my way home from work, but having to split those phone calls between her and my mother-in-law and having to explain everything twice is quite exhausting. But on the flip side, it’s wonderful to have another wise woman in my life whose perspective is so different from mine or my mother’s.” —Anna, 30
7. Language barriers are tough.
“My husband is Mexican. When we got married I underestimated how important it was for me to learn Spanish. It’s pretty isolating being at a dinner table or on holiday with your new family and have no idea what they are saying. I’m now taking private lessons, so hopefully I’ll be able to join in on the conversation sometime soon!” —Lena, 28
8. Kindness is the most important thing.
“Above all, marry someone kind. The ‘exciting’ guy probably won’t be there to rub your back while you’re crying because your 2-month-old infant won’t go to sleep.” —Melissa, 43
9. Fight right.
“I had no idea there were ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of fighting. The silent treatment is really damaging to a relationship, which it took me years to learn. Fights are inevitable, but there are ways to fight more productively and like you love each other. Avoid swearing if you can!” —Jane, 51
“I recently got married, and I’ve never been congratulated so much in my life. Career accomplishment? No big deal. Marriage? Apparently, that’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I don’t love it, but I’m hoping it dies down soon.” —Lily, 30
11. Kids aren’t that hard on a marriage.
“People say kids are really hard on a marriage, but for us it was easy because we love our daughter so much. More than we could ever have imagined.” —Joy, 59
12. Wedding planning isn’t easy.
“I wish I’d know how to plan a wedding before our wedding. I feel like I could plan a second wedding a lot easier than a first wedding.” —Laura, 33
13. “Happy wife, happy life?”
“Don’t listen to all the crappy conventional advice people give you because every relationship is different. I honestly can’t listen to one more person say ‘happy wife, happy life’ at a wedding. Make up your own advice!” —Carrie, 34