My husband and I began our dating relationship with radical honesty. We had both been divorced and I knew I wanted it all on the table. No pretending, no hiding, no showing only your best side. I let him see me when I was angry, frustrated, overwhelmed. All of it.

When we got married, it felt like there were no big surprises because of how honest we had been about who we are and it was such a gift to not have that feeling of, “Would they love me if they really saw me at my worst?” He had definitely seen me at my worst.

That radical honesty was a gift, but we both still had a lot of baggage from our previous relationships and needed to establish new healthy habits for resolving conflict, talking through stressful financial decisions, and figuring out how to be a blended family.

As we approach our anniversary next month, I’ve been thinking about how much we’ve grown as a couple and as individuals in the past six years and how much better we are at communicating what we need, sharing responsibilities, resolving conflict, supporting each other in our individual interests, and investing in our friendship. It makes me so excited to think about how much we will grow and how much fun we will have in the next 6 years.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s all been easy. Obviously. Did I mention baggage from previous relationships? Yeah. That wasn’t easy to work through.

Taking into account both experiences I’ve had of what it’s like to be newly married, here’s the advice I would tell my younger self (and the advice I plan to give my kids when they are older) for the first year of marriage.

  • Remember that you probably have a lot more assumptions about the right way or “normal” way to do something than you realize.
  • Do not expect your spouse to meet all your social or emotional needs.
  • Household management (or “adulting” as some people call it) will take up a lot more time in your relationship than you realize. Once you get systems for managing and sharing these responsibilities it will feel a lot less overwhelming, but it is still a normal part of being an adult with a family.
  • Getting on the same page about money has far-reaching effects for every other area of your relationship.
  • Don’t neglect your hobbies or interests that don’t overlap with your partner.
  • Prioritize budgeting and saving even though it feels boring sometimes.
  • It’s your job to identify your own needs and either communicate them or take responsibility for getting them met.
  • If you feel stuck in your relationship or for whatever reason feel like you could benefit from some professional insight, don’t wait to get help.
  • If your spouse isn’t interested in going to counseling or therapy together, go by yourself.
  • Be the spouse you want to have. (Good listener, patient, willing to receive feedback, picks up after themselves…if you want these things from the other person. Do them yourself first.)
  • Re-evaluate roles and responsibilities with each changing season.
  • How you start is so important, but what is more important is how you both grow and change as a couple and as individuals.
  • Don’t compare your relationship to other people’s social media posts.
  • It’s okay to outsource things (like grocery shopping or house cleaning), especially if you can fit it in your budget and it brings more peace to the relationship.
  • Letting the other person do household chores their own way is better than having an environment of criticism and frustration.
  • You have more relational baggage than you realize so when you get triggered, just acknowledge it.
  • If you want to receive more romantic gestures, give more romantic gestures.
  • Create a habit of looking for solutions, giving and noticing bids for connection.
  • It gets better, but it still takes intentional work.
  • Invest in your relationship by spending money, time, and effort on date nights, getaways, and having fun together.

• Listen to the podcast episode about this post.