The following article originally ran on LDS Living in April 2017.
"The first year of marriage is so hard but wonderful. Trust me; it's worth it." I can't tell you how many times I heard almost those exact words when I got engaged. And they were so gloriously clichéd and generic I'd smile, thank Aunt Suzy or Grandpa Will for their advice, and think to myself, "But Jason and I have already worked through so many things newlyweds struggle with. We're prepared. We know what we're in for."
It was true; I was just about as prepared as I could be. From asking countless friends and siblings advice to eating up books I could find on the topic, I thought I had this.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Part of the reason newlywed advice is so vague is that marriage has an amnesiac effect—at least that's my theory. Just like mothers tend to forget the horrific pain of childbirth and remember only the tender memories, married couples tend to forget the nitpicky negative of learning to live together and instead hold onto the beautiful moments. Though that's a wonderful thing in the long run, it can be a little frustrating when all you want is honest feedback.
If you're anything like me, your trials won't be anything you expected. Marriage has a way of throwing the most unexpected curveballs.
Before I go on, let me make myself clear: I am not an expert on marriage. After 67 weeks of marriage, I still have a lifetime to learn on the subject. However, I know what it's like to be a newlywed. I'm there. I live it. It's real. And I understand.
While I know every marriage will be different and we'll all come up against things we can't anticipate, here are a few realities I wish I had known before I was married.
1. Stock up at the pharmacy, because you'll probably be sicker than you have ever been in your life.
Nothing says romance like stuffy noses or the stomach flu—right? Okay, maybe not, but this is one reality to marriage no one warned me about.
When you get married, you're suddenly sharing your food, living space, and almost everything else with a new person. Not to mention you will be more sleep-deprived than you ever have been in your life, and you'll also be adding a new component of health to your life—sexual health.
While I don't want to be all doom and gloom, almost every recently married couple I've talked to said their first year of marriage was the sickest year of their life. And though that can be frustrating, it provides an excellent opportunity to grow closer together as you learn to rely on and support one another—through good and bad. Here are some ways you can prepare for or avoid the worst consequences of newlywed germs:
Get good sleep, no matter what—It's difficult adjusting to sleeping with a new person in your bed. Suddenly, your number of bad nights double—sometimes even quadruple. On top of that, most married couples tend to include a night owl and early bird, which doesn't give much time for sleep in the first place. Because of this, you should make sleep a priority in your marriage from day one. Learn to compromise by waking up a little earlier or staying up a little later than you normally would. Though I know you want to spend as much time as you can together, you'll have much more fun if it is quality time where you both don't feel like zombies.
Set time limits—Check with each other at dinner to see when your spouse needs to get up the next morning, what the goals are for the next day, and when the two of you should ideally be in bed. Set a time limit for heading to bed and stick to it, no matter what.
Establish a nighttime ritual—Whether it simply be brushing your teeth together or reading scriptures and praying, set aside time every night the two of you can come together and unwind.
Don't be afraid to try new things—Separate beds, earplugs, sleeping in different rooms, going to bed at different times, snacks, meditation, etc. really can make all the difference if you aren't getting quality sleep.
Find a doctor you trust—You're starting an entirely new phase of life, one that's bound to come with new health challenges. Be sure to find a doctor you like and whenever something unexpected comes up, be sure to give them a call and stay in contact regularly. Rather than self-diagnosing or dismissing questions, a quick call can clarify whether you really should be concerned and can save you from more serious illnesses in the future. And when unexpected things do come up, don't freak out and don't get grossed out—by yourself or your spouse. Be sure to always let your spouse know you love them.
Find creative ways to exercise—I thought my husband and I would have more time once we were married and didn't have to commute to be together. But finances, family, daily chores, and so much more gobble up even more of your time. Add on top of that regular sickness, and sometimes you feel lucky just to get through the day let alone exercise. But during tough times your body needs the endorphins and stress-relief that come from exercise more than ever. So be flexible with when you exercise and find active things you can do with your spouse. Whether it's learning a new sport together, riding bikes, doing yoga, or simply going on walks, if you try to do a few active things together it can give you more time and relieve stress.