You know the expression “the honeymoon’s over”? When you first get married, everything is great. The sex is great, the companionship is great, just being together—it’s all great. You have a great honeymoon, just enjoying one another and loving each other. But then the honeymoon ends, and you have to start living your real life. You have to go back to your jobs and your home with all the daily upkeep that living with someone else suddenly requires. Eventually you have kids, and that brings a whole new set of pressures and trials. Before you know it, you’ve been married 20 years, your kids are off to college, and you suddenly realize you have no idea how to relate to this person you’ve been married to for all this time. What happened? How could something that started out so great have fallen into such disrepair? The honeymoon is over for sure. And you may not even know exactly when it ended.
For Nancy and me, you could say the honeymoon ended while we were still on our honeymoon. We went to London, and right away our newlywed glow began to diminish. We got to Heathrow Airport, exhausted in the aftermath of all the wedding activities, plus an eight-hour flight, only to find that the ride we had arranged from the airport to our rented flat wasn’t there. When we finally figured out how to call the right person and find out what was going on, we learned it would be a couple of hours before we could finally be picked up. So we spent the first few hours of our marriage bumming around Heathrow.
Okay, no problem. We were newlyweds, we were in love, we were in England. So what if we had to wait at the airport for a while?
When our driver finally arrived and we found each other, we faced our second problem. We suddenly realized we had a cash shortage. We would be able to pay for the ride but not for the tip. Okay, once again, no problem. This was a good opportunity for me to show my new wife how cool I could be in a crisis. I calmly directed the driver to stop by a bank on the way so I could withdraw some cash. Problem solved.
It wasn’t until the next day that our real troubles began. As soon as we woke up the next morning, it was very quickly clear to us that we had radically different expectations of what this honeymoon was supposed to be like. For me, a vacation is supposed to be relaxing, a time for sitting around, reading, maybe watching a movie or two, maybe—maybe—going for an afternoon walk if you really want to push the envelope. When I was growing up, family vacations involved a lot of down time, and that’s what I was expecting for our honeymoon as well. So what if we were in England? That was all the more reason to just hang out around our flat. No need to broadcast the fact that we were Americans by walking around making fools of ourselves.
But for Nancy, a vacation was an opportunity to go out and see and experience new things. She had grown up spending her summers in England, and she had a long list of things and places she wanted to show me. So our first quarrel as a married couple came on day 2 of our marriage. I wanted to hang out. She wanted to go out. Neither of us was prepared to be satisfied doing what the other person wanted to do, and we were both completely taken by surprise. How could we not have known this would be an issue?
In the end, we compromised, of course. Nancy found a book she was willing to read, and I found some activities to get excited about, and we had a great time. And that compromise is something we still have to make to this day. Thirteen years later, I still prefer to chill out and read or maybe head down to the pool if I really want to get crazy, and Nancy still prefers to find a museum in town or go mini-golfing or go shopping or whatever. Now that we have kids, our ability to compromise on this and many other, more important issues is more crucial than ever.
You never really know whom you’re marrying. No matter how well you think you know your fiancée, you’re going to be in for some surprises—some of them unpleasant. Remember, marriage changes you, and it changes your spouse. At some point, you’re going to wake up and realize, “I have no idea who this person is.”
And that's when marriage tip #7 comes in: Compromise. Graciously and cheerfully compromise on how to spend your time, how to spend your money, how to decorate the house, what do-it-yourself jobs to tackle together, what groups to be a part of, how to raise the kids, and yes, even where to go on vacation and what to do once you get there. It's not easy, but it's so worth it! Think of your marriage as an adventure and each change or surprise you see in your spouse as a gift. Hopefully most of those changes and surprises will be good gifts, but even the ones you'd rather return or exchange can be good for you if you choose to let them help you grow.