When my husband and I were seriously dating, we took a 7 week pre-engagement class, which turned out to be invaluable for us as a couple. We've heard of lots of people taking pre-marital classes, but at that point, you're kind of already on a high-speed train for the alter, and it's very hard to stop that train. This class was a nice way for us to explore a lot of topics around marriage without the distracting of wedding planning also upon us. Looking back, I cannot even imagine taking a pre-marriage class during our engagement. I was so wrapped up in wedding details at the time that I little space for anything else, and thankfully, the biggest and most important decision was already behind me.
We knew the couple that led the pre-engagement class at the time, and they're still leading the class now. They ask us to pop back in every once in a while for the current class to ask us questions and for us to talk about our marriage. We love this. We attended the class as guests after 6 months of marriage and again recently after 1.5 years. Both times have been so much fun to talk about newlywed life. There are some themes that I've learned in 1.5 years that I want to share here:
1. Every marriage is different. Every person is different, everyone comes from different families and backgrounds, and no two marriages will ever look exactly alike. This is good news. You get to shape your marriage into how it works best for you as a couple. Just because someone else is doing life a certain way does not mean you also have to do things that same way. There is no code or set of rules for a "perfect" marriage, but there are a lot of ways to have a good one.
2. The first year does not have to be the worst. We heard more often than not that the first year was the hardest for some people. We went into marriage kind of holding our breath, and after a few months we looked at each other and realized, oh wait, this is actually really fun. Some people have a hard time adjusting. Some people do not. I think the story gets told more often than not that marriage is hard, and while it does take work and effort, it is also the best. Marriage is a good thing and just because your friends/relatives/neighbors/coworkers had a hard time in year 1/5/7/35, it doesn't mean that you will too.
3. Continue to date your spouse. For us, we've found the goal of the weekly date night helpful. It can look a lot of different ways, and it doesn't necessarily mean dressing up and spending lots of money. It can be a happy hour drink, a beach picnic, or a walk. Just getting out of the house, calling it a date, and giving each other time and conversation can go a long way in staying connected as spouses and friends.
I love hearing what other people have learned throughout marriage. Share if you'd like in the comments!