Before I got married, and even for some time after, people kept telling me, “the first year is the hardest.” I hate this phrase. I know those that said this to me earnestly believed that they were offering sage marriage wisdom. Wisdom I could carry through the first year of marriage to remind myself that it gets brighter on the other side. In reality, all they did was dampen my enthusiasm for marriage and, quite frankly, scare me. My husband and I had barely even started and our loving friends and family were telling us that the next 365 days were going to be a total bust. But hey, thanks for getting us those towels we registered for, right?
So for the first year of our marriage, I just kept waiting for the ball to drop. I’m not an optimistic person by nature, so I was anticipating the worst. Months went by in marital bliss but I still wouldn’t declare victory over the stigma. I wasn’t going to be fooled into thinking everything was fine and then BAM, it’s totally difficult now just like everyone said it would be. More months passed.
We were closing in on our anniversary. We were still married. We got a dog. I very small part of me was feeling confident that we had beaten the odds. And then I realized, we didn’t beat the odds. We changed them.
My husband and I lived together before we were married. When we said, “I do” we weren’t two individuals facing the monumental task of learning to live together. We had already checked that box. Of course, it wasn’t easy by any means, but we didn’t have to learn just how hard that is after we were already married
Now, I am not immune to the cultural bias that may exist on the subject of living together and not being married. I grew up in the unbearably conservative South, after all. Down here, people don’t call it “living together” they call it “living in sin”. But, fear of being socially burned at the stake aside, I can honestly say that my marriage wouldn’t be the same if we hadn’t lived together before we got married. We got all the trivial arguments out of the way before we said “I Do”. And there were A LOT of trivial arguments. Surprisingly limitless, actually.
Ideally, it shouldn’t matter what you find out about a person by living with them, but it does. I don’t love anyone enough to let them hang light up beer signs in my house. No one. Same goes for chewing with your mouth open. Can’t tolerate it. My husband has a lot of living habits that annoy me and I have a lot that annoy him. But we love each other because of these annoying little habits, right? No, we love each other in spite of those annoying little habits. The good news is, we learned how to do that before we got married.
So, why not put the odds in your favor? A signed, legally binding document that dictates you spend your life together is a lot of pressure on its own. Now you hang that document in your new house that you’ve never shared and every menial argument could become a deal breaker. But if you live together first, then that first year becomes a continuation of what you have already established instead of a daunting hurdle. And when your friends and family offer you their wisdom on that crucial first year, you’ll nod and thank them knowing that your first year will be just as happy as the ones that follow.