1 OF 13
You’ll feel mortgage and/or kids pressure.
Cydney, 28, says, “I was well aware of the pressure to have children after marriage, but for me, the next big pressure is buying a house. And in an expensive real estate market like Washington, D.C., it’s hard to get friends and family back home in the Midwest to understand why I’m nearly 30 and still renting. My parents ask me weekly how my house hunting is doing.”
2 OF 13
You’ll see the worst of each other.
“When you’re dating, you put your best self forward, and you’re practically giddy every time you’re around each other,” says Julie, 26. “I don’t know why it was so shocking to realize that we’re not shiny, happy people all the time.” When you’re being “real” with each other, “every person’s moods go up and down: You get sick, you have a bad day,” she says. And that’s when you really find out if it’s meant to be: “You see the full span of emotions, not just the few hours at a time of perfect mood—but you love each (imperfect) other.”
3 OF 13
You can get too comfortable.
“I learned that, unfortunately, people do think it’s OK to share toothbrushes, and I am married to one of them,” says Marissa, 32, with a laugh. “I think that the purpose of college roommates is to prepare you for marriage, because when the butterflies in the stomach and sheer excitement wear off, you must be able to accept someone who leaves his dirty clothes on the floor and dishes in the sink and moves your stuff around!”
4 OF 13
Your plans will change—and that’s OK.
“I never wanted to have a marriage where the man and woman default to traditional gender roles—where he does the fixer-upper stuff and she does the cooking and cleaning,” says Catherine, 27. “But when my husband and I got married, I got home from work first. So it just made sense that I got dinner on the table. And he really liked to get out the tool kit, so whenever something broke I usually let him have at it. We ended up organically dividing those tasks along traditional lines, and it was OK because it was a conscious choice.”
5 OF 13
You’ll fight about food.
“I didn’t expect eating together to be such a difficult thing. I grew up eating dinner as a family with my parents and brother and just assumed my husband and I would cook together, grocery shop together, and enjoy the same meals,” says Kara, 31. “But it actually became quite tricky quickly. Nobody told me not to be hurt if we’re not hungry at the same time or hungry for the same thing. It’s really OK to skip dinner together sometimes—I’ve even started to enjoy those nights when I can sit down with a simple bowl of granola.”
6 OF 13
Chores and sex are linked.
“As a woman, most of us need things to ‘align,'” says Amanda, 28. “When the things like laundry, dishes, and cooking weren’t being shared or communicated properly, it made me less in the mood. When we started to get on the same page with those things, he realized helping around the house was great foreplay.” The sooner you can help your guy realize this, the better.
7 OF 13
You might not be able to share shared interests.
“Just because we both enjoy doing something, it doesn’t mean we can do it together,” explains Lindsay, 29. “For instance, [my husband] and I both like to cook, and I thought it would be really nice to have a partner in the kitchen. As it turns out, neither of us enjoys cooking with the other because our styles are so totally different. I’m by the book, and he improvises. I make a mess and clean it later; he cleans as he goes. We split the cooking and cleaning, but the kitchen needs only one cook at a time.”
8 OF 13
You might be shocked by how little changes.
“Everyone kept saying that everything changes, but really, the only big thing that changed has been my last name and the beneficiary of my life-insurance policies,” says Meranda, 28. “We had already been living together in a house we bought together two years before the wedding, which I think gave me a pretty good idea of some of the major things about my husband—from his credit score to his shampoo preference and all the little and big details in between.”
9 OF 13
There is a key to a happy marriage.
If you can afford it, most couples agree: “Two sinks in the master bathroom are a crucial feature of any home or apartment,” attests Leslie, 29.
10 OF 13
You’ll crave a little alone time.
“When you get married you think—and everyone tells you—how wonderful it’s going to be that someone will always be there for you, and that truly is wonderful,” says Elissa, 30. “However, the thing no one warns you about is that someone is always there. If you are someone who truly enjoys having some alone time to just chill and relax, read a book, etc., it’s hard, especially if you live in a tiny apartment. The biggest thing you’ll need to learn how to do is balance spending time together at home and feeling comfortable enough to do your own thing.”
11 OF 13
Changing your name is a nightmare.
“[My husband] and I were as good as married for years before we signed the paper—living together, combined finances, joint bills. Nothing really changed afterward, except my name. And that was a chore,” says Elizabeth, 30. “I had no idea the hoops I’d have to jump through to update accounts. One credit card company even wanted our actual marriage license to verify. Not a copy—the real thing and they’d ‘send it back.’ That account remained in my maiden name.”
12 OF 13
One plus one can equal one.
“We lived together before we were married, so we already knew each other’s quirks and nasty habits,” says Nicole, 26. “But what I did need to get used to after marriage was going from an ‘I’ to a ‘we.’ I have always been pretty independent, [so] it was a big adjustment for me to have to ask my husband if we had plans before making plans with friends, going home to visit family, buying a new car, or picking up extra hours at work. I’m used to it now, but at first it was hard for me.”
3 OF 13
One plus one can equal none.
And here’s the one no one wants to tell you: Sometimes it won’t last. Because marriage is work, and if one or both of you doesn’t put in the effort, that relationship could crumble. If it does end in your first year, know this: There is a bright side, and it’s that calling it quits early gives you the opportunity to move onward and upward—whether that’s to a new place, a new beau, or a new you—that much sooner.