You’ve probably heard it before: the first year of marriage is the hardest. But, for those of us who lived together through an engagement or while dating, marriage may not feel all that different. The day-to-day doesn’t change drastically, but rather there’s an overarching shift to come to terms with: you’re now officially part of a team.

Decisions no longer affect only you, they’re made with you and your partner in mind. You can’t just walk out the door tomorrow and leave it all behind because of one argument. You’re in this together –– and, with that in mind, these are the lessons that I’ve found myself leaning in to again and again as I navigate through this first year of marriage.

It’s Easy to Let Logistics Take Over, So Don’t Forget the Fun

Because you’re now functioning as a team, there may be an increase in mundane logistics to slog through. You could be merging finances, buying a house, combining insurance –– the list of paperwork changes to consider goes on for days. 

As someone who did all of the above in the first year of marriage, trust me, it’s easy to let every conversation turn into another to-do list. But, don’t forget the fun. Put aside the logistics for date night and talk about your dreams, goals, and future travel plans. I mean, who really wants to talk about mortgage rates over cocktails anyway?

You Have to Choose to Be Happy Together

Sometimes I think the hardest thing about marriage –– or even just living with someone, be it a partner or a roommate –– is choosing to be in a good mood when you’re with them. 

Now, I’m not saying fake it if you’re having a terrible day or hide your feelings when you’re sad. However, sometimes it’s easier to just zone out and ignore that your partner is even in the room. Instead, you should choose to be present and connect with your partner. Put in the extra effort to make them smile. Choose to be happy when you’re together.

There’s More to Communication Than Seeing Each Other Every Day

Just because you see each other every day doesn’t mean you’re really communicating. A quick “How was your day?” doesn’t get you anywhere unless you engage with your partner’s answer (and they give you more than “fine”). 

So, take the time to practice active listening and really talk to your partner. Engage with them. Tap into what has them excited right now, figure out what’s stressing them out. Be their sounding board and let them be yours.

Realize You Both Bring Different Strengths to the Table

Sometimes the toughest part about building a life with another person is coming to the understanding that they don’t think exactly like you do. It’s been said that opposites attract and perhaps that’s because a partnership thrives when each person brings different strengths to the table –– as long as both parties learn to anticipate and accept what their partner can and can’t do.

Your standards for cleanliness may be higher than your partner’s. Or perhaps they’re better at sorting out travel plans. Maybe you’re the one with the budget-savvy brain. Figure out where each of your strengths are and bring those together to form a stronger team than you would ever be apart. 

The Five Love Languages Work

Read The Five Love Languages. Written in 1992, this book has been on the bestseller list for decades. The author, Gary Chapman, breaks down the ways in which people give and receive love: (1) quality time spent together, (2) affection expressed through physical touch, (3) acts of service to help our partner, (4) thoughtful gifts, and (5) words of affirmation that verbally express our feelings and compliment our partner. 

We all speak different love languages. For example, maybe your partner’s primary language is acts of service and feels most loved when you fill up gas in their car or make them dinner. And perhaps yours is words of affirmation and you need to hear your partner express how and why they care for you.

This book will help you both uncover your love languages so that you two can show your feelings towards the other in the way that makes them feel most fulfilled. 

Remember, You’re Both in This Together

Lastly, remember that you’ve both made this decision to be together and you both should be ready to put in the effort to make it work. There will be great days, there will be mediocore days, and there will be downright hard days, but this is the person who will be there for you through it all. Every day you will make the choice to be married –– make it a choice that’s intentional.