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Everything Men Wish They Knew Before Getting Married

When it comes to sex, money and in-laws, knowledge is power — especially for those preparing to walk down the aisle this year

Every wedding season — such as, you know, RIGHT NOW — I think about how I got married young and wish someone had sat me down to tell me a few things about marriage before I took my vows. To be fair I eloped in a (yearlong) blackout, but that’s another story for another day. Needless to say, it didn’t last.

Still, as they say, knowledge is power. And so, for those who are about to walk down the aisle this summer, I reached out to the hive mind that is my Twitter following and asked men to relay the things they wished they’d known before they got married. Some had been married for decades. Others were on marriage number three. A few were newlyweds. All of them, though, said things that I should have heard before I embarked upon my brief(ish) journey into “forever after” territory. Such as…

Do It for the Right Reasons

And don’t ignore the red flags that it isn’t right. You shouldn’t have to convince yourself to get married, and if you find yourself doing so, you’re probably getting married for the wrong reasons. “If there’s any motive outside of a desire to build a life with the person you’re marrying guiding your decisions, you’re fucked,” says Seth. “Societal, family, pregnancy and professional motives are all bullshit. Introspection is an incredible gift that most can not grasp in their 20s, and therein lies the key.”

That ‘Love Language’ Stuff Is Real

Communication and interpersonal dynamics are the foundation for every good partnership. In other words, it really helps if you speak one another’s language, and if you don’t, become fluent in theirs. “I wish I knew about my wife’s love language. I tend to express and recognize love through verbal communication and physical affection (including simple things like touching my shoulder when passing just to say, ‘Hey’),” says Joe. “Her love language is acts of service. After learning this, our marriage got better.”

Sexual Chemistry Is Really Really Important

Keep in mind, it’s only going to be harder to maintain sexual chemistry over the years and after having children — not easier. “I wished I’d known that if she didn’t like sex during the first year, she would definitely not like it in the later years,” Tom says about his first wife. “If the sex is awesome to start with, it could get worse with time, but you stand a chance to rekindle. If the sex sucks to start with, the marriage is a goner.”

All Great Relationships Require Effort

Marriage isn’t the finish line — it’s the start of a marathon. It takes endurance, and it has peaks and valleys. “It’s hard, hard work. It seems the Hollywood way is you find your lover and fairytale blah blah blah. But real-life marriage is hard work,” says Jake. “And even though your partner is your best friend and you would never be without them, it’s every day for the rest. Of. Your. Life. Hard work. But good work.”

Shared values and goals are imperative, and at the root of it all, you need to be great friends who trust each another. “It needs dedication, attention and laughter to keep it vibrant and healthy. It’s really not work per se. It’s more like becoming a better musician or painter. The more you put in, the more beautiful the results,” says Bob. “Not that it’s all rolling good times. There were some real rough times. If we didn’t have complete faith in each other, it could have gone off the rails.”

Finances Fuel Fights

It’s important to be on the same page and share similar goals and values financially too. “Establish finances consciously, don’t just let them unfold,” says Lou. “It gets more and more expensive every year. The years when the kids are babies are the cheapest years of your life so plan accordingly. Either way, I strongly suggest moving to a location with a great public school system.”

Marriage Isn’t 50/50

The division of labor isn’t equal so don’t expect it to be. “You can’t go in expecting to cut the workload in half and everything be okay. Things happen. Life gets busy. Strengths and weaknesses get exposed. Sometimes the work demands more from one partner than the other. Because of sickness, stress or other unknown factors, the work balance shifts, and sometimes you’re left with a 70/30 or a 100/0 split,” explains Ray. “Being married isn’t about having an equal workload. It’s about being willing to pick up the slack when your partner needs you without any resentment.”

Resentments Kill Relationships

Speaking of resentment, it’s toxic. Patrick warns, “The corrosive effect that resentment has on a marriage can lead to betrayal. No one knows until it’s too late either. It’s a silent killer in that way. In my wife and my case, we never knew it existed until we hit bottom and got good help. It still creeps in, but now I recognize it. I wish I’d been trained earlier in our marriage. But some things you just have to go through to understand.”

In-Laws Are Included

Luckily, my former in-laws were trapped under the iron curtain of Belarus, but this isn’t usually the case with most couples. “You don’t just marry the girl, you marry her entire family,” say Mike. Adds Vinne, “I learned that you better damned well like your spouse’s parents, and they better like you. Because they’ll always have some level of influence over your spouse when it comes to your marriage.”

Kids Change Everything

They alter your routine, your sex life, your energy level, your worldview and your privacy. “Having children will fundamentally change you both and add a multiplier to the difficulty of effort needed.” It goes without saying, but always, ALWAYS put the marriage before the kids. “It’s easier said than done,” says Sam. “But you need to maintain a unified front.” The kids are important, but a good marriage is crucial to their well-being and yours. “A lot of spouses will put the kids before the other spouse,” says Ben. “But the thing is, those kids are going to leave someday, and you’re going to be with your spouse for the rest of your life.”

Pick Your Battles

There’s an old expression that a lot of men quoted: “You can be right or you can be happy, but you can’t be both.” “There’s one piece marital of advice I never forget: Sometimes when you win, you really lose,” says Josh. “You can’t always try to emerge victorious, especially over your spouse. Arguments and verbal fights may be necessary sometimes, but things will only improve if you fight fair. Limited cussing. NO INSULTS. Do not tear this person down, they’re the best ally you’ll ever have.”

Don’t Fear the Ebb and Flow

“I wish I’d known that as you age, you’ll grow apart at times — and that’s normal and fine,” says Brian. “Over a lifetime, married couples fall in and out of love with each other. The best married couples I know are patient people who put in the time to really know their partner. And when they drift apart, they put in the work to love each other again.”

Know Your Partner

“Make sure you’ve seen her — I’m using the pronouns applicable to me as a straight guy, but the lesson applies all around — at her worst.” Jake says. “In any lifetime together, there will be a certain amount of ‘worst.’ And while no one is at their best at their worst, it’s an important thing to know if, for example, your prospective spouse is habitually abusive (physically or emotionally) when under stress.”

Also in this category is the idea that you can “fix” someone — i.e., people change, but you can’t change them. “If someone was depressed or sad beforehand, a spouse can’t be expected to fix these issues,” says Tom. “I was told at the end of my second marriage the truest statement I’ve ever heard about marriage: ‘A woman marries a man thinking he will change, but he doesn’t. A man marries a woman thinking she won’t change, but she does.’”

Know Thyself

Most every man I spoke to who was getting divorced after 10-plus years of marriage, got married in his early 20s. It’s anecdotal, but as someone who did the same, I think waiting until you experience a bit of life and know yourself better isn’t a terrible idea. “I got married young — I was 21, and she was 20,” says Sean. “I didn’t appreciate how much people change in their 20s. When you’re young, you’re naively romantic and think love can conquer all.”

The truth is love can conquer a lot, but it can’t conquer two people maturing in different directions. “I married my college infatuation without realizing it was just that,” says Dan.

Don’t Lose Yourself Either

“Commit yourselves to one another 100 percent,” Mark advises. “But never lose sight of who you are. After all, that’s who they fell in love with in the first place.”

Heed as Much of This Advice as Possible, Because Divorce Fucks Up Everything — Especially Your Kids

Don’t kid yourself — getting a divorce is financially, emotionally and spiritually devastating. “I wish I’d known what a soul-crushing and heart-wrenching experience divorce was before I got married as opposed to the casual, no-hard-feelings portrayal in the media,” Brian says. “If I’d known what it was really like, I’d have broken up with my first wife while we were dating instead of marrying her when I knew it was absolutely the wrong thing to do.”

It’s one thing if you have no kids, but if you have kids, it’s even more traumatic. “If you think divorce is okay, you’re wrong. Even if you can handle it, you have no idea of the impact upon your kids.” If you don’t believe me, allow me to be a PSA. I was a straight-A student on the path to an Ivy League school. My parents got divorced when I was 13, and by the time I was 19, I was in rehab for heroin addiction. If I had to point to one critical crossroads in my development — I would point to my parent’s divorce.

Keep in Mind, Too, That It Can Get Better and Better

I always say, “You don’t hear about the planes that land.” Planes like the ones flown by Mark and his wife. “My wife and I have been together for 31 years, and there are still new things to find out about our relationship and each other,” he says. “I guess I’d want to know that when faced with a serious problem in the relationship, it can turn out better than you’d anticipate. But you have to fight for it and not walk away or disengage.”

In this way, sometimes ignorance truly is bliss. Or at least it was for this guy, who offered perhaps the most poetic of all the responses I received: “There have been difficult things, but the good far outweighs them. If I’d known exactly what I was getting into, I might not have done it — and that would’ve been a terrible mistake.”