What I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married

by Melissa Mills

I'm going to cut right to the chase: I've been thinking about my life a lot lately now that I'm a few months away from turning 30. Are there things I should have done by now? Is there a timeline I'm supposed to be following?

Don't get me wrong — I'm happy! I've been with husband for seven years (married for nearly three), we have an adorable puppy, and I have a job that I love. It's just that there's no real guidebook for after you get married. Sure, there are things you're "supposed" to do right after the wedding, but what about a year, two years down the road? We've got the house and puppy, but aren't ready for a baby — what the heck are we supposed to be doing, if anything?

That's what got me thinking back to when I first met my husband, J. I was 22 (so young!), he was 26, and everything was still in front of us. I didn't know about his need to tap dance around the house to kill time, and he didn't yet know about my open-mouth snoring. Simpler times.

So if I could go back, what would I change? Here are six things I wish I could go back and tell myself when I was still just dating my husband — you know, for any of you who might be in the earlier stages of a relationship:

1. Put Down The Booze

I won't lie, I was terrible at dating. I'd get nervous, which would make my entire face, neck, and chest get red and blotchy. Cute, right? Needless to say, I was drunk for the first three dates that J and I went on (yes, really). I'd ask him a question and get a funny feeling that we'd already had that conversation before. Oops. I was legit so drunk on the night we met that I forgot the name of the bar he bartended at... and went on a first date with *someone else* there a few days later. Lucky for me, J wasn't working that night.

So here's my advice: Take it easy on the booze when you're dating someone new and really get to know them.

2. Call Your Friends

I didn't do it on purpose, but I put my friends and family on the backburner when I first started dating J. It was just so exciting to be in the ~honeymoon phase~ with someone — so much so that I started making excuses to see J more and everyone else less without really realizing what I was doing. And while it's fine to prioritize date night once in a while, bailing on your loved ones again and again is not cool. I was being a jerk without even realizing it.

My advice: Make time for your friends and family. Hang out with them, text them, call them. And don't just talk about who you're dating when you do!

3. Be More Romantic

Listen, I'm not trying to brag or anything, but I am romantic AF. Long-ass email the morning after a sleepover? Sent. Impromptu cookies sent to your office? I gotchu. But the thing is, it's easy to be romantic when you're just learning about the other person and everything they do has you head over heels. The hard part is keeping things up after your first fight or once you've moved in together. How do you plan date night after arguing over whose turn it is to take out the damn trash?

That's sort of what happened about a year or so into our relationship. Things were still great, but dedicated date nights seemed to fall off the calendar. And you'd *think* you'd have sex all the time when you're living with someone, but it's so easy to say "tomorrow" when you know they're not going anywhere.

My advice: Keep the romance going! Plan weekly or monthly date nights, and make sure to put your phones away. Having that one-on-one time is so important — and necessary.

4. Don't Take Your Partner For Granted

Ugh, this one's a biggie. Once J and I moved in together, I started noticing that some days we would come home from work and spend the night in front of the TV, sometimes not even really having a real conversation. Or he'd cook me dinner or I'd do laundry, and we'd just sort of go through the motions of our to-do lists. He had always been my best friend, but we were legit starting to enter each other's friend zones! Sometimes, not taking the other person for granted simply means continuing to look at them as your partner instead of as just a friend.

So now, J & I have two rules: 1) We have to hug and kiss each other hello and goodbye, and 2) we have to say "I love you" before we go to bed every night. It sounds corny, but it's little stuff like that that prevents us from becoming roommates instead of husband and wife.

My advice: Find a way to show your partner that you *still* feel the way you did about them as you did in the beginning. And if it's still the beginning? Just keep that momentum going.

5. Make More "Me" Time

The moment I realized I started saying "we" more than "me" is the moment I vowed to do more things on my own. I'll admit it took longer than it should have, but it was seriously eye-opening. Little things like inviting J to meet up for drinks with a girlfriend or canceling a SoulCycle class to grab dinner with J instead made me realize that I was sort of becoming co-dependent and needed to make "me" time a priority.

Just because you're in a relationship doesn't mean you need to hang out with your partner 24/7 or give up your own hobbies. In fact, doing things solo gives you more to talk about when you are together. Gotta have fun apart to be able to have fun together.

My advice: Plan at least one night every other week to spend time apart! Even if you just wind up catching up on the DVR while eating an entire pound of chocolate-covered cherries on the couch (not that I've ever done that...), it'll feel good to have some time just for you.

6. Slow The Eff Down!

I remember texting my sister in the middle of my first date with J saying, "this is the guy I'm going to marry." After a few dates, I was asking him if he'd stop seeing other people. A couple years later, J and I were living together, and not long after that we were engaged. Though we didn't "rush" anything, it seemed that we were always looking at what was coming next.

Now, at nearly 30, I wish I took the time to slow down and enjoy things a bit more. We always talked about it, but we never did wind up living in New York City for a year or two before moving to the suburbs. And we never played hooky to spend the day together or signed up for a couples' cooking class or took that impromptu weekend trip. Sure, we've still got time for some of these things, but that crazy clock inside my head's already driving me nuts about what's next...

My advice: Don't stress out about what's *supposed* to be happening in your relationship. If you're happy, just enjoy the ride! It's easier said than done — trust me.

Image: Marisa Guzmán-Aloia