Just because you and your partner decide to tie the knot doesn't mean you'll magically stop arguing or that you'll instantly know how to navigate life as a couple. And that's OK. When it comes to long-term relationships, there really is no end to making mistakes, or arguing, or disagreeing — and there's always room to improve.
There are, however, a few mistakes you shouldn't still be making by the time you make such a big commitment — if you can help it. Once you get married, it's in both your interests to smooth over small hiccups, and figure out ways to move past old issues. Think along the lines of worrying about exes, bickering over money, or disagreeing on how to handle household chores.
These are arguments all married couples have, even when they've been together for decades. But that doesn't mean it's the healthiest way to live your lives. Not to mention, overcoming these tiny issues can help create room to deal with bigger problems, should they arise.
"The institution of marriage does change the context of the relationship and it’s not uncommon for completely new issues to arise after marriage," Xanet Pailet, sex educator and author of Living an Orgasmic Life, tells Bustle. You might have to deal with things like commitment issues, illnesses, a waning sex life, or money issues, as the years go on. But by overcoming trivial matters now, and learning that you've got each other's backs no matter what, you'll realize you really can navigate anything together. Here are a few problems you two should be putting behind you, according to experts.
1. Worrying About An Ex
By the time you've made the decision to get married, it's more than officially time to move past any old concerns you have regarding your partner's ex — for your sake, and for the sake of your relationship.
"You should be feeling good about the stability of your relationship and should not need to continue to discuss past relationships and how they relate to your current marriage (minus kids you or your spouse have with an ex, of course)," Heidi McBain, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle.
If you still feel hung up or worried, for whatever reason, it might help to speak with a therapist. They can help you get to the bottom of why you're focusing in on your partner's ex, and give you advice for moving on.
2. Having Petty Or Immature Fights
Just because you got married doesn't mean you're both magically mature adults who know how to handle every situation with grace and charm. But it should be the catalyst for gently moving in that direction — especially if you're both making immature mistakes.
"[This would include] things like still interacting with past lovers, having social fights and disagreements, being inconsiderate, or behaving like you're still a single person," relationship expert and life coach E Michelle Thomas tells Bustle. These things should begin to fade into the past so that new, healthier habits can take their place.
For example, instead of being inconsiderate or fighting via text, you should be having upfront conversations face-to-face, Thomas says. A marriage is a big commitment, after all, and you don't want to drag it down or make it harder by being immature or petty.
3. Not Talking About Your Feelings
Another goal to begin working on, now that you're married, is feeling comfortable opening up and talking about emotions. "You should not be insecure about naming your feelings about any situation," psychotherapist Laura F. Dabney, MD tells Bustle. "[And] you should not be insecure about bringing up difficult topics."
While this is a mistake a lot of people make, learning how to move past it is key. "A lot of people either 'bury or blow' — that is, they bury how they feel so an argument doesn't erupt, or, as a consequence of burying everything, they end up blowing up over something small," Dr. Dabney says.
Instead of holding it in, you both can work on talking in a constructive way. "Everyone needs to be invested and secure in themselves enough to understand exactly what they're feeling and thinking so they can come to the table with their partner ready to negotiate and compromise," she says. And your marriage will be so much healthier as a result.
4. Keeping Your Opinions To Yourself
While being in a mature relationship requires you and your spouse to open up about feelings, it's also admirable to know when not to share things that are on your mind. For example, you might not want to blurt out a rude observation that might be hurtful, or pick petty fights.
That said, don't make the mistake of keeping your opinions to yourself. As Dr. Dabney says, you shouldn't let your partner's differing viewpoints take precedence, or make cause you to choke up. For a healthy marriage, you'll want to both be sharing ideas and opinions — as well as learning how to agree to disagree.
5. Not Being Clear About What Constitutes Cheating
Once you decide to commit to each other, it'll be important to define what "cheating" means to you, and to create a few boundaries and rules for your relationship.
"This needs to be clear for both partners so that fidelity is clearly understood," clinical psychologist Dr. Helen Odessky tells Bustle. "If, for instance, you share very intimate emotional details with someone who is not your spouse — is your partner going to be hurt by that and consider the emotional affair just as hurtful as a physical one?"
Whatever you decide on, make sure it's a good fit and will make you both feel happy and secure in your marriage. "Fidelity is a cornerstone of marriage because it builds trust, therefore prior to getting married you need to be on the same page about what you consider a breach of that trust," Dr. Odessky says.
6. Arguing About The Same Thing Again & Again
If you two know that you have a few points of contention between you, it'll be a good idea to find a way to agree to disagree, so you don't wind up arguing about it forever more.
"By the time you are married you need to know some of your 'gridlock' arguments and find a way to agree to disagree on this issue," Dr. Odessky says. "Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to resolve every single argument in your relationship to be happy; you just need to sidestep issues that you disagree on but that are not essential to you functioning as a married couple."
7. How To Share A Space
If you've decided to commit to a long-term relationship, you've hopefully figured out that you're compatible when it comes to living together. But for many couples, this isn't the case, and many arguments erupt over things like household chores.
"The distribution of household chores, or as I like to call it, 'doing life together,' is a frequent area of conflict for many couples," Pailet says. "Typically, one partner feels like there is an undue burden on them. By the time you are married, assuming that you’ve been living together for a period of time, you should have sorted out the day to day operations of the household."
If not, you can decide right now how you'd like to divvy it all up, so that everyone's happy, and no one feels like things are unfair.
8. Small Financial Misunderstandings
Money can definitely be an ongoing topic of conversation, as your marriage unfolds. But the sooner you can get the smaller issues sorted, the better. For example, "Are your bank accounts going to be separate or joint and how are decisions around money and finances going to be made?" asks Pailet. "This is another bone of contention for many couples, especially if they are both financially independent before they come into the marriage." By sitting down and talking about it ASAP, you can move past small misunderstandings, and get on the same page.
9. Disagreeing About Plans For The Future
You don't have to have all your future plans nailed down just because you decided to get married. But you should be on the same page about a few key things — or, at the very least, working towards a compromise.
As Dr. Odessky says, "It is a good idea to discuss major areas of your life, such as whether or not you'd like to have children and being completely transparent about finances. These are major areas of married life that couples fight about and by the time you get married you need to have a very good idea about each other's expectations and how you will manage these issues in the future."
Of course, it's always possible to learn, grow, and improve even after getting married. No relationship is perfect, and just because you sign a contract, doesn't mean the relationship will be smooth sailing. Marriage does, however, offer the perfect milestone moment in life where you can learn to work together — and move past these small, silly mistakes.