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6 Truths About Marriage No One Ever Tells You

The top surprises couples face after they say “I do.”
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Families matter more than you think. continued...

But Michelle was pleasantly surprised by her husband's effect on her family. “He acts as a buffer at family dinners, and his presence makes everyone behave better,” she says. “My parents really like him and feel comfortable with him.”

Some people are most surprised by how much their marriage is like their parents' marriage. Lundholm-Eades says, "Couples often underestimate the role that each individual's family history plays. They vow that their marriage will be different from their parents’ marriage and then are surprised and often horrified by the similarities. They may argue about finances, for instance, or make failed assumptions about the division of household chores -- just like their parents did," she says.

There's more juggling than you expect.

David, 36, a financial strategist in New York who has been married for five years, says, "It may seem obvious, but there is twice as much that you go through when you’re married -- all the emotional ups and downs, job-related successes and anxieties, medical issues, family commitments, and celebrations and conflicts. Everything doubles."

Then he says, "This sharing is what makes it a deeper relationship. But it’s surprising how this doubling is both rewarding and more taxing."

Orbuch says the couples she studied didn’t know, when they were first married, that life would get so busy and stressful that sometimes they’d put their relationship on the back burner. "The more roles and responsibilities you take on, the less you can give to any one of them," she says.

The couples told her they learned to make an effort to talk about something other than the kids, work, or maintaining the household. They could reconnect, even if they were stressed, by regularly talking about other important things, such as their feelings, goals, and dreams for the future.

Compliments are key.

Experts say they’ve been surprised to learn how essential it is to long-term happiness to compliment your spouse and to celebrate his or her achievements.

"Look for opportunities to get excited about your partner’s successes," says Stony Brook University social psychology professor Arthur Aron. "It really strengthens the relationship. Research shows it’s even more important than supporting your partner when things go badly."

Orbuch says, "We found that it’s so significant if you feel your partner frequently makes you feel special, cared for, and loved. You can do this by complimenting your partner, thanking them for helping around the house, or saying simple things like, 'I would still choose you if I had to do it all over again,'" she says.

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