The wedding’s over. Well done! Before you start berating yourself for all the things you wish you’d done differently, take a minute to acknowledge all your hard work. You threw a kick-ass party and are still alive to tell the tale. Your mother-in-law is back in her city of origin, ﬂashing pics of your ﬁrst dance to strangers on her ﬂip phone. You’ve made smoothies in your new blender, and you’re putting off writing thank-you notes. Now you can return to regular programming.
Every Nancy Meyers movie out there would have you believe that newlywed bliss is a cozy montage of pillow ﬁghts, sparring playfully with chopsticks over the last egg roll, and impromptu dance parties–turned–steamy sex sessions. Um, no. A wedding is one thing. Marriage, however, is an entirely different animal. A wedding is designed to warm hearts and razzle-dazzle even the most dead-eyed cynics. Marriage is the total opposite. A plodding, responsible journey with no endgame in sight, it’s rooted in safety, security, and the promise of forever.
Before I met my husband, M, I was an existential mess with crippling sciatica on Prozac. I’d like to say that getting married has made all the pain go away—but that’s hardly the case. Lots of mornings I still wake up and want to crawl back down under the covers. I still feel lonely on my birthday. I still stare at Instagram and think that everyone is at the party but me.
Marriage has not made me complete. It has not taken away the ache. But it teaches me, day by day, how to stay. To stay strong and calm. To stay grounded, despite the pain. Sex, family, union, home, money, growth—it’s all so massive, so mind-blowing, so bizarre. But the more raw, honest love I invest in all of it, the more raw, honest love I receive. Marriage is not always easy, but nothing worthwhile is.
1. Solo bathroom time is essential.
Nicole Kidman may look tremendously sexy when she pees in front of Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut, but I don’t recommend trying it in real life. I know it can be really tempting to treat your husband like your BF roommate, but trust me when I say that nothing good can come from it. Maintain privacy around bodily functions.
2. Encourage guy time.
For M’s birthday last year, I gave him $200 in cash and made a reservation at the local steakhouse for him and his two best friends. Don’t hijack his free time—his life shouldn’t revolve around meeting your needs.
3. Do date night.
Shave your legs, make a reservation at a chic bistro, get tickets to a play or movie, hit an art opening, and paint the town. It will electrify your vibe and spark up sexy memories from your courtship phase.
4. A couple that snoozes together . . .
Try to go to sleep at the same time every night. Take an extra 20 minutes to snuggle, read, and talk before you turn out the light.
5. Celebrate the milestones,
Holidays and anniversaries don’t all have to be about red roses and five-star restaurants, but they should be acknowledged. Sort out where you stand on gifts, too. Are they important to you? To him? If so, make it a thing. Marking the passage of time together is vital. This whole marriage thing is a crazy, long journey—taking a break every few miles to refuel and reflect is paramount.
6. Don’t snoop.
Believe me, I know how tempting it is. You open his computer to order Seamless and end up poking around his Gmail account and search history just for the hell of it. Word to the wise: Don’t do it. If you have reason to be suspicious, get yourselves to couples therapy, where you can talk about your fears with another person present.
7. It’s all in the details.
The moments of connection don’t have to be profound, but they do have to be, period. Whether it’s staying in bed for an extra five minutes to drink coffee and cuddle, walking to the subway holding hands, or throwing his clothes in the laundry bag when you’re headed out to wash a load, small, thoughtful gestures speak volumes.
8. Have sex.
Do it, even when you’re not in the mood. At least two to three times a week is ideal, but never less than once. Regular sex will keep you connected on a cosmic and cellular level. And every once in a while, put on sexy clothes and go to a fun party. Constant sweat suit–clad homebody husband and wife do not a steamy, passionate sex life make.
9. Call his parents.
I know it can seem taxing to even find the time to call your own family, but please don’t neglect his in the process! They are now your family, too. Every week take a selfie of the two of you, or a pretty pic of some flowers in your apartment, and send it out with a quick text note: “Thinking of both of you and sending lots of love.” Done.
10. Invite friends over.
Whenever M and I have a dinner party, it gives us the extra push we needed to hang the curtains, fix the dishwasher, clean the carpet, and dust those linty corners that we’ve been meaning to get to for months. Light the candles, cook, fill the vases with flowers. It’s really gratifying to get a bunch of your loved ones in one room and see how full your life (and home!) is together.