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Too many people go into a marriage thinking that it’s going to be great fun and not much different than any old long-term relationship. Living together with another person, who is both a lover and friend, has its ups and downs, and it is certainly a whole lot different than regular dating. Experience comes with time and plenty of couples eventually learn to live in relative harmony with each other, but it always helps to get a basic understanding of what you are getting into beforehand. We all come into marriage with a set of mostly unconscious ideas about how great things will be—that no human spouse can meet. “Expectations like ‘Everything will be fabulous, this is my one true love, this person will make me finally happy, I’ll avoid every mistake I’ve made in the past.

In your first year or so together, it can all seem like sunshine and rainbows between the two of you. Your relationship is still fresh, you are slowly learning about each other, you have sex all the time and you spend some time away from one another regularly, so every time you see each other, there is plenty to talk about. However, once you start spending all or most of your free time with someone and living under the same roof, you suddenly become a strange mixture of friends, family and roommates.

Create a safe haven where your partner can reveal his or her innermost emotions, thoughts, ideas, and expectations—without you jumping to conclusions, inadvertently criticizing your partner’s vulnerable feelings, or trying to fix things when your spouse simply needs a listening ear. The combination of open, honest talk and empathetic listening fosters acceptance and deeper understanding—making the two of you feel safer and closer.

When you get married you start to do a lot of things as a couple. You go shopping together, you relax after work together, you go out with friends as a couple, etc. However, your schedules won’t always overlap and neither will your interests, so it is a good idea to do some activities on your own. You may want some time alone with your friends, or one of you may just want to sit in front of the TV all day while the other wants to go swimming. This is where friends and family come in—you can get someone else to go with you and your partner can spend the afternoon doing what he or she enjoys. In the end you both get some alone time, you recharge your batteries and you have something new to talk about when you see each other again.

The thing is you are both used to a certain lifestyle and like things to be a certain way, which can cause a bit of a problem if you aren’t able to back down. Just know that these things are a part of being married and that both of you will need to change a few things about yourself, which takes a bit of work.

While having a lot of things in common can bring the two of you together, it’s impossible to have the exact same hobbies and interests as another person. Your significant other might be somewhat of a slob and you may be a bit of a control and hygiene freak. One partner may enjoy listening to loud music while doing chores around the house and the other might prefer peace and quiet. You might enjoy most of the same things, but hate the fact that your partner watches a boring and predictable TV shows that just has to be on every single night. Learn to accept your partner’s interests and be tolerant of them—you don’t have to like the same things, but don’t complain about the things they like and try to be supportive and understanding.

People who act as friends as well as lovers have happier marriages. Try to be more genuine, more empathetic, and more accepting—friendship skills that go beyond communication, techniques to bring your heart, soul, and whole being into your relationship. You will have plenty of things on your mind at times and an innocent comment from your partner might set you off. You might feel angry, tired, undervalued, self-conscious, etc, and this will cloud your judgment and determine how you interpret what has been said. Even when you learn to let things slide, stay calm during an argument, and become incredibly understanding of your partner, you will still get into an occasional fight. This is very healthy for a relationship, as it means that you are both playing with your cards open and don’t keep your feelings bottled up so they can fester and ultimately cause you to explode.

It’s easy to get into a rut after a while. Your mundane life can quickly bore you and cause you to be lethargic and even depressed. Most people enjoy a change of scenery every now and then, and as a married couple, you’ve got plenty to worry about both at work and at home. This is why an annual vacation is important. You can even have a few mini-vacations during the year. You can go on a weekend getaway, go camping, drive to another city and check into a hotel for a day or anything else that seems fun and exciting.

Housework can be an early battleground for couples. Think about how to get past traditional roles and divide the work fairly. Don’t be afraid to talk about it and make plans—it’s not a petty subject.

No subject sparks more couples conflicts than money. Research shows that newlyweds today face a new challenge: significant debt brought into marriage from school loans, car payments, credit cards, medical bills, and the wedding and honeymoon. Find out how your money personalities can work for—not against—you as you set a calm, organized course toward meeting your financial goals and achieving your dreams.

With all of this advice in mind a few ideas that will add to the newness of your marriage are these gift suggestions. Any of these will be a nice addition to your home and life together, or a great and affordable gift for friends and family. A few of these selections are as follows:

Hardback Coaster Set (2870) American Stationery’s new collection of gift items features new patterns, bright colors and something for everyone on your A- list. From the kitchen to home office to school locker to personal electronic devices, you can mix or match to create either a uniform look or coordinating look.

Natural Wood Frame – Style 3, Vertical (2813_3V) You can keep your special memories on display with our Natural Wood Frames. Each frame is available laser engraved in different ways to celebrate your life. Frames hold a 4″ x 6″ photo. Features an easel back for table top display or may be hung. Size: 7″ x 9″

Large Glass Cutting Board – With Monogram (2869M) Another favorite choice from our new gift items is the Large Glass Cutting Board. It is available in multiple patterns and colors and will set your Monogram off to perfection. Size: 11.5″ x 15.6″

New Address Cards (4717) Sometimes it’s a promotion, new job or even just a new address for the same house. Whatever the reason, many people need to know how to reach you. Let them know your new address with these charming announcements.

Portrait Photo Address Labels (8766) Choose your favorite photo to adorn these address labels. They’re perfect for engagement or wedding announcements, anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, or any other special occasion.

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