“We’re great at communicating!” And other things you realize you’re not when you get married.

Dating is cute. But living together and being married is totally different.

My husband and I dated for almost four years before we got engaged and almost five years before we got married. 18 months of that were long distance (we started dating while being long distance) — I was in Texas and he was in Maryland. Then, another school year of living in two separate cities, but not really that far apart — Washington, DC and Washington Co., MD.

During that time, I told everyone when they asked how we did it, that we were masters of communication. We survived all of this because we talked about everything. We trusted each other deeply, and jealousy wasn’t in our agendas. We aimed for the love defined in 1 Corinthians 13, and always sat down to read it when we felt things were getting out of control in our lives, our relationship, or our faith.

Trust me, my husband is my best friend. I love spending time with him. I love owning a home, making dinner, spending weekends, just being with him. We talk about ideas, events, and people (so, Eleanor Roosevelt, diagnose that!). We enjoy some of the same hobbies, but we have also always been very independent people.

When we got married and moved in together, however, things changed. We were tied to each other now, and our dynamic shifted. We were still the same people, but now we were around each other all the time. When I got home from work, there was no decompressing on my bed alone. He was there. There was no watching guilty pleasure shows or movies because we had to decide together what to watch on TV. And he was adjusting to living in a house with just one person instead of a family of seven, five of which were boys. Sports all the time? No problem! Not to mention, there was always a younger sibling to do chores.

We obviously knew the things we would struggle with when we moved in together, but all of a sudden, bickering became more regular. His tone somehow offended me more than it usually did. My wanting to take breaks in between chores annoyingly disrupted his productivity. If one of us was texting rather than talking to the other person, it was a question of who was it and what was the conversation about.

What happened to our great communication skills? Our rock solid trust in each other? I wondered. We read devotionals every night, we pray together. Why now are we getting on each other’s nerves so much?

Two words: Change. Adjustment.

You hear all the time that communication is key, in alignment with so many other factors. And you hear all the time that marriage is work, which it 100% is. But it wasn’t until I was standing over the sink on a random Saturday, doing the dishes caked with meatloaf from a meal he prepared the other night that a light bulb lit up.

I was mad I didn’t have any Brillo pads to aid in this task. I was mad that he didn’t soak the dishes immediately after putting away the leftovers. Two days later, that ground beef was a brick layer on my loaf pan. I was frustrated that I was out there having to deal with his mess. I wanted to yell at him to be more considerate. To, I don’t know, think about what would happen to that meatloaf if it sat without being tended to.

However, I stopped myself from angrily slamming down my loaf pan into the sink, or bitterly shoving the utensil drawer shut. Instead, I calmly asked him to come into the kitchen. When he appeared, our conversation went something like this:

“Hey babe,” I started. “In the future, can we try to clean up right after we cook things? Or at least remind each other to let some of these pots and pans soak overnight before putting them in the dishwasher?”

“Yeah,” he replied, seeing me working over the loaf pan. “I’m sorry about that — is it gross?”

“Yeah, but it’s okay. We’ll just remember to handle stuff like this right away from now on.”

“Okay babe, no problem. I love you.” Adorable husband kisses my cheek and leaves the kitchen.

I was impressed that it had gone so well, and I felt so much better after that quick little conversation. Whenever I think about the people who gripe about marriage, I a) always tell myself I don’t want to be like that, and b) think to what Mindy Kaling says about marriage:

“Married people, it’s up to you. It’s entirely on your shoulders to keep this sinking institution afloat. It’s a stately old ship, and a lot of people, like me, want to get on board. Please be psyched, and convey that psychedness to us. And always remember: so many, many people are envious of what you have. You’re the star at the end of the Shakespearean play, wearing the wreath of flowers in your hair. The rest of us are just the little side characters.”

My husband and I are a team. Yeah, we have some personal errors every now and then, and sometimes one or both of us says something off the cuff that makes the other one blink or get feelings hurt. But at the end of the day, we are psyched about each other, and to be hand-in-hand in this life. Together. I still consider us to be fantastic communicators with each other. But that’s because we work really hard to be that way.

There has only been one meal, so far, that I made that was terrible. I recognized it right away and told him it wasn’t my best. He tried my food and said, “it’s not that bad.” But by the end of it, he agreed — “Yeah, you’ve definitely made better.”

Marriage is humbling. If you thought you were unstoppable, invincible as a couple and that marriage would make you even more so…you’ll have a reality check. You certainly can be invincible when it comes to dealing with the negativity from other people: friends, family members, co-workers. But it’ll take a lot of emotional and mental exercise to get there.

At the end of the day, you always have to remember your love for each other. And remember why you want this. Marriage isn’t something that should be taken lightly, but it also isn’t that serious. If you love someone, work with them. Communicate with them. Make your relationship a well-oiled machine that will run smoothly. Like any machine, it will need maintenance and attention, always. That’s the serious part. But the not-so-serious part is, laugh with each other. Love each other passionately. Enjoy each other’s company, each other’s unique hobbies that you don’t share.

Be excited about, for, and with each other. I was great at living by myself, and I thought it would be no big adjustment to live with my husband, whom I love. While I was totally wrong on that, it wasn’t unpleasant. It never has to be because attitude goes a long way. If you’re helping each other grow and be better people working toward your best potentials, marriage can be a series of wonderful discoveries where you’re proved wrong but in the best ways possible.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.