Our readers have shared the tips, advice, and wisdom they wish they’d known when they were newly married
Mazel tov! The wedding was beautiful, the sheva brachos glorious — and now you have to make supper, do laundry, keep the house clean. Oh, and figure out this relationship business. It can be a tall order. We’re here to help: Our readers have shared the tips, advice, and wisdom they wish they’d known when they were just starting out
“Nothing tastes as good as calm feels.”
A calm lady serving a simple meal on a disposable plate is far more appealing than the most elegant of meals on fine china served by a harried shrew.
Furthermore, a balanced meal is when you hold the paper plate evenly with both hands. Don’t judge nutrition on a meal-by-meal basis; look at the week overall.
Gittel Katz, Spring Valley, NY
Did you know that Amazon sells velvet wig grip headbands? Well, now you do! I don’t know how much your sheitelmacher sells them for, but mine doesn’t sell a three pack for $6.99. These tend to stretch out over time, so it’s great to have extras on hand. You can even keep one in your sheitel box so you’ll never forget one when you travel.
Speaking of which, you can ditch the sheitel box altogether if you’re traveling with only one sheitel. Get a collapsible wire wig stand for less than ten dollars on Amazon that barely takes up space in your suitcase, wear the sheitel you need, and enjoy schlepping one less piece of baggage.
F. J. Lakewood, NJ
What things are worth a fight with your husband? Maybe some things, but certainly not very many. When we were newly married, each time we had a disagreement or argument, one of us would ask, “Is this our first fight?” That helped us remember that the relationship is more important than the majority of topics we could bicker about. It helped diffuse any tension and enabled us to relax and laugh together and work the issue out in a more mature way, in a way that couldn’t be called a “fight.”
After a while, it became silly to fight when we’d gotten so far before having our “first fight.” If we’d managed four months, maybe we could manage five? In fact, we did this so well that now, many years later, we still occasionally ask each other, “Wait, is this our first fight?”
Chaya, Kiryat Sefer
Don’t ever think you’re done learning. Just when you think, “Okay, I’ve got this marriage thing down pat now,” things will change, because you’ll change and so will he. Realize that with all the growth that happens, there’s a constant need to recalibrate and adjust to each other — and that’s okay. The sooner you accept it, the less frustrating your shalom bayis work will be.
Leba Friedman, Jerusalem
Independent was my middle name. Self-sufficient and confident, I met my bashert in my early twenties and got married in a cloud of bliss. Then came the day when it all came crashing down.
I mentioned to my dear husband that I got my paycheck, and would he please deposit the check for me in the bank? As a good husband, he opened my bag and proceeded to look for the check.
I couldn’t handle it. No one but me had ever touched that bag. I was so independent and in-command of my own life that another person touching my bag was too much for me to bear!
Suddenly sharing your belongings can be difficult for an independent girl. It took hard work for me to calm down and accept the new normal. Brace yourself!
Marriage gives you the advantage of taking on a new name. And many happy years later, I delightfully relish in my new middle name: Interdependent. With my husband. Who knows where my credit cards are, because I don’t.
Brachi G., Spring Valley, NY
It’s so important to enjoy the moment. I remember dating and just focusing on the anticipation of getting engaged. Then, once I was engaged, focusing on the excitement of getting married. Once married, I dreamed of starting a family.
I wish I would have slowed down and enjoyed. I look back at shanah rishonah, and I think about all the hours I spent with my husband, just getting to know each other, relaxing, and hanging out. At the time, it felt like I was waiting for the next step, that shanah rishonah was just the interim before real life began. I wish I’d known how special that time is, the calm before the storm of motherhood takes over.
I want to tell new kallahs: Im yirtzeh Hashem, the time will come when your life is so busy, you won’t have time to sit with your husband for coffee. That stage is beautiful and rewarding and will come at the right time. But now, enjoy the time alone with your husband. Relax, create memories, and strengthen your bond as a new couple. The bond that you create in the first year will take you through all of the craziness that awaits you.
Remember that now you’re a team and your job is to defend your spouse. Never take anyone else’s side, especially in public. Never make him feel stupid, and always show him and everyone else that you value him, respect him, and think the world of him. You can always discuss any disappointment or frustration later, in private, gently and with love. Never let him feel that you “ganged up” against him or didn’t trust him. And ask him to do the same for you.
Chaya, Kiryat Sefer
I wish I’d known that my husband’s behavior isn’t my responsibility.
I wish I’d known that my husband’s spirituality isn’t my responsibility.
I wish I’d known that my husband’s sobriety isn’t my responsibility.
When, after 15 years of marriage, I learned that my husband had been engaged in addictive and compulsive behaviors that severely undermined our marriage, I was shaken, but not entirely shocked. For a long time, I had a sense that something was wrong. I’d tried all kinds of thing to keep my husband happy and get him out of his bad moods.
Since learning of my husband’s addiction, I’ve joined a 12-Step Spouses Anonymous and have begun learning to focus on my own needs, behavior, and spirituality. Yes, we’re partners, my husband and I, but each of us is responsible for our own choices. I can’t and shouldn’t rely upon him for my spiritual fulfillment. I need to have my own individual relationship with Hashem. I also can’t and shouldn’t attempt to control his relationship with Hashem or anyone else.
Even if your parents or other relatives live close by, don’t always go away for Shabbos or for the Shabbos meals. Make sure to spend some Shabbosim or some Shabbos meals alone, just the two of you together. Develop a rhythm of your own, develop your own tastes and preferences in Shabbos menus and Shabbos schedules. Enjoy your own private Shabbos meals and each other’s focused company, with no in-laws, siblings, parents, or your own future children interfering or distracting you from each other. Make your own Shabbos table, prepare for Shabbos together, choose your favorite tunes for the zemiros you want to hear in your own home.
Chaya, Kiryat Sefer
You know how the glass cups from your Shabbos licht are all oily after Shabbos? All you have to do is put them into a container with 1 teaspoon of laundry detergent (powder or liquid) and close the container for 24 hours. The next day, they’ll rinse super easily and have no oily residue. It’s like magic!
Get a list of doctors in your area before your wedding or right after. Don’t wait until you find out you’re expecting to start awkwardly asking around for the best OB/GYN while still thinking no one will realize you’re six weeks pregnant.
Leba Friedman, Jerusalem
Of course, I viewed my wedding day as a personal Yom Kippur in the spiritual sense, but I viewed it as Pesach in the practical sense. Come Seder night, every last nook and cranny must be cleaned, every dish prepared, and every new outfit altered and ready to be worn. I was driven to check off every item on my to-do list and have my “shtuffir” (as some would call it) taken care of to perfection.
I wish I hadn’t been so motivated. Experience taught me more than a thing or two. I couldn’t have known which style sheitel I’d enjoy until I actually wore them. I shouldn’t have bought all of them before the wedding, but waited to buy one later. The same goes for my home furnishings. As married life fell into place, I learned which items worked for my lifestyle.
Better to get married with things missing in your kitchen drawer or dining room closet and fill them in later, than to be a newlywed who had crossed off every t, but regretted the purchases.
Chana S., NJ
Why aren’t my sisters-in-law as wonderful as everyone said they were? This question surfaced right after I got married and lingered for a while.
Until I got to know them better and understood where they were coming from. And that place was miles away from the turf I was familiar with.
Now aware of personality lingo, my label is extrovert. My husband’s sisters are introverts. I wanted to be included and in the loop. They were being nice by giving me space, and my freedom to decide when to be part of their clan. I wanted to be treated as me. They were treating me as if I were they.
I wish I’d known that I shouldn’t jump to conclusions and judge my acquired relatives based on my relationship yardstick. I wish I’d known that each family connects differently to new members. I’m delighted I learned it eventually, but I regret that I misjudged these remarkable people at the beginning.
M.B., Brooklyn, NY
You know the advice that everyone gives: “Don’t go to sleep angry or upset”? Well, forget it, especially if you or your husband are people who get crankier the more tired you are. Arguing about something mundane at two in the morning can become an explosive, full-on fight.
Get some sleep, wake up clear-minded and refreshed, and then talk about the issue like calm adults over a cup of coffee.
We now have a rule that after eleven ‘o clock at night we’re not allowed to discuss anything negative. It has saved us a lot of heartache and a lot of time.
After you spend time in your in-laws’ house, clean up after yourself. Strip the bed of your linen. Put your brother/sister-in-law’s bedding back on.
Penny Jay, NY
The takeout store doesn’t ask for an excuse note before giving you food. Neither does the bakery. Each is actually very happy to provide you with what you need to get through the day emotionally and physically intact. Don’t be defensive. Don’t apologize. Use the above-mentioned establishments when you need them.
Bina Lewenberg, Monsey, NY
I remember, during the first few months of my marriage, my fear and dread of having to make chicken for dinner because of the task of cleaning the chicken. For some reason, my mother never used scissors; she always used a knife, and not a particularly sharp one! The few times she tried to teach me how to cut away the cartilage and other unwanted parts from the chicken, I walked away with a feeling of relief that I still retained all my fingers, and intense panic that one day, in my own home, this would be my responsibility.
Thank goodness, after a little while, my new sister-in-law shared her secret to effective chicken cleaning: chicken scissors. The first time I used them was life-changing. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to clean the chicken, and I did it in record time!
Now, chicken is a staple in my home and gone are the nightmares of cutting off my own fingers in an attempt to successfully get that last feather off the chicken.
Ahuva Gewirtz, Queens, NY
I wish I’d known… to buy bookshelves with doors on the bottom. This would have saved me countless minutes, limited energy, numerous books, and many a “no.” It seems to be a rite of passage for any child from the age of one to spend his or her free time pulling every single book off the shelf.
For some reason, this is by far more exciting than Magnatiles, Megablocks, dolls, strollers, balls, a trampoline, riding toys, and more. Well, if that’s the case, maybe these shelves really are a good investment, after all. Why invest in toys? Just buy bookshelves without doors!
A. Rozwaski, Baltimore, MD
I got married in the beginning of Elul, right at the start of the new work year.
At the end of the previous year, when I was asked to fill in my work contract concerning the following year, I decided to cut the majority of my hours. I mean, I’d be married and therefore super busy. How would I find a spare minute between spending time with my new husband, touring the city, going on mini-vacations, and cooking supper? How would I even juggle a part-time job, never mind a full time? And so, despite being advised to the contrary, I left my afternoon job.
And then I got married. The following two weeks were a whirlwind of glitz and sparkle. And touring and outings and eating out, blissfully work free. And then I was thrust back to earth with a resounding bump.
Boredom! My husband learned full time and was out for the majority of the day. My friends, married and unmarried, worked full-time too, and I was left in my kitchen, staring at the chicken and spices and other ingredients and recipes that I cannot even pronounce. Fancy as they were, they didn’t take more than an hour or two to prep. I was pining to return to my job. But they’d already filled my position, so I was left to wait until there was another one available.
So my advice to all you newlyweds out there: Yes, you’ll have another person in your life. Yes, you’ll have new responsibilities. But that doesn’t make you unable to work. Those responsibilities don’t fill your time or deplete your energy in a way that leaves you satisfied. You and your husband will only stand to gain if you ensure that you’ll be busy. And when the time comes that it truly is too much for you, you’ll know, and then it will be wise to leave.
Michali Klyne, NY
I wish I had known that the most empowering words you can tell your husband are: “You make me so happy.”
I wish I’d known that most men respond well to smiles, less so to tears. So, if you cry to your husband because of him, it crushes him. It can cause him to shut down, despair, or respond with anger.
If you need to criticize, throw in, “I’m only pointing this out because I know how much you care about me.”
Even if you’re not feeling it, tell him what good care he takes of you and the family. Tell him what a fantastic husband and father he is, and with time, you will find he’ll be just that.
(Based on Rebbetzin Ruti Waldman’s lessons)
Esther Cohen, Jerusalem
Advice. Advice. Advice. When you’re engaged, you’ll get a lot of it. When it came to shalom bayis guidance, I was all ears. (Easy because it was all theoretical.) But when it came to shopping for household goods, my ears were shut tight. I wanted to do it my way, and felt this was my time to “wine and dine” myself.
How I wish I would’ve been the chacham haroeh es hanolad. I bought a set of pots because I loved their look. Now I hate to look at them because they didn’t stand the test of time, and I hate washing them because they’re impossible to clean.
I bought linen whose design was totally my taste and felt so lucky because they were inexpensive. Now I have to pay the price of sleeping in linen that washes horribly and is always creased. Get the idea?
I want to tell kallahs: sacrifice short term pleasure for long-term satisfaction.
M.K. , Lakewood, NJ
I wish I’d known that not all husbands take initiative when it comes to outings, date nights, etc. In my mind, that’s how it went, because that’s how I grew up and that’s often the way things work.
It took me some time to realize that my husband was more than glad to come along, but he wasn’t good at planning or coming up with ideas. It didn’t mean I had to give up on having a good time, it just meant that instead of waiting for an outing/date night invitation and growing resentful, I became the one to say: “Hey! There’s this beautiful new park, what do you think of going there together next Sunday?”
My advice to all newlyweds out there is to hang on to your friends. This would apply even more so to those who are one of the first in their circle of friends to get married. You see, it’s very easy to get caught up in all the glitz and hype of a newlywed’s life and decide that you don’t have the time or patience for your friends (especially those unmarried, childish ones — I mean, I’ve moved so beyond them, we don’t relate.)
But let me tell you, that life moves on, and they respect your space until you slowly fade out of their lives. And that may be when you begin to realize that a man (fabulous as he is) cannot take the place of your friends. Loyal as your friends may be, if you’ve not made any slight effort to return their calls, or to chat, even for a moment, you’ll likely feel sidelined, and rightly so. Still, it’s always easier to invest in a friendship that has been reduced to a trickle then to rebuild a friendship that’s been severed. So do it for your sake, and for theirs. You all stand to gain.
Michali Klyne, NY
Normal is an illusion. What’s normal for the spider is chaos for the fly. What is normal, anyway?! If newlyweds would be prepared that everything is normal, the transition would be a lot easier. It’s normal to feel excited. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. It’s normal to feel you want to be together. It’s normal to feel you want your space. It’s normal to be happy you have your own home. It’s normal to feel fear of missing out at your parents’ home. It’s normal that you do things your way. It’s normal that he does things a different way.
What defines normal? Normal is really just a setting on the wash machine. Brave is together finding a new normal.
Rivky L., Monteal, Canada
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 752)
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