In reality, "happily ever after" is just the beginning of a life together that will have joys but also pitfalls. Here, real brides some of the lessons they learned after saying "I do."
"My husband and I are a multicultural couple who fell deeply in love at a summer job, married, and had a child. Then things began to go sour. I certainly wasn't going to give up on the marriage and decided to do one deed a day my husband would appreciate. By day 20 I felt we were back on track. I subsequently took this concept and created a 30-day course called LoveSparkMe." —Cathryn
"Our first big marital impasse was over video games. I didn't know he liked to play for hours and hours until after we were living together. The way we got through it was by each apologizing for the initial harsh reaction. Then we sat down to work out a compromise. He didn't stop binge playing right away, but at least we had an open line of communication and I stopped responding so negatively." —Larissa
"We had only been married a few weeks when my husband came to me, saying, 'There is something I need to tell you.' This made me frightened, with my thoughts running rampant. Then he said, 'I am addicted…to pound cake.' Of all the addictions I had ever heard of—alcohol, sex, crack—pound cake was a first. Seems his mother had been touted the queen of the pound cake. This designation now fell upon me. Wanting to please him, I set out to bake a pound cake for the first time ever. I'd observed my mother making one, so I thought, How hard can it be? Who'd have thought baking would require a hazmat suit? Cakes one through three turned out to be flops, as did cakes four through six. Still, I refused to give up. Not even when a cake that smelled wonderful and looked great in the oven deflated like a balloon once removed. Not even when said cake, flung out near the trash in disgust, became a bed for the neighbor's cat. I absolutely refused to give up until I had mastered the perfect pound cake. Wouldn't you know then he decided he preferred sweet potato pie?" —Carol
"Five months after our wedding, my mom was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Of course, Dave understood my preoccupation with the person who'd raised me. He spent hours and hours at the hospital. Yet it nonetheless caused strain that we were newlyweds and yet my mind and heart were elsewhere. I learned the importance of putting one day aside—barring an emergency, of course—for my marriage. That helped us regain our footing as a couple. After my mom died I needed Dave's support more than ever—and he came through with flying colors." —Debra
"A few short months after we were married, my husband was without a job and I was in school full time and working any job I could to keep the lights on and a roof over our heads. The only thing that helped us through was learning how to communicate and listen empathetically. We didn't go to a therapist, but through trial and error we learned how to pay attention to one another, and put ourselves in the other person's shoes. This set up a strong foundation for our marriage." —Ashley
"Money proved to be a huge bone of contention for us. He wanted to share finances, and I felt uncomfortable about pooling everything. For months he was hurt and furious, and kept telling me that I wasn't fully committed to the marriage if I needed a separate account. I told him I loved him fully but as the daughter of divorce I felt it essential that I have a nest egg to call my own. Finally we went to a marriage counselor who helped us process one another's feelings and eventually reach a compromise. We kept most of our money together but I had (and have) an account that is just for me." —Gina
Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, is a New York City–based marriage therapist and author.