Think deciding on a dress is the hardest part about getting married? Think again. After the I-dos are said and the wedding cake is cut, the real event begins: the much-talked about, much-maligned first year of marriage. Author Jo Piazza (you may remember her from the awesome beach read of a few summers ago, The Knockoff ) took on that very subject in her latest tome, How to Be Married: What I Learned From Real Women on Five Continents About Surviving My First (Really Hard) Year of Marriage.
Jo traveled the globe during her first year of marriage, interviewing hundreds of women (and a few men)— polygamist tribes in Africa, Frenchwomen in Paris, Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, a tribe in India, even stay-at-home dads in Sweden—about what makes marriage work. The result is an insightful must-read that covers sex, compromise, communication and everything in between. “I’m sick of everyone pretending their marriage is perfect on Instagram,” says Jo. “If you visited my Instagram during my first year of marriage, you’d see a cute couple traveling to exotic locations, climbing mountains, strolling along Dutch canals and eating too much delicious food. You’d have no idea that I’d lost my job and had a shitty medical diagnosis, that doctors had told me my dad was close to dying three times or that my mother had had a nervous breakdown. You wouldn’t know about all the times I fought with my husband or drank too much wine and cried myself to sleep. I hope this book shows some of that. Because that’s what’s real.” Here, Jo’s top five pointers for navigating year one.
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"This advice came from the brilliant and terrifying women I interviewed in Paris who were concerned that American newlyweds let themselves go after getting married. 'Walk around naked or in beautiful underwear, but do not let him see you in sweatpants,' one very French woman with very French bangs explained. She said 'sweatpants' the way some people say 'toenail clippings.' I don't think these women understood how much money I've invested in cute yoga clothes. I adapted the advice a little. I say you shouldn't throw away the nice sweatpants, just the gross ones that don't make your butt look cute."
"There's so much rhetoric around getting married and becoming one. That's such bullsh*t. You don't leave your identity at the door. I learned more about how to have a happy and successful marriage from the polygamist tribe members in Kenya and Tanzania than I thought a die-hard monogamist could ever learn. The women in the Maasai tribe were quick to school me on the importance of maintaining your own friendships and identity outside of a new marriage."
"Absolutely everything is better after a good night's sleep and some caffeine. You don't need to resolve every issue every night before bed. Sometimes you just need to take that Ambien and get some z's. I interviewed the hilarious writer and actress Jenny Mollen about her marriage to movie star Jason Biggs. This is what she told me: 'I think it's normal to hate each other from time to time. You can't be afraid of not liking each other. Sometimes you're going to roll over in bed and wish he was someone else. Girls grow up with this idealized version of what their marriage should look like, and the reality is that it does ebb and flow. As much as I want to murder Jason sometimes, I know we're not getting divorced, and it's not ending. There are times when you want to love them and times when you want to love anyone but them.'"
"I got this advice from so many women all over the globe, and I took it to heart. I actually end How to Be Married by going on a road trip through the Scottish Highlands with my best girlfriend. Some of the best marriage advice I got came from an Orthodox Jewish woman in Israel who told me, 'You and your husband have to move apart to come back together.' Nothing makes you appreciate your spouse more than time away. And the bonus is that it makes you so much more interesting. Being with one person day-in and day-out can get repetitive and boring. That is just the truth. Taking a journey on your own gives you something new and exciting to talk about. It also does wonders for your sex drive."
"While interviewing women about arranged marriage in India, I happened upon a matrilineal tribe called the Khasi, in the state of Meghalaya. The family name, property and money are all passed down through the youngest Khasi daughters rather than the sons. Even though these women control the assets, they still preach the value of compromise in marriage. It's too easy to let earning power transfer to who makes big financial decisions in a couple. The key to marital financial success is to make the decisions together."