By Jessica Crooke 

Before getting married, advice comes flooding in from excited friends and family who are ready to bestow their marital wisdom on a newly engaged couple. Despite the positive intentions, some of this advice will apply to your relationship and some of it won’t. Each and every relationship is different and what works for some, might not work for others.

But as I approach my one-year anniversary with my husband, I’ve realized that there is some pre-wedding advice that proved to be incredibly valuable in our first year of marriage, and will continue to be in the years to come.

Here are four pieces of advice that we were given before our wedding day that I would, in turn, now give to others getting ready to walk down the aisle:

1. Communicate your expectations.

This was the number one piece of advice that I was given before our wedding that I believe has served us very well. While my husband and I have never had terrible arguments, our biggest moments of frustration, hurt or confusion have come from unmet expectations.

This isn’t just referring to large life expectations like the number of children you want, it’s the little expectations that come about in everyday life. For example, if you were looking forward to a relaxing weekend at home with your husband after a long work week—yet, he wakes up on Saturday morning full of plans for an adventurous weekend—you can’t blame him. Did you let him know that you need this downtime to recover from the week? Because right now, your expectation was for rest and his was for adventure.

Takeaway: Communicate, even when you think your expectations and needs are obvious.

2. Use “The Number System.”

Some friends shared a little system (a rating system of 1 to 10 to demonstrate their personal desires to the other for any given thing) with us before our wedding that might seem silly, but has proven to be surprisingly effective! These friends explained to us that as a couple, their personalities and needs are not always in line as one is an introvert and the other is an extrovert. While one might really need alone time, the other is ready to accept every party invitation they receive.

The idea of the system is to give you further communication tools because, in the end, communication (or lack of it) is often the root of marital tiffs and arguments. So, when the introvert was feeling ready to leave a social setting, she would give a number to her husband. A 6 would mean that she might rather go home but is fine staying longer if it was important to him. But if her husband gave her a 4, then it was obvious that he didn’t really care about staying either, so they would leave.

However, if she gave a 9 and he gave a 6, he knew that she really needed to go home, despite him preferring to stay longer. This interesting communication tool is a fast-acting way to gauge the other’s feelings and needs.

Takeaway: Constantly staying in tune with your partner’s feelings and needs is vital to a healthy relationship.

3. Be transparent.

To “be transparent in your marriage” is simple advice but sometimes hard to carry out. When you’re dating, it’s easy and natural to want to put your best foot forward and hide those personality quirks, struggles or challenges that you’re not proud of, or have a hard time sharing openly.

But marriage can’t thrive on secrecy and acting.

This can, and should, be a goal for couples who are dating as well—but in marriage, it has proved vital. Although sharing insecurities and challenges can be hard and sometimes embarrassing, my husband and I have found that the support we are able to provide to one another has helped us overcome so many of those struggles. And after all, isn’t that one of the perks of marriage? We’re teammates. And teammates pick up the slack when the other is down.

Takeaway: Talk about it, even if it’s hard or embarrassing.

4. The little things matter a lot.

The first time I went to the freezer and got a bowl of ice cream and didn’t bring two spoons back to the couch to share with my husband, his disappointment and hurt was real. Now, this may seem silly to others, but for him, the fact that we had always shared one bowl was a little gesture in our relationship that was obviously cherished, even if I didn’t know to what extent.

The point is this: those little gestures or words of affirmation are so important. As time passes and comfort increases, relationships change and grow—in many ways, this is for the better! But don’t leave behind the little things that remind one another of how important and loved they are.

Takeaway: Share your ice cream. Buy the flowers. Make the morning coffee. Say “you look handsome.” Whatever the little thing is, don’t stop doing it.

Originally published at