I’ll admit that I’m a marriage newbie. After all, my husband and I got married just last fall after being together for a couple of years. Thus far, I’ve been hesitant to dole out marriage advice for fear that 1) I’ll look like a fraud and 2) that it’ll somehow backfire on my marriage, which, so far, is going pretty well. But, it’s time to pull the sheets back, so to speak.

Almost immediately after our wedding, people began asking me if it felt different to be be married. The answer is one of those complicated yes and no answers because no, on a day to day level, not much has changed. My husband is still in graduate school and I’m still going to work five days a week. On a more esoteric level, yes, it has definitely changed.

For one, I’ve been playing the legal game of changing my name on paper. At first I had a small debate about whether the way my name appears on our marriage license (with my family name now as my middle name) was really the order in which I wanted it to appear (turns out, yes, it is). And let me just say this: the name thing is no small thing. Luckily, my fears were assuaged by all the married women who’d come before me that told me that yes, it is weird when you change your name and yes, you will get more and more comfortable with it. Secondly, having to get used to being someone’s wife (or more importantly, for that matter), being called “wife” has made me feel both mature and dignified in a way that being someone’s girlfriend, partner, or significant other, never did.

But besides getting used to being called his wife and getting used to my new last name, I think the thing that we’re both learning is that the first year of marriage is a foundational year. As we settle into day-to-day living and face the post-honeymoon, real-life realizations, we have started to make choices about how to respond (vs. reacting), how to speak kindly to one another, how to not take anything too seriously, and how to get nitty gritty about what we both want sexually.

Contrary to popular belief, marriage is not about compromising 50-50 all the time. It’s more like 90-10 or 70-30. On a good day, it feels like 60-40, but learning how to compromise has also taught us how to communicate what either one of us really needs at any given time. We can’t always have what we want, but if putting our needs to the side for the needs of the collective means that we have an overall happier union, then so be it.

From the beginning, we promised we would do everything in our power to help one another grow in ways that can be both beneficial and challenging. Sometimes growth isn’t always pretty, but we’re learning how to have the conversations we need to have in order to facilitate what’s happening for either of us at any given moment in time.

Marriage seems to change the dynamic of the relationship, as well, in that it requires a readjustment for other key relationships in our lives, like family, friends, and work. The balancing act that’s required to make time for everyone (as well as ourselves) is not always easy, but we’re learning how to manage it.

Ultimately, we have a long way to go, but both of us are committed to the long game. And with that hope comes the desire to work hard and practice the skills that will make our marriage succeed for years to come.