Author | Photos Antonio Dicaterina

What I Learned After My First Year of Marriage

I’m driving along Airport Road toward Collingwood and slouch back as my GPS says to continue on this road for fifty-four kilometres. I drive the speed limit so that I can take in the surroundings. I’ve never driven this far by myself and I want to make sure I don’t get lost, crash into a ditch, or miss anything worth writing about.

A black bird flies above my car. It’s flying so low that I can see its white underbelly. It isn’t windy but it looks like he’s pushing through some invisible barrier, fighting his way through. As I focus on the hilly, winding road in front of me, I lose sight of the bird and wonder if it was a bad omen.

I’m driving back to a place so familiar and foreign that a wave of nostalgia hits me. I spend the next fifty-four kilometres thinking heavily about the last few years of my life. I think about the values I’ve adopted and what has become most important in my life. I think about my current friends and the ones that faded away. I think about my family and what my nieces will be like when they grow up. But most of all, since our anniversary was only a week ago, I think about my first year of marriage.


I awoke the day after our wedding ready to feel different, for there to be some huge shift in our relationship that would make us feel married. I’m still waiting for that feeling. We shifted into marriage seamlessly. We created an impenetrable routine and and stuck by it. On days my husband isn’t working, we eat breakfast together. He’s on his phone; I’m reading my book. We rarely have a day off together and although we text throughout the day, we don’t actually talk until after work. We have tea and a snack at 8:00 p.m. sharp, find something to watch on Netflix, fall asleep and begin again.


“Vanessa, sometimes you can be so selfish!” I’ve heard my mom and siblings say many times, and they’re right. This is the part of marriage I’m having the most trouble with: being selfless. Or at least, selfless enough to accept compromises. The moment we said “I do,” I felt free. No longer would I be categorized as part of the Grillone family. My choices, successes, failures and decisions would no longer be tied to my parents. Marriage opened up the idea of being independent and accountable in a way that I had never been before.

Little did I realize that this freedom wasn’t mine alone. This freedom was shared with my new husband. I might no longer feel obligated to run decisions by my parents, but my husband should be consulted before I do anything that will cost us time or money. Or anything that would cause us stress.

Yes, I work. Yes, I make my own money. And yes, I will ALWAYS have a say in anything my husband and I talk about; however, we decided to be a team. We decided to do things together, to create a life together. We share our money, our time, and our love and by doing so, we choose to make decisions together.

Gone are the days of making purchases without taking into consideration how it will affect our bank account or our bills. Significant purchases have to be discussed and calculated. Sometimes I get annoyed that I have to run things by someone. Although, I have to admit that we never say no to one another. My problem is that I just don’t want to think of anyone else.

The worst part of all this? My husband ALWAYS thinks about me. About us and our future. He rarely makes decisions that aren’t for our greater good as a couple. He never thinks about purchasing things for himself and doesn’t understand how to spend money and treat himself. This comes almost naturally for him. It takes a lot for me to walk into a conversation about money and think of US, not just ME.


I woke up one morning a few months after the wedding and my husband was getting ready for work. I looked at my phone, which glared 3:00 a.m. (a.k.a I should be asleep). A fire burned in my chest as an angry groan escaped my mouth. If he heard, he never let on. He just continued with his noise making.

And then began a full two weeks of fighting.

We fought about everything. About him making a mess and not cleaning it up. About not replacing the toilet paper roll. About me complaining about work. About me making faces and snapping on every comment he made. About seeing too much of our families. About toxic friendships. About how we spent our money and our time. About not having enough sex or enough time to ourselves.

We. Fought. About. EVERYTHING. Even our iMessages were filled with dry comments and littered with venom. Our biggest conflict was my unrealistic expectations about my career. My husband is a realist and although he’s never disapproved of my dreams of becoming a successful writer, he doesn’t forget to remind me that we can’t afford for me to sit at home writing. I have to make money even if my career isn’t what I thought it would be.

I remember getting to the office early one morning and crying at my desk, tears soaking every tissue that crossed its path. I sat there and wept, wondering, why did we even get married? Who is this man? He didn’t think like this before we got married. He doesn’t even know me. WHY THE FUCK ARE WE MARRIED?

I would come home after work, look him in the eye and think about how satisfying it would be to punch him. I could tell he felt the same way. There was no love in his eyes; it had been replaced by sheer and utter annoyance. We were both on edge, waiting eagerly for the other to say something incredibly stupid. We were itching for a fight. Until one day, we weren’t.

Suddenly, I found him funny, adorable and sweet again. All of my anger toward him disappeared and his to me. We’ve talked about this a lot in the last few months and chalk it up to living together for the first time. Yes, he was always over before we got married, but living together was different. We couldn’t escape each other. There was no place to be alone.

I wonder how long it will be until our next fight or spell of hatred. I fear for the day we move into our condo. What if he discovers how boring I actually am? How anal I am when it comes to keeping the house clean? What if he always wants to have company over and I just want them to leave? Is 618 square feet enough space for two hermits?

Here, in my parents’ house, we are surrounded by people. My brother lives at home and my family is only a five-minute drive away. My nieces are always over and it is very rare that the household is quiet. My parents like to have a glass of wine with dinner, whereas I don’t drink very much at all. When my husband gets home from work, I’ll often find him having a glass of something. In the summer, they all sit outside for hours just shooting the shit, refilling their wine classes. I would be downstairs in the basement reading or writing with my tea by my side. What’s going to happen when we move out? Is my husband more into my family than he is to me? Will he get bored?


We argued last night. About my selfish attitude, about marriage, and about not having enough sex. I always blame the fact that my parents are right upstairs. It’s kind of hard to enjoy sex knowing that anyone could walk downstairs and see us OR hear us from upstairs.

I woke up the morning after our fight without him by my side. He went to work at 4:00 a.m., probably still fuming from our fight. Little does he know that I know I’m in the wrong. That even though marriage isn’t coming easily for me, it doesn’t mean I want to give up or that I don’t love him.

Little did he know that I went out that morning and bought pistachio instant pudding and all of the ingredients needed to make a pistachio cake so that I can surprise him with it. I don’t bake, and after over nine years of being together, I just learned of his love for all things pistachio.

Food is love. If you make a meal for someone you love and put a genuine effort behind it, it will always taste delicious. That little green bundt cake was actually my white flag waving in the wind.

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