Your wedding day is one of the most exciting, exhausting, stressful days of your life. It's the day you look forward to and plan around for months or, in some cases, years. In the movies, it's the day when the bride's dreams all come true and though the movie usually ends there, it gives the viewer the idea that the bride and groom lived happily ever after. The truth, however, is not quite so glamorous.

The first unwelcome surprise might come when the groom wakes up a few days after the wedding and realizes he's out of clean clothes. The new wife might look around the kitchen and realize it's messy, dirty and the pantry shelves are bare. Then the two start a polite discussion about whose job it is to do the dishes or run the laundry. The polite discussion might escalate into disagreement, which then might evolve into a full on argument, shouting and fist shaking optional. Suddenly, the new couple will realize that being married doesn't mean they are now endowed with a perfect relationship forever.

The wedding day is a single day. A marriage lasts a lifetime, and it is this difference that some couples don't realize until the ceremony is over. Marriage is hard and tiring and frustrating and takes a lot of work to live happily ever after. This is a heads up for those soon to be married, those who are newly married, and even those who have been married for a while and still feel like they are getting the hang of it (so basically, all married couples). The following are the top five challenges couples face.

1. The in-laws

This was the biggest surprise for me. Before marrying my sweetheart, I thought his mom was a kind, generous person who took a healthy interest in her son's life. After we were married, I realized that her daily calls weren't going to stop. And, I found that her way of running a household was vastly different from mine. Over the years, this has led to a number of disagreements and tense situations because much as I would like to give her a piece of my mind, I have to try to maintain a good relationship with her for the sake of my husband and my children. It is a guarantee that one or the other of you will find dealing with the in-laws to be challenging at times. If you are aware that this can be a trial ahead of time, you'll be better able to deal with it when the time comes.

2. Financial decisions

You might have discussed your financial philosophies before marriage and think you're on the same page, but the day will come when your husband comes home with a purchase that makes you shake your head in wonderment. "What can he have been thinking? We can't afford that," you'll think in exasperation. Keep in mind that there might be times when he will think the same thing of your purchasing decisions. The key to this trial is to have open communication and to set reasonable goals for your spending habits.

3. Trading traditions

My parents' first big fight of their marriage came four months after their wedding day. It wasn't over money or chores or in-laws, it was over what kind of lights they wanted to put on their Christmas tree. My dad was interested in the new, tiny, twinkling white lights. My mom wanted to go with the traditional big, solid, colorful lights. My mom laughs about it now, but she said at the time it was a real problem for them. Coming up with family traditions is a challenge for some couples as you both come from different backgrounds with traditions that are equally important to each of you. Deciding what traditions you'll incorporate into your lives and which will get the boot will require calm discussion and compromise.

4. Child-rearing

The entrance of a child into any couple's life signals enormous changes into the marriage relationship. Children are needy, emotional and time-consuming. Rearing them takes a lot out of a husband and wife. On top of the sleepless nights and hormonal changes, the two of you might find you don't agree on what the best ways are to raise your child. This is another discussion that is best undertaken prior to the arrival of the new baby, but can be done any time during the course of child-rearing. Your philosophies or those of your spouse might change as the child grows and you learn more about parenting.

5. Career decisions

Another big trial in the marriage relationship has to do with bread-winning. If you both have careers, the challenge will be the perception of whose job is more important. If just one of you has a job, the one who stays at home will need to find some other means of fulfillment. Jobs sometimes require relocation, which can put stress on the relationship and disrupt children's lives. Every career decision must be approached with care and consideration, including taking into account the wants and needs of every family member.

Don't get me wrong, marriage might be challenging, but it is also beautiful and rewarding and has given me the happiest days of my life. But to make it last, you must be aware of the trials you might face so you can prepare to conquer them.

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