Wives confess! 'What I didn't know until I was married'

Love and marriage lessons from women

There's an old joke that goes, "Marriage is a wonderful institution but who wants to live in an institution." Whether the quote is attributed to Mae West or Groucho Marx is a matter of debate. Either way, it speaks to the cynical sentiment that folks have about marriage, now more than ever.

I am often asked whether I would ever get married again. People expect that I'd be turned off to the idea as a love advice columnist and empowerment coach with a "failed" marriage on my own relationship resume. After all, I field daily queries from women dealing with the worst of the worst for a living.

Marriage is definitely not for the faint of heart but is a beautiful commitment. I am still excited by and extremely positive about marriage. After all, I have the lessons of a 10-year relationship behind me. In my first marriage I learned that mothering and loving your man are not the same thing and that when someone shows you who they really are, believe them. My friend, Jason Hayes, a social issues filmmaker, happily married for 10 years, calls marriage "an adventure into the unknown of self-discovery and reinvention."

My mantra is that "we are our sisters' keepers." We can and should learn from each other. With that in mind, I asked a group of accomplished and successful women from across the country to share their marriage lessons and confessions -- the good, the bad and the inspiring.

Here's what your neighbors didn't know until they were married:

"I didn't know how important it was to express yourself well, even when angry, until I was married. Usually I would just not say anything, hoping he would pick up on my mood but sometimes it went right over his head. Grrr. And we own a boutique together!" - Fatima Sidibe, Harlem, N.Y.

"During my dating years I thought, why did people need a piece of paper to handcuff them together? After I got married I realized how the right two people in a great marriage can deepen the love, strengthen the commitment, build as individuals and a couple, heighten the relationship and sex, and take your life to a level that could never have been captured on anyone's Mr. or Mrs. Right List." - Antoy Grant, Beverly Hills, Calif.

"Marriage is full of compromise, and given a woman's inherent nature to be a nurturer, a healer, a comforter and a man's inherent nature to be a leader and protector, the woman does far more compromising. Yes, this is a generalization, but I dare you to find a long-married couple in which the wife hasn't made more personal sacrificial choices for the benefit of the family. The silver lining is that submissive love is the most powerful love of all. Just always keep something for yourself." - Cherise Fisher, Mount Vernon, N.Y.

"Place your husband first in your life, not before God but because of God. Be his best friend, his lover, his mistress and his girlfriend and leave no room for him to desire anything that you can't fulfill. And last but not least, hug and kiss him often, always scratch his back for him and remind him of how wonderful he is." - Jamilah B Creekmur, Baltimore, Md.

"I'd say don't ever be someone's mom who didn't come out of your own vagina. Loving someone does not mean suffering for them, and if you're not loving yourself first, you're bad at love." - Jessica Delfino, Damariscotta, Maine.

"The one thing I wish I knew before getting married is that it's extremely humbling. Basically, my career is stagnant right now but my husband's is flourishing. When we relocated to a new city so that he could pursue an opportunity, I was fresh off of a layoff. The hubby keeps telling me to relax and to take a break but there's this side of me that wants to continue making my own money. I haven't had to rely on anyone else since college. Pride is a beast." - Starrene Rhett Rocque, Chicago, Ill.

"No one is perfect. Neither is any marriage. Most expectations before marriage are unrealistic. Be ready to adjust to the real thing. The person you are engaged to is going to be the same person after you walk down the aisle. Don't expect unrealistic changes. Also, it's up to you to keep things spicy!" - Renee Daniel Flagler, Baldwin, N.Y.

"I didn't know that as long as you laugh together, and sometimes at each other, the longer it will last. More laughter than tears. That's the ticket. It's worked for 18 years, 5 children and 8 grandchildren. And no, it wasn't our first marriage!" - Beth Robinson Bunch, Knoxville, Tenn.

"Until I got married, I didn't understand just how much forgiveness, compromise and love go hand in hand." - Charli Penn-Watkins, Berkeley, Calif.

"I didn't know how lonely I would be. I realize now that marriage will not make you feel whole." - Ginger Crenshaw, Elk Grove Village, Ill.

"I didn't expect my husband would snore after marriage. I honestly thought he would sleep sexy like on television." - LaNette Kincaid, Dallas, Texas.

More from this contributor

4 types of friends who will ruin your relationship

What if I'm scared to feel passionate, romantic love again?

Multi-dating! How many people should you be dating at the same time?