I am happily approaching my one year anniversary and it’s given me a reason to reflect on some the important lessons I’ve learned.

1. You don’t marry your spouse; you marry your own character.

One night, a month after our wedding, I faced my first real marriage dilemma: a beer with my buddy or dinner with my wife.

My friend who I hadn’t seen in over a year was visiting New York City for just one night. Meanwhile, my wife was at home preparing what she had hinted to me earlier as my “favorite dinner.” I walked out of work with two text messages lighting up my phone. One read, “What’s up dude! I’m only in town for a night and have a few hours to grab a beer. I would love to catch up!” And my wife’s text, “Can’t wait to see you… I’ve been looking forward to it! See you soon.”

My mood began to spiral to a deep, dark land of resentment.

I texted my friend that we’d have to catch up a different night, a small bit of resentment began to brew right in the center of my stomach. This little ball of bitterness said things like, “You should keep score and hold this over her head,” “You have dinner with her every night, don’t you deserve a night to yourself?” and “You should tell her how much of a mensch you are for picking her over him!” I boarded the subway heading uptown as my thoughts swirled around my head causing my mood to spiral to a deep, dark land.

Then I remembered what my rabbi told me. When he pulled up to his house after an exhausting and stressful day he would put the car in park, put in his favorite Jewish rock album, and turn the volume to max. He would sing loudly and off key while he danced like a Chassid in a seat belt, completely transforming himself before stepping inside his home. His wife and kids didn’t notice the bags under his eyes when he came blasting through the door with enough smiles and good vibes for everyone to feel.

This story had nothing to do with his relationship with his wife and everything to do with his relationship with himself. He waged war on the part of himself that succumbed to fatigue, laziness, and pride. He fought past those traits and in an instant he found joy, humility, and life.

I pictured that scene as I left the subway and started making my way home where my wife was patiently waiting for me. On the way I stopped by the drug store where I picked up the Swiffer she had been asking me to buy for our wooden floors for weeks. As I energetically entered our apartment, I was greeted with the sweet smell of homemade Chinese food (my favorite) and a bright smile. I handed her the Swiffer with no sign that I ever had a thought that I would want to be anywhere else than right here, right now. And as a matter of fact, it was true.

2. Don’t talk about your past relationships… ever.

This one sounds extreme. Maybe it is. But both my wife and I signed onto it on our third date and never turned back. Don’t talk past relationships.

My best friend, Bobbo, was going out with a girl and it was getting serious. On one particular date, they started opening themselves up to each other. Bobbo told me that he could feel himself growing closer to the girl as they both shared personal stories and details of their lives that they wouldn’t share with just anyone. The conversation, naturally, took to turn towards past relationships. He told me it was completely innocent when his love interest shared that she had dated the quarterback at a big, well-known university. Bobbo was honored that she would tell him of the trials and tribulations that she went through and by the end of the night he felt as though they had reached the next level.

Bobbo couldn’t shake the image of his girlfriend and the quarterback together as a couple.

Then something annoying began to happen. Bobbo couldn’t shake the image of the two of them together as a couple. He pictured a seven-foot tall muscle man that could leap from one tall building to another without breaking a sweat. He started to have nightmares of her watching the quarterback from the sidelines as she wore his letter jacket and held a giant sign with hearts and exclamation points. These thoughts randomly popped into his head and stung. He realized there was a price to be paid for sharing everything.

Some readers are probably thinking this is ridiculous; he must have been an exceptionally sensitive and jealous guy. But think about it. What does talking about past relationships really add to your marriage? What is there to be gained? And think about what’s to be gain by not talking about the past. I feel as if I am the only man my wife has ever laid eyes on. I can’t even name anyone she ever dated or felt serious about. When we go out with other couples and they openly speak about their ex’s, we give each other a look communicating how grateful we both are that we set a standard that the only relationship allowed in our home is ours.

3. Appreciate your differences.

Realizing my wife and I are different enabled me to understand her much better. This was especially important when we were under stress.

When a problem came up for us and stress or anxiety hit, we had exactly the opposite reactions. She wanted to talk, and I wanted to be silent. A man often prefers to hide away, figure out the problem on his own, and maybe distract himself with a mindless activity for a while to let things pass. A woman often leans towards talking it out, counting on friends or family to confide in, and sharing the feelings and emotions that accompany whatever has occurred. These approaches are at odds with each other, and if one believes that the other should respond to problems the same way that they do, it will exacerbate the problem.

She is more willing to give me space, and I am more willing to lend a listening ear.

My wife and I are at our best when we are comfortable with the idea that we deal with things differently. Internalizing this has led to us to make great strides towards each other. She is more willing to give me space, and I am more willing to lend a listening ear. I realized that it’s okay that I don’t understand exactly why she needs this or why she wants that. The opposite sex is often opposite. As long as respect and admiration are involved, that’s exactly the way it is supposed to be.

The first year of marriage is not the honeymoon phase, nor is it a nightmare. The first year is laying the foundation of the marriage. There are years and decades of work to be done, because if you want to build the most spectacular skyscraper that the world has ever seen, it’s going to take guts. But, as I’m told by my friends, rabbis, parents, and grandparents…the view from the top is awesome.