Wedding bells fade and the realization sinks in: You’re married. The formal celebration and blissful honeymoon getaway is over. Now the hard work of making a life together in the real world begins. Here’s some relationship advice for the first year of marriage.
That piece of paper changes things
Even if you live with someone and play house long before you walk down the aisle, once you get married and make that legal and binding document official, your relationship will change.
How can just a piece of paper make such a difference? For some, it’s the realization that they are now bound to another person and can’t just pack up their stuff out and high tail it out of there. For many, it’s a subconscious shift that occurs when generations of baggage about traditional gender roles descends upon the dynamic. Plus, as you’ve probably discovered, everyone expects you to start baby-making soon, if you haven’t already.
Let go of the fairy tale
Unfortunately many couples get caught up in the idealized, media-hyped, fairy tale-ending that a marriage is supposed to grant. They don’t realize that a marriage, like every other relationship, requires work, patience and lots of compromise. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that infatuation and that honeymoon aura can sustain you indefinitely!
Studies show that the more blissful the newlyweds, the more disillusioned the couple are (and the higher the divorce rate) when the infatuation stage passes and reality sets in. In fact, the changes that have take place during the first two years of marriage and how the couple is interacting by the end of those first two years of marriage is predicative of where the marriage is heading.
Two important tools
So, what are the secrets to getting through the first years of married life, without it resulting in a divorce or annulment? Psychotherapist David Sternberg, LICSW, believes that patience and acceptance are two tools that have helped him and his wife as newlyweds.
Even though my wife and I had been together for nearly two years before we got married, I have learned a lot about her this past year, mostly because we now live together, says Mr. Steinberg. We have different ways of approaching tasks. For example, I am not much of a procrastinator and she is. We move at two different speeds. I’m more slow and steady, and she often pushes things to the last minute and then races through them. That’s not to say my way is better, just different. We try not to make the other one move at our speed. It’s been a challenge at times requiring a lot of patience but we try to respect our differences.
5 Tips for newlyweds
Mr. Steinberg believes the two major obstacles that newlyweds need to overcome are unrealistic expectations and adjusting to living with someone else (assuming the couple didn’t live together prior to getting married). He offers these 5 tips that newlyweds can use to make that first year a little easier:
#1 Don’t sweat the small stuff.
If your spouse doesn’t clean the kitchen as thoroughly as you, let it go. Remind yourself that you love him/her more than you love a spotless kitchen counter.
#2 Be open to differences.
If, for example, you like watching ESPN and your wife loves The Bachelorette, sit with her and try watching an episode. You may wind up getting addicted. I know I did. Ladies: You might grow to appreciate football or basketball more than you ever thought you could!
# 3 Set some basic guidelines around your families.
Since our parents live close by, there’s some pressure from them to get together often. My wife and I have a rule that we see one set of parents or the other every other week. It works for us.
#4 Don’t forget your friends.
I think there’s an expectation among newlyweds to spend all of your free time with one another. My wife and I each have a set of good friends we value very much. We regularly schedule nights out, separately, with our friends.
#5 Divide household tasks.
If one person is doing the majority of the cooking, cleaning, etc., resentment is bound to accumulate. In our house, I do the laundry, the yard work and the recycling. My wife does the majority of the dishes and the cleaning/organizing. We do the grocery shopping and cooking together.