The First Year of Marriage


By most accounts the first year of marriage - barring that all too brief honeymoon phase replete with sex and lots of it - is difficult at best. There's something about marriage, the act of committing to each other for life, that brings with it all sorts of unrealistic expectations and unexpected tensions. Many newlyweds, even those who lived with their spouse before getting hitched, have no idea what "marriage" is going to be like. How could they? No one ever tells them.

To be honest, marriage can be like peace negotiations during times of war, especially during that first year. Both sides know that it's in their best interest to unite and work together, but they can't help but cling to their independence and whatever it was that launched the war in the first place. Unlike warring nations, however, couples should have love at their base. This can help them reach agreements faster - or at least it should. But first they have to realize that marriage isn't some sort of fantasy.

Neither of them is going to change over night. You are going to fight sometimes. And marriage takes some getting used to.

Knowing marriage secrets - those things that no one bothered to mention while you were picking out wedding colors and china patterns - can go a long way to keeping the peace and getting through that difficult first year. Here's what you need to know about marriage:

Marriage is hard work.

All that wooing and communication that took place during your courtship needs to be part of your marriage, too. People often think that they can rest on their laurels once they're married. They figure, "I've got the girl or guy now, so why do I have to send flowers, remember birthdays, be romantic, or discuss problems?" This is flawed logic. It is actually more important to remind your spouse why you are so lovable than it was when you were just dating. After all, now you have to live with each other, and you know the other person's every flaw. If you want someone to put up with your bad habits, such as leaving dresser drawers open or spending way too much time in the bathroom, you better give them reasons to stick around, too. Also, no one wants to feel as though they are being taken for granted. It can breed resentment. Showing your spouse you care - even if it's just with a kiss goodnight or a love letter in his lunch - helps him or her forget about all the rest. More importantly, these demonstrations, including talking about everything from your day to whether to have children, reminds your spouse why he or she chose to marry you. By the way, although it is work, none of these actions should feel like chores. You should want to do them and get pleasure out of them, even communicating about difficult topics that need discussing. Isn't this all just part of love, after all?

You have not won the lottery.

People tend to think that having a dual income, which is what usually happens when couples first marry, is like winning the lottery. They feel as though they are rich. That's rarely the case. Yes, you will probably have more money if you join your earnings. Not every couple does. Some keep their finances or part of their finances separate. Others put all their money together in one account and they own everything together, too. That's great. Regardless, you will have more expenses. Your earnings double, but so does your spending. You're paying for the medical care of two people, food for two people, shelter for two people. And since many young couples quit living like they are in a dorm, you might find yourself spending on nicer furniture, tools for cooking, and the like. In any event, you should avoid living too large. Save your money and make sure you don't get into financial hot water. Remember, you're in this marriage for the long haul and you have many, many years to be together. Think about having money for a house, vacations, children, and retirement. All those years and experiences will require serious funds, so start to save now.

Marriage takes some getting used to.

Hearing yourselves referred to as Mr. and Mrs. X... will sound strange for a while. And it might take a few months - or even that whole first year - to get used to being married. Being someone's husband or wife is different from being a boyfriend or girlfriend. This is for life. This is for better or worse. There's no out now. When you fight, you can't automatically think about leaving. Your lives have been legally intertwined. You can't just stop calling to break up. You have to try harder and you have to work more and you have to nurture the relationship, so that it keeps growing. Beyond your new title, you have to get used to your new responsibilities. The fact is that you must think of the other person now whenever you are making plans, from ordering take-out to investing your savings. Getting a wedding ring and taking vows is just the first step. You're not automatically going to understand your role after that. You will grow into the job as time goes by.

Sex won't be as bad as you think.

You might have heard that marriage is where sex goes to die. But that's not at all true. In fact, most studies have shown that married people have more and better sex than single people. Duh! You have a built-in sex partner. No need to go to a bar to pick up someone. You can just roll over in bed. Yes, over the course of your marriage, you will have more and better sex than your single friends. However, you must realize that no one can sustain the levels of passion that they might have had at the start of their relationship when everything was fresh and new. And real life gets in the way of sex. You will have nights when you're too tired for sex or you would both rather watch your favorite TV show. That's all right. In fact, that's part of the comfort of marriage. The key is to give up the TV show once in a while for a roll in the hay. When you do, make it good, really good. Truly focus on each other and make sure you're both satisfied, and enjoy.

In-laws will get on your nerves.

I know. I know. You have a great relationship with your in-laws. Your besties. That's fine and well. But the day will come (it probably already has) that they will say or do something that annoys you. It might be something small that you can overlook, but it will happen. It's a normal part of life and family. If the in-laws are doing things that you cannot overlook, such as dictating decisions for the two of you or coming over all the time or being just plain mean, then you have to speak up. The first step should always be to talk to your spouse about his or her family. Then, have him or her talk to them on your behalf. Your spouse, after all, has a closer relationship with them and they won't feel as attacked by him or her. Remember, that you and your spouse are your own family now. Try not to get to worked up by the extended family outside your circle of two. By the way, your in-laws might find you annoying, too. Don't be surprised to hear that from your spouse. Try not to take it personally. Look at yourself objectively and determine if they have a point. Then, try to make changes to improve the relationship if you can. It's always better to get along with your spouse's family, so try to make the relationship work.

You will have your moments.

Throughout your marriage, but especially at the beginning, you might find yourself questioning your decision to marry. You might even mourn your single life a bit. There are pros and cons to every stage of life, and you might miss something as small as sleeping in a bed by yourself once in a while. Then, your spouse might do something upsetting like telling his friends about your sex life or leaving the wet towels on the bathroom floor for the millionth time. You'll find yourself longing for the single life and regretting this marriage. It's all right. This doesn't mean that you're headed for divorce. It just means that you're human. Most people second guess the decisions at some point. It's how you deal with the doubts that matter. When you start to regret your decision, try to remember all the reasons you wanted to marry this person. Think about the loving gestures and the things you would miss if the marriage were to end. You'll probably find yourself forgetting about those doubts in no time at all.


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Love Magazine: The First Year of Marriage
The First Year of Marriage
Love Magazine
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