You have married your special person and now your life together feels incredibly hard. You may wonder what is wrong with your marriage, “We have not even been married a year yet!” You may be concerned about stirring up more conflict with your spouse, so you avoid approaching the topic. You might not seek advice from others, not even your best friend, because you do not want anyone to think that your marriage is falling apart. If this describes your scenario, know that what you are experiencing is common.
Why the First Year is Difficult
The first year of married life can be hard even when a couple lives together for years before the wedding, and there are many reasons why this happens. The months or years leading up to a wedding can be busy and stressful. The focus is often placed on the big event and not so much on the relationship. When the wedding is over, and the excitement of the event wanes, life can take on a different feel. Single partners, whether living together (or not), are now a family – a twosome protecting a new marriage, and often seeking perfection (putting stress on the marriage and each other). Their desire is for life to feel blissful; the way they envisioned marriage to be. And when it falls short, blame is placed on the big change that took place – the marriage itself. Married life can still be fun-filled and joyous, as it should be, but the changes in life situations continue to happen, such as how to jointly handle money, spend time together and apart, divide household tasks, balance work and family, and navigate new family dynamics. Can you make your love, your marriage, work despite it being hard? Yes! You can get through it together.
How to Get Through the First Year of Marriage Together
There are five elements crucial to having a healthy relationship. Use these five essential pieces as the framework to help you get through the challenges of your first year of marriage and continue building a solid foundation that supports the rest of your years together.
Open communication plays an important role in bridging any gaps in a relationship and prevents them from happening. Open communication helps partners talk openly and freely without fear of retaliation, shame, or conflict. Open communication, and each of the five elements of having a healthy relationship, are the building blocks that cultivate emotional intimacy. This means that partners can tell each other just about anything, including talking about the relationship. Open communication allows each partner to be who they are without any constraints, which strengthens the relationship. Open communication helps to build an all-important deep trust.
“Conflict avoidance is not the hallmark of a good relationship. On the contrary, it is a symptom of serious problems and poor communication.” – Harriet B. Braiker
So, even though you may be struggling with how to communicate your deepest concerns early in your marriage, you must do so. It is critical to join forces, to agree to open communication, and to discover and discuss what must happen to make it work.
Equal power in your marriage is not about who oversees who, as it might be in a large corporation where you work. In marriage, equal power is how partners relate to each other. When we respect and cherish our partner’s needs and wants, we give them the power to be who they are, and this ultimately becomes a part of what we love about our person. We allow our special loved one to be happy and to be his or her self when we see our partnership as one – a mesh of two with equal power.
Have Your Own Life Outside of the Relationship
As you invest in your ‘young’ marriage, it may seem important to spend a lot of time together, and perhaps commit all your free time together. But it is important that marital partners nourish their self-identity rather than lose themselves completely in a relationship. Alone time, time working on a hobby, or time spent with cherished friends, is vital to an individual’s mental health. It helps to relieve pressure and stress and helps people see their problems in a clear manner. It allows the mind to take a break, and in this, to find resolve.
Trust and Honesty
Honesty is always important in a relationship. Healthy trust, and ultimately intimacy, are impossible to build on a basis of dishonesty. As a newly wedded partner, you may not like the way your spouse cooks certain foods. You may try to hide it, but it will likely come out later, and then your spouse will feel hurt and disappointed that you were not honest. Remember, it is better to avoid criticizing at all costs (do not become a Critical Partner).
Respectful honesty can look like this: “I love you dearly, and I appreciate your cooking. I just do not enjoy (name the food) cooked this way. You can fix it for yourself – I know that you love it. But I have to pass on it.”
Honesty is the best policy, but it must be done respectfully and supportively. Practice Appreciating the Small Things in a Relationship. This will help you focus on what is positive and less on negative or unimportant aspects.
Resolving Conflict Respectfully
Conflict in your relationship will happen, and this can feel very hurtful when a marriage is young. It is crucial to learn how to fight constructively. This can bring you closer together, rather than drive you apart. One of the most important pieces of resolving conflict respectfully is to be mindful of how you express yourself. Avoid criticism and complaints, and it can look like this: “When you are finished with your snack dishes or your coffee mug, could you please rinse them and put them in the dishwasher?” Explain that this leaves neither of you feeling as if you must pick up after one other. This is much more fruitful than words that hurt and accuse, like, “You always leave dishes out for me to pick up!”
Remember to use active listening skills to resolve conflict respectively. This involves eye contact, putting your distracting thoughts away, avoiding a comeback, deferring judgment, and showing that you are listening.
Do You Need Help with Getting Your Marriage on Track?
When things have gone awry and you’ve done all that you can do to get your new marriage on track, it may be time to reach out for help. We believe that, by doing the work together, you can bring health to the relationship that you are in – and that it will thrive!
Are you planning to get married? Do you want to mentally prepare for marriage and identify and address any potential areas of conflict in your relationship early on?