It has been said and commonly understood by most that the first year of marriage is the hardest. Earlier this spring we celebrated one year of marriage. I don’t know if I would describe it in the same way. It has honestly felt like a yearlong honeymoon for us, yet I’m not saying we didn’t have our challenges. I think every newly married couple goes through an adjustment period and how you handle it makes all the difference.
Here are some reasons why I believe the first year of marriage is difficult for many and ways to make the best out of each situation.
1. LEARNING TO BE ONE.
Some people have a hard time with letting go of their independence, especially for those who have been single many years before marrying. You may have found your own pattern or way of doing things, yet now you have another person that is directly affected by all you do. You no longer can just think about yourself. Even in the simplest things such as a conversation it’s no longer “I” or “mine,” but “we” and “ours.” This has been a funny thing Ole Martin and I have corrected each other in. If I would say something like “I’m going to put this in my car quick.” He would respond jokingly “Oh, but why not put it in my car.” Reminding me that, of course, it is our car.
The first year is a complete shift in the way you think and speak. You must be willing to change the way you think- otherwise your actions will reflect it.
Making decisions about traveling somewhere, spending money, or other important things has always been easy as a single person, but after being married it has become more of a process to come to an agreement with my spouse. Sometimes I have felt very strongly about going somewhere as my husband felt strongly the other way. We decided we would not do something unless we have prayed about it, have peace, and are in agreement, even if it means waiting a while to come to a conclusion. Marriage is a partnership not two people living their lives together and doing as they please or one domineering over the other.
When conflict comes, don’t make it your goal to be “right” but to be “one.” Let the conflict draw you closer to each other in which you learn more about one another through it. When you do this, you are building a strong foundation during your first year for the rest of your lives together.
2. EXCITEMENT OF WEDDING & HONEYMOON VS. REAL LIFE ROUTINE
There is so much excitement around planning the wedding and honeymoon that when real life kicks in and the fairy dust settles, couples are left with the routine of regular life and with each other. Some find it hard to adjust. Unfortunately so many people spend more time planning the wedding than preparing for their marriage. If you did or didn’t take any pre-marital counseling before you got married, I recommend that you find some good marriage books to read or take a marriage course together. We went through a weekly marriage class at Bethel Church called LAM (Love After Marriage). We use the tools we learned in that course almost every day. It was so valuable for us to do this together during our first year of marriage. I highly recommend it!
Even though you now live with each other, find a time in the week to do something exciting to invest in your marriage. Go on dates together. Enjoy planning adventures you both can do occasionally during the regular routine of life.
3. UNSPOKEN EXPECTATIONS.
Everyone has his or her own ideas beforehand of what it will be like to be married. If you don’t communicate those expectations it will be challenging your first year. Unspoken expectations can lead to much disappointment and discontentment in your marriage. I have heard different marriage counselors and marriage book authors say that the main things couples fight about are sex, money, in-laws, and housework. We had talked a lot about each of these before we got married; yet they still came up in our first year. It is a whole new world of sharing your bed, sharing your bank account, having a new set of parents, and sharing house responsibilities.
How many times do you expect to make love a week? What are you or are you not comfortable with or prefer during lovemaking? Some couples are too afraid to talk about such things with each other, but you need to. It may be a little awkward to talk about it in the beginning, but it will be worth it as you grow together in this area and learn how to please each other best. We read a book before we got married through our first month of marriage that helped us talk freely with each other about our expectations in the bedroom. This allowed us to feel comfortable during our wedding night, being our first time.
Know each other’s money habits and what is important to each other to spend money on. It’s important to let your spouse know about any debts you have before you enter marriage and how you will cover this together.
Learning to navigate a new relationship with your in-laws, understanding important family traditions, and deciding on which family to spend the holidays with can be a challenge in your first year of marriage, especially when you have unspoken expectations in this area.
What are you expectations for housework? Did you think your spouse would be sharing responsibilities with you and then he or she got lazy and expects you to do them? maybe just as his or her parents modeled? It’s important from the beginning to discuss who has what responsibilities around the house. You don’t want to be passive aggressive with this because if you just push your feelings down, you will get into a pattern of doing things which is hard to break later when the feelings come out. Talk about your expectations and preferences in the beginning.
4. DEALING WITH DIFFERENCES
With my husband being Norwegian and I being American, you would think we would run into a lot of cultural differences on top of everything else, but it wasn’t as big of a difference as other things. Ole Martin and I are very opposite in personality types. I am an extrovert and he is an introvert. He’s a thinker and I’m a feeler. I’m a risk-taker and he thinks through consequences. He sees the details, while I see the big picture.
After getting married, it seems like all of your difference become highlighted. Try to distinguish between the differences that can change and the differences that are more likely to not change. How can you live with those differences? Find ways to learn from each other and lean on the strength each other brings to the marriage not try to change each other. At the same time be willing to compromise on things that are not so important.
5. FEELING ALONE OR OVERSHARING
Many times couples in their first year of marriage aren’t sure how open they should be about their marriage. How many times does the couple get asked, “so how's married life?” I know I got that question countless times. How do you respond to that? If you’re having troubles, are you going to really answer that honestly? It can feel like you are alone sometimes when you think the only person you can talk to about issues with your marriage is your spouse. The opposite end of the spectrum is when one over shares personal things about the other to his or her friends. This can bring tension and dissolve trust in the marriage quickly.
As newlyweds there were new things we were experiencing in our relationship. We had our own questions and needed input from someone else besides each other. We discussed together whom we trusted of each other’s friends and mentors and what things were okay to talk with them about. This really gave us freedom to seek advice and counsel from others and not feel alone. We also were really blessed with having a small group in our marriage course with other couples whom we were very open with. I think it’s healthy and wise, as newlyweds, to have some people you both agree on whom you can talk to other than your spouse with the goal to better your marriage.
6. LEARNING TO COMMUNICATE CORRECTLY
Another reason the first year of marriage can be the hardest is because you are learning how to understand the way your spouse communicates. There are many meanings to certain looks, expressions, how they fluctuate their voice, body language, or even silence. It’s the language behind the language. When you are misunderstood or misinterpret something it can cause friction in the relationship.
In the beginning when I would ask Ole Martin things with the words “would you like to…” in referring to something needing to get done around the house. He would answer them literally and I would misinterpret that. For example if I said, “I’m needing to head out to pick up something at the store. Would you like to fold our clothes while I’m out?” He would answer “no not really” if he’s in the middle of something and I would feel so frustrated. But I soon learned that it doesn’t mean he’s not going to do it, as he is a hard worker. It just means that he wouldn’t “like” to do it. So I learned to rephrase my questions to “could you” instead, so I don’t get upset by his honest replies.
I believe your spouse’s love language in marriage sometimes looks different than when you were dating, and it’s good to learn how to communicate it. In the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, he discusses the different ways people give and receive love. Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, and Gifts are the main forms discussed. Discover the best way your spouse receives love in this new season of your lives.
7. LEARNING TO APOLOGIZE
To just say you're sorry when you did or said something that hurt your spouse is not enough. It doesn’t matter how small or big it was, learning to apologize correctly will help your first year of marriage. We have learned some helpful tools from our marriage course with how to reconcile our relationship when one of us is in the wrong.
First, it’s important to try to understand the other person’s point of view and how it made them feel and think. It doesn’t matter how logical it is; you are not to defend yourself yet. Share with them what you think they might be feeling because of what you said or did, then ask if there is anything else they are feeling that you missed. Then listen. Come to a place of empathy and ask for forgiveness for those things. You may be surprised how quickly you can resolve things when the person feels understood. Then I believe an important thing to remember is that you have made a “withdraw” from their “love tank.” Find a good way to fill it up again. Maybe flowers, a special date, a note with sweet words, coffee in bed, or whatever makes them feel loved by you, do it.
There is so much more to say on each topic, but here’s just a few things we have learned in our first year. What about you? Is it true or false? Do you think the first year of marriage is the hardest? If you are married, would you agree or have anything to add to these things from your first year of marriage? Or any other helpful tips I didn’t mention? Would love to hear your thoughts.
This year I released an album of love songs I had written from my process of finding love. Enjoy my most recent lyric video below of the song, “THE PROMISE,” about honoring your spouse through the different seasons of your life.
Find the album “LIVE LOVE DREAM” on Spotify, itunes, apple music, and other digital music stores. You can purchase and download it here.
Read Previous Blog Posts from the Love & Relationship Series: