The First Year of Marriage: A Survival Guide
I recently published two blog posts that relate to Honeymooning, but due to our current situation in the world, travel is hindered at the moment. So, let’s do something a bit different. Let’s talk about what comes after the honeymoon. I, for one, love being married. I also want to push my husband off a cliff 50.3425 percent of the time. So, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk openly and honestly about surviving the first year of marriage.
The status quo of modern-day relationships would suggest that most couples live together and have done for a few years before getting married. So why is that first year of marriage still such a topic of conversation? Surely we’re aware of all our partner’s annoying habits by now, we know exactly where to kick when them they’re snoring and we have decided to find the way they load the dishwasher “charming.” And yet, though there may not be any physical difference between living together as partners and living together as spouses, the psychological differences are a testament to why this article needs to exist. So how can you deal with this first year of transition into smug marrieds, as Bridget Jones likes to term us?
I put this first because it’s the one I have to remind myself most often with the amount of hot-headedness that flies around my house. If you are prone to getting your underwear in a twist over the slightest thing that doesn’t line up with your usual life order, then it’s time to take a deep breath and let it the hell go. In the end, it doesn’t really matter.
Yes, there will be frustrating moments. There will be moments you want to throttle each other, but if you stop and think about why you’re annoyed and how it matters in the greater scope of your marriage, nine times out of ten, you can let it go. But if you can’t, and it’s something bigger, then don’t do what I am guilty of and get all quiet and snippy with one-word answers. Yes, there’s some petty enjoyment at watching them squirm as they try and figure out what they’ve done, but you’ll save yourselves a lot of resentment if you just tell your spouse what’s grinding your gears.
Define Roles and Ignore Social Conventions
Do what works for you! Never mind what Brad and Tinnyfer are doing. I get a lot of advice from friends who think they’ve cracked the code on making a marriage work. I smile and nod and develop a twitch trying not to roll my eyes. If it works for them, great. But as I like to say, good for them, not for us. Every couple is different and will need to define their own roles within the relationship.
Those in straight relationships often feel pressure to fall into their conventional gender roles, but we live in a world where marriage equality is growing, praise be, and because of that gender roles are becoming more and more unfashionable. I can’t stand it when someone says to me “oh, so you’re wearing the pants in the relationship” or to my husband “isn’t that the wife’s job?” With all due respect, hush!
What matters is how your household runs. What are your jobs? Working Hours? Activities? Are there kids involved? All this will define what roles work best. Maybe the wife is a health care worker on hospital shifts, then sorry, hubby, if doing the laundry undermines your masculinity, then you need to get over it and do your part. It’s just making dirty clothes clean, why that became a gendered activity I’ll never understand.
Don’t Get Hung Up on Other “Perfect” Marriages
We all love Instagram and the like, but it can be a real B!%@* when it comes to comparing your life to others. But remember social media photos of couples “living their best lives” traveling the world, going out for fancy meals and laughing with their perfect looking children are LYING! And if they aren’t, please share with me your secrets, I beg of you.
Life is not perfect, and marriage and kids certainly aren’t always picturesque. If anything it’s the families I see with kids fighting in the back of the mini-van, pouring soda over each other while the dog poops in the trunk all over the freshly purchased groceries, and Mom and Dad continue to converse at the top of their lungs that are actually the happiest in reality.
The couples and families who are all smiles and dead behind the eyes, looking perfect and pristine are often the ones who have something to hide.
So, I embrace the imperfect madness of my family, the mismatched socks, the egg stains on t-shirts and wearing my husband’s boxers because we haven’t done laundry in a week. To me, that’s a happy marriage and content family.
Self-Care – Take some space to still be you
It’s easier than you think sometimes to get enveloped in your other half and that first year of marriage can start out as the honeymoon period, particularly if you haven’t spent years living together already.
But whatever you do, don’t forget you are still an individual. You were not created as a half to be made whole by your spouse. You were always one entire person who added someone pretty awesome to your life to share in your quirks and eccentricities, and that’s great! But too much of a good thing and all that jazz. You had hobbies and interests before you met your spouse, and you shouldn’t lose them. Granted, you will have some shared interests, you may even have met at some club or convention for your shared hobby. So by all means, continue to indulge in that together.
But what about the other things you do that they have no interest in? I love reading, and I found in my first year with my husband that I just didn’t have time to read books anymore. When I might carve out some time and space, I felt bad leaving him alone so we would watch TV together. In the end, we both became deflated. He missed not being able to do some online gaming with his buddies, while I had a vacant space where books lived.
Once we actually communicated this to each other (talking helps, who knew) we made sure to carve out a couple of hours a week where he could online game and I could tuck myself away and read. It made all the difference.
Everyone is different, but whatever your hobbies and interests, make time for them. They matter and you’ll be so grateful for them especially 5, 10, 40 years down the line.
Where space for yourself is important, don’t get too comfortable on your own either. Enjoying time with your spouse is the best way to help get through that all-important first year after saying your nuptials. If you have a common interest that’s obviously a great way to spend time together but remember you are lovers too. Set aside times to be romantic.
It’s too easy after the honeymoon period to let yourselves fall into a routine that doesn’t involve much in the way of appreciating the physical side of each other. It’s not that you don’t love each other, but life has a habit of filling every corner of life.
Even if you don’t have kids, work, cleaning, laundry, going to birthdays, dinners, weddings of friends, the gym it all adds up to a full schedule and being exhausted at the end of the day and opting for your PJ’s over a corset.
But make time for that corset, or whatever you like to do. Go out on a date, have a meal, play mini-golf, whatever your thing is. But leave the kids with the grandparents for a night and make sure you leave enough time and energy to come home and get sexy.
Your Home Belongs to Both of You
It can be all too easy for one spouse to take over the decorating on a new marital home, leaving very little of the other person on show. In this instance, you are a unit, and your home should reflect both your personalities.
I cringe when I hear of men having their “man cave” and the rest of the house is like a showroom for all those visitors they probably never get. Your home is just that and it should look lived in and it definitely should look like you both live in it.
If you have some wildly different style ideas, dole out the veto cards that you can both use. That way you can ban anything you really hate from being in sight of your friends, but you are also going to have to compromise because that’s part of marriage. If no one told you before… well, now you know.
Be Open, Honest and on the Same Page
It sounds so simple and yet I have to put it in here because it’s one of the easiest things to forget. I know because I’m horribly guilty of bottling up my feelings thinking they’re silly or that it’s not worth mentioning and after a couple of weeks I’m being steam-powered around the house on my own pressurized hot air.
Talking about your feelings can be tough, I get it. And often it feels like mentioning a niggle here or a concern there will lead to more fights. But ultimately, not mentioning them and allowing them to build up leads to bigger and more bitter fights when they do come. And those are the ones that are devastating to have and hang around like a bad smell for a day or two afterward.
Obviously, don’t pick at everything either. It will take some time, but if together you can learn to unload your thoughts and emotions on each other each day as part of your conversation then nothing ever seems like too big a deal and on the whole, you’ll be a calmer couple for it. None of us likes the awkward silence of a room cluttered with everything that’s remained unsaid.
They’re gonna happen! No two ways about it, you will lock antlers with your spouse plenty of times in your marriage. And the most testing of those could well happen during that first 12 months. Learning to negotiate them is what’s vital during this time so you can handle the battles going forward.
Trying to avoid a fight is like trying to avoid ever getting a common cold. It’s just not going to happen. So give yourselves a break on that. A fight is inevitable. Sometimes necessary, and I often find there’s nothing more cleansing than a good fight.
But be fair. Don’t deliberately say something you can’t take back that’s really going to hurt. Stick to the topic of the fight, don’t get petty, blow off some steam and enjoy the make-up sex.
Give Yourselves a Break
Finally, just remember that marriage is hard. It’s fun, it’s amazing, it’s having a best friend for life, but it’s also challenging, exhausting, and it is WORK.
Marriage doesn’t just happen, it’s another job on top of the one you get paid for and another one on top of being a parent if you have kids. So, for the love of Mary stop trying to be a superhero about it all.
Also, there are two of you in this marriage, so you have to work together to sort out your dynamic, your roles, your finances, your sex life, your personal time, your in-laws (now that’s a whole other article!), your kids and everything that makes you guys you.
Some days will be easier than others. There might be a really crappy couple of months that aren’t anything to do with you as a couple personally, but life happens to us all, and sometimes unavoidable things come in from the outside and make it really difficult. But if you communicate, respect each other and give each other a break when it’s really needed, then you will get through not just your first year of marriage, but many more besides.
Marriage is amazing because of its highs and lows, it’s challenges and its rewards. No marriage is perfect, and therefore you’ll never be perfect. Once you understand and accept that, you’ve won half the battle. Cheers, to swing dancing with our canes and walkers at our 50th wedding anniversary! I believe all of us, with a bit of persistence, can make it.