What No One Tells You About The First Year of Marriage
When you ask newlyweds, “How’s married life?” Nine times out of ten they’ll tell you, “Good!” or “It’s about the same.” I’m going to let you in on a little secret, they are full of shit. The first year of marriage is tough.
Buckle Up, The First Year of Marriage is a Wild Ride
It’s a transition and a process that involves a great deal of stress. It’s a roller coaster ride that requires you wear your seat belt and hang on tight. It wasn’t until I completely lost my shit to a friend wondering why things had suddenly gotten so difficult that she let me in on a little secret. She and her husband went through the same things shortly after her wedding.
What Married Folks Know but Don’t Tell You
Slowly but surely, more friends confessed similar sentiments – the first year of marriage is tough. I remember thinking, “Why the hell didn’t someone tell me this!?” So, I will be honest with you, lay it all out there, the good and the bad. My hope is by sharing this with you, you won’t feel blindsided by the struggles of being newly married.
A Perfect Wedding and Honeymoon
The wedding was absolutely perfect. The ceremony was personal and genuine and the reception was more than a blast. Our honeymoon to Saint Maarten is something I will remember for the rest of my life – relaxing on the beach exploring the island on four-wheelers, drinking Maho Vices (aka Miami Vice – a frozen drink that is part pina colada and part strawberry daiquiri. In other words, they are paradise in a glass.) from sun up til sun down, and basically having the adventure of a lifetime with my new husband.
Back to Reality as Husband and Wife
Then, we returned home to begin our life as a married couple, living in what we thought would be marital bliss. The first year is supposed to be full of romance, laughter and love. Thus, when my husband and I were at each other’s throats and stomaching doubts, I thought there was something seriously wrong with us.
The truth is not that something was wrong in our relationship, but rather simply that we are human. We have bad days and occasionally take our stress out on each other, but we love each other unconditionally and will forever stand by each other. So why then were the first few months so hard for us?
Before we got married, I think we both thought that our relationship would somehow change after the wedding. I’m not sure what exactly we thought would change, but we did expect it. The reality is that nothing changes. You are still you and your spouse is still the same person they were before. The things you love to do together remain and the things that drive you crazy about them also stay. Allow yourself and your spouse a little time and space to acclimate to the fact that things you were hoping would suddenly resolve just simply don’t.
Yet Nothing Stays the Same
At the same time, everything changes. The change isn’t tangible and you can’t quite put your finger on it, but it’s there. It takes some time to adjust to the changing sameness, but once you have, it really is something beautiful. I’m sorry I can’t describe it better than that, but when you get married you will know exactly what I mean. We are still us, with everything amplified, both the positive and the negative.
A Shift in How You React
When you first start getting serious with someone, you will inevitably have fights about each other’s behaviors and decisions. During the dating phase of a relationship, the usual reaction to a fight is “Is this a deal breaker?” At that point, you can still break up, no harm no foul.
Once you get married, you’ve made a commitment to each other, to stand with your spouse through thick and thin, good times and bad. As a result, the same fights that would make you consider if you really could stay with this person now lead you in a different direction. The question becomes “What am I going to do to handle, respond to, and/or cope with this behavior?”
You Live and Learn… Together
It can be quite frustrating when your answer is, “I don’t have a damn clue!” You can quickly spiral down the “what have I done!?” rabbit hole, but have no fear. This reflection on your relationship and on yourself is an important part of self-discovery. It is also essential to building an honest and open relationship. My advice is to use those moments to learn about each other and always be sure to communicate what you are feeling.
One of the things that works best for us is to approach such problems like this: “It really hurt my feelings when you did X, so in the future, it would really help if you could do Y instead.” Also, there is some serious value in taking some space. After a heated argument, sometimes the best things you can do is walk away for a little bit. As my sister says, “Let the dishes soak overnight.” She’s got a hell of a point.
Something New to Fight About
My husband and I dated for seven years before we were engaged, 6 1/2 of which we lived together. Our house is extremely small, like shoe box small. Needless to say, we got to know each other quite intimately living in such tight quarters. I had accepted that I would have to deal with his laundry on the floor and beer cans on the coffee table for the rest of my life. (Okay, I have to be fair here. I am not without quirks of my own. I am far from perfect.)
I truly thought I knew all of the quirks that would drive me crazy as we began the rest of our lives together. All the little spats that newlyweds usually face, we had long confronted. What I didn’t know was that we’d find new things to fight about.
You’ll Always Continue to Surprise Each Other
It’s just how it goes. No matter how well you think you know someone, you will always continue to learn new things about them. This is especially true in the context of a marriage. As life carries on, new challenges will arise that you and your spouse have to face together. At least one of those new problems will inevitably cause you to argue.
Some amount of arguing is healthy, so long as you avoid making unnecessary low blows. The best thing you can do is to remind yourself you are angry at their behavior. You may hate how they are acting, but you love them as a person. That line may get blurry from time to time, but if you hang on tightly to your love for the person and approach arguments accordingly, you will come out of the fight stronger for it.
Hands down, the best advice I have for newlyweds who experience trials and tribulations in the first year of marriage, is to remember why you wanted to marry that person. There have been a handful of times that I pulled out and re-read my vows (that I wrote myself). Seeing on paper the many reasons why I know Derrick is the man for me has gotten me through tough times.
He is thoughtful, creative, hardworking, supportive, hilarious, and goal-oriented. While I tend to let “future Meg” deal with what lies ahead, he plans for the future, but never fails to make time for fun. He’s adventurous and brave, and pushes me to try things that scare me. All of that is way more important than the laundry left on the floor (again!) or the mail pile that’s overflowing because he can’t seem to make time to go through it.
Sometimes, you just got to let it go and look at your spouse as you did the day you said “I do.”
So there you have it. Real life reflections from someone less than a year into marriage. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my husband, and our relationship, and not all of what I learned was pretty. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ll tell you what, I cannot wait for what lies ahead. I know we both have so much more to learn, but as long as we are in it together, I know it will be a fun adventure!
Remember, if you and your new spouse are fighting shortly after the wedding, it doesn’t mean you made a bad choice. It means you are human! Hang on to your love and put in the work, and you will survive. Marriage is a partnership and takes a lot of hard work, but if you pour yourself into it, it is oh so worth it.
From Another Perspective
In today’s day and age, it’s fairly uncommon for people to date and cohabitate as long as Derrick and I did before getting married. I thought this would mean what I’ve learned during my first wedded year would be pretty unique. As it turns out, that is not the case.
Kristin from This Wife and Mommy Life
I teamed up with fellow blogger Kristin from This Wife and Mommy Life to tackle writing about the first year of marriage. We have very different life experiences, but as it turned out, we faced similar challenges and triumphs during the first year of our marriages. We articulate them much differently, but the similarities and shared lessons are there. She’s a fantastic writer who’s honest, real, and who’s perspective although unique from mine, is relatable and well worth the read. Check it out over at This Wife and Mommy Life.
Once you’ve read both of our posts, I’d love to hear your thoughts! And if you’ve been married for a good bit of time, I’d love to hear what you’ve learned from your years of marriage. Please comment below with whatever advice you might have for newly wedded couples like myself who are only just conquering their first year of marriage.