I have been working with relationships for over a decade and have found a commonality among couples that they simply never expected; sometimes the first year of marriage is the hardest.
The Honeymoon Phase
This is contrary to what most of us have heard; most of us have heard of the “honeymoon” stage where both partners are still blissfully in love and floating on the dream of their new status of being married. The truth is, the “honeymoon” stage actually happens more during the dating stage and the discovery of love than after the wedding when love has been sealed by contract and proclaimed to the masses. By the time most couples get all the way to marriage, many have lived together already, or spent a good amount of time in an exclusive committed relationship already. The “honeymoon” stage of the relationship is often over long before the wedding vows are spoken, the rings exchanged, the license signed and the bags packed for the actual first vacation taken together as a married couple (yes, the actual honeymoon).
This is important to think about and realize ahead of time and many couples don’t see it coming. They expect the first year of marriage to be wonderful and then are shocked to find just the opposite. Living with another person is not easy. Living as a married couple and adjusting to the finality of your promise of forever can have an anti-climactic effect that takes many people by surprise. Many couples that I have talked with have quietly admitted to me that one or both people spent the first year of their marriage wishing they could run away and go back to their single life…and some of them do. And most of them don’t.
Are You Truly Compatible?
It is the first year of marriage that is the true testing ground for your compatibility and your dedication to learning how to truly share. Once you are married, everything feels more like “ours” instead of “yours and mine” and that can be a big psychological adjustment; a loss of individuality, of a sense of freedom and control. It doesn’t have to feel that way, but for many, they find themselves feeling guilty for not feeling happier.
Navigating the First Year of Marriage
So, how does a new couple navigate the first year without losing ground on the intimacy and connectedness front? Here are some ideas.
First, have realistic expectations of the adjustment period you both will be facing. Disappointment (no matter what the situation) is a direct result of unmet expectations. As unromantic as it sounds, aim low. This isn’t Cinderella and Prince Charming. This is laundry, bills to pay, figuring out your balance of time apart and time away, navigating changing friendships, eating habits and bathroom routines. It is finding special moments in the regular day to day and making sure to not take each other for granted. It is about keeping the discovery going and giving each other extra understanding as you make the internal adjustment to your new role and life.
Second, communicate. This seems like a simple thing, but it will be your challenge for the rest of your life. Share your thoughts, feelings, dreams every day. Do not fall into the trap of “now that we are married, I don’t have to try so hard”. This is your life partner. Be more aware, more present and more accepting than ever before. Ask questions and listen to the answers. See what else you can learn about each other along the way.
Third, laugh. Marriage is serious, but it is also seriously fun. Let stress fall off and go out of your way to enjoy each other. Find a way to make each other laugh. Nothing bonds hearts better than sharing good times. The wedding is a big event, but don’t let the fun stop there. Find ways to bring fun into your union whenever and wherever you can. Hide a joke on a slip of paper and tuck it into his wallet so he finds it when he is at lunch today. Be goofy and silly and light together. Relax and be real. See who can make the dorkiest face or the funniest sounding voice. See a funny movie, share as much laughter as you can.
Fourth, touch. Regular sex is not usually something that newer couples have a hard time getting to, but I am not talking about just sex. Touch. Hold hands. Rub feet, shoulders, necks. Play with each other’s hair. Hug. It has been scientifically proven that holding a loving hug for at least 20 seconds actually creates a release of happy hormones in the human brain. Be gentle, kind, loving and attentive in a physical way that goes way beyond the bedroom.
Fifth, practice patience. The first year is a year of transition. Even good transitions can create new stress which may create shorter temper fuses or make it easier to get frustrated. Know this ahead of time and consciously be the person that shows the most patience and love to your partner.
You have a great life ahead of you! Getting it started with realistic expectations, communication, laughter, touch and patience will set your foundation for a lifetime of wedded bliss!