The first year of marriage is a time of change. After all the planning and excitement of the big day, expectations sometimes need to be managed, as a new way of life begins. Just as you wouldn’t show up on your wedding day without all the preparations, don’t start your marriage without some planning for how the two of you will grow and live together.
It is said to be the most challenging, the first year of marriage. Even couples who have lived together for several years can find the first few weeks or months after their honeymoon quite difficult, once all the previous months of wedding planning are over. Some couples experience something of a low period that may test their relationship, while others thrive on their new bond. Many newlyweds find it helps to have a different focus to look forward to or another project to work on together.
Here are some points to consider in your first year of marriage and how to manage the challenges together more effectively:
Money is the most common cause of arguments between couples. It can be useful to sit down together and work out your income and your outgoings to the penny, as from there you will be able to work out how much money you have to spend on your leisure time and any little luxuries you like to have. Try to decide on a system to manage your money, whether it is separate or joint accounts and then agree on how you will budget and pay the bills. Make sure you have sufficient funds to cover you in case of an emergency and start saving for rainy days, emergency expenses, and the future. Discuss making a will, life insurance and pension funds to plan for your retirement.
For some individuals, marriage is about settling down to a calmer life with perhaps fewer social engagements, relaxing into not worrying how they look or how often they make love, but their partner might not feel the same way. It is important to most couples to keep a level of intimacy in your relationship, both physical and emotional. It’s not true that once you are married you never make love again. You could experience the most incredible levels on intimacy once you are married.
The subject of children is one that should be honestly discussed, ideally before the wedding. You should consider if and when you would like to have children and what would happen if you were unable to do so. You might also want to consider how many children you would ideally like to have (this is bound to change after your first!), what kind of support you have around you, who would look after the children, how that could impact on your careers and what is most important to you.
Discuss how often you will choose to see your parents, siblings and new in-laws. If one of you is part of a very close family while your partner is glad to have a lot less contact with their family, it can help to find a compromise whereby everyone is happy.
Two thirds of women say that men don’t do enough housework, with untidiness being one the biggest cause of arguments. Talk about how you can divide up the chores. While the housework should be equally divided, make allowances for periods when one of you has to work longer hours or is going through a particularly stressful time. Be generous and help out, even if it’s not your turn. With your partner’s annoying personal habits, try to learn to ignore the ones you can live with and persist with gentle reminders with the ones that you feel you perhaps can’t.
One of the most common causes of discontentment can be unrealistically high expectations of married life. Many expect there to be more romance in their lives, as in romantic literature and film, but real married life requires practical day to day working and cleaning which is not always fun. Take time to talk about your expectations, not only of each other, but of the marriage you have just entered together and be clear about the elements of marriage that matter to you the most.
The expectations you have from one another may depend on your past experiences in other relationships, or in some cases previous marriage(s). While it is natural to compare, it is advisable to judge your new partnership on its own history and merits as no couple is the same as another. Try not to set your expectations too high and don’t feel disillusioned if you don’t fit your partner’s mould of the perfect husband or wife, or vice versa. These things come with time and compromise is the key.
8. Power Struggles
One of the most common tests in the first year of marriage is trying to convert the partner to do, think or feel the same as you do about everything, which naturally leads to disagreements. Avoid this power struggle by starting your marriage with the understanding that at times you’ll both need to agree to disagree. In situations where an agreement is a must for marital success, such as family or financial matters, agree to step away from your personal positions and come together to create a compromise that you can both agree on.
9. Time Out
You may find yourself feeling stuck in a domestic routine at some point in your first year of marriage which can, in time, lead to some resentment. When you see that happening, take some time out away from one another to do your own thing. Alternatively, take time out from your everyday routine to enjoy an activity together. If you both loved going out for dinner or to the cinema, a local pub or club, or to the gym, as a couple before your marriage, plan a weekly treat that you both can look forward to.
10. Forgive and Forget
Your marriage and your partner’s feelings have to be more important than being right or ‘winning’ arguments. Those who cannot or won’t forgive can end up with a marriage that is filled with hurt and distrust, and may spend most of their time consumed by resentment. Allow and forgive mistakes you are both likely to make, with the expectation of learning from the situation and try to do everything with love and kindness. If you both aim to enter the first year of your marriage with this in mind and start as you mean to go on, you should have a very long and fulfilling union for years to come.
Kate Thompson is Confetti's features editor and wedding expert, and has worked in the wedding industry for 15 years. A widely published lifestyle writer, she has made BBC television and radio appearances discussing wedding trends in the UK.