8 Tips for Surviving the First Year of Marriage
Written by Lindsay Ropella
The other day I realized that Eric and I are quickly approaching our 2nd anniversary – man does time fly. Although we had been together for almost 10 years before getting married (yes, we were just lowly, immature middle schoolers when we first started “dating”), I am realizing that marriage is not as easy as I was expecting it to be. When you’ve know someone for that long you think nothing about them will surprise you, right? Wrong. So wrong. At least in my case.
People always tell you the first year of marriage is the toughest. You listen and nod your head, and not that you don’t believe them, but you assume that won’t be the case for you. I mean, you both know each other so well, you have had so many experiences together, you have talked through all the big things – money, how many kids you want to have, where you want to live, etc. You’re supposed to be in the honeymoon phase, right?
But that first year of marriage will, in most cases, be a very eye opening experience into the wonderful, exciting, stressful, annoying world of marriage. You will learn more in that first year about anger, stubbornness, jealousy, and regret that you have in your entire life. And hey, those are just the qualities you brought to the table! Your spouse hasn’t been perfect either. :) You will discover it’s the little day to day things that you never in a
thousand million years could have ever prepared for. Mix that together will all the new emotions you have about being a “wife,” a homeowner, the stresses of shared finances, and the strangeness of having your “family” be something very different than it has been your whole entire life; and you my friends, have a recipe for disaster.
For example, let me briefly share with you just a few “disagreements” Eric and I have already had this week.
Whether hot water or cold water is most appropriate for cleaning out the garbage disposal.
How much time I spend on the laptop at night when I really should be watching the riveting basketball game with my husband.
How long our 10 month old puppy should stay in “time out” for chewing up my most favorite, most comfortable, never to be found again, bra (ladies, can you relate?)
What is the correct way to boil and shred chicken (no, I’m not joking)
Who should do the dishes (we actually had a fight about wanting to do the dishes for the other person, we are insane)
As you read this list, please do keep in mind that it’s only WEDNESDAY. Now, Eric and I may be a little out of the norm, but my guess is that our story really isn’t that far off from a lot of other couples out there. Today I’d like to share with you my top 8 tips I have discovered for surviving the first year of marriage.
1. Sometimes being right is not as important as putting a stop to the bickering…and sometimes it isn’t. Have you ever been told that the bigger person is always the one who gives in? I’m not so sure that is necessarily true. Now, if you are in the middle of what you suddenly realize to be the dumbest fight ever, or if you aren’t even totally sure of what you are fighting about any longer, just give up. Give in and say, “OK, I really don’t want to keep talking about this. You may be right, but can we just give it up?” Eric and I try to take turns doing this in our relationship so that one person doesn’t always feel like they are the one to concede. I think that’s a great technique. However, if you feel like you are not being heard by your spouse, or they are not respecting what you have to say, or if your message is very crucial to your relationship; I don’t believe that is the time to give in. I’ve found when I do in cases like that, I end up getting more upset and more worked up as the day goes on because it really was something important to me and not just a little fight. That “stewing in anger” can be more detrimental than if I would have just stopped and said, “I feel like you are not hearing what I have to say and it’s something that’s very important to me, can we try starting this over?”
2. You are still the wife. Our culture today is very different than it was 60 years ago. It’s now rare to see the traditional “the husband goes to work and the wife is the homemaker” domestic lifestyle. Now, I’m not at all saying that this is a bad thing. In fact, I think we have made a lot of great strides since then. That being said, I think there is something so special for a spouse to be able to, once in a while, come home to dinner on the table and a happy family waiting for him. I know that you have a million things going on – work, bills, cleaning, possibly caring for kids or even parents, and trying to fit in two seconds of peace and quiet for yourself. All I’m suggesting is that doing little things for your spouse, every once in a while, can really show them you care and that you recognize their needs.
3. Men have emotions too. Eric is so strong and not easily rattled that I think I sometimes forget that men have feelings and emotions too. And I confess that sometimes the only reason I realize they are there is because I have wounded them. Being cautious of what you say to your spouse can really make a big difference in the way you communicate with each other. I think we think that because we are so close with our spouse they don’t really take the negative things we say to heart. Unfortunately, that is very far from the truth. Men don’t often share their emotions and their hurts out loud, but that certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Try checking in with your husband once in a while to see how they are feeling. You might not get much out of them right away, but hopefully after asking a few times they will start to feel comfortable enough to open up to you – and that, my friends, is a really cool thing.
4. Shared hobbies are crucial. It’s great for you both to have your own interests and your own ways to unwind. But when you get married (or even before would be better), try to find one or two things you both truly enjoy together. I’m not talking about one person taking an interest in something the other person really likes – find something you both are equally passionate about. This may mean having to explore other hobbies. For Eric and I, we really like to work on home DIY projects and we both love comedies, so those are activities we try to do together at least once or twice a week. Finding common ground and a way to spend quality time together is so important as your lives get busier and other things vie for your attention.
5. They will still shock you – and not in a good way. There have been so many times in our first year of marriage that Eric would do something and I would think, what were you thinking?! How was that a good idea?! I’m sure he’s thought the same thing about me just once or twice as well. ;) When we got married, I thought I knew everything about every little personality trait and mannerism my husband had. Nope, so not true. He still, to this day, will do things that I have to just shake my head at. The goal here is to try and not let it rock the boat. When your spouse does or says something to annoy you, take a moment and think about the last thing you did that was probably a little annoying to them as well. We are both human (surprise!) and make mistakes, so at some point we have to stop keeping score. Toilet seat left up again? I’m sure he doesn’t like you putting it down all the time. One person squeezes the toothpaste tube in the middle instead of from the end and it drives the other person insane? Each have your own personal toothpaste if it’s that big of a deal. If you bicker about every little thing that happens throughout your marriage you won’t have time to enjoy much of it.
6. Discover each others areas of expertise and respect them. My husband is mister fix-it when it comes to stuff around the house. I’ve learned this through many arguments throughout our first few months of home ownership. Whenever we have a disagreement about how to do something or fix something, it never fails that he is always right and I am always wrong. I have learned to stop questioning him and realize that he is the expert in that area. On the other hand, I am very good at visuals and knowing what looks good and what doesn’t when it comes to the home or fashion. I think that over the years Eric has realized this because he has stopped questioning me and just believes what I say in that area. Learn what your partner’s strengths are and then respect them being the expert in that area. Plus, this gives you less to worry about yourself! God gave us all our own unique talents and knowing what we are skilled at and what we are not, and then learning to trust others in the areas in which we need help is a skill in itself!
7. 1+1 does not equal 6. I love my parents to death. I love Eric’s parents too. And I’m pretty sure he feels the same way. But one of the biggest struggles we have had in our marriage is learning to keep our parents out of certain things. I will admit that I am guilty of sharing pretty much everything with my mom; she’s my best friend. But a very wise woman once told me that parents remember their children’s hurt much longer than we do. If I complain to my mom about something Eric did or said, she will continue to worry about it a week later when I am over it in 5 minutes. In the same respect, when Eric and I are in a very big fight and I feel like I need some advice on how to handle it, my mom is not the person to go to. This may be a little bit more controversial but think about it – if whenever you need relationship advice you go to a parent, they are going to start to hear only the negatives about their son or daughter-in-law. We hardly ever share all the hundreds of awesome little things they do each day, am I right?
Additionally, couples need to work on solving their problems on their own. Sure, we might make a lot of mistakes in the beginning, and a few hundred here and there throughout the rest of our lives; but that’s how we learn about our spouse. The way our mother or father might suggest solving the problem may not be the way our husband or wife would want us to solve the problem. We have to learn to rely on each other, and if something massive does come up, meeting together with a counselor might be a better option than talking to a parent who can only really respond from their own personal opinions and experiences.
8. Let him be your knight. In our first year of marriage I often caught myself telling Eric, “I can do it,” and “I got it,” instead of letting him help me with whatever it was I was doing. I thought I was being nice by telling him he could go do something else because I didn’t need him to help me, but what I didn’t know was I was actually hurting his feelings. One way Eric shows his love for me is by helping me and doing things for me. He knows I hate vacuuming (the noise drives me insane), so he will often offer to do it for me. I have a hard time dusting on top of the shelves in the bathroom because I’m so short, so he will do it for me when I’m dusting. This whole “knight in shining armor” is an inherent behavior in most men, and if we don’t let them do it, it can actually be emasculating. So let him reach that bowl you can’t reach, and let him carry something heavy up the stairs for you; because most of the time, he really enjoys doing it.
So tell me — what are some of the things you learned during your first year of marriage? Let me know in the comments below!