Is the First Year of Marriage the Hardest?
A reader asked about how to be married on 4 Ways to Create Love and Peace in an Unhappy Marriage. Here’s her question, and my thoughts on the first year of marriage…
“My husband and I have been married for just over a year,” says Michelle. “I recently told him I feel emotionally empty and more like we are good friends than husband and wife. He said he feels the same way. He got very angry and hasn’t talked to me much in a couple days. We haven’t been intimate in a couple weeks. I don’t know how to fix this and make him talk to me again.”
I’m currently reading Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up. It has tons of practical tips and wisdom for married couples; if you haven’t read a book about being married, then you need to start now! Married couples have a wealth of knowledge and experience that you can learn and grow from. Why make your own mistakes when you can learn from the mistakes of others?
Below is the rest of her comment, plus a few thoughts on the first years of marriage…
“He won’t tell me he loves me,” she says. “Recently he made a new female friend at work. It makes me very uncomfortable. He assures me that they are just friends, but I have a hard time believing him. He works night shift and hasn’t been coming home on his lunches like he used to. He says he just sleeps in his car or takes a drive, but I’m not sure if I believe it. I miss him and I want everything to be good again. I just don’t know if he is trying to distance himself from me.”
Yes, the First Years of Marriage Are the Hardest
The first three years of my marriage were definitely the hardest, for several reasons: I was insecure, I didn’t know what it meant to be married, and the excitement of the wedding and honeymoon were over. I knew intellectually that marriage is hard work, but wasn’t prepared for what that actually means in practice.
So, it may be normal and even healthy for you and your husband to be struggling in your first year of marriage. It’s a period of the honeymoon ending, and you and him settling into the drudgery of married life. It’s also about negotiating household chores, your sexual life, leisure activities, family, work, friends, and your finances.
It’s important to remember that the wife often sets the emotional tone of the marriage, who increases emotional intimacy. I can’t remember where I read this, but I am 100% sure it’s true. “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is another way to say it. Your husband may have felt scared and hurt by your comment, and is reacting by withdrawing and protecting himself. If I were you, I’d apologize for unintentionally hurting him, and ask him if we could talk about it. I’d explain that our marriage is so new, I don’t know what to expect.
You have A LOT of power in your marriage, and you need to be careful about what you do and say to your husband (I learned this the hard way). Men have fragile egos, and are surprisingly easily hurt. Don’t blame or judge yourself for expressing your feelings – there’s nothing wrong with that! But, remember that honesty often comes with a price tag.
Why is the first year more difficult?
The first year of marriage is hard because you’re learning that you won’t feel passionately and hopelessly in love with your husband every day. It’s not possible to be consumed with feelings of chemistry and love for him – if you did, you wouldn’t get anything done. My husband and I have been married for 7 years, and I feel all sorts of things about him. Sometimes he’s an irritating roommate, other times he makes my insides melt simply by touching my arm or kissing my neck. Sometimes I wish I could be alone, and other times wish he was right beside me.
I wonder if the “emotional emptiness” you felt was just a normal part of being married? You’re settling into the most important relationship of your life, and it’s definitely not a walk in the park! I love being married and wouldn’t want to be single again, but my marriage has shown me how selfish, self-centered, and narcissistic I can be. Our closest relationships often show us our weaknesses, as well as our strengths.
Another reason the first year of marriage is the hardest is because you’re learning what you should and shouldn’t share with your husband. He doesn’t need to know what you’re feeling every moment you’re feeling it, especially if it directly involves him. There are lots of feelings I have about some things my husband says and does that I’d never tell him, because there’s not point. I don’t want him to feel self-conscious, and his actions and words are part of who he is. I’ve learned from experience that some things are better left unsaid – as you’re learning!
For more thoughts on being married – especially if your marriage is only a year or two old – read How the Power of Love Can Save Your Marriage.
I welcome your thoughts on the first year of marriage below, but I can’t offer advice. You may find it helpful to share your experience, and show other readers they’re not alone.