Newlyweds, the first year might be the toughest of all your 85 years together! Here are six of the most important tips on how to love (not just survive!) your first year of marriage. If you’re still smooching on your first wedding anniversary, you’ll be ready to survive anything.
Well, that’s not entirely true. In fact that might be an outright lie. I’m reading a novel called Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois; the married couple in the book not only lost their youngest daughter, their oldest daughter is in an Argentinian jail because she’s been charged with murder. The father said that a child’s death destroys most couples’ marriages because it is unsurvivable. He and his wife divorced after they lost their daughter.
So. On that happy note, I encourage you to hold on to the best parts of your life and your spouse! Enjoy being newlyweds; the first year is full of surprises and growth. For me, it was the worst of times – though we didn’t lose a child. Here’s what I learned about how to survive the first year of marriage (we’ve been married 11 years, and our marriage has never been happier)…
This post was inspired by a new wife, asking for help surviving her first year of marriage:
“My husband and I have been married for just over a year,” says Michelle in response to Lost That Loving Feeling? When to Give Up On Your Marriage. “I recently told him I feel emotionally empty, 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.”
She adds that her new husband recently made a new female friend at work. “It makes me very uncomfortable,” she says, “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, or if I just need to give him space and let him talk when he is ready. I don’t know if its normal to feel disconnected through the first year of being married. I have heard the first year of marriage is the hardest. He has always been wonderful to me. He is a very nice person. I’m afraid that my feelings of emptiness were based on something temporary and I hurt him by saying what I did. I just need advice! How do we survive the first year of marriage?”
Advice for Newlyweds the First Year of Marriage
The most important thing to remember is that your marriage WILL get better! (probably) You will learn so much about each other. You’ll grow together and apart, and back together again. You’ll go through ups and downs, peaks and valleys.
And one day you’ll be celebrating your 10th wedding anniversary, and you’ll wonder how you survived your first year of marriage. And then on your 20th anniversary you’ll be giving advice to newlyweds the first year of their marriage.
Give each other freedom to say the wrong thing
Sometimes you’ll say things that are hurtful, insensitive, or thoughtless. So will your spouse. Sometimes you’ll be brutally honest when you should hold your tongue. Other times you’ll be silent when you should share how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking.
Forgive your spouse for saying the wrong thing. Forgive yourself for making mistakes in your relationship. Allow each other to screw up, to learn, to apologize, and to grow. Go easy on each other, and on yourselves.
Talk about what you’re learning
I don’t think it was a mistake for Michelle to tell her husband that she feels emotionally empty, like her husband is more of a friend than a husband. I believe this is a natural feeling for married couples – and maybe even a healthy one! We can’t possibly sustain those “I love you so much I could die” feelings throughout our married life. Those strong passionate crazy feelings of love settle into a more companionship-type of love. Which I personally like better, because it’s more comfortable and secure.
Talk to your spouse about your expectations of married life. Talk about how to survive the first year of marriage! Be honest about your fears and hopes, your insecurities and goals.
If you’re learning that you’re not actually in love with your spouse, read How to Survive a Loveless Marriage.
Start as you mean to go
The best advice to newlyweds the first year was given to me by my boss when I got married. I can’t even remember her name, it was so long ago! Well, only 11 years but it feels like forever.
“Start as you mean to go”, she said. By this she meant that we should set habits and routines that we want to sustain forever. To be specific: if I want to make my husband’s oatmeal every morning for the rest of my life, then I should start making it during our first year of marriage. But if I don’t want to make his breakfast every day, then I shouldn’t make it our first morning as husband and wife. This is how to survive not only your first year of marriage, but your whole married lives together.
Learn what makes the first year of marriage something to “survive”
Why isn’t the first year of marriage a perpetual honeymoon? Because there are a zillion tiny adjustments you need to make, a billion things to learn about being married, and a million insights you’ll discover about your own personality and quirks.
The first year of marriage was hard for me because I grew up with a single mother, no dad, and a gypsy lifestyle. I had no idea what to expect from married life! What do couples talk about every day? How do they make decisions? Where do they spend their weekends? I also struggled with insecurity and jealousy, which made the first year of marriage difficult for both of us.
What do you think makes the first year of marriage difficult for you and your spouse? Do not point the finger at him. Look inward.
Get – and stay – emotionally and spiritually healthy
The best advice for newlyweds the first year and beyond is to take care of your health. Physically and mentally, for sure – but even more important is your emotional and spiritual health.
I created problems in our first year of marriage because I wasn’t healthy emotionally. I was jealous of my husband’s ex-girlfriend because they’d been together for six years. I was insecure about my body, my personality, and even my childhood. I created conflict and drama in our marriage instead of taking care of my own struggles. Looking back, I would say that the biggest thing I learned about how to survive the first year of marriage was the importance of my own emotional health.
If you’re struggling with an emotional health issue, get counseling. Deal with your issues and hangups, or they’ll cause problems in your marriage that won’t be easily solved – even with couples counselling.
Make it a habit to look outward together, as a couple
“We strongly believe that your marriage is your ministry,” says Ryan Frederick on 5 Habits for a Healthy Marriage. “You serve and honor each other as spouses, and together you can extend that ministry to your community. In all instances of Christ-like love, Christ is glorified. This is our ultimate purpose as humans: to glorify God. Serving together is an incredibly valuable habit since it will consistently remind you that your core purpose is to bring God glory, not yourself happiness. Happiness is good, just not as our primary goal.”
This isn’t just advice to newlyweds the first year, it’s a wonderful way to look outward as a married couple. Instead of focusing on learning how to survive your first year of marriage, lift your gaze to the world around you. How can you give, volunteer, serve your community? This will draw you closer together as a couple and help you connect with the world around you.
What to Do Next
Watch the Boundaries in Marriage: An 8-Session Focus on Understanding the Boundaries That Make or Break a Marriage DVD series with your spouse. Drs Henry Cloud and John Townsend will teach you how to be loving in your marriage, but still stand firm as an individual. You’ll learn how to express yourself with both self-respect and respect for your spouse.
Learning healthy boundaries in marriage is one of the single most important things you can do to survive the first year – and every year – of your marriage.
Tell me what you think of my tips on how to survive the first year of marriage. What do you agree or disagree with? I also welcome your thoughts on surviving various problems of married life – especially if children are in the picture! Parenting brings a whole different set of challenges for newlyweds.
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your advice for newlyweds in their first year.