Premarital counseling is recommended for any couple planning to get married to help prepare them for the changes marriage will bring to the relationship. It can be very beneficial.
Despite partner’s efforts to increase the chances of successful matrimony or the solid foundation a couple may have established, the first year of marriage is one of transition and comes with challenges. Even a couple who has cohabited prior to marriage is not immune from some struggles.
This is not an all inclusive list of challenges, but covers some of the most common problematic experiences.
When the honeymoon is over
Leading up to the actual wedding, there has been much excitement and anticipation for the big day. When a couple returns from a relaxing or fun honeymoon, the reality of marriage sets in, which can be pretty dull in comparison to the glitz and glamor of the wedding and honeymoon. This can contribute to some letdown.
Partners may not be on the same page when it comes to fulfilling the “husband” and “wife” role. Household responsibilities will be shared; there might be some switches to more stereotypical gender roles once married and this can be a source of tension too. The frequency of sex and how finances will be handled (joint versus separate bank accounts) are common areas on which newly married couples disagree.
Another area of differences in expectations might be when it comes to time spent together. Finding that healthy balance of togetherness and separateness can be difficult to navigate. Some spouses may expect to be more of a priority and for their husband or wife to spend more time at home or with them once no longer a bachelor/bachelorette; the other spouse may not be so willing to change their priorities and lifestyle once married.
True selves are revealed
While dating, one may tend to not be fully their true selves out of concern that their partner will run for the hills if they knew their flaws. Once the ring is on the finger, one or both partners may subconsciously decide they are free to let more of their true identity be revealed. Their spouse may feel they have been deceived and the victim of a “bait and switch”. This can be a trying time when one does not feel they really know the person with whom they dedicated spending their life.
Self-care can also take a back seat after the wedding. Once married, perhaps one feels little need to keep up their appearance or take care of themselves like they did before when there was stress to look their best for the wedding or were more concerned about being attractive to their mate out of fear they would lose interest. Certainly appearance is not everything, but in various ways a decrease in self-care can play a role in marital issues. Hygiene, eating healthy and exercising play an important role in one’s mental health and the mental health of each spouse is a factor in the quality of the marriage.
The rose-colored glasses come off
Perhaps one’s spouse does not change, but the idiosyncrasies and personality quirks of their new spouse may suddenly irk them, where before they were more tolerant. These things might become more bothersome when put in the perspective of dealing with them for the long-term.
Both spouses have gained a new (in-law) family. How to best handle one’s new in-laws can be stressful as they may feel more entitled to meddle in the relationship or pre-existing conflict may only escalate after the wedding. One may feel torn to pick sides when there is a disagreement among their new spouse and their family; as a result, loyalty will be tested.
Below are some general guidelines to help survive the first year of marriage when dealing with the above or additional challenges.
Don’t make the mistake of wishful thinking that things will blow over or work themselves out. No one likes to have conflict but it will resolve more easily if addressed when
it is small rather than after it has snowballed into a bigger deal. Resolution may include negotiation and choosing to be happy rather than right.
Learn how to communicate
Assertively and respectfully let one’s thoughts, feelings, expectations, and requests be known. No spouse is a mind reader. Listening is just as an
important part of communication as sharing; be a good listener.
Don’t take things for granted
This includes each other and the marriage. It can be so easy to become complacent and unappreciative. Figure out how to best show love, affection and appreciation to one’s spouse and do it frequently.
Set healthy boundaries
Communication skills can also come in handy when dealing with in-laws and other potential meddlers. One should be selective in regards to individuals outside the marriage with whom they choose to share their marital struggles as not everyone will be objective and neutral.
Get professional help
It is never too early to get help, but unfortunately sometimes it is too late. Many couples wait until after years of conflict and dissatisfaction before seeking marital counseling. By that point they are often on the brink of divorce and sometimes too much damage (resentment, lose of love) has been done. A trained therapist can be effective in helping spouses work through all of the above areas, while giving that objective, neutral perspective.
Just like anything worth having in life, a healthy marriage takes work. Be willing to put in the effort.
Knowledge is power; hopefully the information provided highlights potential (but not inevitable) challenges to be on the lookout for during the first year of marriage and ways to tackle them sooner rather than later.