The first year of marriage is a wonderful time of encounter and discovery, but it’s also fraught with major changes and great challenges.
Once we’ve gone through the intensity of the wedding, things can suddenly feel very different. A new scenario opens up in which we become much more aware that we have different customs and ways of doing the many things, like folding laundry or setting the table.
We begin to have a legal responsibility for someone else’s finances. We may have to update driver’s licenses and passports, decide on joint accounts, agree on where to put or store things at home, and adapt our schedules. While this can seem at first glance to be the same as simply living together, it’s much more than that.
If you’re cohabitating there’s a relatively easy way out, while in marriage you enter into a permanent union where there’s much more at stake, so each difference can be felt much more. This can be difficult to accept, especially when we’re used to seeing the apparent harmony of other couples as they appear on social networks.
The fact is, we begin to recognize that our experience of marriage doesn’t look like what people see on the outside. Internally we may be struggling with the changes. There are things that bother us or need to be adjusted, and maybe we hadn’t considered them or no one had mentioned them to us in much detail before.
Stress can easily build up during that first period of sharing everything, but that doesn’t mean we’ve made a mistake in taking the plunge. Marriage is a nurturing environment for growth. Its initial stage is a period full of learning and experiences that are capable of laying the foundation for a lasting and happy life-long relationship.
When you get married you know you’re in love, but you have a long road ahead of you. As you go along, you’ll acquire the wisdom that is the result of your own experiences and mistakes. But it’s also worth taking into account advice from the life experiences of other people who’ve already been there before us.
Here are some tips that can help, especially in the first year of marriage:
1. This will be one of the most fun and wonderful years of your life. Be prepared to learn about yourself, your spouse and your marriage.
2. Give your spouse priority over your family of origin. Choose them first over anyone else, including those who’ve always been with you.
3. Learn to love your spouse in as many ways as possible: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Love is ever-renewing and infinite. Don’t settle for the minimum, and open yourself in every dimension of your person.
4. When you disagree with your spouse, remember that they’re part of your team.
5. Learn to be alone with your mother-in-law and take care of that relationship. She’ll always be there.
6. Be open and honest about everything. Allow your spouse to do the same without criticism or judgment.
7. Just about everyone needs couples’ counseling at some point. Start early and make it second nature to help you learn to better understand, communicate and support each other.
8. Fertility or infertility does not define the value of your marriage or the value you have as a person.
9. Your spouse is not your roommate. Don’t look for equality in the way you do the dishes, clean, cook, or sort and fold laundry. Agree on how to distribute household chores according to the availability and preferences of each.
10. Start family traditions right away. Don’t wait for the kids to arrive.
11. It’s okay to do things separately and it’s healthy to find personal space. You don’t have to spend every moment together or always do the same activity. It’s okay to go out and have friends.
12. Seek refuge in God who is the source of love, and pray for your spouse and your marriage. Remember that your union has been blessed forever.
13. The transition to married life can be challenging, difficult and full of unexpected moments. Be patient.
14. Say things kindly and nicely, but also be clear and to the point, without beating around the bush.
15. Talk about your finances privately with your spouse without involving others.
16. It’s okay to argue, but don’t allow resentment or grudges to remain because it will damage your relationship if they aren’t resolved.
17. Take note of what your spouse likes or is interested in the first time they express it, so that when the time comes for anniversaries or special occasions, you’ll know what to do.
18. Always ask for forgiveness, even if it’s something small and apparently insignificant.
19. Beginnings are usually full of stories of overcoming obstacles, making sacrifices and small gestures of love, and practicing attitudes that later will be treasured memories. They might not be repeated later. Be sure to record them so that someday you can return to them.
20. Your most important job is to help your spouse seek personal holiness and create a family life that reflects God’s love and presence.
21. Just because you might be struggling doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t working. Just learn to struggle lovingly.