You just had your dream wedding and a honeymoon, so you’re meant to be on cloud 9, right?
Common belief would have it that the first year of marriage is one of the hardest, and for me that was certainly true.
The picture perfect image that I held of becoming a Mrs was quickly shattered almost as soon as the dress was off.
The anticlimax after the wedding was intense. Our honeymoon resort was overrated and overpriced. And settling back into reality after it was all over hit me like a ton of bricks.
I decided pretty quickly that married life sucked. It was not skipping along in fields of poppies. Nor was it happiness and laughter, followed by passionate sex.
Instead it was about being an adult who had committed to another adult for the rest of my adult life.
It was about bills, mortgages and talk of family planning.
All of a sudden I felt trapped by the responsibility, the monotony and the thought that this was ‘it’ forever.
Rather than relishing in my new marital status, I went all out to rebel. I fought against the age old stereotypes associated with married life and worked hard to prove that I was still a person in my own right.
It was almost as though I was leading a single life – without the pick ups of other men, of course.
Nevertheless, I’d put myself first. I’d get angry if my husband suggested something I didn’t want to do and, more often than not, I resented him for (what I thought was) taking away my freedom.
I didn’t want to be a wife. I wanted to be free. I wanted to live the life that was greener on the other side of the fence.
Only the other side of the fence wasn’t greener of course, even though it took me most of that first year to accept and acknowledge that.
However, talking to other friends both then and now, I know I’m not alone in feeling like this immediately after marriage. I’ve heard many a common tale.
But why is it that the first year of marriage is so hard?
“Any year of marriage can be hard and, perhaps because expectations are so high, the lows maybe hurt more in that first year,” says relationship counselor, Susie Tuckwell.
Tuckwell also attributes the initial lows to the calm after the wedding storm.
“The fun lead up to big weddings and exciting honeymoons often means the routine of everyday life afterwards can feel very flat,” she says.
“This can negatively affect relationships, as couple’s realise there’s a need to shift from “lurve” to “love”.”
But it’s not only this transition that couples can struggle with. Acceptance of their partner’s longer-term ideas can also cause friction.
“It’s astonishing how different people’s ideas can be about the simplest things, and adjusting to a partner’s differences means challenging each person’s assumptions about things that have previously been taken for granted,” she says.
Tuckwell notes that the main things couples fight about are sex, money, in-laws and housework.
So does a bad first year have any impact on the future of the relationship?
“Yes and no,” says Tuckwell.
“Funnily enough, couples who have disagreements in the first 4 years of marriage but resolve them with affection and respect intact are more likely to be together in 10 years time.”
She says that this is opposed to couples who sweep things under the carpet in the early years in the interests of “keeping the peace”.
“Eventually the carpet is not big enough to cover the disagreements,” she says.
So what is the best way of dealing with any issues in the first year, and how can we ensure the best chance of happy ever after? Tuckwell offers the following advice;
• Try to discern the difference between solvable differences and differences that are likely to be permanent. Is one person tidier, more punctual, more religious, more frugal? These tend to be permanent characteristics. How can you live with those differences?
• Talk through expectations, worries and thoughts about differences, especially in the big four of sex, money, in-laws and housework. Be frank and don’t pretend.
• If there are some big disagreements, see a therapist to talk them through. It’s cheaper than divorce.
• Get good at talking to each other in a patient, kind and interested way.
• Read some relationship books: John Gottman’s “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” and “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, and How to Make Your’s Last” are brilliant.
• Do not go outside the marriage to friends or family to discuss what’s going on inside the marriage.
• If you have problems, get professional help and advice. People wait an average of 6 years to get help, when so much damage has already been done.
• Remember – it happens, so be realistic and don’t think a baby, mortgage or affair will fix it. You will only dig a bigger hole.
September 9, 20169:52am