It’s no secret that the first year after the wedding is often the toughest

It’s no secret that the first year after the wedding is often the toughest – there’s so much ‘settling in’ to be done, so many expectations to be re-evaluated. And, if you’ve never lived together before, that brings a whole new set of challenges now. Does he constantly forget to put the toothpaste cap back on? Does she leave wet towels on the bed? Have they always chewed so loudly?

The good news is that you’re not expected to wax this straight off the bat. You’ve never done this before. Even if you’ve been married before, it wasn’t to this new person. So, don’t start panicking that you’ve made a terrible mistake. These are teething problems that can be tackled, sometimes quite easily.

Here are some tips:

Survival skills for a new marriage

1. Talk it out

It may sound obvious, but you need to communicate. Don’t huff and puff and eye-roll in the hopes that he “gets” that you need help hanging out the washing. Just talk. This includes asking for his help, sharing your feelings, explaining your approach to certain things, and verbalising thoughts in a kind way.

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You’re a team now; work together to overcome challenges and build a stronger bond by using kind, fair communication.

Practical tips

  • When you need to discuss something with your partner, explain how you feel by presenting your thoughts as suggestions. Don’t tell him in a way that makes it sound like you’ve already made the final decision or you’re giving him an ultimatum. This will only make him feel excluded and vulnerable.
  • Ask them to share how they feel with you, and then listen without interrupting, correcting or getting upset. Allow them to have a different decision from you and acknowledge their input, whether you agree with it or not.
  • Try to do things your partner’s way whenever possible, rather than insisting on your way just for the sake of winning an argument. This will help them to feel recognised, valued and appreciated. It will also make them more likely to accommodate your preferences and opinions in future.

Sometimes, we speak far more tactfully and kindly to others than we do to our spouse

2. Be tactful

Sometimes, we speak far more tactfully and kindly to others than we do to our spouse. We expect them to love us anyway, while we’ve gotten into the habit of speaking to them disrespectfully or un-lovingly. This may even be normal in your culture or country. But, don’t get into this habit. It creates an atmosphere of mutual disrespect and resentment, which makes it almost impossible to handle the sensitive issues that come up in every marriage.

Practical tips

  • Think about why your partner deserves even more respect than other people. Do they care for you and your family? Do they help to provide for your household and family? Have they made sacrifices for you? Do they love you?
  • Imagine tackling a challenging situation with your boss, an important client, or an older relative. How would you speak to them? Why would you speak to them with respect and not to your life partner?

3.  Adapt to your new roles

It’s more important to be happy than to be right all the time. You’ll both need to adjust to create a happy environment, but it starts with you. Be willing to make the changes from your side and your partner will be more likely to adjust too. Constantly nagging your husband to pick his gym clothes up may only make him more stubborn as he feels bossed around and mothered.

Practical tips

  • See if there’s room for you to relax a little. A few clothes on the floor are an easy trade-off for a better home environment. When he’s not concentrating so much on your being “bossy”, he might even decide to put them away himself. Maybe.
  • Don’t expect your partner to fit into your mould. You’re individuals and you love one another very much. That needs to be your focus, even when things get tough.
  • Think about the changes you know you need to make rather than focusing on the things you feel your partner should change about themselves.
  • Ask your spouse (in a calm, loving environment) where you have room for improvement. Write down their suggestion and, when you’re alone and in a good space, think about ways that you can work on improving.

It’s more important to be happy than to be right all the time

4.     Have reasonable expectations

Often, when we feel worried about a decision that we’ve made, we tend to look for someone to blame. Instead of focusing blame on your partner, adjust your viewpoint. When you’re learning a new sport, you expect to have a few falls and accidents. See the hurdles you face in your first year (and beyond) as training to improve in this new “sport”, ways of growing to new highs and becoming skilled.

Practical tips

  • Have a sense of humour. Instead of getting upset about the garden that still isn’t mowed, plan a bush-whacking excursion through the grass and help him see the funny side. If he hates when you slurp your coffee in the morning and you realise you’ve slurped and upset him again, try say something like, “Oops! I was just trying to remind you of all the things you’d miss about me if I was gone…” Then stop slurping!
  • When your partner expresses concerns, take them seriously. But, when either of you makes a mistake, try to find something to laugh about.
  • Try to find ways to make your partner happy and to spoil them. Give them reasons to be happy, and the hurdles you face will look a lot smaller in comparison.

Don’t let the challenges that invariably crop up in your first year as a married couple paralyse you from growing together. Rather, use these obstacles as stepping stones to strengthening your bond and creating a much happier future for you both.