As great as your first year of marriage can be, it does come with its share of both highs and lows. According to experts, the first year of marriage can be really tough due to the adjustment period. There are quite a few mistakes all couples tend to make during that critical year. But once you're aware of the mistakes you may be making, you can work with your partner to turn things around.
"The early bricks we lay in our marital dynamics create an important trajectory," Dr. Lindsay B. Jernigan, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. "Behaviors become patterns, which become habits. Long-term bad relational habits create wounds that can be difficult to repair."
According to Jernigan, it's much easier to maintain good habits than it is to do damage control. In order to start your marriage off the right way, it's important to make any necessary shifts in your mindset. For instance, good marriages don't come easily. Marrying your perfect person doesn't automatically guarantee that your marriage will be perfect.
"Marriage is hard," Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, licensed clinical professional counselor and certified Imago relationship therapist, tells Bustle. "A marriage must be nurtured to grow and flourish. Learn how to cultivate your relationship and bring out its full potential, and being married should provide you with tremendous satisfaction and a sense of wholeness."
So if you want your marriage to last, start putting in the work now. It's much easier to develop good habits while you're in the middle of newlywed bliss than it is after a major fight.
Here are some mistakes couples are likely to make during their first year of marriage, according to experts.
1. They Stop Dating Each Other
Think about the early days when you first started dating. Chances are, you made time for each other, planned special dates, asked each other thoughtful questions, and actually listened with the intent of getting to know one another on a deeper level. But once the relationship is "secured" by time or marriage, Jernigan says that couples often stop putting forth that same amount of effort. "When we stop courting each other, we then wonder why we begin to feel under-appreciated, under-prioritized, and invisible," she says. "This is when individuals become vulnerable to resentment and disappointment, neither of which make a strong foundation for a robust long-term love."
The key here is to keep dating. Really make an effort to prioritize spending time together. Have fun together and make each other laugh. "If this person deserved the best you had to offer in new romance, then they deserve the best you have to offer now that you're committed," Jernigan says. "Marriage is an active offering, not a passive state of being."
2. They Forget To Check-In With Their Partner If They're Staying Out Late
It's not easy to start thinking in terms of "we" when it's just been "I" or "me" for most of your life. As relationship counselor Kac Young PhD, tells Bustle, many people forget to check in with their new spouse when they want to make plans with friends for the weekend, or if they're stuck at work and won't make it home in time for dinner. This can leave the one waiting at home feeling worried or left out. When you haven't had to check in with someone as much before, it may take some time to get used to.
"What some couples have to learn is that they are now a unit, functioning with four feet, four hands, two brains, and two hearts," Young says. "The more they think of themselves as connected, the more they will consider and respect the feelings of their 'other half' and fall into a pattern of emotional unity." To be clear, this doesn't mean that you have to give up spending time out with friends. It just means being more mindful about making sure your partner is always in the know.
3. They Make Assumptions About Household Duties
"Newlyweds may assume that both partners will gladly or willingly adopt household chores and duties," Michelle Fraley, founder and owner of Spark Matchmaking & Relationship Coaching, LLC, tells Bustle. But unless one partner steps up and says they really enjoy doing the dishes or taking out the garbage, it's safe to assume neither of you wants to do it. As trivial as arguing over household chores may seem, studies have found it can really hurt your relationship satisfaction. So in order to create "healthy domestic habits," you and your partner need to have a clear discussion about who does what. You can even make a schedule and rotate responsibilities throughout the week.
4. They Touch Less Frequently
"Newlyweds often lose sight of how important it is to offer physical touch outside of the bedroom," Fraley says. Most people want to feel desired and appreciated by their partner at all times, not only when you're having sex. If you aren't kissing or being as affectionate with each other as you used to be, at least one of you will notice. According to Fraley, "Making sure that you are creating intention around physical intimacy and affection is very important in both creating and maintaining a healthy emotional bond." For instance, you can give your partner an impromptu foot massages, a warm hug for no apparent reason or cuddle up to them during a Netflix binge. These simple acts are great ways to maintain a strong level of intimacy.
5. They Think They Know What Their Partner Wants In Bed At All Times
If you've been having sex regularly, it's easy to assume you're always going to please your partner sexually. According to Fraley, people tend to get overconfident and believe their bedroom skills are working for their partner when they aren’t working at all. People change all the time. What your partner used to like in the beginning may not be it anymore. If you never check-in or ask for feedback, you'll never know. "In order to fix this problem, or stay ahead of it, partners must have open and honest communication about their sexual desires and wants," Fraley says. You can discuss topics such as frequency, fantasies, the time of day that works for both of you, and who intiates.
6. Taking Marriage Advice From Too Many People
"In their efforts to have the perfect marriage, couples will sometimes eagerly accept marriage advice that doesn't fit their marriage DNA," Dave Jenkins, certified relationship coach, tells Bustle. While there's absolutely nothing wrong with getting advice or looking for insight from others, it's important to know how to "filter the quality and applicability" of the advice you receive. According to Jenkins, there are three questions you should ask yourself before taking someone's advice: What is the state of the person's marriage? Does their advice fit your lifestyle and beliefs? What does your gut say about the advice you've been given? It's human nature to compare your relationship with other people's. But every relationship is different. What works for your friend's marriage, may not work for yours. So it's OK to listen to advice. Just be sure it makes sense for your relationship before you do anything.
7. Thinking You Can Be Everything To Each Other
When you first get married, it's natural to want to be with your partner all the time. While marriage does mean that you're now a part of a team, it doesn't mean that you have to give up your life completely. In fact, the best relationships are interdependent ones. You really don't need to be everything to each other. "It's important for both partners to maintain friendships and enjoy social time both as a couple and as individuals," Fraley says. "Newlyweds need to understand that no matter how much they are in love, maintaining some autonomy through independent friends and hobbies is important."
The first year of marriage is important because you're laying down the foundation for what your relationship is going to look like moving forward. No couple is ever going to get it completely right. But if you try to avoid making some of these mistakes, your marriage will be off to a great start.