“We have to recognise that there cannot be relationships unless there is commitment, unless there is loyalty, unless there is love, patience, persistence.”
Surving the first year of marriage has been a journey. Today, 8th of November 2019, I celebrate my first year of marriage!! #WeMadeIt. “If you can make it through your first year of marriage, you two can get through anything.” These were the words that were said to me from a married friend of mine near the time of our wedding last year. At the time, I didn’t understand why the first year of marriage would be the hardest. I mean, we have been living together for our entire relationship, what difference would marriage make to our relationship?
In the 21st century, when it is the norm for couples to move in together before the thought of marriage even emerges, for many people, it makes no sense why marriage would change things dramatically. You know what it is like to live with them, you have adjusted to sharing your space with someone else, you have mastered the nudge to shut them up when they are snoring in your ear; so, is there really a difference? Marriage may look the same when you cohabitate and combine your lives, but it is so much more than living together, paying bills and having a joint bank account. Marriage is a commitment, it is binding; if you hit a bump in the road, there is no packing your shit and calling it quits. Obviously, many people do simply pack up and leave, but regardless of them moving out, changing their relationship status on social media and deleting all photos and evidence of the person, there is still the legally binding document.
My first year of marriage has been challenging; it has been filled with countless ups and downs, pointless arguments and situations that could have very well been avoided with better communication. Marriage tends to intensify disagreements and arguments because all of a sudden you are filled with thoughts of ‘this is the rest of my life’, this is who I vowed to be with through sickness and health and for better or for worse.
Marriage AND relationships in the 21st century are hard, period.
We live in a world full of illusions, the need for ‘perfection’ and the highlight reel syndrome. We fall victim to want to “outlive” people on social media through statues, pictures and videos; it is ludicrous. It is extremely taboo and frowned upon to openly talk about or show that you’ve hit a bump in the road. Marriages, just like every other relationship, require work. What do you think happens after the “I do’s” and celebrations? I will tell you that it is not always smooth sailing, but there is nothing to be ashamed of; people have problems, but that doesn’t mean the marriage is over or there are feelings of regret. Marriage is a union; it is two individuals coming together as one; that does not mean that you will have the same views all of a sudden; you will clash, and it is expected.
Our culture is almost obsessed with falling in love, meeting the ‘right’ person and ultimately, not being alone. This idea of fairytales, rainbows daily, the life of perfection hits different when reality strikes.
I see countless people hashtagging the shit out of social media couples. This whole #RelationshipGoals is mind-boggling to me. I get that what you see looks like perfection; however, perfection does not exist. When we were going through our hurdles, I can admit that I felt ashamed, like something was wrong with us or me. Social media and society, in general, makes it difficult to stand up and say what is on your heart. I have always tried to be open and honest because I have zero time, let alone energy, to live fraudulently on social media for likes. My wife and I were having arguments about people and situations that WE allowed to be relevant in our marriage. We got sidetracked because of the stresses of life, and instead of coming together, we allowed our individual emotions to separate us.
As I write this today, I still feel awkward because there maybe couples that have had an awesome first year of marriage, and that alone makes me feel like a failure. However, I have to remember that I am ME, and they are them; I know what took place and where we went wrong. Although I hate(d) the arguments, our hurdles only made us stronger. Prior to marriage, there were plenty of times when my wife would pack her shit, threaten to leave and not leave because of disagreements. However, this first year has taught us how to communicate better. The first year of marriage doesn’t have to be difficult; you can avoid certain situations, not all, but at least some. Below are my 7 tips for newlyweds to help you survive your first year of marriage.Sum Of Her’s tips on how to survive your first year of marriage. (in no particular order)
- No one has a perfect marriage.
With social media, it is so easy to get caught up believing that somehow, someone has it all figured out and has found the key, the secret, to a perfect marriage. Wrong. Most people will only ever post the good times of their life, and this includes their marriage. You will not be shown the solo dates, empty side of the bed, arguments and so on. You will not see the status updates about the argument over who left the cup on the table, finance disputes, sleepless nights up drinking wine. Understand that marriages endure tough times and that there is no perfect marriage. Do not get caught up comparing your marriage to what people have chosen to share with you; it is not always as it seems.
- Encourage and engage in open and honest communication with your spouse.
Just because you have said your “I do’s” this does not mean that the work required to maintain your relationship is finished. You will have moments when you do not agree on the same thing. There will be arguments over your in-laws and situations when you have been upset or hurt by your spouse. You must engage in open and honest communication at all times with your spouse. Sometimes, this may not be possible at that exact moment because of your emotions, and that is fine. However, you still need to communicate your feelings when you have calmed down. Your spouse is not a mind reader; they will not always know what is going on with you; therefore, you need to ensure that the lines of communication are open. Allowing past feelings over situations, arguments and disagreements to fester is not healthy and is highly unadvisable. They may not always like what you have to say, but being open and honest will allow them to know the truth about how you feel.
- Expectations. Let them be known.
Personally, I think it is unrealistic for me to say get rid of your expectations. We are human; we will have expectations; however, many of us keep this secret and still get upset when these are not met. If you appreciate certain things that your spouse did prior to marriage, then make it known. Be open about the things you expect. Understand that just because you have expectations does not mean they are reasonable; therefore, be open to comprising on things you cannot agree on or that are not reasonable.
- There will be conflicts.
Yes, I said it. You will have arguments, moments when you will not speak because you are being petty and allowing your emotions to take over. These things will happen; the key is learning from each hurdle. We all deal with things differently; you may be able to discuss a situation right away. However, your spouse may need extra time. Remember that it takes TWO to argue and TWO to resolve. Learn through open communication what you both need in order to work through the tough times. You will not always get it right. Understand that it is OK to apologise. Ultimately, remember that words have power and that once they leave our lips, the damage is done. Be careful what you say in the heat of the moment.
- Avoid the blame game at all cost.
When we are upset and genuinely believe that we are not in the wrong, we can quickly start pointing fingers and blaming each other. Passing the blame will not solve the issue. We will make mistakes; it is inevitable because we are not perfect. There is no need to take score or continuously remind them of their mistakes. I can guarantee you that they are already beating themselves up; they do not need your help.
- What is worth fighting for requires intentional hard work, nurturing and attention.
Things will go wrong, but things will also go right. You have to be ready for unexpected situations that could easily end your marriage. For example, a build-up of unsaid emotions, debt, outsiders, unwillingness to listen to your spouse and their concerns or feelings on certain people or situations. Understand that you both made a commitment to each other. Yes, you will have people in your lives that may disrupt your peace, it is down to both of you, to be honest, and make necessary decisions to protect your peace and relationship. Life will get hectic, with adulting commitments. However, do not lose focus on the needs of yourself, your spouse, and your marriage. Make time for each other; your spouse and marriage relationship should be your priority (in my opinion).
- Be yourself.
Your union does not erase your identity. You still need to maintain a life of your own. Do not let your marriage change who you are. Remember that they married you for you, do not get lost. If yourself slipping away, take a minute to yourself, talk with your partner and tell them how you are feeling. We all need someone outside of our spouse to talk to at times, remember to respect your marriage when doing this.
I endured my ups and downs in my first year of marriage, but, I am happy, and I survived, and I plan on applying everything learned to my next year(s). I wanted to be as open and honest as possible because, yes, marriage can be hard, but it is also amazing. Communication would be my main tip for your marriage and its success, no matter what year you are in. Sometimes, the issues that arise are not due to something you or your spouse has done wrong. Most times, we have to take a minute and really think about the issue and pick it apart, and the real reason will be revealed. Do not feel like you have to stifle your feelings or frustrations; communication is the key. Your union does not exempt you from tough times, nor does it erase past issues; you will be tested. Get to know each other again, I know that sounds weird to say considering you are married, but as I said before, the feeling and thoughts of “this is it” adds a layer of pressure that we sometimes have to remove. Remember to be you and maintain open communication with your spouse. Do not compare your marriage relationship to others; this is your journey.
What advice would you give to newlyweds? How did you survive your first year of marriage?