Many people say that the first year of marriage is one of the hardest seasons of a couple’s life together. Looking back on my own marriage, I would agree.
It wasn't all bad by any means, but there were certainly some challenges that I thought I was well prepared for that it turns out... I really wasn't.
Although the first year of marriage is far from terrible (after all, you’re still in the honeymoon phase for a bit!) what makes that inaugural year so tough is that there is so much to get used to, and so much to figure out about each other, and about your new relationship.
Marriage is unlike any other relationship, and as you may expect, it can take a while to find your footing.
There’s a greater level of commitment, there is a sexual component that’s introduced, financial decisions to make, and a life to build together.
That’s a LOT for anyone to tackle all at once!
Also, to be perfectly honest, there’s usually something that blows up in your face during that first year.
(For us, it seemed like maybe a few things!)
But that’s no reason to be afraid.
I am confident you will conquer this first year of marriage together as long as you have these things:
One quote I like about marriage is that “good marriages are a submission competition”.
I think that overall, I’d have to say that I’d agree.
The best marriages really are the ones where you are in a race to serve one another, to put one another first, and consider each other’s needs before your own. Adopting an attitude of “you first” fosters trust and intimacy, and builds feelings of fondness and love. It also helps your spouse feel prioritized. This one is HARD, but it's one of the best things you can do for your marriage.
2. A Sense of Humor
Oh boy, the things that happen within that first year!
More than once I remember things happening that I could have be embarrassed about, sensitive about, or even mad about, but instead I chose to laugh about it (or at least once it was over, I laughed about it!).
It turns out that having a good sense of humor is really helpful in navigating partner relationships. Not only does it help you take yourself (and each other) less seriously, it helps you be more forgiving when mistakes are made.
So have a good laugh, and chalk it all up to experience. You’re both doing this for the first time!
3. A Strategy for Talking About Big Things
I discovered early on in our marriage that I needed a conversation strategy that would set my (possible ADD) husband up for success. Just sitting and talking wasn't cutting it.
To have a heart-to-heart, he needed an environment that would keep his brain engaged, but that wouldn’t be too distracting, and in a place where he would feel at ease. (For him, talking in the car is perfect!) He is able to stick with me in conversation-mode much longer if I set it up the right way.
So whatever your spouse needs to have these deep conversations, figure it out and follow through with your strategy so that they can connect with you. Find the right time and place so that they can fully engage in the conversation.
4. Positive (or at least not destructive) Communication Habits
In addition to the where and when of these important conversations, you will want to pay attention to the “how”. As I'm sure you already know, how you speak to one another is incredibly important! Sometimes, how you say something matters more than what was said!
I recommend familiarizing yourself with these 4 relationship-killing bad habits and these 7 good habits that will build your marriage up. Knowing these two things will really help you avoid communication disasters.
*Personally, knowing to avoid those 4 bad habits has probably saved our marriage before we even needed saving!
In marriage there will be times where you have to bare your thoughts, feelings, emotions, hopes, dreams, fears, and desires to your partner without certainty that they will be well-received or that things will go your way.
Opening up conversations that you'd rather keep closed, and revealing feelings that you'd rather keep to yourself can feel excruciating at the time, but it is the only way to move forward in your relationship and address the things that need to be addressed, and keep bitterness and distance from brewing.
Vulnerability is the only road to true acceptance and connection in our relationships. Especially during this first year, you will need to be open, honest, and willing to be vulnerable with each other because neither of you can read minds!
6. A Budget
By coming together and making financial decisions as a TEAM (not just the “money” person doing it all – or nobody doing it at all – yikes!) you will save yourself lots of headache and arguments.
The reason why that's true is because any conversation you have about money is simultaneously a conversation about deeply held convictions and values.
The truth is, people care about money! And you need to allow for the fact that you will both have ideas of what to do with it. Coordinate and talk about your financial habits. If budgeting isn’t your strength, don’t worry. There are plenty of resources out there for you!
*My husband and I recently went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course, and we highly recommend it! It goes beyond just budgeting and gives you a way to discuss your finances as a couple, and talks you through simple steps to get your money situation figured out and on track – including advice on investing and retirement! (This was a great way for us to tackle an otherwise DAUNTING subject and task. This course breaks it ALL down for you.)
*This is an affiliate link, but this is my honest recommendation! Purchases made via these links help support and make this site possible.
7. Listening Skills
One of my favorite relationship quotes is “Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference.” –David Oxberg.
When others stop and give you their full, undivided attention, and don’t judge you – but instead hold space for you and empathize with you, you walk away feeling loved although they were simply listening to you.
This underscores the importance of active listening, especially in marriage!
Giving your spouse your undivided attention, and the ability to share whatever is on their heart is so reassuring, and helps to build good communication habits. It also communicates unconditional love. So if you want to survive your first year of marriage, don’t tune them out or half-listen.
Genuinely listen to their message - not necessarily their words!
When you get married there are plenty of things you do that you’ve done so many times, you hardly even think about them any more. After you’re married, almost every single one of these things becomes a potential battle ground for some truly comical newlywed spats. Loading the dishwasher, sorting laundry, brushing your teeth, and dare I say... which way to load the toilet paper roll!
Someone always knows the “right” way to do it and it’s never the same way the other person thinks is right. Although not every one of these areas will be a battle ground, there will be some!
Practice flexibility in your habits, have a sense of humor, and be willing to accommodate their lifestyle. Better yet, figure out new ways of doing things together. This is all part of two becoming one, so embrace it!
If you’re going to make it through your first year of marriage with any level of success, you will need a pinch of patience. This means not freaking out when it seems like they’ve done something insensitive and using a perception check instead.
It also means that you cut them a little bit of slack when it comes to their personal habits and accept that neither of you are perfect.
Clothes on the floor, dishes in the sink, and before you know it, frustration levels are running high! Patience.
It also means allowing them to learn from their mistakes when they’ve hurt you or wronged you. Instead of shutting them out or giving them the cold shoulder, have patience and see how they improve things the second time around. You may also find that you need to patiently wait on the Lord for help in a specific area of your relationship.
Whatever your current struggle, try to approach it with patience.
10. Few (or at least fair) Expectations
Everyone has certain hopes and expectations in marriage. That's just the reality. If you want your first year of marriage to go smoothly, however, you will hold to yours loosely, and try to make your expectations as fair as possible. (Hint: that means communicating your expectations plainly before being upset they haven’t been met!)
Measure every expectation you have against the word of God, and practice gratitude for the ways they come through for you, even if it’s not completely how you would’ve imagined or expected. There may be times where your expectations need to be altered.
11. A “We” Mindset
The great thing about being married is that you’re no longer just you. You’re now a “we”.
Even in small moments and minute decisions you’ll want to consider how your actions will affect the other person. You will need to be aware of the influence you have on their life.
As my husband would often remind me during that first year, “It’s no longer just Trevor, or just Kaylene, from now on it’s Trevor and Kaylene. Forever”.
Although I truly love this mushy romantic sentiment, it was also something that as a newlywed I needed to be reminded of. Your scope has to broaden from “me” to “we” in all areas of life after marriage.
So it's no longer just you and your love, it's the two of you. Together. Forever.
12. An Avenue to Grow Together Spiritually.
What this means is that you should be going to church together, praying together, reading the Bible together, or talking about your faith together. Better yet, all of the above!
If you are united in this central area of your relationship, it grounds you. When you are focused on the big picture, and on who Jesus is, it’s much harder for the little things to shake you!
To make it through your first year, I highly recommend having a friend (or friends) you can go to for advice, for help, and for support. Sometimes all you need is someone to listen to you, point you in the right direction, or pray for you.
I know for Trevor and I, this has been an area we've struggled in, and have since been trying to improve, and I've gotta say - the benefits really make it worth it.
Having community with other married couples, and other trusted Christians gives us the reassurance we need that we're not alone in our struggles, and that there are others willing to walk through that with us.
And especially in the first year of marriage, there will be times when you will want a friend to ask questions like "is this normal?", "what do you think I should do?", "how do I tell him that...?", "is this a realistic expectation?" and "what kinds of things have worked for you?"
I didn't have that when we were first married.
And I desperately wish I did.
(That’s why I’m writing this blog! 😊)
So if you find yourself feeling like you could use a little help in deciphering your relationship, or some support in what's going in in your life, let me know! My desire is for this blog to be more than just a blog... but to be a community for women like YOU where we can come together and have real conversations about our relationships.
And let me just say, my marriage is far from perfect. But this is a ministry God has called me to and I am SO happy to be doing this with other great women like yourself.
So leave a comment... and tell me what you think, or subscribe to my mailing list! I'd love for you to be a part of the group!
Which of these things apply to your relationship with God? Do you see any parallels between what's necessary for your marriage, and what's necessary for your relationship with Jesus?
If you have ideas, I'd love to know!