Written in collaboration with Reegan Gran
“Marriage is hard work.” // “Everything changes during the first year.” // “The first year is the hardest.”
I’m sure you’ve heard these cliches. It’s the advice shared by anyone who has been or is currently married. And, if we’re being honest, anyone who hasn’t been married. That advice is so well–known that you don’t even have to be married to say it. Cliches are cliches for a reason.
But, the thing is, that advice isn’t usually followed up with the “why”. Why is marriage so hard? Why does everything change? Why is the first year more difficult than the ones that follow? And if you do get that far, it is pretty rare to get to the part of the advice you were actually seeking out (or not seeking out, right?). The part where they tell you how to make your marriage work.
That is the advice that I want! And lucky for me, I have several great examples of successful marriages around me. So, I asked! And I got some answers. Some answers that I am going to share with you, because, if I wanna know, I’m sure other women–who–get–asked–where–the–engagement–ring–is–at–every–family–holiday wanna know too.
Things you learn in the first year of marriage:
1.) Nobody is perfect.
A lot of us have a fairy–tale image of how perfect marriage is going to be. How perfect our spouse is. How they can do no wrong. Unfortunately, these high standards are what set us up for failure. These high standards are what make that first year so hard. You learn pretty quickly during year one that your life is actually going to be perfectly, imperfect. Because news flash, we. all. make. mistakes. Even your fairy–tale “perfect” spouse.
2.) You need to learn to forget, not just forgive.
Nobody is perfect, so big (and little) mistakes will be made. By both of you. The best thing you can do in these situations is communicate. Talk. But really, listen. Listen to each other’s feelings about the situation. Apologize and then…leave it in the past. It’s difficult to let things go sometimes, but it is honestly one of the best things you can do for your marriage. Learn to forgive (sometimes the easier part) and learn to forget (sometimes the harder part). Which means you are not allowed to bring it up 3–months later during a completely unrelated argument. I mean it. Forgive and forget.
3.) Communication is key.
The most important thing to have in a marriage is open and honest communication. Not knowing how to communicate with your spouse makes things tough. Express your feelings, thoughts, needs and wants. Understand that no matter how long you have known each other, your spouse can not know everything about you, which sometimes includes not knowing how you feel, what you want or even what you need. Your spouse can not read your mind, so be open with them. Speak up and encourage your spouse to speak up.
4.) Listening is key.
Are you picking up on the theme here? Communication is key, which means listening is also key. As humans, we often have a hard time listening (really listening) to others, but, it is important, important, important to L.I.S.T.E.N. to your spouse. Learn to give your undivided attention, take in what they are saying and process it. That means the little, day–to–day things, like how their morning was, as well as the big things like a family issue they are having. Listen and take their words to heart.
5.) The “Golden Rule” isn’t just for elementary school.
The Golden Rule is a basic principle that should be followed to ensure success in every aspect of life, but it especially applies to marriage. Follow that rule. Treat your spouse how you want to be treated. Respectfully. Your spouse should be the person you respect most in your life, so act that way. And while you are at it, practice patience and when you need something, ask kindly. Because you want your spouse to be patient and kind with you. Remember, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
6.) You will compare your marriage to others, but you shouldn’t.
Every relationship is unique in its own way. What works for you, might not work for everyone. But the important thing is that you figure out what works for you and your spouse and focus on that. If it makes you happy and fulfilled, then it is right. It’s hard not to compare your marriage to others, but it is pointless to do so. No other marriage is going to have the answers for your marriage. You and your spouse need to find the answers with each other.
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Looking for advice from some experts? Check out one of these great resources:
- The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
- The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert
- Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage: 12 Secrets for a Lifelong Romance
What did you learn in your first year of marriage? Share with us in the comments below!