4 tips for surviving your first year of marriage

September 1, 2018: the day we got married. It seems like we’ve been married forever, but sometimes we feel like we’re still getting to know each other. Marriage has been an adventure like no other! The most amazing thing about this adventure is that it never has to end!

They say your first year of marriage is the hardest and that if you can make it through that, then you’re set for life. For us, it wasn’t that hard. However, there was a lot of learning and growing taking place, both individually and as a couple. There has to be. Especially when you take two people from very different backgrounds/childhoods and mash them together to form one family. 

There are 4 lessons I would like to highlight for you. Through these 4 lessons, which we learned during our first year of marriage, we hope to shed some light on what to expect for engaged or newlywed couples.

Lesson #1: Marriage is intentional

Intentional: Done on purpose; Deliberate 

In any long-term relationship, there seems to be a tendency to “stop” after a certain amount of time; stop going on dates, stop dressing to impress, and stop doing things for each other just because. The “honeymoon phase” of the relationship wears off. 

This blog is all about how to keep the honeymoon alive. Our secret is work, or rather, intentionality. 

To us, intentionality in a relationship means focusing on what’s important (to you) and making your spouse a top priority in your life. 

Early in our relationship, we set up what we wanted to do as a couple. We set our core values, our goals, and our “must-haves”. 

We aren’t perfect people, so there are lots of times when we felt comfortable in our relationship and didn’t put a lot of effort into it, or sometimes William’s job made it harder to do the things we wanted to do. So we made excuses. We told ourselves that we were doing fine and didn’t need change or there wasn’t enough time. 

During those times, our relationship felt “off”. We weren’t growing, we weren’t moving closer, we were at a standstill. We were on “auto-pilot”. 

It wasn’t until one of us had the courage to speak up and voice how we were feeling that we found out that it wasn’t just one of us feeling that way. We both felt our relationship drifting apart and that was bad. After that, we had a long relationship “checkups” where we would share our feelings about our relationship and then discuss how we could do better. Those conversations really helped close the gap we’d been feeling. 

These relationship checkups include many key aspects that make them different from our normal conversations. 

One of these aspects is complete honesty from both sides. If you don’t communicate what’s bothering you, then your partner won’t know either and you end up hurting yourselves and your relationship. Nothing good comes of that. To facilitate this, we try to create a safe space where we are comfortable enough to share our thoughts, even if they may seem offensive or harsh. 

To continue with that thought, we try to come into the conversation with open minds and hearts in order to make the changes that are needed because well, no one’s perfect. We all have things we need to work on. Because of the atmosphere we have created, we also know that critiques are coming from a place of love and mutual respect for one another. That’s how we’re able to have the hard conversations and still stay strong as a couple. 

I’m not going to lie, we had so many of those conversations in just our first year. And in our second, and our third. We’re still having those conversations from time to time..It’s not bad to fall into a “groove” or to stop being intentional. What is bad is if you stay like that.

If you aren’t intentionally making time for each other, then essentially, you just become roommates; ships passing in the night. In order to grow and be more, you need to prioritize what is important to both of you and then work from there. 

Intentionally go on dates. 

Intentionally spend QUALITY time together. 

Intentionally talk to each other about anything and everything. 

Intentionally show affection (make out, hold hands. etc). 

Intentionality should not be overlooked and must be a key component if you want to make your relationship last.

Lesson #2: Marriage is Selfless

Selfless: Caring about your partner’s needs more than yours

When you’re married, you and your spouse are a team. The goal is to help each other, to build the other up. 

Selflessness seems to sometimes be misunderstood. Selflessness is not thinking less of yourself as a person to build the other up. Instead, it is thinking less of your wants and needs and thinking more about the needs of your spouse. 

One of the ways to be selfless is to compromise. When you both compromise and are equal in understanding, then the relationship can grow, can flourish. If even one person refuses to compromise, then the relationship isn’t growing…it’s probably dying. When one person gets to do what they want 100% of the time, there is a problem. It’s a one-sided relationship.

It’s Ok to do something separately if you don’t have the same interests. You are allowed to have different interests. In fact, it is healthy to have separate interests. But sometimes, the selfless thing to do is to participate in an activity that your partner loves but you don’t particularly care for. It would make them so happy just because you’re there spending quality time with them. 

William loves to work on cars. I don’t. I find them super boring. But sometimes, when he needs help on one of the cars and I don’t have anything better to do (or I just want to spend time with him), I go out and help him. 

I love to blog and work on web design and most of the time what I am saying or doing goes over his head. I ask him for feedback and that’s about the extent of it. I’m hoping to get him more interested in our blog so you can hear more from him, but we’ll see how that goes. 

Another thing to note is that self-care is not selfish. It is physically impossible to pour liquid from an empty cup. This means, that if you aren’t physically or mentally taking care of yourself, then it will be way harder to handle your partner’s problems and give them the love and support they need/want.

I know for a fact that when I am exhausted and hungry, I sure as heck don’t care about William’s problems as much as when I am in a better mental state (AKA, when I have food in my belly). 

William is definitely the most selfless in this relationship. He’s older and has been looking for a partner longer than I have, so he’s had a bit more practice. One of the big things he does for me is the cleaning around the house while I do the cooking, my schoolwork, and other blog-related things. I hate cleaning. He doesn’t particularly like it either, but he does it because he knows I appreciate it because he also appreciates a clean house. In other words, he does it because he loves me, and not because he loves the task.

I am not the most selfless one in this relationship. I actually struggle with being selfless. I’m still getting used to the idea of someone else being a part of my life. And I’m still getting used to having to put my wants aside and do things for William because I love him and I want to show how much I love him. I was single and alone for all of 6 months before we met. I didn’t have time to adjust. But now that I am married, I am trying to be half as good at being selfless as William is.

If you love someone enough, you don’t care about the task; you do it because it makes the other person happy.

Lesson #3: Marriage Requires Communication

Communication: The ability to listen and understand your partner’s spoken and unspoken words

Communication is important. Neither of you are mind readers. There is no way for the other to know what you are thinking unless you say it. Not until you have reached a point in your relationship 50 years down the road where you just get each other. Even then, you may still have difficulties.  

Communication is KEY. It is also a 2-way street. You need to be able to share your thoughts and feelings adequately but you also need to be a good listener. Especially during your first year of marriage because there will be a lot to learn about your partner.

You need to be able to listen to understand the problem or to understand how your spouse is feeling. Don’t just listen to solve a problem. 9 times out of 10, your spouse really just wants you to hear them; they just need to vent. 

Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” came up with the theory of the 5 love languages. In the book, he suggests learning your spouse’s love language! A lot of hurt and misunderstanding can happen because one spouse is giving love the way that they want to receive love, not the way their spouse needs/feels love. These love languages are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Physical Touch 
  • Gifts
  • Acts of Service 
  • Quality Time

To learn more about the 5 love languages or check out his book click HERE.

Even after studying about the 5 love languages, don’t expect your spouse to speak your love language all the time.

My top 2 love languages are Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. William’s are Physical Touch and Acts of Service. 

He really likes to show me, love, through keeping the cars maintained and running, as well as other upkeep of the house, and technical stuff. While that is nice and very much appreciated, I love letters and cards because they are tangible evidence that he loves me. Pieces of evidence that I can read over and over again when I’m having a bad day. I also LOVE spending time with him! 

My need for quality time is part of the reason we are working so hard to create a lifestyle where we don’t have to go to a normal office job and where we can spend all day together! We are a really good team and I hate leaving him or having him leave me for work. 

His love languages are physical touch: he enjoys holding my hand everywhere we go and feels hurt sometimes when I don’t want to hold his hand. This is especially when we’re in the car. When I’m on my phone,  he settles for a hand on my thigh. When we first got married, I was uncomfortable with public displays of affection (PDA), and would often turn away from his kisses. This hurt William because he thought it meant I didn’t love him. After considerable communication and work, I’m okay with it now. I know it’s something he needs from me in order to feel loved. We’re good on PDA now. We kiss in front of the camera all the time! 

Lesson #4: Marriage is Fun!!

Fun: The act of doing crazy or weird things together just because you enjoy doing it together

All the rest of these topics were kinda serious. But marriage isn’t all serious, especially for us 😉 We are some of the biggest goofballs you will ever meet. We love to tease and joke around with each other all the time. 

I think that when our relationship is at its best, we are laughing and teasing and creating memories together. When our relationship feels the most “off” is when we aren’t being intentional about our relationship and we aren’t laughing together.

Fun is different for each person. For us, we are super loud and crazy people, so our idea of fun is road tripping, traveling, or doing something outside. For others, their version of fun could be board games or cuddling for a movie. 

The best fun is spontaneous fun. The random jokes that you exchange. The stupid things you say to each other. Inside jokes that you create. The random dance parties in the middle of the kitchen while you’re doing dishes. Smacking your partner’s butt because it looks cute (I might be a little addicted to that one). Water fights while washing the car. Whatever you do for fun, do it. It makes the normal menial day-to-day tasks fun.

Another part of having fun in marriage is having date nights! But, you might ask, why date your spouse after you’re married? You might as well be asking “what’s the point of keeping them once I’ve got them? Dating is a special dedicated time to have fun with your spouse. It helps you remember why you married them in the first place. Think back to when you first started dating. It was probably fun, new, exciting, and maybe even spontaneous! After a while, it’s probably become calm, normal, and maybe even boring at times. 

Date nights are there for fun; to break up the monotony of real life. It’s fun to keep pursuing your spouse! Surprise them with flowers, wear that dress he likes, smack that booty just because.

We are super terrible at date nights. We’re really great at those random monthly adventures, but we aren’t great at doing weekly date nights. It’s something we are constantly working on.

They don’t have to be big, expensive, super planned dates. There are a lot of fun at-home date ideas. The thing that makes date night different from every other night is that it is an intentionally designated time for you and your spouse. 

If you need Date night Ideas, Here are a couple of our favorites:

The Dating Divas have some good ones

In our first year of marriage, we did so much together that we wouldn’t have done if not for our love of adventure and travel together. We got to live in Yosemite, visit the st. Louis arch, move 4 times.

Building traditions together is so much fun!! Your first year of marriage is a great time to start creating new traditions.

One of our unique traditions is that instead of buying a lot of gifts for holidays, we try to prioritize buying an experience such as a trip, class, fancy restaurant, etc. 

We also buy an ornament from everywhere we go so every Christmas when we decorate the tree we can go down memory lane.

Conclusion

In the end, there are a plethora of aspects to marriage and relationships: communication, dating, fun, intentionality, and selflessness to name a few.  

All the highs and lows in your relationship are what make it an adventure. 

In the coming years, we plan to bring you along on this adventure we call life.

7 Comments

  1. Christine Dopp says:

    So many good tips for newlyweds!!!!

  2. I love that you talked about what happens after the marriage – because that what actually matters in the long run after the big day 🙂 Thank you for sharing with us!

  3. These lessons are all so true! ❤️

  4. This is raw and real and I dig it! Way to put your heart out there – I hope it helps someone!

  5. Great tips for newlyweds and how to keep the love alive! I love that you touched on the five love languages—-it’s so important to understand!

  6. Ah, love love love all of this advice! Will carry it with me once we tie the knot in August 🙂

  7. Christina Whitver says:

    these are so valid! I love that you made this post!

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