By the time you reach the chapel—most people feel like they’ve been through war. Not only have they conquered the battlefield of dating the worst of the worst to actually meet someone marriage worthy, but they’ve also managed to plan a wedding. While a rosy time for most couples, it also brings the challenge of complicated family and friend dynamics, financial concerns, and it can feel like another full-time job on top of the one you already have. So once the marriage license is signed, the cake is sliced and the trip has been had, couples believe the first year of marriage will be much more relaxing. After all, this is the ‘honeymoon stage’—right?
Not exactly, according to psychologist Dr. Sarah Schewitz. “The expectation is that the couple is more in love than ever during their first year of marriage and everything will come easily to them,” she explains. “This is partly portrayed by the media and partly portrayed by older generations for whom that was more likely to be true.” In the 50s and 60s, many people were getting out of their parents houses for the first time when they got married, but that isn’t the case today. Dr. Schewitz since most couples live together before ‘I do’, the first year might not be as picture-perfect or as exciting as many duos anticipate.
Here, some reasons why those initial 365 days may be rocky—and how you can get through ‘em, together.
Settling into a normal routine is hard.
No matter how many spreadsheets you made, how many all-nighters you pulled or how many arguments you had with your mother when planning your big to-do—now that the wedding planning is over, life is back in session. Or rather, that old routine that you barely remember. Relationship expert and author Kris Drewry Perelmutter explains while many people believe they’ll be happier once the day has come and gone, the truth is, you were distracted by fun things for many months. This can result in what many refer to as ‘post-wedding blues.’ “A lot of people dip into a bit of a depression after their wedding as they figure out how to get back into a normal routine after all of the excitement,” she continues. If you feel yourself spiralling downward, consider taking on a project to fill your time. This doesn’t even have to be romantic-related, but rather, something to help occupy your brain that could start associating these negative feelings with your partner, when in reality, he or she isn’t the root cause. From volunteering for more assignments at work to starting whatever the next stage of life is for you—buying a house, having a baby, and so on—remaining busy is in your best interest.
You’re more comfortable—and that can be tricky.
Eh, quirks are part of every human experience. And oftentimes, these strange, unexplainable ticks or rituals are attractive and even sexy to the right person. You might believe you already know all of those idiosyncrasies about your partner, but when you’re married? They’ll become even more comfortable than they were before—and so will you. This, of course, is part of marriage but it sometimes reveals qualities you might not appreciate. How come? Well, all of their sides—including the bad and the ugly—will come out. “They might not always being as polite or cooperative as when they were dating and were trying to make such a good impression. Once married, one or both of the partners may relax into the relationship more than before because of feeling emotionally secure now that they’re ‘legal,’” psychologist Dr. Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D. explains. “These changes can cause confusion and upset between the couple.”
When you start to see a transformation in your partner and it isn’t for the better, it’s important to open the flood gates of communication. While you don’t want to attack them and list all the reasons they’re frustrating you, it is important to express how you feel and figure out a way you can keep the romance alive, even with dirty laundry, electric bills and a garage door that needs fixing.
You could experience emotional triggers.
While, yes, there is a comfort to marriage since you now have someone—until death do you part—to stand by your side. However, many couples don’t realize the security of this form of commitment can bring out some dark shadows of our past and childhood, according to Dr. Schewitz. “Our romantic partners are able to trigger us in ways that only our family of origin can or did in the past. Part of why you chose your partner—on an unconscious level—is because they could drive you crazy in the same way that your family did in the past,” she explains. “By choosing this partner, you hope to change the experience of that wounding and heal from your past.”
When these experiences start to take over your psyche or impact your day-to-day interactions with your partner, you should talk through them as honestly as possible. And if necessary, seek couples or personal therapy to get through them in a healthy way.
“You might look at other couples on social media who were just married and think to yourself why are they so happy when we are so miserable? The reality is they are probably dealing with their own issues too,”
Combining everything can be stressful.
The vast majority of couples choose to shack up together before they get hitched as a way to test the waters, and frankly, to save money on rent. But even if you were already sharing a living space, you likely haven’t combined every aspect of your life until now. As Perelmutter explains, most duos have not discussed the tough, complicated and at times, sensitive dynamics of becoming life partners. Combining finances, timing of having kids, managing in-laws, splitting bills, thinking about retirement or college loans are just a few that come up in the first year of marriage, according to Perelmutter. “There’s a lot that you don’t think about when you’re dating and then you get married and it all hits at once,” she notes.
If you and your partner feel overwhelmed by all of these decisions and it’s infiltrating the way you communicate and your sex life, consider setting a time and a place for discussions. Maybe you go over spending on Sunday afternoons for an hour, and then leave it alone for the week. Or, you have one long, drawn-out chat about how you’ll deal with family members and agree to table it for a while. Whatever works for your relationship, find a common ground you’re both happy about.
You might not think date night is important.
You just had a whirlwind of rose-colored, glitter-covered experiences: a proposal, the kiss to seal the deal, the first dance, your honeymoon. So you probably don’t need date nights in the first year of marriage, right? Absolutely not, according to Dr. Thomas. Since you’ll have heated conversations and likely, many fights, you need something to look forward to that keeps your connection sparked steady. “Make time in the first of year of marriage to incorporate a date night at least once a week for the two of you. This is necessary because it is not uncommon after getting married to start taking each other for granted,” she recommends. “Set aside a few hours at least once a week to remember and enjoy what you love about each other to keep the romance and passion vibrant and strong.”
You compare yourself to other couples.
Your former best friend from high school might post the sweetest sentiments about her husband. And your buddy at work might brag about all the sex he’s having with his new wife. But remember: no one is fully transparent about their relationship, especially on Instagram and when they’re trying to impress their pals. It’s natural to compare yourself to others and measure how well your marriage is doing against someone else—but it can be dangerous territory, according to Dr. Schewitz. “You might look at other couples on social media who were just married and think to yourself why are they so happy when we are so miserable? The reality is they are probably dealing with their own issues too,” she explains. “Try to tune out the people who say ‘you’re newlyweds… This is supposed to be the best time of your marriage.’ Perhaps that was their experience but it doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong if it is not your experience.”