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The Biggest Hurdles Couples Face During the First Year of Marriage

Go in prepared to avoid confict.

Contributing Writer
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Photography by: Burke/Triolo Productions

After the magic of your wedding day and that romantic honeymoon, you and your new husband might feel a swift jolt as you transition back into your normal routine. You're not alone: Many couples find this adjustment period a difficult one, both individually and for their relationship, and experts say it's normal. Why? Instead of planning a once-in-a-lifetime party, you're figuring out all of the paperwork and the compromises that come with being a married pair.

 

"During the first year of marriage, some major decisions often are being made such as if finances should be combined or not; who should pay for what; who does which household chore; and how to give each other adequate space for 'me' time, friends and family time, and couple time so that no one feels neglected," explains Los Angeles-based psychologist, Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D. "In the first year of marriage, couples must learn and practice the skills of how to compromise and work as a team more than ever before, both of which aren't always easy to do."

 

Here's what most couples duke it out over during those initial 365 days—and how you can navigate the newlywed road as smoothly as possible.

 

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What you've loved about your partner now drives you crazy.

That cute way your new spouse used to eat an orange over the trash can? Or take forever to make a decision about where to have dinner? Now that you're picking up the peels and waiting anxiously for them to choose between sushi and pizza, you might not be as mesmerized as you once were. Dr. Mike Dow, a psychotherapist and author, calls this "hedonic reversal." "When he was courting you, you loved his spontaneous and romantic nature. Now, you realize that this also comes with a bit of irresponsibility. To deal with this, realize that 'opposites attract' to some degree," he says. "If there is something about your significant other that drives you crazy, ask with positive and specific language about what you need him/her to change."

 

You both hate to do dishes.

Even if you've already been living together for years and established some sort of a routine, something changes when you have those wedding bands. Thomas notes that many couples struggle to split up household duties, resulting in one partner feeling resentful of the other. "Sit down together and divide the chores up by who would be most interested in which ones. Try to end up with an equal number of chores for each partner. Compromise so neither partner feels resentful about the chores they will be doing. If a partner is feeling upset about any of this, he or she needs to speak up as soon as possible to work things out and avoid a buildup of bad feelings toward the other," she explains.

 

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You realize your expectations were maybe too high.

We don't mean that you settled and married someone who isn't worthy of your lifetime love. Instead, many couples struggle with unrealistic expectations for their partner, often putting them on a super-high pedestal that no one can live up to. As psychotherapist specializing in relationships, Crystal Bradshaw, LPC, says that we think our partner should give us more than any of our friends, even though we might invest less time and energy into our marriage than we do our friendships. And what about those preconceived notions of what marriage "should" be like? Those are tough to let go of. The solution seems easy but can be difficult: communicate what you need.

 

"Expectations are not always informed by reality or the individual, but by the greater environment. Partners don't share their expectations with each other, they operate under assumptions like, 'Oh, you should know what I want. I shouldn't have to tell you.' Yes, partners should be able to anticipate each other's needs, but they should not be expected to be oracles," she says. "Partners need to take responsibility and be accountable for their needs and communicate them appropriately. If you don't let your partner know what your expectations are, then you are setting them up to fail. Don't set your partner up for failure and don't set yourself up for disappointment. This can lead to anger, resentment, and criticism. Relationships flourish through conversation."

 

You get anxious talking about money.

Instead of collecting that paycheck twice a month and spending it however you'd like, you're now financially tied to another person. Money isn't the sexiest or easiest topic to talk about, but Bradshaw says it's one of the most important discussions to get out of the way. Instead of harping on one another about every penny you're spending, it's better to work out a comfortable budget for both of you and establish some long-term monetary goals.

 

"A lot of couples don't know how to navigate the money talk so they end up avoiding it until it becomes a big problem in the relationship. Find out what your relationship to money is. Do you share similar beliefs about spending and saving? Do you tend to spend impulsively? What are your thoughts about saving?" Bradshaw explains. "Discuss starting an automatic savings where a certain percent of your income is put away each pay period into a savings account that doesn't get touched. You may want to create several savings accounts such as: vacation fund, holiday fund, emergency fund. In addition to contributing to retirement via things like a Roth or a 401k, consider meeting with a financial planner to assist you with your retirement goals."

 

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You forgot about romance.

So, you're married—you've checked off that box. Next? Forgetting about dating one another or not investing in your sex life is a quick way to make your first year of marriage stressful instead of sexy. "It is essential that the couple not get into a cruise control routine, even during this first year 'honeymoon' stage," Thomas says. "Schedule in and follow through with some date night time, at least once a week. This doesn't have to be expensive or complicated; it can be as simple as the couple being at home watching a movie and having dinner together. And remember to not lose the romance with the words: do use terms of endearment and affection as a way to verbally cherish and appreciate each other."

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