We all have visions for our wedding day, and with the right planning, those visions can come true. But our fantasies don't stop there. We also have expectations for our marriage and our new roles as a husband or wife. When it's time to start living as a married couple, our reality tends to be different than what we anticipated, says mental health counselor Barbara Capp. It's these discrepancies that can cause a change in attitude and a dissatisfaction with your marriage.
What's more, a recent study found that more personality changes happen during the first 18 months of marriage than originally thought, including both partners becoming less agreeable as they adjust to being newlyweds. While not all changes are negative, the study points out the fact that getting married is a major life adjustment for everyone, no matter how long you've dated or what your age. By taking a little time to ready yourself, you and your partner will be better able to adjust to any changes that come after the excitement of the wedding is over, says Capp.
Create marriage goals.
It's wishful thinking to assume that your spouse will anticipate what you expect of him if it's not communicated. And when expectations aren't met, that's when issue arise, experts agree. Laying out guidelines for intimacy, date nights, and moral support eliminates misunderstanding between you and your partner as you enter married life, says Jeremiah Gibson, president of the New England Association for Family and Systemic Therapy. "It's moving away from the idea that it's spontaneity that will keep the two of you together," he says.
Creating tangible goals for your relationship, like going on one date night per week, having your partner initiate sex more often, or spending 15 to 20 minutes a day talking without distractions, for you to reference when disagreements arise helps a couple solve problems together, versus trying to figure out what the other is anticipating.
Keep your sense of self intact.
People tend to have the mindset that your lives mesh completely after marriage, says Gibson, and that's true for many factors. But in order to have a healthy and happy co-habitation, you need to maintain your sense of self and your own identity. Set a foundation where you inspire each other without compromising yourself. "The most successful marriages are the ones when we support each other's journeys," Capp says. Try creating an "emotional toolbox," says Carrie Hammond, a marriage and family therapist, by writing down all the aspects in your life—friends, a spa day, exercise, books, for example—that make you feel good, and remind yourself to revisit them when you're feeling lost.
Seek advice early on.
Don't wait until there's a problem to seek help. Instead, address issues early by meeting with a counselor, therapist, rabbi, or priest to help initiate conversations about difficult topics that you might not think about on your own, says Capp. Also, don't expect your spouse to change just because you got married. "If there are things that bother you when you are dating, they are going to bother you when you are married," says Capp, who advises talking through any difficult or annoying habits before the wedding day. Advice is not just limited to professionals. Gibson says you can also gain insight from couples who've been married longer than you have.
Check in with your partner often.
Each day, set aside 15 minutes to talk about each other's days, says Gibson. Devoting time to your partner daily establishes good habits and helps you understand each other's motivations. Hammond recommends completing exercises together like the Five Love Languages Quiz, the Cloe Madanes Six Human Needs Test, and rating different statements from one to five if you agree or disagree, which can bring up issues before the wedding that you weren't aware were hot topics.