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How to Handle a Terrible First Year of Marriage

Sometimes, the bad stuff comes early.

For Marti, it was the bedtime incident that made things downright miserable for her that first year.

"We had different sleeping patterns. I'm a late night person, and he's an early morning person," says the New York City-based marketing rep, who's been married to her husband Tom for five years.

"He would get up early and make a smoothie -- that means the blender was going at 6 a.m. when I was barely awake. He would want to go bed around 10 p.m. and get nasty when I was ready to chill with a glass of wine and some TV time."

Marti admits she started to question whether she had chosen the right man.

"When people decide to marry, each person has a fantasy of how their marriage should work, and often times they are not the same," says Linda Nusbaum, a licensed marriage and family therapist from Long Beach, Calif., and author of Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. 

"Since we married, our spouse automatically understands us deeply to the core, and we get upset when they don’t,” she continues. “That can lead to a lot of disappointment in the first year of marriage.”

Linda says this is the time you need to remember that the most important job in a marriage is "to take care of your partner" and work as a team.

How can you ease the pressure on those first 365 days of wedded bliss? Linda suggests the following tips:

1.  Create a marriage mission statement

When entering a marriage, you bring your single life to the table, which now has to be blended with another human being. Linda suggests drafting a shared set of values and goals for your marriage so you are both on the same page. "You actually have to tell your spouse what you want out of your marriage," Linda says. "Be open with that."

 

2.  Try a weekly gratitude list.

"It's easy to blame a partner for not being happy," Linda says. But how many people take the time to give their partner praise for the happy moments? Making a gratitude list of the times your partner did something and made you feel special, and sharing it on a weekly basis can help remind your spouse, and yourself why you fell in love in the first place. It's also a blueprint on how your partner likes to be treated that can be followed in the future."

3.  Test drive your partner's favorite pastimes

 Passion may be what brought you together in the first place, but it does wane.

"Every couple starts to feel a little bit of malaise," Linda shares. "This is the time to delve into one of your spouse's interests and experience why they enjoy it so much. You'll get some insight on what makes your partner happy and have a new adventure you may find yourself enjoying too."

4.  Never go to bed angry.

 It may be a cliché, but one worth following.

"When you go to bed angry, you can’t talk to the person and your stomach is in knots," Linda says. "You have to learn to repair. Learn to own what you did. If you yelled or shut down, you can apologize for that behavior and how you treated your mate.  'Try babe I'm sorry I yelled, or shut down,' it's as simple as that. Afterwards, you can have a civil conversation about what your really upset about, not the attitude you delivered it in."

5.  Realize it takes time

"Loving someone comes easy," Linda declares, it's the rest that's challenge. "There is no roadmap, but remember you are the architects of your marriage."

It takes time to get the foundation just right.

 "You have to adjust to this new entity," says Marti, the night owl, who changed her sleep schedule to better match her husband's.

"I realized mine was based on my selfish single life. He's a teacher, so he had to be up extra early." 

After a couple of years, she and Tom "found our groove as a couple, and started working together as a team," which includes one weekend morning where they just lounge in bed together.

 

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