9 Lessons We Learned In The First Year Of Marriage
They say the first year of marriage is the hardest.
We heard it from multiple people over the course of our two month (yes, only two months) engagement. We were warned that we would spend the next year struggling to communicate, arguing over whose turn it was to do the dishes, and striving to stay present and connected.
We have officially been married for a whopping 15 months now and in that time we've experienced buying two cars, getting a dog, five job changes, PTSD and grieving the loss of my mom, and Steven's mom being diagnosed with cancer. Those are just the big things. Add in working full-time jobs, me being in school, and the normal stresses of everyday life and I'd say we've had quite the year. While we haven't seen enough years of marriage to know if our first was the hardest, we certainly have some take-aways.
1. don't take each other too seriously
Take time to laugh with and at each other. Create space in your marriage to poke fun at yourself, your spouse, and your crazy, hectic life. For us, this means we aim to not to get easily offended by things our partner jokingly says. It means we laugh at ourselves when we do something totally stupid and we allow the other person to laugh about it too. It gives us permission to enjoy things that would otherwise be stressful or frustrating. Strive to understand when this is and isn't appropriate, but find the places where there is space to joke around. Example: I accidentally knock over a glass and it shatters all over the floor. Instead of getting angry, I laugh at how clumsy I am and take it like a champ when the hubs calls me butterfingers and helps me clean up the mess.
2. don't sweat the small stuff
Bottom line, you and your spouse are bound to drive each other crazy in both little and big ways. You are two very different people with two very different personalities and many very different habits. Don't sweat the small stuff. Let it slide. Pick your battles. Have big conversations about big things and decide if the rest of the stuff is really that important. I'm not suggesting you let yourself become resentful towards your spouse about these small things. What I am suggesting is that you decide if it's actually worth being frustrated over. If you fight all those little battles, you will be frustrated constantly. I'm talking about the fact that your wife never puts her straightener away or your husband puts his socks NEXT to the laundry basket instead of in it. Accept the fact that the straightener's new spot is on the counter in the way of everything else. Pick up his socks and put them in the laundry instead of nagging him about it. Let it slide, people! Or you will end up fighting over everything.
3. take time for yourself
We are both introverts, so this is a big one for us! Take time to do things for yourself. Thankfully for us, we work on each other's days off. On my days off, I spend time doing all the things I don't have time to do during the week. I clean the house, catch up on homework or editing, and watch my shows. Steven normally chooses to grab coffee or lunch with friends and take naps on his days off. The important thing is that we have time apart to refuel and do the things that are important to us as individuals. Protect this time and set boundaries around it by letting your spouse know what you need. Do you need a couple hours text-free? Do you need to skip out on that one holiday party after a long week at work? Do you need to go grab a beer with the guys? Communicate openly with your spouse about all of these things!
4. take time for each other
I'm not talking about the time you spend together in the car on the way to the grocery store and I'm not talking about the time you spend sleeping in the same bed. I'm talking about intentional time to be present with each other. Dates are great, but Steven and I also make an intentional effort to grab coffee before work with each other at least three days a week. Even though it's only fifteen or thirty minutes, it's time that one or the other of us has taken to wake up extra early just to sit with the other person. Take time to learn about or do things your spouse is interested in, even if you aren't that interested in it. Pick one night a week to go on dates or start watching a TV show together (with the condition that you only watch it together). Take intentional time for each other.
5. set clear expectations
Our therapist told us most couples fight about unclear or unmet expectations. This has rocked our world. Defining your expectations can drastically improve the way you see yourself, your spouse, and your marriage. Talk about these things before you say your marriage vows. Have a conversation with each other about what the other person expects from you. You'll probably find that you expect more out of yourself as a husband or wife than your spouse expects out of you. Take time before you go out to set the expectation of how long you will be somewhere or what you will do. Talk about what chores or responsibilities you expect yourself or your spouse to take on. Doing this on the front end saves you from disappointment and miscommunications later. Often times, we will argue about something only to realize that one or both of us didn't express our expectations clearly in the beginning.
Don't let yourself get caught up in the mundane-ness (that's not a word) of everyday life. Reminisce about the places or things that were special to you when you were dating. Hold onto and keep sacred the things that spark those memories. Steven and I have kept a journal since we started dating and every once in a while we write letters to each other in it. It serves as a place to hold all our most special moments, thoughts, and feelings to reminisce on.
7. document it
Take tons of pictures of your first year of marriage (and your second and your third and your fourth...). PRINT THEM OUT. Hang them on your walls. Keep a journal. Write love letters to each other. Keep a running list of things you're thankful for about the other person in a place where they can see. This is such a special and fun time in your life and when life gets crazier, it will be fun to look back on these things.
8. remember the hard things and their value
It's the hard things, that refine us and grow us. Being dirt poor, navigating the ins-and-outs of PTSD and grief, changing jobs, making big decisions together, and dealing with a major cancer diagnosis are what have defined and strengthened us over the past year. In the middle of those trials when it seems like your whole world is crashing down, recognize the value they will have when you've made it past them. Remember all the difficult things you've already made it through and know that you will get through it again no matter how hard it gets.
9. choose each other
Be willing. Be willing to sacrifice for your spouse. Be willing to say "yes" to him or her. Be willing to wake up and decide to love that person regardless of their flaws. Be willing to love without conditions. When the honeymoon is over, you will be left with a choice to love each other or to let your love slip through the cracks. Don't let your marriage become the question. Make it the answer.
The first year is so special and exciting, but we are even more excited about what the future has in store for us. This is just the beginning.