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Congratulations! If you’re reading this you have successfully survived engagement, marriage preparation, wedding planning, and hopefully had the best day of your life with a lovely honeymoon to boot!
When my husband, Joshua, and I got married in June 2021, it was 4 weeks after we both graduated from college. I remember finishing finals, visiting my family in Dallas for a few weeks, then returning to Lubbock, TX for two weeks of setting up our new home and finishing wedding preparations.
Our wedding went off without a hitch and we had a wonderful week in the Ozark mountains. When we were up at our cabin the Arkansas woods, we both felt like years of university stress and months of wedding strain were lifted off our shoulders. It was by far the most blissful period of our lives.
But then we got home.
Joshua and I had been together for 3 years and 7 months when we got married. We were best friends (and don’t worry, we still are!). We could spend every minute of every day together and never get bored of each other. We never cohabitated, but we spent plenty of time at each other’s residences while we dated through college.
We thought we knew how the other lived and that we wouldn’t find too many surprises. We had also, at the recommendation of our chaplain, conquered 10 weeks of premarital counseling in addition to completing The Marriage Group’s Pre-Cana course during engagement. To be honest, we realized marriage would be different on an intellectual and emotional level, but we apparently hadn’t fully grasped what marriage – our marriage – would look like on a practical level.
Now that we are a year into this, here are the 6 most important tips for newlyweds adjusting to the first weeks and months of marriage.
1. Allow Yourself to have High Standards
Anyone who has lived with a roommate at any time in their life most likely may have suffered from not communicating their needs. I know I did all through college. I’m a very tidy person. I like the blankets folded and the pillows in place and the floor clear and the dishes washed and the trash emptied regularly. I never had a roommate who I was 100% happy with regarding their living habits. But, instead of just communicating my needs early on, I let my frustrations fester and build for months or even the entire school year. Why? Because this roommate was temporary. The dorm wasn’t my home.
Your spouse is not temporary, and your residence is your home.
When Joshua and I moved in together post-honeymoon, we immediately told each other when we weren’t happy with a particular living habit.
- I had a certain way I liked the dishwasher loaded and organized. I told him, and he did it!
- He wanted me to communicate with him if I was going to be gone when he got home from work, and I did it!
It’s not like we had never washed dishes together or updated each other about our plans when we were dating. It’s that the little things mattered more as soon as we were married and living together in our home, not just dating or in a place we were staying for a year.
So, allow yourself and your spouse to have high expectations, and communicate about them. This is the rest of your life we’re talking about. Don’t force yourself to settle for living less than you want to and silently build up frustration that will eventually boil over.
2. Learn How to Resolve Conflict
You know how people say, “Don’t go to bed angry”? The idea behind it is to always resolve your conflict before the day ends.
From our experience, Joshua and I would disagree. What we learned in pre-marital counseling and what we find works in our marriage is building positivity within our conflicts. As St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:26, “Do not let the sun set on your anger” (not your conflict).
This looks like being affectionate even and especially while you argue: holding hands while you talk or intermittently hugging and kissing when you feel the conversation making progress. This looks like setting boundaries with your spouse during heated arguments: letting them know if they’ve said something that hurt you, or that you need to take a break and calm down.
Above all, this still looks like conflict, yes, but also with the assurance that you and your spouse are both of good will toward the other.
You are not enemies or opponents. You are not trying to be right or make your spouse wrong. You are expressing your needs and desires and emotions. You are safe to give that to, and receive it from, your spouse.
If you need sleep and let the conversation rest for a bit, get to a place where you feel safe with your spouse and then cuddle up for the night. Don’t make your mission: do not go to bed angry. Make your mission: go to bed secure.
3. Accept Influence from your Spouse
While having high standards and communicating them to your partner, also allow yourself to adjust for your partner. When I first told Joshua I wanted the dishwasher loaded a certain way, I was so particular that I wanted him to load the forks on the right, the spoons in the middle, and the knives on the left. He tried to remember my particular order but struggled. The end result was he always loads the silverware into individual pockets (he keeps the forks together and the spoons together, etc.) but not necessarily from right to left. And guess what — I don’t care! I just wanted the dishwasher to be organized and slightly easier to unload.
Psychology researchers have actually seen, from observing married couples, a direct correlation between accepting influence from your spouse and marital happiness.
If spouses are stubborn and refuse to hear their partner’s needs or desires and are unwilling to change up their own schedules or habits to accommodate the person they have vowed to spend the rest of their life with, it leads to nothing but trouble down the road.
- If you’re the type of man to stay up until 3 AM playing video games and your wife would prefer you come to bed with her by midnight, you may want to consider rearranging your hobbies.
- If you’re the type of woman to watch reality dating shows with your girlfriends when they air on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights and your husband would like you to pick just one of those three nights to continue your routine with, you may want to consider setting up some boundaries with your friends.
These things change when you get married, and that’s okay.
4. Make a Bill Calendar
Review the section on Finances from your Pre-Cana course if you need to — because finances are a top source of stress for newlyweds. Every couple needs to work out the particulars of their spending expectations, habits, bank account and tax preferences, and any other details related to money on an individual and household level.
Joshua and I are a year into marriage and have our first kiddo, and we’ve had more than one conversation lately about how we want to handle finances and bills. We certainly don’t regret opening a joint account and completely sharing our money, but not everyone likes that idea. We don’t put “spending limits” on each other, but some people prefer to have that structure. It’s okay to not have all the answers right when you get married!
But, if there is one piece of advice I think is safe to give across the board, it’s make a bill calendar. We have a full-month calendar in our kitchen with all our monthly bills: what they are, how much they cost, when they’re due, and how they need to be paid (auto or manual).
The reason I encourage this is because (1) it’s an easy way to organize your bills and not lose track of anything, and (2) it allows you and your spouse to have healthy communication regarding our finances every single month.
We sit down together every month, go through the bills, and put them on the calendar. We maintain open communication about our money. We both have full access to our joint account. Neither of us are ever blind-sided by where our money is going.
Every couple needs to evaluate their needs on an individual level, and every couple also needs to keep open and honest communication regarding their household finances.
5. Adjusting to Sex and NFP is Difficult and Awkward — and that’s Okay!
Speaking of communicating with our spouse every month, let’s talk about Natural Family Planning for a minute. To go from abstinence to full intimacy is a physical adjustment. To go from sex being a mortal sin to a beautiful and holy unity can be a mental struggle. And, let’s face it, NFP can be a little scary.
All of a sudden you are engaging with your partner in a completely new way AND you could unexpectedly have a kid on the way? Whew.
Practicing Natural Family Planning and saying no to contraception means putting a lot of trust in God and in your spouse. It requires regular communication about your desires and needs for having children and for intimacy. Adjusting to having sex also takes a lot of vulnerability and honesty about your needs and desires, too.
Also, adding sex into the equation changes your relationship.
Physically and hormonally bonding yourself to your spouse changes how you relate to each other in every other way (a good reason that abstinence before marriage makes sense).
This will be expanded on in future content, but for now, know that it’s okay to struggle, to be scared even, and to need some time to make these adjustments. The good news is that frequent communication about this topic will help mitigate a lot of the awkwardness.
6. Give Yourself — and your Spouse — A Whole Lotta Grace
Finally, marriage is hard!
Yes, you are still with the same person you’ve been with for X amount of time. But no, you are not in the same relationship. Marriage isn’t just dating but living together. Marriage is a full-on blending of not only your lives, but yourselves.
Marital intimacy binds people together in ways that change the relationship entirely: psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
It’s not going to be a seamless transition. You and your spouse will struggle individually and as a team with any number of challenges. Don’t worry — we will cover a lot of those topics as tome goes on. We’re right here with you as you navigate through these uncharted waters.
You have a new, wonderful, lifelong vocation and commitment to someone you clearly love. Embrace everything: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. You’ve got your whole life together. Let us help you start figuring out how to live it fully.
Marriage is hard, yes, but it is also rewarding.