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The First Year of Marriage: What To Expect

Updated on September 19, 2013

In Your First Year You Will...

  • Work as a team
  • Have lots of fights
  • Find out several things you didn't know about each other
  • Learn when to let things go
  • Learn how to communicate effectively
  • Be older and wiser than you were at 'I do'

The first wedding anniversary is an exciting landmark. Mine is just less than two months away, and looking back on the first year of my marriage, I thought I'd share some of my observations. There have been ups and downs, unexpected trials, silly errors and lots of laughs. Anyone who is wondering how marriage will change their lives should take a look at some of the things the first year of marriage will bring.

Although the first year of marriage is different for everyone, I think there are some common denominators for most couples which are great to know about in advance.

Carefree on our wedding day

Working as a Team

When you were dating, even if you lived together, you probably didn't have to do nearly as much teamwork as you will in your first year of marriage. Think of it as kayaking - when you were dating, you both had separate kayaks; now you are married, you're paddling in the same kayak and you have to learn to pull together.

It starts with routine - keeping both of you happy in terms of chores, cooking, going out, staying in and hanging out with friends. When you were dating, you didn't have to worry so much about what the other person spent and whether they did their laundry (especially if you weren't living together). Now you have to collaborate, share tasks and let each other in on your timetables and your expenses.

It can be a challenge sharing everything with another person - I was extremely anxious about sharing my finances and working out a mutual budget. In the end, it's about trust - in the first year of marriage you need to learn how to trust your partner 100% as the other half of a two man team.

Fighting

Marriage isn't a happily ever after, and any problems you had and faults you found with each other will still be there after the wedding. The first year can be bumpy, because you might not have been fully aware before just how irritating it was that your boyfriend or girlfriend never, ever picked his or her clothes up off the floor.

Your first year will be full of fights - not necessarily bad fights or fights which tear you apart, but niggles and disagreements which occur when two people live together. Hopefully your fights will get fewer and farther between as you learn to accept each other's foibles and respect each other's rules.

Since my husband is American and I am English, lots of our fights stemmed from cultural misunderstandings - we learnt to understand what upset one another and to avoid doing those things. I'm sure we'll fight a lot more in the years to come - but any newlywed should expect a good few disagreements to crop up in the first year of marriage. It's fine, it's natural - work through them and make your relationship stronger.

Was your first year of marriage happy?

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Learning New Things

No matter how well you thought you knew your partner before you got married, I guarantee you that you will discover a whole host of new things after you get married. Marriage brings you closer together and it puts you right up in each other's business.

I learnt that my husband feels guilty eating snacks in front of me unless I'm having a snack too, and that he gets grumpy if he's hot, tired or hungry. You'd have to ask me what he learnt about me, but I'm sure he'd say that I'm perfect in every way.

Marriage is a new level of intimacy, and you'll be doing more together than before - finances, cooking, taking care of a house. Even if you've known your partner for years, marriage will open your eyes to a few more quirks. Your job is to accept them and love your partner wholeheartedly for who they are.

Letting Things Go

When you're dating someone, there's always a back door - if things get too hot to handle, you can get out of the relationship. As a married couple, you are building the foundations of a life together and it's important to be constructive not destructive.

If there's an argument which always gets brought up, or a disagreement which neither of you can move past - the first year of marriage will teach you to let it go - or it will poison your whole marriage.

When my husband and I were dating, I wanted to travel the world and be free to explore and be myself. The other thing I wanted to do was always be near my family. Once we got married, I had to let these dreams go - to some extent. Accusing him of holding me back would eat away at our relationship. Instead we turned my dreams into something positive - we travel a lot within our means and we have a standing agreement that we'll save the money for me to go home to England at least once a year.

Your first year of marriage will teach you that being married will hold you back from some things you want - but it will give you many more things you wouldn't have otherwise. Learn to embrace the good and let the bad go.

Talk to your partner about...

  • Career decisions and anxieties
  • Things you're unhappy with in your relationship
  • Your hopes for the future
  • Your life beyond them - family, friends etc.
  • Your budget
  • What you're planning to do together and apart

Communicating

Did you think that you and your boyfriend or girlfriend communicated well before you got married? I certainly did. But after the wedding, I learnt that I was wrong. There were insecurities we hadn't properly addressed, and we had a lot to move past.

To clarify, we got married young - we are both still just beginning our careers and had to make some tough decisions about jobs, location and our roles in terms of income. On top of this, we had to address some things about our relationship which we'd left unsaid, thinking it was unimportant.

In the first year of marriage, you need to think of EVERYTHING as important. Something as small as what to eat for dinner and something as big as taking or turning down a job needs to be a joint decision. You need to communicate your feelings - whether it's that you secretly hate eating leftovers three days running or that you don't want your partner to get a job far away.

Communication needs to be second nature - and in your first year of marriage, you'll learn that everything is a joint decision and needs to be discussed. Additionally, anything you're unhappy with won't go away unless you communicate your feelings.

Case in point: Fighting, Communicating and Learning Something New...

Nothing Changing

It's not the way they tell you it is in romantic comedies. Aside from adjusting to changes in your habits and routines and being more in each other's lives than before, your relationship will go on as it is before. You won't love them more - or less. You'll do more or less the same things, laugh a lot, cry some and have good days and bad days.

As newlyweds, me and my husband have matured a bit in terms of running our lives and working together. In other ways, we are exactly the same as when we began dating. We like the same things and we have the same views as we did back then. We laugh at the same stupid jokes and we hang out with the same awesome people (well, sort of - moving countries means new folks).

Overall, a marriage isn't a fix-all. You marry who you marry, and with that in mind, the first year of marriage can be a disappointment, a relief, or just, well, more of the same.

Preparing for Year Two

Any newlywed should realize that being a newlywed lasts about a year - but marriage lasts forever. That first year of marriage is the 'practice year'. It will also set you up for the years to come. Marriage is about the long haul - once you've made your mistakes and learnt your lessons, it's time to do it all over again.

I may be coming to the end of my first year of marriage, but I know the same ups and downs, teamwork and learning curves are waiting ahead. Expect the first year of marriage to be just the beginning. That way you'll be better prepared for the following years of marriage - I hope, at least.

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