If you and your partner have recently said, "I do," then you might be wondering what the next twelve months will be like. Depending on who you ask, it can either be the most blissful or challenging year of your marriage. Though every couple has their own unique set of strengths and challenges, you might be surprised to learn that there are some universally applicable things about the first year of marriage no one ever taught you. Just like most big milestones in life, your post-nuptial phase doesn't come with a manual to help you navigate its uncharted waters.
In my case, I never planned on following the traditional, "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage," trajectory that most of my friends seemed to enjoy. That's not to say that there's anything wrong with either path, of course. But when you find yourself in the position of being a newlywed, planned or otherwise, nothing can truly prepare you for what the first year will be like.
Whether you've got your eye on a ring or you're already betrothed, it's totally normal to feel a mixture of curiosity and nervousness about what lies ahead. So if you're wondering what kind of topics have been left out of polite conversation, then you'll want to check out these things about the first year of marriage no one ever taught you.
1. You May Lose Yourself
"Many couples find that marriage brings up a loss of identity panic," clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly tells Romper. "But by discussing how to keep each partner’s individuality, while growing the bond of the marriage, the couple can come out stronger."
2. It's What You Do After A Fight That Matters
"Forgiveness and the ability to let things go is crucial in year one of marriage," matchmaker Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Bregman tells Romper. "Arguments need to be fully dealt with and this allows the couple to move forward with a fresh slate." So don't be afraid if you and your new spouse get into a few spats. As long as you face them head on and truly work through them, you can handle any first year hurdles.
3. Your Expectations Likely Won't Match
"Getting married is like going on a picnic where you each bring a basket that was packed by someone else," licensed marriage therapist Jill Whitney tells Romper. "If one person has eggs, you can only hope the other one has salt." It's helpful to remember that you're not just marrying each other, you're also inheriting family traditions. Whitney says that since you and your partner grew up with unique experiences, it's only normal to have a period of balancing and blending your backgrounds.
4. Your Glow Can Fade
"It would be helpful for couples to know that the romance will wear off," licensed clinical counselor Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin says. "If people would talk about this, they would save a lot of potential grief." Slatkin reminds Romper that it's completely normal for the lovey-dovey phase to fade. As long as you continue to put in the time and effort to nurture your relationship, your first year doesn't have to be deflating.
5. Your Money Gets Muddled
"Partners, once married, can feel a new pressure to either join finances or keep them separate," Manly says. "Talk openly and honestly and form a plan that works for you both." Don't feel like you have to conform to societal pressures when it comes to money. If maintaining individual accounts is the best fit for you, then ignore the haters.
6. Your Words Weigh More
"It can feel weird to say 'married,' 'husband,' and 'wife,'" Whitney says. "Those terms are freighted with meanings that might not feel true to you." And that' OK. It might be helpful to unpack the underlying feelings you have about what implications those words carry. At the end of the day, if you're not comfortable with using traditional terms, then simply don't use them.
7. You'll Appreciate Setting Limits
"Set boundaries with others, including your in-laws," therapist Kimberly Hershenson says. "Do not share personal details of your relationship with others, such as fights or your sex life." In a time when over-sharing seems to be the norm, it's healthy to create a level of privacy in your marriage.
8. You're Thinking For Two
"Couples in the first year don't realize the level of commitment they've just entered into," certified life and relationship coach Tiya Cunningham-Sumter tells Romper. "There is now a person to check in with, to run things by before final decisions are made, feelings and emotions you must consider, and that's a challenge for a lot of people." If you've been living the carefree single life, it can be a bit of an adjustment now that you're sharing a life with someone else.
9. Your Holidays Are Hectic
Whitney tells Romper that how you choose to celebrate the holidays can be surprisingly complicated now that you're a married couple. "Talk about what the two of you want, then explain your thinking to both families." In my marriage, we've worked out an alternating schedule which everyone has agreed is fair. It may take you some time, but it's better to talk about it than wait until the last minute.
10. You Need To Keep Touching
"It is important to maintain a physical and emotional connection to your partner," Hershenson says. "Whether it's a kiss hello or goodbye, snuggling on the couch or holding hands, even non-sexual touching, builds connection between partners." Once the honeymoon is over, make a conscious effort to let your spouse know you value your shared connection.
11. You'll Sacrifice — Often
Cunningham-Sumter tells Romper that most couples don't understand how much sacrifice is involved in the first year. "It's give and take, and you may do most of the giving, but that is what sacrifice is all about." Just remember to keep a healthy balance so that the scales don't tip too far.
12.You Need Time
"The biggest issue is that it takes time to learn to live with someone and all their quirks," marriage expert Wendy Strgar tells Romper. "This is true for people who have lived together because taking the step of marriage creates a feeling of permanence to your commitment." You might even become hyper-aware of little idiosyncrasies that you used to ignore. But thankfully, that's normal.
13. You Shouldn't Ignore Finances
"Money issues are challenging and can cause tension early in the marriage," relationship expert Dr. Terri Orbuch tells Romper. "Happy couples talk about money more often than unhappy couples, with 90 percent of happy couples discussing finances at least once a month." Additionally, Orbuch points out that you don't have to agree to be happy. It's the fact that you're addressing the elephant in the room that helps you survive any financial concerns during the first year of marriage.
14.You Don't Have To Win
Professional matchmaker Susan Trombetti tells Romper that couples expect arguments to be black and white and resolved quickly. "It’s not about being right, but it’s about making the other person feel heard and resolving your difficulties." If, at the end of the day, you and your spouse can listen to each other even when things get tough, you can make it through just about anything.
15. Your Definitions May Vary
"A major surprise in year one of marriage is that couples discover they have varying views of what 'loyalty' and 'disloyalty' mean," Bregman says. "It is vital that a couple each express and define what fidelity means to them." Otherwise, you and your spouse run the risk of unintentionally hurting each other.
16. Your Future Family Can Look Different
"When partners are first married, hidden issues about children — whether to have or how to parent existing children — come to the forefront," Manly says. You might have just assumed kids were (or weren't) a given and your spouse could have a completely different vision for your shared future.
17. You Second Guess Things
"There are times you question whether you should have gotten married or if you married the right person," licensed counselor Rhonda Milrad says. "This doubt can be concerning, but it is common and normal." If you truly feel something is wrong, don't hesitate to seek support.
18. You Inherit Issues
Though it may be a rarely discussed situation, the complexities of marrying a widowed partner are very real. Counselor and author Sylvie Thiffault tells Romper, "the new spouse is an integral part of the grieving process which can be a distressing part of the first year of marriage." If you both haven't thoroughly prepared for the new partnership you're entering into, this can be an unexpected learning curve.
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