The First Year of Marriage

Lifecycle stage: Year One
Marriage is both an intimate and complex relationship. The first year of this on-going, event has been noted as the most difficult period. The reason the first year of marriage is the hardest is because this is an adjustment period. Once you get married, you now live with this other person: sharing your things, food, and space. It is within the first year of marriage that you truly learn the other’s quirks, have finances intertwined, and a lot of other changes no one really thinks about nor could possibly truly understand until they have experienced it for themselves. Of the marriages that end in divorce, on average those marriages end almost 8 years into the marriage. This means that the first years of marriage are crucial to setting a strong and steady foundation for the marriage to blossom from.
It is strongly encouraged that couples seek pre-marital counseling prior to tying the knot. Pre-marital counseling discusses topics many couples do not think about before getting married, such as what each other plans to do when their parents get old- will they go into an assisted living, or was your spouse assuming you would be fine with these in-laws eventually moving in with you? Pre-marital counseling can address these very difficult topics before they would become a huge problem later down the line. Another topic brought up in pre-marital counseling is children. Many couples discuss children, but it is not always discussed how to raise them, punish them, and if it is discovered after marriage that one partner is sterile/barren, is that a ‘deal breaker’ or will they agree to stay married even if it is discovered they cannot get pregnant.
Nowadays, many couples live together before getting married. Although this would seem like a good idea, statistics show that the majority of couples that live together before marriage are more likely to divorce before their fourth year into the marriage. This is confusing because one would think that living with the other person would get you accustomed to them and thus be ready for marriage, but the reasons for the undeniable statistic is that many of those couples feel that because they moved in together prior to saying “I do,” they feel that once they actually do get married- that they don’t feel like anything has changed. What is meant by that is, when someone gets married, it is important to feel like it is a leap; Otherwise, couples treat their marriage like it’s still a girlfriend/boyfriend type dating stage and therefore nothing sacred, but rather something that can be put on a ‘break’ like many millennial relationships do. There is a certain amount of maturity that is gained from not taking any short-cuts or slow, gradual ‘eases’ into such a thing as marriage. Couples that lived together before getting married statistically have poorer communication and greater marital conflict than couples who did not move in together until married. Also, couples who lived together before marriage had higher divorce rates, and tend to move back in with their parents after the divorce; whereas couples who did not live together prior to marriage had less divorce rates and in those cases that did divorce, did not move back in with their parents after the divorce. These notable facts attest to the maturity factor discussed prior.
Other specific challenges during the first year of marriage are due to differences in expectations. Overcoming differences in upbringing relating to gender is a specific challenge for this stage of marriage among heterosexual couples. Boys and girls grown up being conditioned from the start with pink or blue color coated gender roles. Girls tend to be conditioned to play with toy kitchens, toy vacuums, and baby dolls, whereas toys that boys are given are toy guns, toy cars, and toy tools. Not to mention boy toys typically have the construction equipment theme outside the home, and the girl’s toys tend to theme inside the home with a focus on dress up and looking pretty. This could cause issues if, say, the wife may feel she should not have to work, and the husband feels ‘of course’ she should work just as he does. Also the expectations they have psychologically because of the upbringing can cause a lot of distress in a marriage— many men expecting women to be like men, working and bringing in the same amount of money, and women expect men to be like women in that they will show their emotions the same way even though they have actually been conditioned to not show vulnerabilities.
Another challenge during the first year of marriage is the parents of the groom/bride. Once married, if not before, both partners need to break away from their respective families and form attachment to their mate. If the in-laws are overly involved and/or critical in the matters that should be strictly between the married couple as an independent family, things can get ugly.