It's no secret that newlyweds like Michael and I, and many of you, are up against some scary odds when it comes to making a marriage last. With the divorce rate hovering around 50%, it's important for us all to keep in mind that marriage is work, and it takes some serious effort to make a marriage last.
Before getting engaged, Michael and I lived together for a year (half of which we owned our own home for), so we thought we knew exactly what we were getting into when we decided to tie the knot. We assumed that we would just get engaged, take a trip down the aisle and then just live the rest of our lives in marital bliss; okay, we didn't think it'd be that perfect, but you get the picture. Like many couples, we assumed the early stages of marriage would be the easiest and the best, and that the real work part of marriage would come later. What they don't tell you is that the beginning is often the hardest. And because the first year of marriage is when you set the groundwork for "forever", I decided to poll some experts to gather some tips on not only surviving the first year of marriage, but also making it great.
1. Have realistic expectations, and see things for what they are.
We all know this by now, but life isn't perfect. You're partner is not perfect, and neither are you, so Dr. Joseph Shrand suggests that having realistic expectations for your marriage and a clear picture of your marriage are key. He says, "Be able to distinguish between external forces such as jobs and money, relatives and other friends, and the integrity of your relationship. Just becuase you feel stress does not mean the marriage is bad. In fact, your marriage can help share the stress, instead of add distress."
This is an obvious one, isn't it? Yet, it can often be so hard! As Dr. Stephen Jones told me, "Effective communication starts with letting your spouse know what you want. Don't expect your wife/husband to be a mind reader."
3. Be open and honest.
"You need to be upfront and honest with your spouse about everything," says Catharine Han, a bridal consultant and happy wife. As she mentions, if you didn't talk about things like chores, children and finances before you got married, it is important to discuss these immediately. If you haven't already, share your entire financial situation with your spouse -- bank accounts, credit cards, student loans, etc.
4. Show both respect and appreciation.
Author Julie Orlov notes that it's important to, "say "thank you" and show appreciation for the little things. Make requests of each other, not demands."
5. Choose your battles.
So I know I said communication is important. However, Dr. Mark Sharp says it's also important to choose your battles. "Figure out when to talk about things about your spouse that bother you and when to let them slide. Not talking about ongoing nagging issues can lead to resentment and disconnection, while complaining about every little thing tends to create a negative tone for the relationship. A good rule of thumb: if you are going to remember and be bothered by it tomorrow, bring it up; if not, let it go," he says.
6. Fight with the intent only to solve problems.
So you're in a fight, now what? As Dr. Jean Greaves explains, "It's probably safe to assume that we've all had conversations where we could use a fix-it. A simple discussion breaks into a disagreement or gets stuck going around in circles. In these broken conversations, past mistakes may get brought to the surface, regretful comments are made, and blame is present. No matter who said what, or who "started it," it's time to refocus and fix it. Someone needs to step back, quickly assess the situation and begin repairing the conversation with a fix- it." "To do this, you need to let go of blame and focus on the repair. Do you want to be right, or do you want a resolution? Fix-it statements are like a breath of fresh air, are neutral in tone, and find common ground. Looking at both sides will help you figure out where the interaction broke down, and which "fix-it" statement is needed to begin the repairs. A "fix-it" statement can be as simple as saying 'this is hard,' or asking how the person is feeling. Most conversations can benefit from a fix-it." "This strategy will help you maintain open lines of communication when you're upset, and with conscious effort and practice, you will be able to fix your broken conversations before they become damaged beyond repair."
As Dr. Tina B. Tessina explains, "It's easy to feel romantic when you live separately and date each other, because every moment spent together is special. From the moment you begin to live together, such romantic moments are no longer automatic. Instead, much of your time together is spent on more mundane things: doing laundry, washing dishes, paying bills or going to work. Although this can be new, exciting and fun at first, as soon as the initial newness of living together wears off, such everyday things cease to feel exciting and romantic, and you may find yourself feeling worried that your partner no longer cares as much or is as excited to be with you." To solve the problem, dating is key.
8. Have sex, and don't be afraid to switch things up a bit.
As JP Dunbar, president and CEO of The L Bar says, "Setting the stage for a romantic bath, a long ride down a country road, or a kinky evening alone will help to electrify [your] bedroom bond." "Communicating one another's sexual needs and not forgetting the importance of a passionate kiss will help keep the sexual relationship thriving. Sex is not only enjoyable, but it is healthy. Research shows that sex not only relieves stress, but also improves immunity and burns calories. So, buy a new thong, piece of lingerie, or adult novelty toy and enjoy. The purchase would be a small investment that you can reuse time and time again," she suggests.
9. Keep your independence.
After you're married, it's understandable to feel like you want to spend lots of time with your new spouse, but as life coach Karen McMahon stresses, "Don't take two being joined as one too literally. Have enough independence in your life that you always have something to share with your new honey. Go out with friends, keep hobbies. If you are joined at the hip, it will backfire after the flame simmers down." What other tips do you have for surviving the first year of marriage and laying the groundwork for a successful life together? Share them here! [Image via We Heart It]