Marriage. How to save the first year, or any year.
The first year of marriage can be hard. Really hard. Not always of course, but it’s common enough that you could find dozens of articles about it with a google search. I could describe a litany of issues that contribute to the first year blues, but instead I’ll offer what I believe to be the most influential that perhaps you haven’t considered. What I share below isn’t meant to scare you; instead, it’s meant to prepare you, strengthen you, and inspire you. It doesn't have to be hard. In fact, it can be beautiful and bonding. If you read closely, all the steps I outline have something in common: We are 100 percent accountable and in control of the level of energy, focus, and love we bring to our relationship. If you stay on top of these 4 potential issues and follow the steps to maximize your potential for a loving first year, you WILL experience joy and intimacy. But what is required of you is this: you must value the love you share more than anything else. Literally. It won’t always be easy, and no doubt you’ll be challenged at times to show up. But remember this: beginning a marriage, or any committed relationship is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to grow in ways you never thought imaginable. To step outside of your own head - your fears, your wounds, your outdated beliefs and stories, and into the heart of this person you love. Blame will get you nowhere. Criticism will kill love. Expectations and rules will limit you and your relationship. So, have more conversations where you share your dreams, and ask to hear their's. Practice more fun and appreciation every single day. Instead of keeping tabs of what you're getting or not getting, give more love. Help each other grow.
There are 4 major reasons why the first year of marriage is difficult, and what to do about it.
You didn’t know your spouse for very long before you got married. ”very long” is relative, so before you go on a head trip, let’s just say under a year or so. And don’t worry, rest assured you can still have a beautiful life together. But, it DOES mean that there are most likely things you don’t know about your new spouse. For example, if you haven't experienced your lover under extreme stress and pain, chances are you’ll witness this within the first year or two of marriage, simply because life happens. The longer you’re together, the more you’ll bear witness to all the parts of this person, and what you see might surprise or even down right scare you. I promise though that you’ll be scary to your spouse at times too. It is a masterful skill to be able to manage stress well, but let’s face it, not all stress is created equal, and what YOU find stressful might not be so for your hubby or wife, and vice versa.
What to do: * note this applies to everyone, even if you’ve been married 20 years.
1. Stay focused on your own level of emotional resiliency. In other words, life will be painful at times, in small and big ways and the best thing you can do is take massive action towards changing your own habitual reactions to stress, and commit to daily practices that keeps it in perspective. **These practices are different for everyone. Connecting with friends can lower stress and cortisol levels, but for others, taking space and alone time is imperative.
2. Always transform your criticism into curiosity. AKA, you must accept your partner of who he or she is, and never, ever, EVER try to change them. Over time, you are going to learn A LOT about this other person. But I promise you this: what you think you know is not all that you know. Read that again. What do I mean? You are complex. We all are. And, we are NOT our behaviors, we’re so much more than that. So before you judge a part of your man or woman that you don't like, get curious about what really is going on for him/her at that moment. Seek to understand him. Commit to listening to her. Ask questions. And while you’re at it, do this for yourself as well.
The law of familiarity. It’s a truism: when we get used to something, someplace, or someone, we’ll take it for granted. Marriage, or even just co-habiting is by nature filled with daily monotonous routine. Routines are necessary and I even recommend them, but they have to be balanced by rituals, or practices that keep the aliveness of your relationship. Below are 3 specific ones to begin now.
What to do:
1. break up the routine. This could mean every week you have date night - but take it a step further: SURPRISE your spouse with a date once and a while. Do something that is fun for him or her. If your lives are extremely busy, then schedule it. But do it.
2. Appreciate your spouse. Appreciate him/her in your mind and heart as much as you can daily, but be sure to actually share some of those sentiments.
3. Come alive again. Sometimes we forget who we were in the beginning of a relationship. Were you more carefree? or more independent? more loving? Sexual? Bring that person back more than you think. This will make YOU feel more alive, and your aliveness will bring excitement and passion back to your relationship.
Expectations. Expectation is poison to your relationship because of two reasons. 1. You lose appreciation and acceptance for what is, and therefore you drastically limit your joy and your partner's. 2. Most of our expectations are born out of conditioning, not out of what is currently true to you. For example, you have beliefs about what your marriage is supposed to be like and what it’s not supposed to be like. So does your spouse. And guess what? They may not be in alignment. I’ve found that this topic is rarely discussed before people get married and yet, it’s probably the most important topic to discuss. But this may surprise you: You must have this conversation with YOU first. And no, it’s not too late.
What to do:
1. Challenge old beliefs. Ask yourself how much is your belief about what marriage is supposed to be or not be actually your own? Or, is it more a societal belief? Or maybe one you were raised to have based on your parents, or what their beliefs were?? At this very moment, step outside of your younger self and into the person you are today. Even better, into the person you want to grow into. From this place, ask yourself, “what kind of marriage do I want?” Challenge yourself not to be influenced by your conditioning. Then ask, “what is the marriage I would like to build long term? Why?”
2. Communicate. Share this, lovingly with your spouse and ask what his or her beliefs are. See if the two of you can dispel any old beliefs that no longer represent your deepest principles and desires NOW, and co-create something new and current. Listen to him. Hear her. Yes, it’s ideal to have this conversation before marriage BUT the truth is these convos can’t stop just because you’re married. *One of the key habits of a strong, life lasting marriage is the habit of having these types of conversations more often than you think. Keep checking in with each other. This leads me nicely into reason 4. (*to read my 4 Keys to Genius Communication, sign up now for my newsletter to receive that plus other game changing strategies I gift to my incredible community of subscribers)
Loss of vision. Usually the time before marriage is an exciting one. No matter how long you’ve been together before tying the knot, there’s nothing like the engagement period. It breaths life into relationships, and super charges each person into new heights of energy. Not to mention, there is a lot of excitement (good and bad) planning a wedding. Even if it’s stressful planning or you’re headed to City Hall, it’s still a distraction, and it’s a day to look forward to. Once married, planning for the future often becomes too logistical or simply just ignored and forgotten. People lose site of what they really want for their marriage long term, and this is actually very damaging to intimacy and closeness. Why? Because having a shared vision or purpose for what your life is going to be together is a crucial element to a fulfilling marriage. Growth is a fundamental need every human being must experience in order to feel fully alive and fulfilled. As long as you’re progressing towards something, you’ll feel like you’re growing, and your life will have meaning. It will have purpose. Think of your marriage as a life. You want to make that life meaningful and purposeful, just as you strive to make your own life meaningful. You must co-create the life and future you want your marriage to have. And yes, the path may change over time. It always does, so leave room for flexibility.
What to do:
1. Co-create your future. Communicate your dreams and values with one another. Try answering these questions and see what evolves, and be sure to make it fun and loving. Ask yourself and each other questions such as:
1. If our marriage stood for something, what would it be? For example, what is a powerful metaphor for our bond?
2. What parts of our individual principles, values and purpose are shared? Do we both share a desire to help others, or animals? Is it building a certain career or company?
3. If giving back is a shared principle, what might that look like?
4. Is there a lifestyle goal we both want? What does that look like, and what are the steps we both can take every day to reach our goal?
The quality of your relationship is in direct proportion to how willing you are to grow yourself emotionally. When this happens, you will both magnetize each other closer, not push each other away with control and judgement. YOU are the shepherd of your marriage. As is he, or she. As long as you stay focused on how well you can love - aka grow, listen, and learn on a DAILY BASIS, you will be prepared for life’s challenges; first year, or any year of marriage.