What will the first year of marriage really be like?
Remember that old saying: ‘the first year of marriage is the hardest’? Of course you do. It sits and waits patiently among the cliches and stock phrases buried in our memory banks until the time comes for us to whip it out when comforting our married friends.
But is it actually true? Is the first year of being a husband or a wife really that tough? Or is it a notion that’s stuck around from the olden days when couples didn’t live together until they were married?
This week, I’ve picked the brains of five married couples and asked them how they found their first year of marriage.
So, put us out of our misery; is the first year of marriage really that tough?
‘No way,’ says Jen, who had a beautiful countryside wedding in July 2011. ‘Our first year felt amazing and so has every year since. As soon as we were married we felt even happier and more in love, and it still feels so special to share the same name.’
For Jill, who walked down the aisle in early 2017, the first year was also a breeze: ‘We had been living together for three years already, so there were no surprises there. Just the fact that we had new names for one another – husband and wife!’
And it’s a similar story for Popup Weddings co-founder Kerry who has been married since May 2013, ‘The first year was the easiest. It gets a bit harder a few years after, when you’re over the buzz of the wedding and settling back into normal life.’
For Brandon and Tana, who got married on a rainy day in Canada in June 2012, their first year was a reminder that you never stop learning about your partner: ‘Our first year went without a hitch. There were a lot of firsts, which was so much fun, but we were also re-learning each other. And looking back we’ve realised you both change in ways you never thought. So be prepared to always learn more about your spouse and how to love well.’
While for Freddie and Roberta who tied the knot in September 2016, situations out of their control challenged yet helped solidify their connection. ‘We had our challenges in the first year because of family bereavement and work stresses. But these were outside influences and they actually made us stronger and more grown up as a couple.’
What did the first year of being married teach you?
‘Speak less, listen more,’ says Tana who goes on to offer some really sound, practical advice on communication.
‘Your relationships should be like how you talk in a walkie-talkie. You must pause and stop to let the other person speak.’ Never think any issue is too small to ignore. Talk about everything – you’re not meant to carry your burdens on your own. Marriage is about sharing every single aspect of your life.’
For Kerry, it was more about staying grounded in your relationship, no matter what: ‘The path of love/marriage is winding,’ explains Kerry. ‘Embrace your first year and make sure you don’t lose sight of why you got married. Don’t expect every day to be the same as your wedding day; life gets in the way.’
‘And remember to look at what you have and who is next to you,’ adds Roberta. ‘Love and feel lucky every day, embracing the fact that you are two and one at the same time.’
Did anything in your relationship change once you were married?
‘Not really. Just ticking different boxes on forms, introducing one another as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’, that sort of thing,’ laughs Jill.
‘But I think in the past (a couple decades ago), or with more traditional couples, it would be different as they wouldn’t have lived together before. By us ‘modern’ couples already living together, it breaks those barriers and tests the waters, so to speak.’
Similarly, Kerry’s husband Alasdair, who is also a co-founder of Popup Weddings, says, ‘We’d already been living together for years, so not a lot changed. It was just weird getting used to being married – it made me feel very grown up!’
Jen will never forget the tip a close family member shared with her and her husband before their wedding day: ‘We were told to keep in mind that nothing between us will be different; we’ve just confirmed our love for each other and made it official. So, in the first year, there was – and still is – no pressure.’
What advice would you give newlyweds who are navigating their first year of marriage?
‘Be prepared to always learn more about your spouse and how to love well,’ says Tana. ‘We actually took communication courses and The Love Language Test, which I really encourage for couples, even if you’ve been together for years. Learning how your spouse receives and gives communication is like having a bottle of water on a hike – it’s wise and you’ll never regret it.’
Roberta and Freddie’s advice is to cherish every moment, even the ones that seem insignificant: ‘Celebrate the monthliversaries. It doesn’t have to be in a material way, just go for a date night, a walk in the park or a wander around a museum. It helps to stop for a minute, appreciate the love you share and where you are going as a couple.’
Kerry and Alasdair say, ‘Don’t lose sight of why you got married in the first place. And enjoy it. Maybe keep a diary/blog/vlog of what you did and what life was like, then you can look back at it in years to come.’
Similarly, Jill says, ‘Take every minute and every day in – it goes by so fast! You will never have those “firsts as a married couple” again, especially the actual wedding day.’
And from Jen: ‘It’s simple – don’t feel like anything’s changed because it hasn’t. Enjoy it and don’t put pressure on it.’
Out of the five couples I spoke to, it’s clear that perhaps the first year of marriage isn’t as tough as the age-old phrase suggests. But what is clear is that, despite every couple having their own opinions on what year one is like, they all highlight the importance to love and support each other, listen and communicate attentively, and really be present and cherish every single moment together. Now that is some bloody great advice!
A huge thank you to all our couples who shared their marriage insights. If you’re in the middle of navigating your first year of marriage, let us know how you’re both finding it in the comments box below.