You have said, “I do,” signed the marriage license, and perhaps even celebrated your wedding with family and friends. With all the hard work of planning and executing a wedding behind you, now is the time to sit back, relax, and enjoy life as a married couple, right? The truth, of course, is that this picture of newly wedded bliss does not come close to the reality that nearly all couples face as they embark on their married relationship together. The dominant cultural narrative of newlywed life – that of a dreamy, problem-free “honeymoon” period – ignores the real and normal challenges associated with starting a marriage. This, unfortunately, leaves couples vulnerable to comparing their relationship against highly unrealistic standards.
Shield yourself from this vulnerability by educating yourself about some of the realistic things you can expect of marriage. Doing this will keep you both strong in the face of uncertainty, and hopefully it will encourage you to stay motivated and positive when married life, even in its first few months, gets bumpy.
- You will fight. Contrary to what you might think, conflict is normal and not necessarily a sign of catastrophe or doom in your relationship. Conflict, when done properly (which takes time, practice, and sometimes a little guidance – see #2), can lead to progress and may deepen your connection with your partner. Do not expect to never fight. Do not expect to always fight well, either. Get good at trying again and again to get it right and to stay empathically connected to your partner while you’re at it.
- You might need help from a professional. Being married is not easy. The kind of compromise, sacrifice, and assertiveness that it takes to be happily married requires skills that most people never learn before actually getting married. So, do not be surprised or dismayed if you feel stuck in how to manage your problems as a couple. Couples therapy exists for precisely this reason, and you would be wise to seek out this resource sooner rather than later to avoid unnecessary time spent attempting to fix problems that you naturally need help to overcome.
- You may not be attracted to your partner every moment of every day. It is normal to not want to cuddle all the time with your new spouse. You may not want to have sex every time he or she asks for it either, and that is also perfectly normal. The truth is, our level of sexual interest and desire can fluctuate, meaning some days you are in the mood, and other days you are not. Give yourself permission to speak openly about this with one another. Just be mindful and address any significant dips in interest, desire, or sexual satisfaction that may occur over the course of your relationship. Again, seek out help if necessary.
Rachel E. Goldsmith, MA, MSMFT