(By a twenty-one-year-old wife)
They say the first year of marriage is the hardest. I think it’s said to help you remain calm and remember that marriage won’t always be this bad when the relationship hits a bump that first year. I recently wrapped up my first year of marriage, and personally, it was harder than I expected, and way easier than I expected. I know that doesn’t make sense, but hear me out.
My husband and I got married June of last year. We spent the rest of the summer enjoying marriage and each other’s company. Obviously, we ran into some minor issues, but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t experience and worked through while dating. But by fall, the accumulation of the minor issues started to take a toll on me. When you’re married, compared to casually dating, “minor issues” are much more important because the happiness of your spouse and your marriage are dependent upon achieving a solution to the problem. After months of running into a problem and fixing it repeatedly, I realized that maybe there was a deeper problem that was causing us to continually have issues. Instead of discovering a new problem and then fixing it, wouldn’t it be easier to not have the problem in the first place? Well, “no duh!”, but you’d be surprised by the number of young couples I’ve met who haven’t learned this concept. Now, as a one-year expert on marriage, I am going to share with you the most import piece of marriage advice that anyone could ever give you: COMMUNICATION IS KEY TO A HAPPY RELATIONSHIP! I firmly believe that you and your spouse need to talk about everything (and I mean everything).
Marriage shouldn’t be two halves that make a whole-- marriage is two wholes making a team. My husband and I refer to ourselves as “team Gale.” This is because marriage should be about you and your spouse vs the problem---not you and your spouse against each other. If you view your marriage this way, then working through problems will be much more effective long-term. For example, the other day my husband told me that it makes him sad when he comes home from work and I don’t get excited like I use to. I determined that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but as a member of “team Gale” I decided that I could make a change that would make my husband happier. On that note, an important factor to having good communication is creating a safe environment to do so.
I have always been very sensitive when my husband shares his feelings about things that involve me. It made me feel like I was the one doing something wrong. In the past, the comment about not being excited would have made me feel like I am a let-down to my husband and that I am a terrible wife, thus I would react by getting upset. As a result, my husband began to learn that if he shared his feelings with me then I would become upset; therefore, he stopped sharing his feelings with me and bottled up all of his hurt.
One day he hit his breaking point. All his feeling exploded at once, and I had never before seen so much emotional pain in all my life. It broke me. We had a very long talk about why he kept all of these feelings from me. The conversation was very raw and emotional, and after hours of communication we came to the conclusion that although in the past I had said that I wanted him to be open with me, that I wasn’t really allowing him to share his feelings with me because of the reaction I was having towards them. Being honest and not taking criticism so personally is the only way to practice “you and your spouse vs the problem.” The moment you take something personal and get upset by it, or when you’re not being honest with your partner you revert back to “you vs your spouse”, this leaves no room for a real solution.
We’ve both had to make many personal changes for the health of our marriage. Changing the way your brain works is the most difficult part of marriage, but if I hadn’t made those changes, then my husband and I would be stuck every time we hit a bump in the road of life.
It’s critically important that you and your spouse work together and that you both continually make positive changes to increase the success of your marriage. Imagine what I’m going to learn in year two.