6 Tips to Help You Thrive in Your First Year of Marriage

A relationship expert shares six tips to help you get through your first year of marriage.

By Anni Irish

Tips to Help You Thrive in Your First Year of Marriage
Photo by Hian Oliveira

The First Look ✨

Finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with is something to celebrate. You are finally done with all the dating and have met someone who is on the same page as you. Getting married to that person and professing your love to them is everything. But once the wedding is over and all the buzz from it has started to subside, you’ll enter a different phase.
Newlyweds face a variety of new circumstances during the first year, and being able to communicate with your partner is key. Remember: Every relationship is unique, and it’s important to make it what both people want.

#1 Make Time for Your Relationship and Help It Grow

There are a lot of firsts you and your partner will experience. With so much happening in the beginning, you may find yourself a bit overwhelmed. It may also be hard to imagine what your relationship will be like down the road. That's why it's important to take time to help make your relationship grow.

“It's important to remember that sparks require kindling to keep them alive (your emotional, physical, and spiritual connection). Reflect on how you will each prioritize nurturing these aspects of your relationship presently and in the years to come,” says Jennifer Litner, MSc, MEd, LMFT, CST, a licensed marriage and family therapist and the founder of the Chicago-based wellness center, Embrace Sexual Wellness.

Putting the work in to help you and your partner feel special on every level is important. Remind your partner what you love about them, keep things interesting, and really take the time to nurture one another and your relationship.

#2 Normalize Conflict and Learn How to Fight Fairly

When you’re in a relationship—romantic or otherwise—it's important to remember that conflict is unavoidable. You and your partner will not agree 100 percent on everything, and that’s okay. Be mindful about the kinds of things that lead to an argument—it can make a huge difference in the long run.

“Becoming aware of 'your stuff,' aka what typically activates you and your partner, can be instrumental to managing conflict. For example, if certain months of the year are difficult because they bring up feelings of loss for you or your partner, it can be helpful to anticipate those moments and talk with them about how you can best show up for them during that time. Learning how to communicate effectively during conflict and stressful events will help set yourselves up for success in the long haul,” says Linter.

#3 Be Clear About Your Expectations and Boundaries

As you’re settling into the next phase of your life together as a newly married couple, it’s important to set expectations and boundaries. While family and friends mean well, sometimes you may find that they want to offer unsolicited advice or insert themselves into your relationship when they aren't needed or wanted. And you may also find yourself in uncharted territory when navigating new situations together (i.e. how do you spend the holidays). This can create a potentially stressful situation. To avoid that, Litner suggests asking the following four questions:

  • What’s your vision for how you will spend your holidays and other life events?
  • Who is primarily responsible for coordinating these events/social gatherings?
  • To what degree are you comfortable sharing information about your relationship with others?
  • What gets shared and what gets kept private?

These questions and answers can help serve as a kind of roadmap for you and your partner. They can help get you on the same page and also help you both be clear about what you will and won't do in specific situations.

#4 Each Relationship Is Unique and There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Marriage

It’s important to remember that no two relationships are alike. What works for one couple might not work for the next. It's also important to remember that no marriage is perfect, either. The reality is that relationships take work—some bumps along the way are normal.

“The way you deal with these bumps can have a ripple effect later on, so it's helpful to remind yourself that one bump is not the enemy and to get clear on how you want to show up during both the challenging times and the easier ones,” says Linter.

The way you handle situations as they arise can set the tone for the future. Being there for someone in easy and hard times is the real test of a relationship and taking things in stride is all part of it.

#5 Build Your Relationship Like You're Building Your Home

Your first year of marriage will really lay the foundation. One of the most important things is communication.

“Think about the early years of marriage like building a home. First you have to create blueprints and then lay the foundation. In the beginning of a marriage, partners are often building the foundation—how they spend leisure time, manage a household or finances, connect intimately, etc. This is a time to learn from one another and determine how you want to lay the groundwork for your relationship,” says Linter.

Thinking about how these early years can lay the groundwork for what you'll encounter in time is important. You’re getting to know one another and are growing in the process.

#6 Try to Meet in the Middle

One of the most common disputes that Litner sees in her practice is disputes over what each partner's expectations are about their role in the relationship. Often, people have unspoken expectations that were never discussed or agreed upon, and this can lead to a lot of frustration and disappointment. The sooner you’re able to talk about this, the better off you are.

Linter suggests discussing these things early on—preferably before you even get married. Here are four questions you can ask one another to help:

  • How do you envision things changing once you've advanced your commitment?
  • How do you envision things will stay the same?
  • What are you/your partner hoping, expecting, needing from partnership?
  • What will it be like if your needs are not met, and how will you handle that?

While you may think it's easy to be married, being able to compromise, be communicative, and get through a disagreement in a respectful way are all things that many people need to learn how to do. It's ok to ask for help along the way, too. Every relationship is different, but working through the hard things will make you stronger in the end.

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