The bouquet has been caught, the gifts unwrapped, and the thank-you cards sent (or at least added to the to-do list). Now, you can finally get down to the real business of being married. Easy peasy, right? It’s not all smooth sailing from here—far from it. Many say that the first year of marriage is the hardest, and research has shown that how a couple handles the first two years after the wedding can determine the ultimate fate of the union.
Here is some of the top relationship advice for newlyweds, according to marriage experts.
You spent months or even years planning a wedding planning, and suddenly it’s all over. For the first few months after the wedding day, it’s natural to feel a comedown after all the excitement. Don’t dwell on reliving the wedding—go out together and make some new, perhaps even better, memories.
A discussion about finances is one of the most important conversations to have, according to St. Louis-based Relationship Expert and Marriage Therapist Angela Skurtu. This is true even if people have lived together. “There can be different expectations around finances,” Skurtu says. “Are we keeping our finances separate or together? What does that look like? How are we making financial decisions? That’s different when your names are tied legally to one another.”
Skurtu recommends that couples either see a financial planner together for money advice or have very honest conversations about money and spending habits. That includes how they want to save, savings financial goals, and specific plans to pay off debt and invest. Any disparities in income between a couple should also be considered honestly.
Yes, you’re a couple now, but you still need to retain your individuality. Spending time alone with other friends and family helps refresh your attention to your partner. “Till death do us part” does not mean “every waking moment.”
Layout a clear plan on who will do what and when. Resentments about household chores can pile up as quickly as dirty dishes. Create a system of divided tasks based on who prefers to do what (compromise and switch off on the chores that no one enjoys), and agree to standards as to what constitutes clean and dirty.
“Be honest about what you're interested in sexually, and be direct about what long-term sex looks like,” says Skurtu, host of the About Sex podcast. That starts with getting comfortable talking about sex and choosing partners who are comfortable talking about sex. “One of the biggest problems I see with couples is they don't talk about sex—they just get into it and it's fun. Then after that honeymoon period dies and people have problems, they think there's something wrong with them because they don't have the desire. But really, these are just some natural desire progressions that happen over time in relationships that people have to work with.”
Work is the keyword to a healthy marriage. “You do have to keep working at that,” Skurtu continues. “It's not something that comes naturally—the honeymoon period only lasts around two years. After that, couples have to put in active work into keeping up their spark and trying new things, and exploring. You don't want to have the same sex at the start of your relationship 50 years later.”
There’s comfort in routines, but it can quickly slide into stagnation and taking each other for granted. Keep the freshness alive with spontaneous dates and romantic getaways. Try new things together: cooking, exercising, languages, or other hobbies and activities. It could be the start of a new habit you can continue as a married couple, and you’ll make some new memories in the process.
Crystal Bradshaw, a licensed professional counselor specializing in couples counseling in Marietta, Georgia, sees many couples in the beginning stages of their relationship who want to learn the skills to help them sustain a healthy long-term healthy relationship. “One of the first places I start with couples coming in to work on improving their relationship skills is love and apology languages,” Bradshaw says.
“My advice for newlyweds: Learn your and your partner’s love language and apology language and use them. Everyone sends and receives love and apologies in their way. Just because you receive love and apologies a certain way does not mean that your partner receives them as you do. Many people make the mistake of going through life assuming that everyone else sees and responds to the world the same way they do. This creates a lot of unnecessary conflicts and hurt feelings. People don’t feel understood by their partners when their partner isn’t speaking the language they need. I have all my clients take the love and apology language quizzes to help them identify what their primary languages are. I then have them print and share their results so they both know their own, as well as their partners, languages.”
“I instruct all my clients to do at least one thing each day in their partner’s primary love language, and to utilize their partner’s apology language when it comes time to give an apology,” Bradshaw says. “It’s important to know how to speak the language your partner receives. I explain it this way: You both speak the same language in general, but you both have very different dialects. If you don’t understand the nuances of the dialect, it could lead to a lot of unnecessary misunderstandings and hurt feelings.”
Have open, honest, direct, and daily communication, from how your day went to long-term goals and dreams. It will help you get to know your spouse partner better, resolve issues faster, and maintain a connection for a great marriage. Bring up issues when they bother you (or at least vent to your friends); you don’t have to suppress your feelings just because you’ve made the marriage commitment.
It’s especially important to get clarity around areas of money, family, and your sex life, and to agree on plans and expectations because Skurtu says that these are the topics that people fight most about. And, if any of these conversations lead to you two not being on the same page, marriage counseling therapy may help, too.