Congratulations on your anniversary! In our previous post we discussed the things you should do in the first 3 months of marriage: “What to do in the first 90 Days of Marriage.” Hopefully you’ve returned items you borrowed for the wedding, sent the thank you cards, received your wedding photos and videos (if not, don’t worry it can sometimes take longer than planned), got the paperwork done, and got your gifts and your bank accounts sorted out.
Great, that was the easy part. Here comes a little hard-work: the relationship side of marriage with your spouse, in-laws, and changes to existing relations between family and friends. The relationship side with your spouse involves continuing to impress them, share stories, build intimacy by becoming just a little vulnerable, figuring out the “me-time” and the “we-time”, trying out new experiences, traveling, understanding expectations and obligations, and continuing to get to know your spouse. Yes, that is one long list, but don’t worry it gets better over time.
We’re not saying that these are one-pass issues which will all be resolved in the first 90 days, but it is good to have those conversations. Hopefully you will come to agreement on many of them, and for others you will have to agree to disagree.
What else should you be thinking about in the first year of marriage? Or the second or the third? Here they are in no particular order.
1. Discuss if and when you plan to start a family. If you don’t, guaranteed your family and friends will start giving you the baby hints. Although having a baby is a personal decision don’t use it as a substitute to address other issues of your relationship. You need a solid foundation in your marriage before you start family. Plan in advance your reply to family/friends, so you can still be polite and not lose the relationship.
2. Discuss how you will make decisions. Again there isn’t one template, but it’s good to take certain spheres of life and have ownership. If every small decision requires a conversation and debate, it becomes very tiresome.
3. How will you resolve differences and arguments? It is natural that you will not agree on everything (and if you do, something is wrong). Differences and arguments are how we discover boundaries, each others personalities and more, so as hard as it may be, think of them as a gift.
4. Discuss your work-life balance. Again, it is rare for anyone to have the ideal work-life ratio. Work typically comes in spurts, and there are times you may not have enough or will be overwhelmed with it and it becomes a barrier in your relationship.
5. Keep intimate matters, well, intimate. This is not the domain for family or friend discussions. Discuss, learn, explore, what ever is permitted in the boundaries of faith. If you need help see a physician or qualified coach/counselor.
6. Discuss your hot-buttons, those that are ingrained in you. What are the things you will stand up for, and what will you back down on?
7. Whenever you feel very strongly about a matter and feel you are in the right, remember the cliché or quote of “it’s better to be kind than right.” Unfortunately, due to our egos it is a little harder to put into practice.
8. There are some words you can never say enough of. One is thank you, the other is, ‘I’m sorry.” Get used to it. When you mess up, apologize, and when you’re right, stay silent. Saying “I told you so,” may play to your ego, but it will hurt your relationship.
9. As you get to know your spouse over the months, avoid starting a statement with “you never,” “you always.” Even if it is true, you’ll dig yourself into a hole and nothing will be resolved.
10. “Never air your dirty laundry” is another cliché, but it holds even more true with regards to your spouse. Never put down your spouse in their presence or absence. If you do, it is more a reflection on you than them.
11. If you do get into a heated debate, you can try to come to resolution. Take a “timeout” and resume the following day, but avoid walking out on your spouse or slamming the door.
12. No matter how angry you get at your spouse, never make threats of divorce. With God’s grace any issue is solvable, but if you resort to using threats it can backfire and lead to major issues of trust and well-being in your relationship. In fact showing commitment that no matter what, you will work through this will be much more productive.
13. Remember if you’re ever unsure about how you should behave, just be kind. Kindness goes a long way.
Marriage is a lifetime work in progress. No matter how long you have been married, you have never “arrived.” The good news is by the grace of God you have made it through to your first or second or third anniversary. Remember marriage is hard-work every day, but it is definitely an amazing journey.