Katie at NFP and Me is hosting a link-up of advice for newlyweds in celebration of her second anniversary. I too have only been married two years, and while I certainly don't have all the answers regarding marriage, David and I made it past the newlywed year with our marriage (and our sanity) well intact. I've previously written a post on advice I wish my mother gave me before I got married and some of this post is a reiteration of those thoughts; however, two years (and a baby) in, some of my thoughts on marriage have changed. I'm curious what advice I will give to newlyweds twenty years down the road.
Go with the flow. It seems that many couples consider their wedding the first step in a well thought out plan: we'll buy a house in x amount of time, we'll start a family in x years later, then I'll get a promotion and move to a better part of town, etc. But when you get married you start a life together and life is unpredictable. Embrace the unexpected because it will make you stronger as a couple. When you get married, you are bringing two different people, with often drastically different experiences and ideas, together. By making hard decisions, addressing the unexpected, and defining your values and priorities as a couple, you are forming your own family. Don't make the mistake of thinking of the unexpected in only negative terms; it can be positive too. When David and I married, we planned to wait until he graduated to start a family. Five months later, we found ourself joyfully trying to conceive. You don't know how marriage will change you, your desires, and priorities, so wait until you are married to set your life course together and still then keep it flexible.
It might be hard, and that's normal. I married my husband after a two-year long distance relationship and erroneously thought that once we were finally together, life would be bliss. But those first few months were extremely difficult. In addition to learning the new dynamics of a marital relationship and adjusting to each other's household habits, I experienced extreme homesickness, having moved out of state to join my new husband. My expectation that the first few months would be a whirlwind of romance quickly turned into fear that something was wrong with our marriage because I was really struggling. Had I known that it's normal for the first few months (or even year) to be difficult, I wouldn't have felt the additional stress of thinking that something was inherently wrong and that maybe I had made a mistake in marrying the wrong man (or perhaps it wasn't God's plan for me to marry at all). Although our adjustment period only lasted a few months, many couples report that the entire first year was the most difficult of marriage. Know that it won't always be that way.
Don't ignore problems. The newlywed year sets a precedent for the rest of the marriage. That's not to say if you have some problems your first year that you are doomed to repeat them throughout your marriage, after all, just like anything else new, there is a learning curve in marriage. However, you do need to take issues seriously from the get-go and address them as they come up. Don't assume that things will magically get better as the marriage goes on; it won't. If something bothers you now, it will still bother you in twenty years and your spouse will never know it bothers you if you never let him know. Be quick to forgive, but don't move on until the issues have been addressed.
Set boundaries. The first year isn't just key for how you treat one another, it's also lays the groundwork for how you relate with each other's families. If you have problems with an in-law, this is the perfect time to discuss boundaries with your spouse and enforce them from the get-go. Many newlyweds expect that many of the issues with in-laws that were evident while dating will change now that you are married. After all, now you and your spouse are your own family and there is some separation from your family of origin. Unfortunately, not all in-laws see it that way. It's best to address those issues before children complicate these problems even more. Make sure you are honest with yourself about how your own parents treat your spouse and marriage, as well. You might have awesome in-laws but your spouse might not!
Don't make assumptions. This was the biggest problem in our early marriage. I assumed my husband was well versed in financial matters and household maintenance because my parents made a point to explicitly educate me on these topics. His parents didn't. David assumed that all women were naturally skilled in the feminine arts (cooking, cleaning, shopping, sewing). I wasn't. We inadverantly put each other down by making each other feel like less of a man/woman. These specific areas may not be the same as what you and your spouse struggle with, but go into marriage with the idea of exploring each other's strengths and weaknesses instead of having expectations of them.
Don't air your dirty laundry. As a woman, it's tempting to disparage my husband to my friends. It seems that we live in a guy-bashing society, where female friends seem to one-up each other on the whose significant other said/did/wore the stupidest thing. Before you open your mouth to join in, think of how your husband would feel if he overheard you saying such things (and simply for the purpose of making your friends laugh at him). If your husband does something that makes you roll your eyes, there is no need to share. If you are having a serious fight or problem, you can confide in one close friend if you are doing it because you are sincerely looking for help or advice, but make sure you fairly portray both sides of the situation. Examine your motives for discussing it. And for goodness sakes, even if your mom or dad is your best friend, do not put your spouse down when you speak to them. I know this can be difficult because I tell my mom everything, but it really is key in a good marriage. Most likely your parents already are on your side and you don't want to give them reasons to dislike your spouse! (The alternative isn't fun either. My parents think my husband is amazing - and he is! - but they side with him on everything. It's not fun to get a lecture from your parents for being mean to your husband, even when you know you are right!)
Have fun. Newlywed life only lasts a short time, so enjoy it while you can! Don't get so caught up in planning for the future that you don't enjoy the present together. Once (if) you have children, it will be many years before you will again be able to spend so much alone time together and be spontaneous. Use this time to create memories that will be a strong basis for your life together. I was recently reminiscing about newlywed life and am grateful that we took advantage of all the little moments together.
What is your best advice for newlywed? Is your advice different now than it would have been when you were first married?
If you aren't married yet, what specific advice are you looking for?
Check out NFP and Me for links to some more stellar newlywed tips!