Fast forward past the many hours, days and weeks you’re currently spending deliberating over multiple wardrobes, menus, floral arrangements and your guest-list. The festivities have turned out spectacular. The out-of-town family and guests have dispersed, and you’ve both returned from the honeymoon trip. You and your spouse will then be ready to face the reality of life together hand-in-hand.
Or Will You?
For many couples, volatility characterizes the first year of marriage, as once the “big day” (or more typically, “days” in our culture) conclude, this is the time when the differences that may have seemed unimportant before marriage can at times take center-stage. Furthermore, the early days as a married couple can reveal a disconnect between the projected fantasy of who each partner thought he/she was marrying, and the reality of the imperfect person he/she actually ended up marrying.
This article will provide tips to navigate some of the most common growing pains newlywed unions tend to face so you can be prepared as you embark on your life journey as a married couple.
Being on the Same Page
Finances can be a sensitive topic, and spouses’ respective mindsets and attitudes regarding finances are best aligned. If not before marriage, as early as possible in the marriage, as spouses are well-served by defining their core values with respect to how they want to spend their money. Questions to ask each other include: On what do each of you most desire to spend money, e.g. visiting and/or aiding family and friends, entertainment, investment, education? When those value-driven desires guide the budget, the risk of resentment and spouses pointing fingers at each other as a result of money being spent carelessly diminishes.
Another facet of life which spouses are well-served by being on the same page concerns the multiple roles each partner will assume within the household. Division of labour within the household is no longer as clearly prescribed by gender as in the past. Discussing what the two of you envision as a well-functioning household, and then determining which partner fulfils which roles can minimize the risk of wrong assumptions. While the roles may shift over time as circumstances change and/or be shared, and some couples may organically fall into their respective roles (whether it be because one person most desires that role, one person is best-suited to that role or having that responsibility taken care of is of most importance to one person). In many cases, negotiation of household roles (e.g. bill payer, cook, housecleaner, primary breadwinner) can be helpful in minimizing the risk of frustration.
Being on the same page regarding how the couple spends limited free time, both as individuals and together, can minimize resentment. It can be helpful to balance on the one hand allowing each other space and time apart to pursue those interests each partner most enjoys; and on the other hand, mutual willingness to participate at some level in one’s partner’s pursuits in the interest of spending time together.
New Family Members
One of the many life-enriching aspects of marriage is the golden opportunity to welcome new family members in your life. Relationships with parents-in-law, sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law can be extremely life-enhancing for a couple.
That said, in-law issues can be a source of considerable marital conflict if the spouses are not on the same page with respect to how much family input both partners desire and need. While ours is widely described as a “family-centric” culture, what that means exactly in terms of expectations can vary greatly from individual to individual. Redefining boundaries with parents may be warranted, and in such a case the couple is well-served when each partner assumes the responsibility of communicating such boundaries to their respective families of origin.
In addition, if one of the partners feels continuously disrespected and/or hurt by the behaviour of his/her new family members, his/her partner’s decision to dismiss or ignore the issue out of fear of “rocking the boat” can result in detrimental feelings of lack of support (and potentially even deleterious feelings of abandonment and betrayal) by one’s partner.
On a Final Note
To conclude, I think all spouses are well-served by a willingness to communicate their needs and desires openly, clearly and directly with one another, cutting one another slack for the non-essential rather than overreacting, and liberally showing each other appreciation and respect.
Wishing you a shared life of love, laughter and fulfillment!