When The Honeymoon Is Over
Wednesday - March 05, 2008
I’ve been married for almost four months now, and everyone tells me my husband and I are still in the “honeymoon stage.” By this, I guess they are referring to the fact that my husband’s knee is still my favorite seat in the house and romantic nights at home top our list of things to do.
I wonder, however, once this so-called “honeymoon stage” ends, where will we be in our marriage?
Many also have told me the first year of marriage is rough for everyone. You’re still on the high of being newly hitched, but you’re also dealing with the realities of being husband and wife and planning for a life together.
Marian Miller, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice and member of the Hawaii Psychological Association, agrees.
“[The first year of marriage] is rough and wonderful,” she says. “It’s rough if you are challenged immediately with pregnancy, in-laws, aging parents who live with you, stepchildren, etc., but it is wonderful if you have discussed how to work with these life stages ahead of time and have a way to manage stress together.”
While major challenges such as these can set the stage for a potential blowup, sometimes just getting used to each other’s quirks and imperfections can soil the honeymoon high.
Some couples these days choose to live together before the wedding, so they might already be aware of behavior by their partner that peeves them.
If you haven’t lived together before marriage, then you might be surprised to find how annoying it can be when your spouse puts the toilet paper roll on backwards or refuses to wash his or her dirty dishes.
During those moments, it can be difficult to see the bigger picture and easy to focus on petty differences. But how you handle those early quarrels (big or small) is important.
“Often, how well you do in the first five years of marriage is an indication of how you’ll manage marriage as time marches on,” says Miller. “The first years can set the stage for future conflict and developmental life stages.”
Miller says that couples often fall into the trap of thinking their spouse should just know what they’re thinking.
“We have to learn our partner’s language and ask directly for our needs, wants and desires to be met,” she says.
Miller also advises that couples remember the time they spent getting to know each other and make a regular date to enjoy catching up about their days, checking in and solving life’s dilemmas.
Also, I firmly believe that knowing how to speak to your spouse with respect, love and compassion, even during tumultuous times, is a skill needed from the beginning of your marriage. Disagreements of every sort can and should be solved without hurtful words. And remembering to treat your husband or wife with the care and consideration you’d treat a newborn child will help ensure that love is not broken down by negativity over the years.
Miller agrees that like a newborn baby, new marriages can be helped by a “user’s manual.” She recommends a book by Susan Piver, 100 Questions to Ask Before You Say I Do.
Of course, no one marries thinking that it won’t last forever. The reality is, however, that it will take some work to get there. Equipping yourself with the communication skills to survive the rough spots and remembering why you fell in love in the first place can go a long way toward ensuring that your marriage will prosper beyond those first few years of wedded bliss.
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