How to Make the Most of Your First Year of Marriage

A newlywed couple outside enjoying their first year of marriage.

If you’re a newlywed, you’ve probably found yourself getting frustrated with your spouse over the past few months. One moment, they’re giving you support, encouragement, friendship, and love; the next moment, they’re driving you insane with their thoughtlessness, moodiness, and weird habits that make you wonder if they were raised on another planet!

Don’t worry; I have some good news. This is totally normal! You and your spouse are creating a new life together, and that will always mean some growing pains, particularly during your first year of marriage. Author Jo Piazza once wrote in Time magazine that the first year of marriage is “the wet cement year,” known as the time for couples to learn how to live as partners and to “set” the relationship properly before it “hardens” (and habits get harder to break).

So, how can you make sure that your first year of marriage is a successful one? Here are a few tips that will help you enjoy your first year of marriage and set you up for a stable future.

Set Common Goals

Before you got married, you and your spouse probably discussed your goals for the future—how many kids you want (if any), where you want to live—to make sure you were on the same page. Well, now that you’re newlyweds, it’s time to start putting your plans into action! Working as a team toward a goal will help you feel more connected as you settle into married life.

Maybe you want to start a family. Maybe you want to get a dog. Maybe you want to save up for an anniversary trip. Your goal can be whatever works for your relationship. Just make sure it’s something you’re both excited about working towards together.

Do a Little Nesting

A newlywed couple dancing in their apartment and making the most of their first year of marriage.

As far as I’m concerned, one of the great tragedies of life is the fact that we spend so much of our days away from the people we love the most. We toil away at our jobs, working longer hours all the time, so that by the time we get home to our spouses and families, we hardly have the energy left to engage with them!

While it’s unlikely that you’ll change the working world during your first year of marriage (though if you do, hats off to you), you can make the time you spend at home a little more…well, homey. Light a scented candle you both adore, keep the coziest blanket you have out on the couch, paint the walls a color that makes you both feel calm (but if you’re renting, ask your landlord first). If your house feels like a home, you’ll be much more likely to truly unwind there, and that level of comfort and relaxation will lead to a better, stronger relationship.

Discover Each Other’s Strengths

Admit it: there are a few things your spouse is simply better at than you are. It’s OK—in fact, it’s a great thing! You two can combine your individual strengths to become the best couple you can be (and learn from each other along the way, too). And the first year of marriage is the perfect time to discover these strengths and talents.

These strengths will vary from the “serious” issues (for example, I’m better at managing finances than my husband) to the silly ones (his quesadilla-making skills are miles above my own), but they all help shape the responsibilities you’ll each shoulder in your relationship. Taking time to learn which of you is best at a given task will help you understand each other, and it will make things easier for you in the future.

Have Adventures

A newlywed couple in the snow wearing ski gear and kissing in front of their car.

For some people, being a newlywed is a strange feeling. You’ve just finished several weeks (sometimes even months) of high-stress wedding planning, and now you’re just back to the everyday routine. This weird shift can cause some people to feel pretty down, causing an experience known as the “post-wedding blues.” However, we’re told that life as a newlywed should be bliss, and this discrepancy can put a real strain on the relationship.

If you find yourself feeling sad after your special day, consider planning a little adventure together. This will give you both something to look forward to and help you make lots of happy memories in your earliest days as a married couple. And remember, your adventure doesn’t have to be fancy; a night watching your favorite band play works just as well as a surprise trip to Hawaii (though if you have the means to make Hawaii happen, why wouldn’t you?).

Take it Easy

A word of warning about my last point: eventually, all adventures have to end. If you and your spouse are simply living for the high of one adventure after another, your relationship won’t have the necessary foundation to get through life’s unexciting times (and trust me, those times always come). Your first year of marriage is also a good time to learn to take it slow and easy—and learn to appreciate the little things.

Spend a weekend being lazy at home together. Call or text each other a quick “I love you” during the workday. Go on a walk around the neighborhood after dinner one night. If you can learn to appreciate these simple moments in your relationship, your lives will always be full of happy moments, even when life gets too busy for a night out or a weekend getaway.

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