Before my husband and I got married, we'd hear over and over again that the first year of marriage was the worst. We kind of accepted this as fact, but thankfully we decided to get married anyway (HOORAY). We read the statistics, we knew that a growing percentage of marriages end in divorce, and many of those happen early on. We wanted to develop a firm foundation our first year as something to base many good years to come afterward on. I am happy to say that we have done that. We LOVED our first year, which is not always the case. I'm thankful for many things that contributed to this. Here's 10 things that helped us have a great first year of marriage:
1. First, we don't do marriage alone. We meet regularly with a group of five married friends and we talk about marriage, life, friendship, etc. This has become a highlight of our first year and we are thankful everyday for this group of friends. We are all newlyweds, under 5 years married for each of us, and we feel like we're all in it together. We laugh when we have the same fights about throwing away lettuce, and once-heated conflicts become lighthearted and funny when talked about with dear friends.
2. We practice self-care. We're kind of obsessed with each other, and that made it actually hard for me to learn that leaving Daniel to hang out with my girlfriends or go for a run by myself was a good thing. It fuels me in a way that he can't, and similarly for him, in that he needs alone time and sporty time, so we try to work this into our evenings and weekends. Knowing how we each refuel took us a bit to figure out, but making time for this is an asset to our relationship and benefits us tremendously as a couple.
3. We learned/are learning how to fight fairly. In our pre-engagement class, we read and talked about John Gottman and his book, The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work. we learned a TON of strategies that have helped us work through conflict constructively, instead of the millions of ways to fight poorly. We learned that we have different conflict styles, and that one isn't necessarily "better" than the other, but we are learning how to merge them. We have both moved more towards each other on this scale, morphing our unique styles into something that works for us.
4. Similarly to #3, we embrace conflict. We learned that the majority of conflicts couples face are "unsolvable,"meaning that one person is an introvert and the other is an extrovert, and you will never change the fact that one person would rather be home every night of the week while the other could attend a party everyday. We learned that the goal in marriage is not to have less conflict, but instead to learn how to work through conflict constructively, and lean into it in a way that allows you to draw closer to each other, instead of farther apart.
5. We study marriage. My all time favorite book on marriage is The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. I cannot recommend this book enough. There are so many nuggets of marriage wisdom in this one. One eye-opening piece for me was that when I think of the entire point of marriage not just as romance between my husband and I, but as a vessel to make me a better person, I am able to conflict better. I can hear Daniel's side of an argument better. I can take myself, and my husband, less seriously. I can work at changing habits and creating new ones. I love this idea that marriage is refining me. How amazing that the tool that I get to become a better person is Daniel. My spouse is like a mirror, reflecting both my best and my worst, and we are helping each other become a better a person.
6. We have a weekly date night. Even if it's just for a happy hour drink, we get out of the house at least one night a week and it's just us. This is key for our extroverted selves that would love to be around lots of people every night of the week. But we know we need time for just us too, so we schedule that in and make it a priority. Date night is hugely important to me, and Daniel has continued to date me into our marriage, something I was concerned about continuing once we were past the official "dating" stage. So happy to be wrong on that one. Long live the date night.
7. We say "I'm sorry." Our wedding officiant was a dear friend of both of our families, and he gave a phenomenal talk on marriage. At one point, he spoke specifically to Daniel, saying he knows how competitive his family is (three out of five family members were college athletes), and he challenged Daniel to always be the one to say "I'm sorry" first. Of course everyone laughed in the moment, but that really has stuck with me this first year. We are both learning how to apologize more quickly, not just to live up to the challenge, but because we've seen the benefits in our relationship.
8. We're really good friends. Our relationship is unique in that our families have known each other since we were little, so we had a long friendship as our foundation before we threw any romance on that fire. We like hanging out with each other and enjoy each other's company.
9. We get away together. When I think back to my highlights of this first year, our trips come to mind. The uninterrupted, time away together connects us in a way that normal life filled with laundry and routine just doesn't. We've been on 10 trips this year, including 5 flights, and they've all been amazing times together. One time we spontaneously road tripped to California on a Friday night, just for a three day weekend, and it was the best ever. Save up and invest for mini trips, even if they're just road trips a few hours away. Getting out of town can be magical.
10. We kiss at red lights. Because why waste all that free time??
What has made your marriage great? Share in the comments!