What I learned in the first year of marriage

My husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary on June 26, 2021. To celebrate our first year of marriage, we decided to take a weekend trip to our wedding destination of Moab, Utah.

Being back in Moab was pretty nostalgic and very special for both of us. It wasn’t as hurried or stressful as our adventure wedding weekend, so we got to soak up the sights and enjoy the town a bit more.

We also had our two-year-old daughter in tow, so we enjoyed a little family vacation and some downtime.

The journey in the first year of marriage was not easy. There were some rough waters, personal growth, growth as a couple, and also some rewarding and special moments in between.

I’m not sure why people say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. For some, it can be a lot of change, especially if you haven’t lived together before. Maybe it’s the idea of marriage as an institution, with vows, a license, other legalities, and all the social pressure. No matter how you look at it, it’s definitely tough.

I learned a lot about myself, my husband, and the two of us as a couple in our first year of marriage. We were also raising our daughter and working full-time. The year actually went by pretty quickly, but it wasn’t without its challenges.

So, here is what I learned in the first year of marriage.

Marriage is different than dating

Sometimes I hear people say that they’re ‘practically married’ when they are living together for a period of time and share children. Even though my husband and I were living together and shared a daughter, I never thought that we were ‘practically married.’

No matter how long you’ve been dating or if you feel that you are practically married already, marriage is different than dating.

After marriage, I felt a different type of bond with my husband. He was always my family before we got married, but it felt like a new level of security for me. I wouldn’t think that legal marriage should change any aspect of our relationship, but it did for me and in a positive way.

The change is ever so slight and it’s kind of unexplainable, but it’s there. And it was different than just being his girlfriend.

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Compromise will be your best friend

first year of marriage

A great definition of compromise is ‘settling differences by making mutual concessions’. (Source) There is a lot packed into compromise and it was an essential part of our first year of marriage.

I found that it is absolutely okay to disagree on issues. We’re only human and our opinions aren’t always going to align. The difficult part is making a decision or settling an issue when you and your spouse are not in agreement.

One of our most difficult decisions came right after marriage when it came to combining our finances and how to do it. Of course, I had my own idea of how things should be done and, lo and behold, he had his own idea as well.

Let’s just say that it took a lot of time and compromise to figure out our marital finances and the process wasn’t pretty. I’m very much a Type A, take over control, my way is the right way, type of person and it took a lot out of me to make those concessions to settle our differences.

In the end, neither of us got exactly what we wanted. Our final decision was somewhere in the middle, where it should be. The important part is that we both contributed to the decision-making process and there was a mutual agreement at the end.

Individual change is inevitable

first year of marriage

I’ve known my husband for over four years now and I can assuredly say that he’s not the exact same person I met four years ago. I mean, why would he be, right? After four years of living life, every person has surely changed.

The part that gets me is that, in some areas, I wish he was that person I met four years ago. I hope I’m not saying this in a negative way, but there are some parts of him that I miss. We always have nostalgia for who someone was, especially when certain aspects change over time.

The difficult part of marriage, and quite frankly the beauty of it, is learning to grow alongside and accept those changes in your partner. It’s not easy at all and it takes time and effort. 

If you can acknowledge, accept, and appreciate your spouse’s changes as an individual, you can grow leaps and bounds and ultimately flourish as a couple.

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Combining multicultural families can be strange and awkward

Prior to our wedding, our families had few chances to meet and hang out with each other. While we were dating, I would bring my husband along to my family functions and he would bring me along to his, so there weren’t any real opportunities for our families to mingle.

Although we both grew up in lower-income families with four children, the similarities end there. I was born and raised on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and my husband’s entire family is from Tacoma, Washington.

As a Navajo family, we have traditions and values that may seem foreign to mainstream Americans. When I invited my mother-in-law to my daughter’s first laugh ceremony, there was a huge cultural gap. 

Over time, these gaps do lessen, but it doesn’t happen all at once. There is a personal responsibility to teach and educate others and that can sometimes take an emotional toll. 

Thankfully, after the first year of marriage, our families do know each other a little better and it has become less strange and awkward. I will say that it wasn’t easy this first year though.

Emotions are magnified

Both positive and negative emotions are greatly magnified during the first year of marriage, whether we like it or not. We can get tripped up and become more emotional in the belief that there is more at stake in marriage.

There were a couple of times this year where I felt that being in an argument was the absolute worst thing possible and maybe this marriage thing was a mistake and, oh, there’s the thought of divorce! It was wild.

All of those thoughts went through my head in a matter of seconds and it was crazy! I mean, we’ve had much worse arguments while we were dating and I never felt so emotional about it than I did this past year.

Once you recognize your thoughts and behaviors and see them for what they are (emotions related to the first year of marriage), it does lessen a lot.

first year of marriage

The positive side of emotion magnification during the first year of marriage is that I’ve had many moments where my love surges and grows for my husband. When I think that I can’t love him any more than I already do, something happens and my love grows again. It’s exponential.

This is also true for the bond we share. Prior to marriage, we were secure and confident in our relationship. I enjoyed every part of the bond we had. Since getting married, this bond has grown and flourished and it’s truly bliss.

So, while there can be some turbulent emotions in the first year of marriage, there are also many great moments to soak in and enjoy.

Final thoughts on the first year of marriage

The first year of marriage can be really tough. Even if you and your spouse have dated for a really long time, marriage is still a pretty big transition for most.

We got through the first year with a lot of compromises, patience, and mutual respect. In the tough times, I had some relief knowing that this first year is often hard for many, not just me.

So, if you are having a difficult time, try to take a step back and take a look at your actions, reactions, and behaviors. Also, know that this will pass eventually.

Last, remember to appreciate all the special moments of love, kindness, shared growth, and an ever-increasing bond.

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