What to Expect: The First Two Years of Marriage
February 4, 2015 § 2 Comments
We’ve been talking to a few couples that are all within their first two years of marriage. There’s a myth that the first two years are the “honeymoon period” and that after that, things go speedily downhill. It’s quite clear to me, the people who identify with that myth are couples who ignore the things that come up in those first two years, pretend everything is hunky dory, and after two years get tired of holding a mirage and get irritable.
On the contrary, we’re finding that the couples we are working with are not finding this time so rose-coloured, and are in fact worried how they’ll get through some of it. And we’re glad to see it because that’s the only way they’ll resolve these things. The couples who float through with heads in the sand are unknowingly digging in deeper wedges of dissatisfaction. If they lifted their heads early enough, they would see the tips of those wedges before they disappeared in the sand – which makes them harder to find let alone do something about.
I’m not sure why couples are so surprised that when they get married, everything isn’t perfect. When they both grew up in different homes, with different ways of doing things, different ways of looking at the world and different past hurts and joys, how could they expect immediate and full cohesion just by having a big wedding party? That act of commitment just opens the way for establishing some more permanent house rules, for one thing. Maybe he just took on the vacuuming because it needed doing and it was just easier to do it than ask for help every time. But now we’re talking 50 years of being together, he’s not really happy being stuck with it! Maybe now the finances are joined, and they notice more acutely how one of them likes to buy lots of gadgets and the other wants to save religiously!
In a healthy marriage, the first two years should be the hardest. It is supposed to get better and better. It’s not easy to tell your favourite person that a habit really bugs you and it’s not easy hearing it (always use the sandwich technique – compliment, improvement area, compliment!). It’s hard to come to an agreement on how you’ll handle relationships with the in-laws. It’s even difficult to set aside time to talk about things that are hard! But if that ground is covered over the first couple of years, those things are sorted and out of the way. Then you have stronger support from each other when you get to more important challenges, such as bringing up babies or going through life’s setbacks together. You start working as a team and realise how much more satisfying life can be when one special person knows you intimately (and still loves you). And you never get that intimacy without resolving your issues.
So in the first two years, develop your issue resolution and problem solving skills. If you have the skills to overcome no matter what falls your way as a couple, you’re equipped for a lasting and truly satisfying union.