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7 Reasons Why the First Year of Marriage Can be Tough (& Expert Advice on Dealing with It)

What happens after you say 'I do'? The first year of marriage has its ups and down but there are plenty of ways you can make sure your relationship survives and thrives.

First Year of Marriage

Fairytales always end with the happy couple falling in love, getting married and living "happily ever after". Of course, in reality, the wedding day is only the beginning of your new life together as a married couple and, while there will be so many happy moments, there are going to be challenges too.

No wonder it's confusing for couples when they're told the first year of marriage is the 'honeymoon period' where they should be basking in newlywedded bliss, but inwardly they're adjusting to the struggles that come with their new role as husband or wife. The truth is that your first year of marriage is hugely exciting and there's so much to enjoy, but it's also a huge life change that will take some time to settle into.

Even couples who've lived together for years before their wedding and don't have much of a change to their routine after the 'I do's can find married life is more complicated than they expected. You've now got bigger financial responsibilities, can find yourself with competing loyalties and have to juggle the expectations of married life with the reality.

Before you get freaked out - don't panic! Arming yourself with the knowledge of some of the challenges to expect in your first year of marriage and how to navigate them will help you avoid the pitfalls and spend more time enjoying life with the person you love. Here are seven reasons why the first year of marriage is tough and how to deal with them.


1. Post Wedding Blues Are Real

First Year of Marriage

You've spent up to a year and a half (possibly longer if you wedding was postponed!) planning for that one day. It was more incredible than you could have imagined... but now it's over. You're back to reality with a bump with nothing in your calendar and plain, old, regular life to get on with.

"It is very normal to feel a bit deflated after your wedding – the 'wedding blues' as it's dubbed," says counsellor and life coach Anna Williamson, who is the dating expert on Celebs Go Dating.

"Some newlyweds really feel the low after what has been a massive high and it's understandable when you think about it. It’s the biggest day of your life with so much planning, anticipation, excitement, the bringing together of all the people you care the most about, declaring your love for your other half, the party, the happy tears, the adrenalin. It's easy to see why when all that has been and gone, a new couple can feel a little empty.

"The lead up and the actual wedding fires off all the feel good hormones in our brain, it's like a natural love drug and there is always a bit of a 'come down' from a high, as we know."

Don't feel like there's something wrong with you if you feel a little lost after the wedding. It's a normal reaction but isn't something many people talk about. However, there are ways to help alleviate feeling down.

How to Overcome It

"Focus on what's going to happen after the wedding, put plans in place as a new couple, and look ahead past just the one big day to kick any blues into touch. After all, this is when the excitement as a new couple really begins!" says Anna.

A honeymoon or minimoon is great for this. Perhaps you can delay it for three to six months after your wedding (which is great for saving up anyway) and give yourself this big holiday to plan and look forward too.

On a much smaller and cheaper scale, perhaps you can start a DIY project at home as a couple, or even just start arranging all your wedding photos into albums and sorting cards and mementos from the day into keepsake boxes. It will bring closure to the end of the planning process and you'll have something tangible to treasure.

2. You Can Have an Identity Crisis

First Year of Marriage

Let's get real: marriage is not the same as living together. Even if you've been sharing a flat for five years, rings do add more pressure and a real feeling that more is invested and the stakes are higher.

For some people, the sense of 'this is it' can bond them deeper, but for other couples, it can take a while to adjust to that role of being someone's husband or wife for life. Your decisions are not "me" anymore, it's about "we".

Additionally, if you've taken your partner's surname or meshed your names, it can feel very weird losing a surname that has been part of your identity for decades. This is especially the case for women because (sadly) there are lots of cases where you might start being referred to in relation to your partner - e.g. Mrs Patrick Ward - or people can treat you different because they see a wedding ring on your finger or a Mrs in front of your name.

In fact, many professionals don't change their name after getting married because their career has been built in their original surname, for example, academics, authors and doctors. But that doesn't stop family putting expectations on you to change your name, and you having mixed feelings about how it affects your identity.

How to Overcome It

There are two sides to this. If you're slightly scared about your new role of being someone's spouse, we want to comfort you and say that's quite normal - it doesn't mean you've made a mistake or anything is wrong. It's actually a good sign because it means you're taking seriously everything that comes with those vows!

Take some time to relax into the idea of being a husband or wife. We'd be millionaires if we had a pound for every time we hear couples say their single friends have invited them out less once they got married and it got them down - seriously, it's a marriage, not house arrest! Be upfront with your friends and tell them nothing has changed (unless you want it to change) and sit down with your partner and discuss your worries too. It's all about finding balance.

If your identity crisis has come from changing your name, that's a matter of taking some time to get used to it. It can feel very official when you change documents like your passport, so ease yourself in by getting a notebook with your new name (we recommend a cute one from Papier) and spending a day doing things you love that reaffirm who you are. What about having a day out with your family but booking a restaurant table or theatre booking in your new name? It's the perfect meeting of your old and new identity and will help you feel better about it.

At work, chat to your colleagues about what you're going to be called. If you're changing your name, let IT know so they can update your work email and send a round-robin email to your clients with a quick update. 

READ MORE: 7 Things Alex & Olivia Bowen Learnt in Their First Year of Marriage

3. Family Are Pressuring You to Have Children

First Year of Marriage

One month married and your loved ones are already asking when there might be the patter of little feet? It's a LOT for newlyweds to deal with.

"People can be very nosy! It seems acceptable for all and sundry to pry into your most intimate sex life and life plans the moment you put a ring on it," says Anna. "This often comes from a place of love and excitement but it can feel very intrusive - and it is, it's a highly personal subject and every couple has their own ideas and plans."

Quite often this can be age-related. If you're in your twenties, you might escape the baby questions, but couples in their thirties can find themselves getting interrogated very early on. It can be exhausting, draining, and frankly really upsetting if you have been trying and it's not working for you. It's an extra pressure that you could do without and it can cause arguments when one set of in-laws seem to never let it go.

Heaven forbid, you don't want children and your families are trying to change your mind!

How to Overcome It

"As we all know, it can be a complicated process deciding if and when to try for a baby," says Anna.

"As a united front, agree a 'press line' if you will - what you'll both respond with if you're asked on the subject. Something kind, firm and closed is a good idea. Something like 'Oh gosh, out of respect for each other that's something we keep very much between just us' will suffice."

4. Social Media Is Hiding the Truth

First Year of Marriage

So many couples share their lives on social media that you'd be tricked into thinking that every minute is like the happy Insta Stories and cute TikToks they're posting. It's not. Social media is about putting up a front of 'perfection' (even though it really shouldn't be) and you shouldn't compare your first year of marriage to a highlight reel of someone else's.

For example, it is SO normal to argue, says Anna.

"It is absolutely not a bad sign if you bicker. In my new book on dating and relationships (coming in Feb 2022), I have a whole chapter on the 'honeymoon phase' and 'how to argue'.

"It's a known fact in couples coaching circles that the most healthy relationships are the ones who argue and bicker (within reason). A couple who never argues is actually not a good sign as it shows poor communication and a lack of openness. We all get annoyed, we all argue, it's about arguing effectively so both feel heard, and reaching a solution quickly."

How to Overcome It

If you find yourself scrolling when you should be spending quality time together, step back from your phones. Remember that what you see is a snippet of someone else's life that they've chosen for you to see and what you have in front of you is a real marriage with the person you love, warts and all. 

Take that time when you would be comparing yourself to social media to connect with your partner. Organise a phone-free date night, play a board game, take an online love language quiz, or just sit and talk about your day.

And if you do argue, there's plenty of ways to healthier and more productive ways to approach that. If you have a regular argument, be curious about why you're arguing and when - is it always when you get home because your partner never asks about your day? Find out what a trigger is for repetitive arguments and find a compromise.

Also consider asking your partner to do something rather than complaining that they don't. For example, instead of saying, "You never pick up your clothes", say, "I'd love to sleep in a tidy room tonight. Would you mind picking up your clothes?"

And when it comes to bigger arguments, the key is to listen to your partner without interrupting so they feel heard. Stay calm and avoid any name calling or insults. If it gets to that, call a time out and come back to the discussion at a later time. 

READ MORE: 20 Surprising Things Real Couples Learnt About Their Relationships in Lockdown

5. Joint Finances Become Very Real

First Year of Marriage

You might already have a joint account for bills, but a lot of couples only face joint finances after marriage.

You'll need to decide a household budget, be open about your individual debt, figure out how much you can put towards a home deposit or mortgage, and how much there is for you two to spend enjoying yourself each month.

If one person always contributes more than the other or one person is less sensible with their spending, it can cause tension.

How to Overcome It

Ideally you'll have this conversation long before the wedding, but if not, have it ASAP.

Discuss your values around saving and spending. If they don't align, you're going to need to find a compromise where you're both happy with what you can spend each month and what goes into a saving account and won't be touched.

Remember, you don't have to combine all your money! It makes sense for things like bills and mortgages and putting some aside for a healthy financial future as a couple, but leave the rest of your earnings in your own account to do what you want with. 

Don't forget honesty is core to avoiding fights about money. 

6. You're Merging Two Families

First Year of Marriage

It can be hard squeezing in enough time to see your family and friends, and now your time will be even more split.

There is no longer a "your" family and "their" family in the same way, and in the first year of marriage you'll need to navigate how you share your time between the two and establish boundaries.

It can be much harder to share your time in an equal way if one family has more needs that the other, such as you have a parent who's ill. If you have to take on a caring role, you need to make sure one person is not taking on the burden of two people and heading to burnout.

How to Overcome It

Set boundaries for both your families about what is and what isn't ok. For example, are you happy for in-laws to drop over unexpectedly or would you like them to ask in advance?

If one set of family lives far away, how often will you visit them or have them over to stay? Do you want to host them at your house for a weekend or would you rather they get a nearby hotel?

Christmas is a big one for this. Whose family will you go to see on Christmas Day? Will you have your own Christmas as a two, or host both families? Will you alternate years? You need to be on the same page about this and make sure that your new, little family unit isn't neglected. 

7. Relationships Are Tough

First Year of Marriage

Regardless of how far into your relationship you are, relationships are tough! In your first year, you need to balance your independence and togetherness and settle down into a routine. 

It will happen so there's no need to panic over finding the first year hasn't gone as smoothly as you expected. 

How to Overcome It

Don't think the annoying things your partner does, like never washing up, won't annoy you after the wedding. They will and you'll have little bickering arguments, but as long as you keep communication open you'll work through anything.

What's super important is to take time to keep dating each other regardless of how long into the relationship you are. You're both growing and, as you do, you'll find new things to love about each other and fall even deeper. 

All we can end with is to say best of luck for your first year of marriage and beyond! When you're prepared for what might happen, you can face any challenges head on and enjoy the good times even more.

Approaching the end of your first year of marriage? Check out our favourite first wedding anniversary gifts.