Here's How to Survive the First Year of Marriage, According to a Relationship Expert
"For many couples, there is an adjustment period during the first year of marriage. Particularly for couples who have not lived together previously," explains Rachel Sussman, a New York-based therapist and relationship expert, and I can't help but think how true this is.
Before I got married (after only six months of dating), I had read about this "adjustment period," had heard friends talk about it, but only after I experienced it, I realized that it's actually "a thing" a lot of couples go through.
"Much of this adjustment falls around expectations couples have for each other. Couples who are excellent communicators have the tools to work through most of their issues, but couples who lack these skills can fall into a period of conflict," adds Sussman. Right, communication is always key to solving any relationship problem, but it's often easier said than done.
This is why I called Sussman, who has her own practice in New York City, and asked her to shed some light on the reasons why some newlyweds go through these rough few months of marriage and what you can do to make sure you pass this life test with flying colors.
InStyle: When do couples most often experience this "adjustment period"?
Rachel Sussman: What a lot of my clients have said to me is, if they had been dating for a long time and they had been living together for a long time, there isn’t that much of a change after the first year of marriage.
But they often do say that the excitement of the wedding is over, so they are not as happy and as excited as they were while planning the wedding. There is a little bit of a letdown after the wedding and the honeymoon. That being said, if the couple hasn’t lived together before, there is going to be a huge adjustment period.
I think that marriage is a really big decision. I’ve seen people move in together after six or seven months and I don’t think that’s terrible, but if you marry someone after six or seven months you are taking a risk. It might work out. But I don’t understand why people rush into this stuff.
Another theory is that people are on their best behavior when they are dating or get engaged to someone. And when they get married, they feel like they don’t have to behave any longer. So they kind of let their guard down and they can get critical of their partner.
InStyle: How can couples make sure they don't go through that period as newlyweds?
RS: I want couples to flesh out their relationship and see if it’s really going to work. And the truth is that only time can tell. Couples that have been living together for a long time have a much easier adjustment period. What do they need to adjust to? They go back to business as usual [after the wedding]. You’re not really adjusting to anything.
InStyle: You mentioned that some couples experience a letdown after the wedding and the honeymoon are over.
RS: Even when you come back from a vacation, you have to accept the fact that there’s a good possibility you’re going to have a little bit of a letdown. So imagine how much bigger that letdown would be after you come back from a honeymoon and a wedding—especially these couples that are engaged for two years and have spent such a long amount of time planning their wedding. For them it’s going to be a huge letdown.
So they have to understand that a huge part of life is just adjusting to the ordinary. Things can’t always be exciting. Things can’t always be such a challenge. Just prepare yourself that you’re going to get back and there’s going to be a period of adjustment. And who better to have that adjustment with than your husband or your wife. And so I think it is important to talk before the honeymoon about what you’re going to do to keep your life interesting. What are you going to do to make sure you guys are still having a good time? What is it about the wedding planning that you loved? Do you love to have a project together? Can you create another project together? Does your house need to be redecorated?
Some people talk about moving to a new house or buying an apartment together. That can be a really fun project.
So there are a lot of things you can do—make sure you go out and see your friends and don’t allow to fall into a rut. You’ve got to make a commitment to yourself and a commitment to your partner that you’re not going to get too low after the wedding is all over.
InStyle: Why is communication so important during this period?
RS: Couples that are good communicators can really talk through their problems and try to work it out in a very interesting way. They are not afraid to say, I am noticing a change. What’s going on? I don’t feel like we’re as close as we used to. I feel like we’re arguing more. I can’t understand why.
The best advice I can give to any couple experiencing this adjustment period is try to think why. Why are you having such a hard time? What is going wrong?
I think that all relationships take work and if you are finding that you’re having a stressful time in your relationship or you are arguing more than usual, you have to figure out why and solve it.