You made it down the aisle, exchanged those gorgeous wedding bands and equally wonderful vows, danced the night away and are now officially husband and wife. It’s certainly a time to celebrate—even long after your wedding night has ended. But as you enter your first year of marriage, you might start to notice that some things feel, well, different. Whether you’ve been together several years or even decades, you might experience marriage as something totally foreign to dating. It is a whole new ball game, as experts say.
Here are some of the more surprising realities of the first year of marriage and their recommendations for navigating the road to marital bliss.
You might feel let down after the wedding
Your wedding—that huge, life-changing event you spent your entire life dreaming about and the last several months or years planning—is now totally behind you. Feels weird, right? It’s totally normal for you to even feel slightly sad that your big day has come and gone, expert say. “Getting back to the normal routine without the little zings of wedding gifts, showers and cake tastings can be a transition,” says psychotherapist, Jen Schermerhorn. Don’t worry—this too shall pass!
Marriage feels different than being in a relationship...in a good way
While nothing might seem different from an outside perspective—perhaps you still live together in the same apartment, have the same jobs, live in the same city—but most married couples agree that wearing that second band (or first, for guys!) on your finger and calling someone husband or wife feels very different. “You’re more settled, more peaceful, more solid during that first year of marriage—it’s nice,” says Claudia Six, Ph.D., clinical sexologist and relationship coach.
People might be jealous of you
This one is a hard pill to swallow, but it’s the unfortunate truth. Now that you have, not one but two, shiny rings on your finger, don’t be surprised if your friends, coworkers and even acquaintances get a little—or a lot—jealous. “People might start looking at you as though they wish they could be young again, or old enough, or in love like you are,” says Tammy Nelson, Ph.D., certified sex therapist and author. “Just smile and agree—try not to let it get to you.”
There’s no right or wrong way for marriage to go
Whether you’re the last or first of your friends to get married, you may have an idea of how your relationship will change or develop over the course of your first year as newlyweds. But experts agree that these expectations often don’t always pan out. “People sometimes have a rigid view of that first year, they use alot of ‘shoulds’ and ‘ought tos,’ such as ‘The first year of marriage should be the happiest time of our life…” explains Schermerhorn. “Maybe you will have a fantastic first year, or maybe it will be challenging and you'll be navigating job trouble or a family crisis, as well as learning about your new identity as a spouse and married couple.” She suggests letting go of the "shoulds" and working with wherever you find yourself as a couple.
Fusing your finances together might not be easy
During your dating years, you may have split most things or divided financial responsibility up in a certain fashion, but never really had an in-depth conversation about how best to approach money. Paulette Sherman, Psy.D., psychologist, director of My Dating & Relationship School and author of Dating from the Inside Out, explains that these discrepancies often come out to the open. For example, maybe one of you is a saver or spender or one person wants to control finances and the other wants nothing to do with it. “You may need to see who is in debt and whether you will both pay that back or they will do it alone,” she explains. “You may also need to decide whether to totally merge both income streams or whether to have a joint account for shared bills and separate accounts for individual needs.”
You’ll definitely still fight
You probably had disagreements and flat-out yelling matches during your dating period, as well as while you were engaged, and you can totally expect them to continue (hopefully at a reduced frequency!) now that you’re married. But, don’t worry—Schermerhorn says that disagreements with your Mr. or Mrs. are going to happen and they aren't a bad omen. “As a therapist, I'm more concerned about couples who don't have any healthy arguments than with those who do,” she says. “Two people can't be in a real relationship without some relational friction.”
You may need to learn how to negotiate your extended families
“You may have met your extended families while dating and making wedding plans but that's different from spending weekly activities, gatherings and holidays together,” says Dr. Sherman. She explains that these relationships will take on new depth now that you’re married—for better and worse. “You may need to negotiate differing values, beliefs and preferences and hopefully your spouse will back you up,” she says. “You may need to set boundaries or make an extra effort to bridge the gap of understanding in that first year, which can set the foundation and expectations for those relationships going forward.”
You may need more time apart
Now that you’re married, you most likely live together, attend family functions together, vacation together, dine together, spend weekends together and do pretty much everything else together, too. So if you start to feel like you have little-to-no alone time, that’s perfectly normal. “You may need to negotiate some space in the house or periods of ‘do not disturb’ time,” says Dr. Sherman. “Sometimes, psychologically, now that you've become a 'we,' you can feel as though you're losing yourself and you may need time to reinforce your individual identity as a result.”
Responsibilities and chores might take up what used to be “fun time”
When you’re not married, you mostly enjoy time together without the burden of responsibilities such as paying bills, making major life decisions, such as whether or not to have children, etc. This all changes once you get married, especially during the first year of marriage. “Sometimes people in love can co-exist in a bubble to the exclusion of these difficult realities and responsibilities,” says Dr. Sherman. “Life can become more about this than having fun, which is why I suggest that couples have a weekly date night so they still have that fun romantic time to look forward to together, even after they have kids.”
Your spouse is going to change, and that's okay
If you find yourself thinking, or even saying, that your partner isn’t the same person you married—don’t freak out. In fact, this is a good thing, according to Schermerhorn. “Are you the same person you were a year ago? A month ago? Hopefully we're all growing, maturing, changing,” she says. That's not to encourage people to remain in a relationship that is abusive or to excuse unhealthy behavior, but she recommends letting go of the expectation that everything will remain static forever. “Take a joyful breath and ride the wave of real life.”