Now that the wedding planning has finally come to an end and your beautiful nuptials have come and gone, you might be thinking that all of the stress is behind you as you embark on your first year of marriage. However, whether you’ve been with your significant other for two years or 10, many couples experience newlywed stress that can be quite upsetting to say the least. It’s perfectly normal, according to relationships experts and often a mere result of adjustment—two individuals going through the transition from singlehood to coupledom. But, not just coupledom, as Ili Rivera-Walter, licensed marriage and family therapist and professor, points out, but rather committed coupledom, which comes with its own set of responsibilities and expectations.
“Most couples report feeling newlywed stress related to developing a partnership around finances, leisure time, shared time together, the loss of independence, and navigating in-law relationships, among additional stressors, during their first year of marriage,” she says. “Partners should understand that any transition causes stress and requires a period of adjustment.”
The good news is that there are plenty of tactics for handling newlywed stress. Give these expert-approved strategies a try.
Have open and honest lines of communication.
This is a crucial step in allowing yourselves to become vulnerable with each other. “Stress can become a shared emotional state that allows you to empathize with each other and, ultimately, create and share a sense of emotional intimacy with each other,” explains Mark Borg, PhD, relationship expert and co-author of Relationship Sanity. “Often, during times of high stress for a couple, especially when it is about feeling insecure about how the other person feels about you, there simply is no other way to rebuild security than to reveal that stress to your partner.”
Get on the same page in regards to finances.
Lisa Marie Bobby, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., dating coach, founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching, believes that couples shouldn’t even marry before having a very explicit conversation (or five) about their financial partnership, including agreements on shared finances (or separate), how they'll work together towards financial goals and developing a household budget. “Too many new marriages are slapped down right out of the gate due to conflict about finances,” she says. “Thoughtful discussions and agreements ahead of time can prevent newlywed stress, as well as arguments and resentments for years to come.”
Accept and understand your partner's personality.
Everyone’s personality differs from their partner—that’s part of the beauty of relationships. However, if you don’t learn to accept your partner for his or her quirks and uniqueness, they will likely only bother you years down the line. “As time goes on in a marriage, a lack of understanding erodes trust and intimacy by contributing to a culture of criticism and judgment in the relationship,” warns Rivera-Walter. “One of the main and most important tasks for newlyweds is to understand their partner's personality preferences, accept them, and learn how to meet partners’ personality needs (to a reasonable degree).”
Make your marriage your own.
This isn’t your parents’ marriage. Whether their relationship was picture-perfect or ended in a bitter divorce, try not to compare their marriage to the one you have with your significant other. “You and your spouse are two unique individuals who will have to find out what works best for the two of you,” says Tiya Cunningham-Sumter, certified relationship coach, blogger and author of A Conversation Piece. “Avoid the pressure to measure up to someone else’s vision of marriage by listening and giving value to the other partner’s ideas, feelings, thoughts and goals.”
Don’t stress over mistakes.
Merging lives can take some time to get right. “You will bump heads, disagree, get frustrated and it’s all okay—the key is to set ground rules for your marriage,” says Cunningham-Sumter. She suggests deciding in advance what happens when you can’t agree. “Will you decide to table the discussion, take a break for 15 minutes to regroup or have a ‘safe word’ that reminds you to stop and be kind to one another?” Whatever it is, Cunningham-Sumter recommends agreeing in advance so when you arrive in that space you already have a plan.
Especially now that the two of you are married, it’s important to keep others (your friends, family, co-workers, etc.) out of conversations that should only involve the two of you. Listening to too many opinions can cause major newlywed stress. “Everyone else is going to think they know what’s best for your marriage, but only you and your spouse know what’s best for the two of you,” says Cunningham-Sumter. “While others may mean well, just tell them you’ve got this.”