Of all the anniversaries you will celebrate with your spouse, year 5 might not seem all that monumental, but your fifth anniversary is actually a major milestone, according to relationship experts. It means you’ve gotten through the honeymoon phase of being newlyweds and have still found a way to maintain a happy relationship. And if you’ve had some ups and downs along the way, it only means your relationship is normal since, it’s important to remember that no relationship is perfect. It’s OK to be happy most of the time, but not all of the time, and to fight every now and then. “This is an important time for partners to learn ways to navigate challenges and develop a good balance with their independence, relationship, and life goals,” explains Shelley Sommerfeldt, Psy.D., clinical psychologist who specializes in relationships.
You’ve probably done quite a lot of things together during your 5 years of marriage, and maybe even during your dating period, but you may also be feeling a lot of pressure from society to have certain boxes checked by the 5-year mark. “For instance, family, friends and well-meaning people may start pestering a couple about having children and being at a certain position in business, which can be hard to hear and deal with even if you're not confident in your own timeline,” says Laura F. Dabney, M.D., relationship psychiatrist in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “The key to confidence is to set your timeline with your partner and re-examine and readjust it at regular intervals, and anniversaries provide that opportunity to do just that.”
Milestones vary drastically between couples and are quite person- or coupled-depended, notes Dr. Sommerfeldt. “Every relationship is unique and will follow its own timeline and development.”
If you and your partner are approaching the 5-year mark, here are the important things experts say you should have checked off your list.
Grow and change together.
Five years together is a reasonable amount of time and, chances are, there are quite a few big events that have occurred since you said “I do.” As such, it's essential that, throughout those 5 years, you can both feel comfortable saying that you have grown as a couple, notes Dr. Sommerfeldt. “Relationship development is a vital part of solidifying your love, bond, and partnership,” she says. “Growth in a marriage pushes both parties toward bettering themselves and their relationship, which means that the relationship is continuing to evolve and not get stagnant or stuck.”
Try something new together.
Most couples try new things often, whether it's a unique date night idea or a significant life milestone, notes Dr. Sommerfeldt, and this is a really good quality to possess in a relationship. “Trying new things together continues to push your partnership into a place of development and solidarity,” she says.” After 5 years of marriage, couples should ensure that they are regularly trying new things together, whether it’s a weekly cooking class or a hike in a new park you’ve never been to, so they can evolve in their marriage.”
Learn to fight fair.
After the initial honeymoon phase of your relationship comes to a close, it’s only natural that your partner might get on your nerves more, or, perhaps, you feel more confident and close to them to truly be upfront about the things that bother you. So it’s only natural if you notice that you’re fighting more. While fighting isn’t necessarily a bad thing, fighting unfairly is. “Fighting fair,” means doing so in a way that limits damage to the relationship in any way, notes Michele Moore. “Habits such as becoming defensive, stonewalling our partners, or even lashing out can set a relationship back significantly and then it takes much more effort to get back to baseline,” she says.
Establish a date night routine.
Just because you’ve been married for 5 years doesn’t excuse you from actively “dating” each other. In fact, doing so could score you an even stronger relationship. “After 5 years of marriage, couples have many different components to their relationship that require time, energy, and effort and create a distraction from devoting time to the relationship,” says Dr. Sommerfeldt. Establishing a good date night routine that works well for you both helps you maintain your love connection through the ups and downs life will undoubtedly throw your way.
Create a financial plan.
“Finances can be a real challenge in a marriage and are often seen as creating more difficulties in the first few years as couples are blending their lives,” says Dr. Sommerfeldt. By year 5, she recommends making a consistent effort to carve out time to discuss your financial plan and ensure you both are on the same page. Doing so, she adds, can help reduce arguments and difficulties in the future.