Newlyweds go right from the highs of the wedding and honeymoon into a crash course on reality in the married world. Psychotherapist Christina Steinorth believes it is all too easy for newly married couples to make mistakes as they begin to navigate the rough waters of family, shared finances, and day-to-day life. This guide contains practical advice for newlyweds that just might help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls.
1. Never Go to Bed Angry
Even in the happiest of marriages, arguments are inevitable. Learn to address any issues that arise head-on instead of holding them in. For centuries, people have been giving advice for newlyweds that they should settle any conflicts before going to bed so that each party can wake up with a renewed sense of marital bliss.
2. Deal with Your Own Family
Whether your family meddles or keeps to themselves, there’s always the chance that they’ll ruffle your spouse’s feathers. When this happens, take it upon yourself to talk to your family and, if necessary, ask them to apologize to your partner. This takes a huge burden off of your spouse while keeping the family unit whole.
3. Keep It Simple
After the vows, many young couples—especially first-timers—are tempted to jump into a new life with both feet. This is often a mistake. Remember that you’ve just gotten married. More disruption, such as moving, changing jobs, or joining your spouse’s church, will only add stress. Try waiting until six months after the ceremony before making any other large changes to your lives.
4. Watch Your Budget
A researcher from Utah State University found that couples who argue about finances at least once each week have a 30 percent higher chance of eventually divorcing than those who argue about money less frequently. As a new couple, you’ll be amazed at how fast your money goes. Try to track every penny, hire a financial planner if it helps, and remember that asking in-laws for loans is a quick way to start fights between you.
5. Don’t Quit Your Day Jobs
Along with careful budgeting for expenses, it helps if you both work. Not only are two incomes better than one but each of you will feel more invested in your combined financial success if you’re both kicking into the pot.
6. Make Big Plans
You’ve only got one life, and you’ve promised to spend it together. Why not plan big? One thing that holds newlyweds together is shared dreams. If one of you wants to be a world-renowned artist and the other wants to be a brain surgeon, talk it over. Maybe together you can make it, but you’ll have to start planning now.
7. Make Realistic Plans
While you’re both dreaming big together, remember that the rent is still due on the first of the month. Make use of each other’s support, ideas, and hard work to put one foot in front of the other. Setting your sights on a $1 per hour raise isn’t wildly romantic, but it will help keep the wolf away and do more for the stability of your relationship than all the unrealized dreams you’ve ever had.
8. Delay Starting a Family Until It’s Right
Assuming there isn’t already a little bundle of joy on the way, delaying the decision to start a family gives you both plenty of room to adjust to being together as a couple. Waiting a few years will also help you get a little progress down toward your goals before taking up the obligations of parenthood.
9. Be Mindful of Each Other in the Small Things
Little things can mean the world between newlyweds. Do the dishes, grab the laundry basket out of the other person’s hands and do it yourself, and dust once in a while. Little gestures take the pressure off and remind your spouse of one of the best things about marriage.
10. Be Mindful of Each Other in the Large Things
You’re partners in everything. Your debts, your hangups, and your crazy relatives are now held in common. Giving up a job so that your wife can live near the beach, or putting off having a baby so that your husband can put in extra hours at work, are huge sacrifices that signal to your partner that you really feel you’re in this together.
11. Spend Time Together
Make time for each other. Until the kids show up—which will happen soon enough—nobody in the world is as important as this person you’ve pledged to stand by forever. You got engaged in the first place because you like each other, so call out sick from work and switch off the phones for a day.
12. Spend Time Apart
Human beings need their boundaries respected. It might not be exactly true that familiarity breeds contempt, but it’s certainly possible to feel crowded even at this early stage of your relationship. Try to schedule separate breaks for things such as hair appointments and visits at friends’ houses.
13. Don’t Take Your Partner for Granted
Just because you’re now married, don’t take your spouse for granted. Although the divorce rate has been declining over the past twenty years, the percent of married couples who divorce is staggering. Give your marriage the best chance of success by never becoming too complacent or taking your spouse for granted. Treat each other every day with the realization that it’s a privilege to be married to each other.
19. Learn How to Give a Decent Massage
This is the easiest advice for newlyweds that’s ever been given. Learn at least two massage techniques and practice regularly on each other. Nothing beats intimate, but not necessarily sexual, touching for tightening a bond between lovers. It’s also something to look forward to after a day at work.
20. Maintain Reasonable Boundaries
Everybody has boundaries, and not all boundaries are meant to be crossed. If you have an area of your life where your spouse just isn’t welcome, you shouldn’t feel guilty for excluding the other person. If your spouse wants to avoid an issue, won’t indulge a kink, or insists on being left alone in the bathroom, respect those boundaries. Trespassing on them will be taken as just that: trespassing.
21. Treat Each Other with Respect, Especially in Public
You might think it’s harmless banter to be talking about your spouse’s strange grooming habits or his lack of tidiness, but when you do it in front of your spouse, hurt feelings are inevitable. If you have something to say, say it in private and keep your friends and family guessing.
22. Learn How to Argue Productively
Arguments are a part of sharing a life together. Arguments are also not the same as screaming matches. Don’t bring up the past, focus on solutions rather than shortcomings, and take a break when you get worked up. It’s only by rational discussion that you’ll get somewhere together.
23. Learn How to Win an Argument Gracefully
There’s something terrible about losing to a bad winner. Being in a long-term relationship with that bad winner feels even worse. If there’s been an argument and you’ve gotten your way—won, in other words—remember that the other person has probably given in out of love, rather than genuine conviction. Respect that and maybe make a concession yourself to take the sting out of it.
24. Learn How to Lose an Argument Gracefully
When an argument has reached an impasse, and it doesn’t seem there’s any way out, take a dive. While you’ll miss out on whatever was important enough to you to trigger an argument in the first place, giving in right away and with no hard feelings keeps anyone from feeling too angry or bitter. If the other person does this, you’ll probably win the next one.
25. Prioritize Each Other Above All Else
Set against the rest of the world, your spouse is the most important person you know. Remember that you’re a team, and stand by each other even when you’re wrong—especially when you’re wrong. From the wedding night on, you’re a pair. Don’t let friends, enemies, or family get between you. Too many married couples are led to distraction by external forces. Don’t let that be you.
26. Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon, but Don’t Trip Over Your Feet
You’re going to be together for a long time. Never forget the reasons for your decision to start this trip together. Remember also the dreams you shared in the beginning that can be hard to reach as life presses down on you both. As you float from one anniversary to the next, the best advice for newlyweds is this: Love each other one day at a time for life.