Difficulties During the First Year of Marriage


No matter how perfect the wedding and romantic the honeymoon, sooner or later the day-to-day reality catches up with every married couple. This is the reason that while the first year of marriage is a time for intimacy and discovery, it can also be marred with conflicts. Here are some of the most common difficulties that newlywed couples face in the first year of marriage.

Money issues

Apart from infidelity, money is perhaps the most common reason for marriages coming apart. And it is also likely to be the greatest source of disillusionment to a couple during the first year of marriage. Thus if you believe in the virtues of saving, you may be in for a rude surprise when after the honeymoon, you find out that your partner has a measly amount in his/her bank account. On the other hand if you prefer to live and spend for the moment and your partner is the thrifty sort, your marriage could be in for some rocky times. While this is a discussion ideally held before marriage, even as newlyweds, you need to sit down and spend time going over financial goals – both short and long term – as well as how you are going to meet them. Setting up a budget and expecting each partner to abide by it, is a good way to start. Decide at the outset what you both want to spend in the way of savings, vacations, entertainment, and so on.  You will not be able to cover everything in the beginning - indeed Money matters are an area that changes throughout a marriage and couples will have ongoing decisions to make as the years go by. However by having a discussion, identifying the target and willing to work towards them may help you negotiate this exceedingly complex area in the long run as a married couple.

TIP: Download the guide to making up with your partner.

Household roles

Most couples begin a marriage with roughly pre-existing ideas about who is going to take care of what in the marital household – for instance cleaning and cooking is usually the lot of wives while vehicle maintenance and repair jobs are taken up by the husbands. To a large extent cultural conditioning and the roles fulfilled by one’s own parents are responsible for such pre-conceived notions. Problems arise when one partner’s expectations of marital roles clash with another’s – thus if the wife is a busy professional she would expect her husband to pitch in with the cooking and dishes but he may think these as a woman’s job. Even when you and your partner have been brought up according to same cultural values, you may like doing chores together while your spouse may prefer a neat division of roles in the household. So bear in mind that since your partner is from a different family and maybe a different culture too, it is best you thrash out household tasks and define the specific roles early in the marriage. At the same time though, keep some room for flexibility.
If need be, co-ordinate chores with good communication for example if you need to stop at the store for some reason, pick up the groceries even though it is actually your spouse’s ‘job’. Also avoid having anything written down in stone as where as one spouse never takes out the trash, because it is not their defined role. Some roles also change over the years, either by choice or by necessity, such as an injury.

Dependence on parents

Till the time one is married, family means one’s parents and by extension, they are the first ring of support in times of trouble or assurance. However after a person gets married, his/her partner becomes the immediate family but a lifelong habit of seeking a parent’s support or counsel can still take time to change. Thus continuing dependence on one’s parents can be one of the most serious challenges to a new marriage. Now that you are a couple, look for ways you can resolve issues and settle disagreements with each other, instead of running to either set of parents and either asking for assurance or worse intervention. While in case of minor quarrels, trusted family member may act as mediators, in the long run such an approach is neither advisable nor effective. This is your marriage and all issues will only be resolved when you two take responsibility.

Sometimes even if the spouses are themselves emotionally independent, parents have a hard time letting go of their ‘babies’. Continuous interference from in-laws is another common reason for conflict during the first year of marriage. So decide with your partner how much you want your parents or his/her family members to provide input in your relationship. Set boundaries and leave it to each other to be responsible for respectfully letting their parents know what those boundaries are.

Pet peeves

No matter how completely compatible two people are in a relationship, there are bound to some personal habits of one which drives the other crazy. And couples discover these only when they start living with each other as man and wife. Even though you may have spent nights or weekends at your partner’s pad before the marriage, such annoying personal habits would have been difficult to notice, either because your lover was careful to hide those or because you were too busy being in love to notice. Popularly termed pet peeves, these seem to pose no major danger to the relationship unlike infidelity, alcoholism or financial irresponsibility. And yet when the irritations caused by pet peeves build up over time, they can burst forth with frightening force and seriously damage a relationship. So instead of letting your relationship suffer from such ‘non-issues’, it is far better to set aside some time to discuss your mutual pet peeves with a partner.

Unrealistic expectations

Time was when marriage was accepted as an inevitable part of an adult life – getting married and having children was something all healthy adult members of society were expected to do, like their own parents and those before them had done. However now that there are so many choices in relationships and lifestyles, the expectations from a marriage are even higher – if couples are not going for a live-in relationship or civil partnership, surely there is something special about marriage , about the wedding band which is a visual symbol of the spouse’s love and commitment for each other. Unfortunately no such inherent magic resides in the institution of marriage – like any other long term, exclusive relationship a marriage needs lots of love, patience, respect, trust and effort to make it work. Admittedly marriage has some extra safeguards in the eyes of law, but it is no guarantee against issues like infidelity and incompatibility. Unrealistic expectations either from the institution of marriage or from each other as spouses are often cause of extreme disillusionment as spouses realize that each is after all an individual with his/her own strengths and failings and cannot be the perfect lover cum cook cum breadwinner cum host all rolled in one. The best way to avoid giving grief to yourself over unrealistic expectations is to accept each other as composite balance of pluses and minuses and remember all the reason why you chose your spouse in the first place.

A less talked about challenge of a new marriage is aggression – emotional or physical. Sometimes the stresses of coping with the new responsibilities of married life are so intense that one or other partner feels the urge to get physically aggressive – by say smacking or shoving his or her spouse – in the heat of an argument. To avoid this, be aware of how you’re behaving in the heat of the moment during an argument and realize that those behaviors usually have unhappy consequences. Take a break from an argument like going for a walk if you’re getting overheated. Learn to manage your emotions as well as stress if you believe external factors like job demands are creating havoc in your personal life. Though this kind of physical aggression is not the same as domestic violence or battering of a spouse, if left unchecked it can very well lead to the unraveling of your marriage within a year.