You might imagine the first year of marriage is bliss. You’ve finally found “the one” after years of single drama. You had a beautiful wedding. And living together is easy, breezy and magical. Did I mention he cooks and cleans like a pro?
Actually, a few friends let me in on a dirty little secret: The first year of marriage is the hardest year of your life as a couple and chances are one or both of you have thought about divorce at least once a week. If only the wedding didn’t cost so much and your New York Times wedding profile wasn’t a permanent part of your Google search results!
And the worst part about it? You’re ashamed about how you feel and have no one you can really talk to about it.
An acquaintance of mine, Rebecca Raphael, wrote a telling article about her challenging first year of marriage in Tango called “Love Don’t Come Easy.”
“Here I was, married less than a year, staring at this man, my husband, wondering how I got to this place, and if it was really going to be forever,” she writes. “It felt as though I were the first newlywed to let such horrible thoughts cross my mind, and I wondered if I was destined to become part of the 40 percent divorce statistic.”
This surprised me considering the fact that Rebecca always looked happy and in love with her successful, handsome new husband. Who knew?
“Little annoyances had begun to feel like a life sentence, and the differences that had once challenged us to be flexible and open-minded now seemed unbearable,” Rebecca writes.
Rebecca shares how many women will never let on that they are riddled with doubt in the early days if not years of marriage.
Even Jillian Straus, who wrote Unhooked Generation: The Truth About Why We’re Still Single, was still unable to avoid trepidation when settling down herself.
“Maybe you think that when you actually tie the knot, the endless second-guessing about if you’re ready will stop,” says Straus.
Psst: It doesn’t.
Straus also says marriage can be extremely isolating.
“My single friends stopped confiding in me about their dates because I’m not one of ‘them’ anymore,” she notes. “At the same time, I’m going through new things, but it’s taboo to complain about the everyday stresses of married life. You don’t want to betray your spouse, and even if you could talk about it, people would think you have a bad marriage. It’s very lonely.”
“Couples have expectations that once you find your ‘soul mate,’ marriage is going to be great,” says Cara Gardenswartz, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles. “But no one person can meet all your needs, and no two people are perfect for each other. That realization — especially after the wedding — can be disenchanting, embarrassing, and alienating.”
But there is good news: The key to getting through this period of adjustment, experts say, is to use the same communication skills you honed before you married. And it doesn’t hurt to lower your expectations going in. We New York City women have armed ourselves with information about men and dating for years; why not prepare for marriage in the same way?
You might also want to check out her New York Times wedding section write up. They seem perfect together, even though, like the rest of us, they have their imperfections, too.
Today I am happy to report that Rebecca survived her first year of marriage, has been happily married for the past five years and has a beautiful newborn baby! She got through her bumps down marriage lane and is extremely happy. Mazel tov.