The first year of marriage is often referred to as the hardest, but it really needn't be so. It's called the hardest because newlyweds have to adjust to living together as well as to the new things that they discover about one another. Even when couples have spent many years dating, the tying of the proverbial wedding knot can bring small differences and disagreements into stark relief. Suddenly, reality sets in this is forever. Usually this is a wondrous and joyous realization, but a fair share of apprehension and uncertainty sometimes accompanies it.
To counteract these feelings, it's a good idea for couples to consider what it is that they really want from their marriage. For many, this includes:
Feeling safely connected to each other despite the inevitable conflicts that will arise;
Trusting each other with their true selves and their feelings, which is the only basis for feeling truly loved;
Feeling respected, appreciated, and treasured for who they really are, and holding the same respect and appreciation for their partner;
Acknowledging and accepting their differences as part of the great mystery of marriage and using these differences as an opportunity to know themselves and each other more deeply;
Being open and resilient to change and compromise while still respecting themselves and each other so that positive and authentic changes build intimacy and strengthen their bond as a couple;
Being able to deal with conflict and their differences in ways that enhance their knowledge of one another and deepen their appreciation of the other;
Feeling safely loved, connected to someone, and cherished throughout the ups and downs, blessings and challenges that come into all of our lives.
Navigating Life's Journey Together
As these needs reflect, marriage is a commitment to love, to understand, to share oneself, and to respect each other unconditionally. At the heart of intimacy are the desire and the ability to be transparent, conscious, and open to each other as individuals and as a couple. In order to navigate this journey successfully, both partners in a marriage must be accountable to the relationship and take responsibility for nurturing their own, as well as their partner's, needs and self-respect.
When dealing with the conflicts that will inevitably arise during the first year of marriage, it is also imperative to realize that the substance of the conflict is usually much less important than how the couple chooses to deal with it. They must commit to working through their differences in ways that leave each other's self esteem and self-respect intact. They can argue about the substance of their differences but not in ways that are demeaning or that attack each other personally.
Instead, each partner should commit to being both vulnerable and sensitive so that as a couple they can find ways to navigate through these rougher waters with their sails and rudder intact. Their values, commitment, and intimacy must serve as reliable compasses by which to navigate to a safe and loving harbor. Knowing beforehand where the obstacles may lie, couples can use their first year of marriage to strengthen their bonds of intimacy and connection that will afford them a lifetime of safe passage together.
Lainie Hinnant, M.S., LCSW, is a Professional and Personal Coach who has been assisting people for more than twenty years with enhancing the quality of their lives. She can be reached at LHinnantcoach@comcast.net or at 804-741-1248.
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