Many people will tell you that the first year of marriage is the hardest. One thing that makes relationships difficult is learning how to communicate and meshing lifestyles. By now as newlyweds, you've probably run into your fair share of conflict. “It might seem like you’re at the center of a war zone,” says Jennifer Jeanne Patterson, author of 52 Fights, a collection of essays about Patterson's first year of marriage. “Don’t take it so seriously. You’re different people. Hang in there.”
With that in mind, read on for five common issues most newlyweds argue over (but can apply whether you're newly married, longtime partners, or just beginning to merge lives), and expert tips to resolve the conflict.
Dividing Up the Household Chores
You find absolute joy in Mari Kondo-style organization, but your partner is all about "organized chaos," as they put it. This might have been cute in the beginning stages of the relationship, but now that you are married, it’s anything but. What, and who, gives? “Your partner has to live in this house,” says Patterson, and adds that the both of you should feel comfortable at home. Choose your battles carefully, says Patterson. If one of you sees something needs to get done – the laundry needs folding, the garbage is overflowing and must go out, or the groceries need to be put away – try taking the initiative to just do it, but also be sure to communicate your needs. If your relationship requires more structure, making a list of chores and dividing them is one way to be ultra clear about what needs to be done around the house. While Patterson isn't a fan of this method because it might end up turning into a scorecard and cause resentment between couples, if this tactic works for the both of you, stick with it.
As Patterson points out, everyone has emotional baggage that is tied to their beliefs about and relationship with money. According to the Census Bureau, money plays a big role in marriage rates. Money often comes between couples, especially early in a marriage, which makes sense. The Census Bureau reports tensions over finances are, "understandable given the expenses associated with weddings, the merging of finances following marriage, the negative impact of financial disagreements on marital outcomes, as well as other factors." As a solution, Patterson suggests couples calmly and rationally discuss their money habits as soon as possible. Some questions you can ask one another include: How much money would you each like to spend and save in a given week? What are your priorities? Like, does food come before entertainment for you? How do you feel about debt? What’s your philosophy on investments? How should we be handling our finances?
Should we, shouldn't we? Now, later, if not now, when? Is it even possible? These are just a few of the many questions you might have about children as newlyweds. Experts like Liz Colizza, licensed psychotherapist and Head of Research of relationship counseling app Lasting recommend being super clear about what you need and want here. Choosing to have or not have kids is a deeply personal decision, and the conversation that needs to happen if the two of you are misaligned will be tough. "If you cannot find a compromise, then you need to consider if this issue is a dealbreaker or if you can live without a compromise," says Colizza, who adds that "you need to be honest with yourself about whether you can move forward." During a conversation, aim to understand why your partner has a different parenting goal. Meredith Riddick is a licensed professional counselor with Harmony Therapy Group and notes couples, "Really dig deep. Often a partner will hear a meaningful childhood or young adult experience their partner had that shaped this desire for a different parenting goal."
Dealing With The In-Laws
Even the kindest families have trouble learning and being one hundred percent cool with each other’s ways. Sometimes, you and your spouse may get caught in the crossfire of a family argument, or you might have different traditions or ways of doing things. Maybe one partner feels like you spend too much time with your In-Laws, or not enough. "When you marry into a family, you enter into a history of relationships," says Colizza. The good news is "you don’t need to rely upon the existing dynamics––you can create new ones," Colizza adds.
Similarly, says Colizza, "For better or worse, we all have expectations about what In-Laws will be like and we need to recognize these expectations." You may not love them, though maybe someday, you will. In the meantime try to at least be respectful, forgiving and give yourselves an opportunity to start fresh. After all, you're family now.
Couple vs. Solo Time
"There is a common misconception that one should care for the marriage first, even at the expense of one's wellbeing," writes relationship specialist Melody Li. "But just like the airplane safety procedure instructs us, we have to put on our own oxygen mask before helping others." In other words, it's easier to be a loving, kind, and an attentive spouse when you've had some time for yourself. Whether it's a spin class with your favorite instructor, a mani pedi, or even an hour of uninterrupted reading time while your partner watches the kids, remember that being a couple is about two whole individuals coming together.