Whether your wedding was the day you’ve dreamed of (and made Pinterest boards for) since you were a little girl or a simple ceremony you didn’t know if you’d actually ever do (until, of course, you found that special someone), you just made one of the biggest, most exciting commitments of your life. But as difficult as it was to pick out the right flowers or make the DIY centerpieces, the real challenges of marriage begin after the last drop of champagne has been poured and the last slice of cake has been eaten. But not to worry, newlyweds: Even the hardest parts of marriage can be a good thing—what’s more meaningful than navigating the ups and downs of life with the person you trust and love the most? To help with your first year of marriage, here are some common relationship mistakes newlyweds make in navigating those ups and downs and how you can avoid them:
1. Not setting boundaries with friends and family
Navigating your personal relationships can be extremely difficult in the transition from single life to marriage. Your priorities may have shifted, and that’s OK. You’re essentially going from one family unit (your siblings and parents) to another (your spouse, potential children, and in-laws), so boundaries need to be set. Both of your families will have to learn to accept when you decide to spend holidays with the other in-laws or want time to yourself as a couple. Friendships might also need to shift, which can be especially difficult if many of your other friends are single. Discuss with your partner the role that friends and family will play in your life, and communicate what loved ones can expect from their relationship with both of you in this new dynamic.
2. Alienating friends and family
On the other hand, your family and friends should still be an important part of your life. While it may be tempting to skip every office happy hour to go hang out with your new spouse or easy to forget to call your mom as often as you used to, it’s important for your happiness and the success of your relationship that you are still able to keep up with the relationships that matter to you. Encourage your partner to spend time with their friends, with or without you, and never become a wedge between them and their family. While dynamics may shift, it doesn’t mean the relationships that matter to you have to weaken. You now have forever to spend with your spouse—for the sake of Sex and the City, keep up with regular drinks with friends.
3. Expecting your partner to no longer make mistakes
It’s common to expect relationships to be perfect once you’re married or hope that marrying someone will change certain characteristics about them. For one, don’t marry someone you’re hoping to change. You both can (and should) be growing and getting better together, but that doesn’t mean your spouse won’t make any mistakes just because you’re married—they’re still human, after all! Allow for mistakes while still being clear about expectations, and always keep learning together.
4. Sharing toiletries
Alright, this one might seem like a minor one, but picture this: You move in together and you decide to share toothpaste, right? It feels like you’re saving money and there’s not as much for both of you to travel with—win-win! And then months go on, and the way that your spouse doesn’t screw on the cap all the way starts to irritate you because the toothpaste dries up. And then even more time passes, and the newness of living together has worn off. You get home after a long, hard day to find that the toothpaste is totally empty—and a major fight ensues.
As unromantic (and uneventful) as this little story might be, it’s also reality. You’ll be sharing enough in your life that a toothpaste or shampoo here and there can add up into fuel for a fight. You’ll figure out what things you want to share and what things you want to keep to just yourself (“what’s mine is yours” doesn’t apply to expensive beauty products).
5. Rushing to the next step
Unless your top priority is having a baby right away, don’t worry about jumping to what you think is supposed to be the “next step” after marriage. Whether it’s having kids or buying a house, don’t do anything simply because you think you’re supposed to do it now that you’re married. The timeline will be different for everyone, so don’t compare yours to another couple’s. Wait until you’re both really ready for each new step, and spend some time enjoying just being married to each other—the next step can wait (I promise).
6. Thinking you don’t need a long-term financial plan
You’ve probably already had “The Money Talk” and made sure you were compatible enough with your spending habits and financial goals. But marriage makes everything different. No matter what you decide about prenups or bank accounts, your commitment is no longer just an emotional one but a financial one as well. Before or soon after you get married, put together a financial plan of what both of you want for your future. Discuss your goals for retirement, home ownership, and preparation for a family (this includes a plan to pay off any debt either of you has). Plan a timeline, a budget, and long-term financial goals.
7. Expecting your relationship to always be romantic
Adjusting to a whole new life and commitment can feel like a lot of pressure, and couples often feel doubt based on the expectation that their relationship always has to be perfect or they’ll think they made the wrong decision. As soon as romance dwindles from the honeymoon phase, it can be easy to feel like the love goes too. But what do you really want out of a marriage—not what you’re supposed to expect, but what will actually make you feel fulfilled? Is it having a best friend you know will be there when things go wrong? Is it having someone who makes you laugh when life gets hard? Is it an amazing parent for your child? Is it all of the above?
Make sure you’re never expecting your marriage to be everything to you or perfect all the time. Identify what you actually want out of your life and expect that, knowing that your spouse and even your marriage will never be perfect. Marriage isn’t actually supposed to be like the Hollywood happy ending (movies usually end at the wedding anyways). Instead, it’s a constant choice you both make every single day that this is the person you want to go through life with. Show gratitude often, say “I love you” daily, and stop expecting perfection.