My husband and I just celebrated our first wedding anniversary, so I thought it may be appropriate to share some of my reflections.
The first thing I do when I write a new post is search the internet for other writing on the same topic, to make sure that I have a sense of what else is out there. When I searched “reflections on first year of marriage” on Google, I found a series of very positive reflections. Don’t get me wrong, for some these may be 100% honest and reflective of their experience, but it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting or, frankly, what I was hoping for.
Skimming through the first couple pages of Google, I got the feeling that much of what I was reading was sugar-coated and another example of how the internet has become a highlight reel, full of people putting out “perfect life” vibes/pressure – created and perpetuated by social media.
I shouldn’t have been too surprised though. People often refer to the early years of marriage as the “honeymoon” phase – leaving images of pure bliss, constant happiness, and laughing off all of the new things that you learn about your partner during the transition from fiancé(e) to spouse.
In true, authentic fashion, I’m here to relay my honest, and not-so-sugar-coated experience. My hope in doing so is to normalize the fact that…
the first year of marriage is hard.
There. I said it. But let me break it down a bit more.
The first couple months of marriage I experienced a serious mix of emotions. You can read more about that here, but to put it simply I found myself excited, sad, worried, and hopeful – all at the same time.
Excited about my new life. Sad about the planning and celebration being over. Worried about what might be happening next. Hopeful about finding myself in this new role of “wife”.
About six months into our marriage, I went through a period of time when I began to feel suffocated. The weight of marriage and “forever” started to finally hit me. I began picking fights with my husband. I began comparing him and our relationship to other people’s and feeling underappreciated as a partner and wife. My husband wasn’t doting on me any more. I wasn’t going out of my way to make him feel special either.
This didn’t feel like a “honeymoon” phase – it felt paralyzing.
What was wrong with me? Having these “doubts” that, once again, I felt I couldn’t share with anyone. Particularly being in my field, there’s this false image that I should have it all together in my own relationships. What kind of therapist feels this way?
I decided to take my own advice. I opened up to some of my colleagues about what I was experiencing and found out that every one of them had a rough first year of marriage. This was helpful, but also made me realize there were parts of myself that I needed to work through even more than I already had. So, I started my own work with my own individual therapist to see if I could resolve some of the things I was dealing with and that I was clearly projecting onto my husband and my marriage, because even therapists need therapists. This process was extremely helpful, and is a good example of how one person doing their work in a relationship can change the whole dynamic. In individual therapy, though, I realized there were some areas that I wanted to strengthen in our marriage that we had to do together.
I presented this idea of going to see a couple’s therapist very carefully to my husband, who didn’t feel there was anything wrong in our relationship. I framed it more as “preventive” work, which in many ways was true, and he reluctantly agreed to go. I do not take this willingness and openness for granted, because there are many partners who wouldn’t even consider it. Since we began couples therapy he has begun to appreciate the work and and look forward to our sessions, sometimes even more than I do.
The past two months of our marriage have been the best. We are communicating more openly. We are appreciating each other more. We are taking care of ourselves as individuals and as partners. We are feeling connected. We are reminded why we chose each other in the first place.
So no, for me and for many others, the first year of marriage isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows. It’s conscious effort, emotional rollercoasters, and redefining yourself as an individual and a partner. After all is said and done, though, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
If you are experiencing this, reach out to a therapist near you. If you’re in the Nashville area, I’d be honored if that therapist was me.
*photo by katherine joy photography