We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom about marriages, that newlyweds embark upon a “honeymoon phase” during the very first year. When I was married, however, I think that phase lasted one or two months and then the serious challenges kicked in. This was something I was prepared for because before getting married, I talked to my married friends about their relationships. The vast majority of them said that the first year was the most challenging.
Apparently our experiences are not unique. A study by the Australian Centre on Quality of Life found that the first year was the unhappiest, based on responses from 2,000 Australian people. The study also found that in the second year of marriage, the level of happiness improved greatly and by 40 years of marriage, the happiness level was highest of all. One of the doctors who conducted the study believes that part of the issue during the first year is dealing with the aftermath of the wedding. The study also noted that many people put aside problems while preparing for a wedding, but once the event was over, the old problems and new ones (like the wedding bill) poses relationship challenges.
Image: Jonathon Goforth via Flickr
Based on my personal experience and this study, I decided to do a little research of my own. I decided to ask my married Facebook friends if they believed that the first year of marriage was the “honeymoon phase” or if the idea is a fallacy. Well, my friends did not let me down! I received responses that ran the gamut from “The honeymoon started the day we were married and it is still going strong!” to “The first year was HELL!” Overall, the responses supported the idea that the first year is NOT a honeymoon and it is probably the toughest year of marriage.
Here are a few of the actual responses I received:
From Karen A.:
“The first year was great....and each year has been greater. It’s all about what you believe and what you practice looking for. Our marriage mantra: when you choose to feel love, you get to feel love.”
My friend Sarah said:
“First year was hard!! A ton of changing, “dying” to myself, and learning how to live together. After 16 years it is much, much easier. But there are still those “I love you but don’t like you” phases. We talk about it, change ourselves if needed, and move on. The important thing is to deal with each issue so that baggage doesn’t collect from past.”
Finally, Kyra had some things to say that many people cosigned:
“We dated for 5 years before marriage. To say the first year was challenging would be an understatement. We pushed through, but I was convinced I did not marry my best friend. [At]18, going on 19 years later, we appreciate the struggle and we truly value the love and companionship we share. We both look forward to the future together but (it) took time. Marriage is definately not for the weak.”
My friends are so smart! These are just a few examples from over 60 comments (and counting) on my post. As the wedding season approaches, I think it is vital that couples understand that while the first year might be a honeymoon period for some, most married(and formerly married) people find the first year to be the most challenging. Expect it, work through it, and hopefully enjoy future years of marital happiness!
Renée writes regularly on her blog Cutie Booty Cakes.