You’re married. Congratulations. The stress- and excitement-filled wedding planning phase of your relationship is finished. Returning from your honeymoon, you step into the rest of your life, only to discover that the path to “happily ever after” is strewn with many pitfalls.
While it’s wonderful to have another person who cares about your well-being, it’s difficult to go from doing everything on your own, making every decision, to suddenly feeling required to consult someone else on everything from what to have for dinner to whether or not you can accept a job offer.
Making this change without a lot of resentment attached involves communication and compromise. You have to set boundaries for things such as how many nights a month it’s alright for each of you to make plans with friends (i.e., weekly brunches or golf games); what the ceiling is on financial purchases you’re allowed to make without the other’s approval; how much contact with the opposite sex is allowable for each of you (i.e., it’s OK for him to have lunch with a female coworker and you can have occasional get-togethers with your platonic male pal), how much time each of you can spend alone, and so on.
The more you keep the lines of communication open with one another about what you need, the better. It’s also vital for both partners to realize which elements are most important — having someone to share your life does involve giving things up.
Dating is all about courtship and putting your best face forward. Marriage, especially when the couple has not lived together except for extended weekends and vacations, can be a rude awakening. Suddenly you’re finding yourself annoyed when your spouse keeps leaving his clothes on the floor and they is upset that you always seem to be on the phone with friends.
The key to keeping the spark alive that brought you together is to purposely put effort into staying connected.
Now is the time to develop loving habits to sustain you throughout your marriage: send sweet texts and put romantic cards under your spouse’s pillow ‘just because.’ Have a weekly date night even if the date involves just lying entwined on the couch watching movies and eating popcorn. Kiss every morning and evening. Do romantic surprises for one another. Don’t take the love and lust you share for granted.
The ideal time to have discussions about serious mutual goals is before deciding to spend the rest of your lives together. But the rush of love and lust when a couple meets and bonds often precludes those discussions. Thus the first true airing of desires on issues such as if and when to have a child, and what religion to raise the baby, often don’t occur until after the wedding.
Once the two of you realize that you’re taking different stands, don’t fall into the habit of ‘circular fighting ‘ — that is, rather than truly listening to the other’s reasoning, getting trapped in the same endless loop whenever the topic is raised. The two of you need to have empathy for why your partner feels as he or she does; only then can you move into true dialoguing and hopeful problem solving.
A danger is letting this issue take over the marriage and losing sight of the many wonderful things the two of you share. If you are truly deadlocked, visiting a couples counselor can help you learn to communicate and deal with where the two of you are currently at, rather than where you want the other one to be. A couple must work together as a team, even when team members have differing viewpoints!
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