Is the First Year of Marriage Really the Toughest?

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We've heard it from everyone from our parents to our mailman: The first year of marriage, they warn us, is the toughest. But can it really be that bad?

"The first year of marriage is typically challenging for most couples, says Malibu-based licenses marriage therapist Alisa Ruby Bash. "Even couples who've been together for years or lived together first find that marriage triggers issues during the first year." Julie de Azevedo Hanks, Ph.D., LCSW, owner and director of Wasatch Family Therapy, agrees — but with a caveat. "I think the first year can be a toughest in terms of adjusting to living together with the new roles of husband and wife," she says. "However, for many people, the first year is still part of the honeymoon phase and is also one of the best years."

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So what are those issues that make it so tough? You may find sharing bills, bank accounts or even names to be challenging, while other couples struggle to find time for themselves, their partners, and their new families. Sometimes, "new roles and new commitments can activate unconscious expectations based on early family experiences that can alter the relationship," Hanks says. In other words, what worked when you were dating doesn't necessarily apply now.

Another thing that makes it tough? It's one of the same reasons you tied the knot: Your life is now partnered to another's. "In the past when the going got tough, you always knew that you could walk out that door," says Bash. "The actual meaning of commitment will become apparent in the first year during the first time you have an all-out battle."

When it's tough, Hanks says, it's best to focus on the fun you have together. "The official merging of lives may shift fun-loving couples into focusing on the practical business required of merging and managing life together," she explains. Try not to let it. Instead, "talk with close friends, learn to communicate effectively with each other, try to make time to go out with other couples, read some of the helpful books out there, and realize you're not alone," says Bash. "Make time to bond through fun activities you both enjoy, lots of sex, and talking about dreams for the future."

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