Like anyone new to, well, anything, newlyweds are bound to make a few mistakes. "It's common for newlyweds to make mistakes in their marriages because they don't grasp that marriage is not like any other relationship they have ever been in," says Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author of Blueprint For a Lasting Marriage.
"Their mistakes aren't ones of intention but of truly not knowing what is now required," Doares continues. "But this lack of information is not only unrecognized but not always easy to remedy." How, you ask? By sidestepping these seven super-common marriage mistakes from the start.
1. Having Unrealistic Expectations
We've all seen a romantic comedy or two that sets a pretty high bar for our partners—the kind that convinces you "love is all you need, we complete each other, my spouse will never hurt me, my partner will just know what I need and be willing and able to meet those needs without any direction from me all the time," Doares describes. Believing these myths will only lead to a major let-down in your newly-married life.
But you can beat back this mistake by allowing your partner—and yourself—to be real people, complete with faults, Doares says. "Being willing to confront your own expectations about marriage, each partner's role, and how you think it 'should' be is crucial," she explains. "Get stuff out in the open and make clear decisions about what you want the marriage to look like in as many aspects as you can think of."
2. Expecting Your Partner to Change Now That You're Married
If you didn't like how your partner paid his bills before you tied the knot, you likely won't after you're married. But Toni Coleman, psychotherapist and relationship coach, says many newlyweds still think marriage will change their partner for (their) better. "You could want him or her to change anything from how they will handle finances or housework to his or her relationships with friends," she says.
She continues, "the ideal way to avoid this trap is to have candid discussions about these and other important issues before tying the knot. What they may find is that they have very different views and ideas on some fundamental things and will need to find a way to come up with win-win approaches for dealing with their differences."
3. Not Having a Plan to Deal With the Tough Stuff
Fact: "Building a life with someone else who has their own thoughts and ideas is challenging," says Doares. Another fact? "Avoiding these differences doesn't make them go away," Doares points out. "It just sows the seeds of resentment that will eventually destroy the relationship. Hoping things will change or not acknowledging when your partner is struggling does not work." Yet, many newlyweds deal with disagreements ostrich style: Burying their heads in the said, hoping the problem will just go away.
Instead, Doares says, couples must "learn to communicate productively, without anger, around tough topics. It's the only way to avoid this mistake, and the only way to really resolve the tough topics themselves."
4. Expecting Your Relationship to Change
In the same way that many newlyweds fall into a trap of thinking their partners will change after they tie the knot, they often also believe their relationship will change, too. For example, Coleman says, "it could be that you are both now expected to participate in visits with extended family, you will always celebrate each other's family of origin's traditions together, regardless of your beliefs and background differences, and you will both attend religious services together even if one has never done this or shown any interest prior to marriage." But those things, she says, aren't givens.
Avoid this faulty thinking by "having open and candid conversations about what each wants from a future relationship, and what their relationship values and goals are," Coleman says. "Then, ask as many questions as needed in order to truly understand where their partner is coming from and what they want and expect from the relationship."
5. Making Sacrifices or Compromises
Doares admits that this newlywed mistake seems to go against most common marriage advice, which tells us to put our partners first. "But it is a huge mistake," she says. "Yes, couples have to negotiate and reach agreement in many areas. But this does not require either person to sacrifice or compromise. Those both involve giving something up—usually with reluctance. And it is the giving up that causes disappointment, inequity, and resentment."
So rather than give in and give up, Doares says, you can avoid this mistake by brushing up on your negotiation skills. "Couples need to learn to negotiate their choices and keep talking until a mutually satisfactory solution is reached that both parties are committed to implementing," she says. "It is choosing to do this thing, rather than 'giving up' something else."
6. Reacting Negatively When Your Spouse Wants Alone Time
Alone time is actually good for a marriage. But as newlyweds, there's a chance you want to soak up all your time together, not letting your spouse escape. "Once folks are married, they often assume that they will spend all or most of their free time together and that they won't have separate friends or interests," says Coleman.
But clinging too tight to your spouse can push him or her away. So, instead, "talk it through so that you communicate why it is important for each other to have your own friends and how it feels to have your partner try to change you," Coleman says. "Of course, if one partner expects to be out with others four nights a week, then it will be important to talk about setting reasonable limits of how much time is comfortable for both of you."
7. Not Continuing to Nurture the Love
When you tie the knot, you're at the height of your romance and it seems nothing can break you out of this love bubble. But, says Doares, "it is really easy for newlyweds to get overwhelmed by the day-to-day grind. The relationship is okay and everything else needs immediate attention. But nothing thrives on neglect and it's much easier to keep a relationship healthy than try to get it back into shape later."
Don't take your good relationship for granted. "Newlyweds need to continue to date and have fun regularly," Doares says. "They need to continue to be nice and kind to each other on a daily basis. Developing rituals and habits that remind them what they love about each other and why they wanted to go on this journey together will keep the marriage on the track to success."