There’s a lot of talk about the first year of marriage—and for good reason. The first year of marriage is both notoriously difficult and exciting, so it feels like a big adventure, albeit a sometimes difficult one. But once that first year of marriage is done, you still have a lot more of your married life ahead of you. So after you celebrate your first anniversary as a married couple, it’s a great time to pause and take stock of your relationship.
Because even though marriage is rewarding and exhilarating, it’s also work—a lot of work. So much so that about 20 percent of marriages end within the first five years. That’s not to scare you—most marriages make it well beyond there. But it’s an important reminder that you both need to work at it. Once the wedding gifts are opened and the thank you notes are all signed, it’s easy to fall into a relationship laziness. And while it’s good to feel comfortable and settled, it’s a slippery slope to feeling complacent and even to taking each other for granted. So when you’ve reached the one-year mark, it’s time to take a moment and relish your happily married life, but also to plan for the future and make sure that things are still rolling along. Here's what you should do to keep your relationship strong.
Find Excuses to Laugh
Laughter is so important in a relationship, and not just during those early days of courtship. Humor helps keep a marriage alive. In fact, research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that couples who laugh together felt more supportive and reported having higher-quality relationships. Whether you go to comedy nights, watch your favorite TV shows, or just laugh at each other as you dance around your kitchen like fools, it’s so crucial that you take the time to laugh together—hard and often.
Plan Your Date Nights
Once the initial shine—and stress—of married life has finally worn off, you may feel like you just need a break. And taking some time to rest and reset is totally normal. But after you’ve had a year to get back to normality, it’s time to make sure that you’re still nurturing your relationship and each other. Make time for date nights, to travel together, and just to check in with one another throughout the day. Even after you're married, you should still feel like you’re dating and wooing your partner—it’s a great way to keep your marriage strong.
Touch Base About the Future
You probably had a lot of plans that you were going to get to—once you were married. When you got through the wedding maybe you were going to save for a house or plan a trip around the world or start getting ready to have kids. But it’s easy after you’ve relaxed into married life to let those goals or deadlines slowly slip away. While choosing to postpone things is fine, falling into apathy and letting the time run away from you isn’t. So make sure you touch base about those big future plans and make sure you’re both on the same page.
Find a New Hobby
One of the best ways to strengthen your relationship is to do something new together. Learning a new skill, trying a new hobby—anything that’s out of the ordinary helps you create new memories, see each other in a new light, and is often a great chance for the two of you to laugh at each other while you navigate something you’re not particularly good at.
Go to a Pilates class, try pottery, or even lose the map and get lost somewhere new.
Sort Out Your Finances
If you got into the red during your wedding planning—it happens, these things always go over budget—now is the time to take a long hard look at your finances. Many couples don’t actually join finances until after they’re married—and it’s easy to keep procrastinating and putting off this very important talk. But now that you’re married and things have had time to settle, you should sit down, look at your goals for the future, and come up with a financial game plan to help you achieve those dreams.
Set Aside Phone-Free Time
Phone-free time is crucial for every relationship, but it’s especially important once you’ve been married a while. The longer you’ve been together the easier it is to let your phone creep out over dinner, while you’re watching TV, or even in the middle of talking to your spouse. Though it may seem harmless because everybody does it, this can actually create a huge amount of distance between you and your partner, so make sure that you have time without any screens distracting you.
Say Thank You More
Finally, a year into married life, make sure that you’re still saying, “thank you.” It may be through saying the exact words or it may be through taking the time to tell your partner how amazing they are, how much they mean to you, and how important your relationship is. It may be through gifts or hugs—everyone shows gratitude differently. The important thing is that you’re showing it.
The first year of marriage can be exciting and stressful, but by the time the year ends you’ve normally settled into a routine. And while routines are great, don’t let that turn into complacency. Make time together, focus on the future, and live with each other in the moment. The longer you’ve been together, the more important it is to put that effort in and keep your relationship strong.