Even if you’ve been together for years, getting married is still a major milestone. It’s the beginning of your lives together, and it may feel pretty different from dating, even if it takes a few weeks to sink in. While the cake is cut, your dress is at the cleaner, and all the guests have gone home, there are still etiquette questions to be answered. We turned to our experts to answer some of the big newlywed issues you’ll face during that first year.
At some point after you tie the knot, you will have your first fight. It’s bound to happen, and it will probably feel monumental. You’re married, so it’s easy to think that a fight matters more than it ever did before. And in a sense, it does. Not the fight itself, per se, but the way the two of you address it. Treat this first fight as practice, and start learning how the two of you can fight better. Instead of making accusations, share some of the responsibility. Do your best to have a conversation instead of yelling back and forth. And if you need a break to think, say so! Acknowledging that you’ve got to step away for a minute is much more productive than completely shutting down mid-conversation. If the fights start to feel more like spinning your wheels than making progress, consider a session or two with a couple’s counselor, who can help the two of you get your communication skills on track.
You may all be family now, but getting married is not an open invitation for either of your in-laws to drop in whenever they want. First, have a conversation with your spouse about how often you’d each like to spend time with your families. Discuss whether they’ll visit you, you’ll visit them, or everyone will meet somewhere for a mini-reunion. Look at your calendars, and agree when you’d be open to having visitors. If you need to, set some boundaries. Do you need to know about the visits a certain amount of time in advance? Would mid-week or a weekend be a better time for you? Do you even have space to host them in your home? Then have the conversation with your own parents. Approach it positively (focusing on when they can visit, for example, instead of when they can’t) to make sure they feel invited and welcome instead of like they’re being told to stay away.
Yes! Being married is often described as having your best friend around all the time, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got to spend every waking moment with your spouse. In fact, it’s healthy for you to spend a little time with your other friends without your spouse. So schedule that girls’ night, head to the movies, or just meet for coffee on the weekend to chat. By keeping up with your hobbies and friendships, you’re actually strengthening your relationship and allowing each of you to bring new things to the table. You have to make sure to leave time in your marriage for self-care, after all! And when that work event or social outing comes up that you’d really love to bring your spouse to, just ask!
If you made it all the way through your wedding without being asked about when you’d have kids, congratulations! You’ve fared far better than many other couples. But whether you’ve got your heart set on a home full of little ones or know they’re not part of your future, the questions can often be unwelcome. Before you tell anyone to mind their own business, take a deep breath, then politely change the subject. A response as simple as: “We’d rather discuss this between the two of us, but we’ll let you know if there’s any news to share!” is plenty, as is “I understand your excitement, but it’s not something I’m comfortable discussing outside of my marriage.” Don’t want kids at all? Be firm. Instead of saying you’re not sure, make it clear that kids aren’t in the cards. Have the conversation with your spouse about what you will say to people so you are both on the same page.
This can be a major stressor for newlyweds (see “first fight,” above). You’ve spent your lives spending holidays with your families, but all of a sudden you have a new family of your own -- and someone else’s family to consider, too. Not sure where to start? Ask your parents! Find out how they divided the time when they first got married, and see if they have any disaster stories to share. (Hint: Trying to go to two or three Thanksgiving dinners is never the answer!) Chances are they’ll have some insight into dividing the time, both as newlyweds and as couples who have been married for years and still have in-laws. This will also remind them that you’re in a tight spot, and may encourage them to get creative with ways to make sure everyone gets a little bit of your time.