What to watch for:
When University of Oklahoma researchers studied newlyweds, they found
that expressions of love and affection between a wife and husband drop by half
in the first two years of marriage, and researchers find that most couples experience a significant drop in happiness about 18 months after the wedding. Perhaps thatâs the reason why national
divorce statistics show that most marital splits occur in the first five yearsâand that couples married for about three years are especially vulnerable.
This early, important stage can
seem scary, marriage experts say, because we see our own shortcomings reflected
in our spousesâ actions now, just as we saw our own sterling qualities
reflected in our partners before. Now:Itâs time to make love happen instead of waiting for it to
happen to you.
1. â¨Uncover your hidden marriage expectations.â¨
We all come into marriage with a set of mostly
unconscious ideas about how great things will beâthat no human spouse
can meet. âExpectations like âEverything will be fabulous, this is my one true
love, this person will make me finally happy, Iâll avoid every mistake Iâve
made in the pastâ put a huge burden on ourselves and our spouses and our
marriages,â says Patty Howell, a relationship counselor and author of World
Class Marriage: The Art and Science of Relationship Success. âWe judge
whatâs really happening very harshly when we use those standards.â
2. â¨Talk calmly and confidently about your needs and wants.
Your spouse cannot read your mind. Many spouses report that sharing their
feelings, thoughts, desires, and expectations feels scary; others just donât
Why itâs vital: Clamming up in order to preserve the status quo will
just leave you resentful and angry and keeps your spouse in the dark. Coming on
too strong will put your partner on the defensive.
3. â¨Listen empathetically to your spouse.â¨
Create a safe haven where your partner can reveal
his or her innermost emotions, thoughts, ideas, and expectationsâwithout your
jumping to conclusions, inadvertently criticizing your partnerâs vulnerable
feelings, or trying to fix things when your spouse simply needs a listening
ear. The combination of open, honest talk and empathetic listening fosters
acceptance and deeper understandingâmaking the two of you feel safer and
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4. â¨Be your real, full self and let your spouse be, too.â¨
New research from the University of California, Los
Angeles, finds that newlyweds who act as friends as well as lovers have happier
marriages. Try to be more genuine, more empathetic, and more acceptingâfriendship skills that go beyond communication techniques to bring your heart,
soul, and whole being into your relationship.â¨â¨
5. â¨Sort out the laundry...and the dishes...and the vacuuming.â¨
Housework can be an early battleground for couples. Think
about how to get past traditional roles and divide the work fairly. Don't be afraid to talk about it and make plansâit's not a petty subject.
6. â¨Become expert money managers.â¨
No subject sparks more couples conflicts than money.
Research shows that newlyweds today face a new challenge: significant debt
brought into marriage from school loans, car payments, credit cards, medical
bills, and the wedding and honeymoon.
Find out how your money personalities can
work forânot againstâyou as you set a calm, organized course toward meeting
your financial goals and achieving your dreams.