What’s the Best Marriage Advice for the First Year of Marriage?

© Ruslan Galiullin/
What will help you navigate your first year together? Two young couples reveal the marriage advice they wish they’d known before the wedding.

It was Heather’s turn to make the evening meal, and she thought she was right on schedule. It would be ready at 8 p.m.

But for her new husband, that dinner hour came much too late.

“Hey babe, I’m hungry by 6 p.m.,” Noah told her.

Eventually, Heather realized that what was normal in her family of origin wasn’t normal for everyone — certainly not for her husband.

“It’s important to understand your spouse’s different family background and how they were raised because that plays into expectations,” Heather says now, after two years of marriage.

That marriage advice, along with a few other pointers, is something she wishes she’d known before she was married. Although Heather and Noah and another young couple, J.C. and Saundra, received premarital counseling and advice, both were surprised by aspects of married life. 

As you prepare for life beyond the wedding, consider what these couples wish they’d known before they moved in together as husband and wife.

Learn your spouse’s communication style

Both couples wish they’d known more about communication styles prior to that first year of marriage. 

“One of the things I didn’t expect was the level of communication you need to have,” J.C. says. “And the understanding you need of that person’s way of communicating. And also, that sometimes there are things that are lost in the translation, so it’s important to ask clarifying questions like, ‘Hey, can I repeat what you said? That way you can correct me if I’m misunderstanding something.’ ” 

Heather agrees. “It’s so important to know how to communicate with each other, especially because there are issues that come up when you live together that you never experienced when you were dating. Otherwise, you can come to a standstill.”

Noah says that he and Heather discovered how differently they communicate: “I had to learn how to communicate the way she receives things, not the way I receive things. I’m blunt to a fault.” Heather says she’s the opposite. “I’m not direct when I need to be, because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I want to keep the peace.”

Consider your expectations

Saundra says she expected their first year of marriage to be easier than it was. “You might think you’re never going to argue or that it will be so easy,” she says. “Even if you think you’re doing great in your relationship, being married brings out a whole other level of commitment. And living together is hard. It’s awesome because you get to go to sleep together and wake up together every day, but the in-between of those two things is hard.”

And there were other surprises for Saundra. After she moved to her husband’s home state, she realized that she had unknowingly “expected him to be my everything — not just my priority.” 

Heather encourages engaged couples to talk about as many expectations as they can before that first year of marriage. That was one helpful piece of advice a mentor couple passed along to her and her husband. “Talk about financial expectations — what the budget will be, who will handle the bills — as well as who’s going to be cooking dinner every night. Both of you, one of you? Will you share responsibilities?”

Realize there will be adjustments 

Noah advises newlyweds to “expect to be uncomfortable” at first, because you’re living with someone who’s different from you. “It’s like when you were living with a roommate. They always have little quirks that aren’t like the way you live life,” Noah says. “The way your life was before you’re married is not going to be the same after you’re married. People handle that in different ways. Some might get annoyed or frustrated. You should just expect it and give your partner some grace.”

Saundra says she didn’t realize that she and J.C. would have to compromise about so many things, “because I like things a certain way, and he likes things a certain way.” J.C. offered an example: “One person might want to make the bed every day, and one person might not want to.”

Saundra also had to adjust to what she was learning about herself as she began living with J.C. “I thought I was humble before coming into marriage, but I wasn’t. There are these things I thought I was good at, but marriage really tests that — in a good way.” 

J.C. realized he needed to accept that his wife wanted to do things for him, because that’s how she shows him her love. “There’s a giving and receiving that’s just beautiful. That’s something I’ve had to learn. I have to put my pride down and say, You know what? I’ll let her serve me.

Know that marriage is awesome

Noah and Heather say they were negatively influenced by the marriage advice of too many well-intentioned people who told them how hard marriage is.

“It put fear in my heart because I heard that advice all the time from people at my church,” Heather says. “I had this fear that I was going to screw it up, that it was going to be difficult a few weeks in, and it was damaging to my excitement about it.”

Noah says that people also need to share the blessings of marriage. “I understand that they’re trying to set expectations, but I think sometimes people go into marriage with a pessimistic outlook instead of an optimistic outlook,” he says. “Of course there are going to be difficulties, but marriage is awesome, and the good outweighs the bad. Rather than expect things to be bad, strive for it to be awesome. Our generation has a skewed vision of marriage because a lot of people just talk about the difficult things, but they don’t necessarily paint the picture of the good part of it or why it’s good.”

J.C. echoes Noah’s sentiment about the joy of marriage. “I think marriage is greater than you ever expect, and especially when the Lord is at work there.” 

Saundra agrees. Even though she wasn’t expecting to make so many adjustments, she also didn’t expect to experience as much joy as she has. One day, she and J.C. “straight out laughed for 45 minutes,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting the depth of joy and peace and laughter — and love. I didn’t know I could love someone like this.”

Try this marriage advice

  • Don’t be afraid to splurge on your honeymoon. “Like our pastor said, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing when you don’t have kids, you’re just married, all the emotions are so fresh and new — and the love is just so ripe,” Heather says. “So we splurged, and it’s a really sweet memory that we’ll hold onto for life.” Noah says he and Heather put aside their frugal habits for that special trip. “We didn’t go broke or go into debt,” he explains. “But we did the things that we wanted to do and didn’t worry.”
  • Do little things for each other. Remember your spouse’s favorite color, bring them a coffee and find a way to bless them. “From a hug or a kiss, to a small gift or an act of service like a foot rub — little things mean a lot,” J.C. says. “And they really add up.”
  • J.C.’s top advice is to have the Lord in your relationship, honor your partner in life and stay humble. “Be humble enough to admit you’re wrong, and be humble enough to speak out when needed,” he says.

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