My husband of three days stood in stunned silence at my sudden outburst of tears as we encountered one of our first newlywed problems. We were on our Hawaiian honeymoon, and I had been standing at the bathroom counter doing my makeup in preparation for a nice dinner out. When Kevin finished his shower, he noticed his towel wasn’t where he’d left it hanging.
Without thinking, he gruffly voiced his frustration that the towel was on the floor (I was the culprit). His stern tone induced my tearful response. The incident took us both by surprise because nothing like it had occurred while we were dating or engaged.
The honeymoon, while amazing, was much more emotional for me than I’d anticipated. And Kevin was surprised that our married life wasn’t just falling into place.
We soon learned that finding our groove as newlyweds would take some effort — but every bit of that effort would be worth it.
Any way you look at it, joining two people together as one requires some adjustments. No matter how well you plan ahead through intentional dating and premarital counseling, nothing can truly prepare you for living as a couple and experiencing daily life together. You’re simply going to experience some newlywed problems.
As I’ve spoken with newly married couples, the same issues keep coming up as challenges. Here are five potential pitfalls and advice for pushing through to gain a stronger marriage.
My husband and I are both communicators by trade, so we had a bit of an advantage on this one. However, something I discovered early on was that I can’t read my husband’s mind any more than he can read mine. Intentional communication — even over-communication at times — is vital.
Rob Jackson, a licensed professional counselor, says that many couples aren’t prepared for how their communication must change to build a life together. “When you get married, you have new dynamics you didn’t have before, and you have to adopt a more structured approach to communication,” he said.
Jackson encourages couples to set aside a time each week to have a “weekly review” and discuss these three questions:
- What is going well for our marriage?
- What is going poorly?
- How can we strengthen our partnership?
“When couples are regularly asking these three questions, they can observe patterns of struggle, and they’re going to be so far ahead of many couples,” Jackson says. He suggests pairing this activity with something enjoyable, such as a walk, scenic drive or coffee date. Reviewing how things are going once a week can relieve daily tensions and help both spouses feel like they have a voice.
No one ever expects to feel lonely as a newlywed. But marriage can shift other relationships, leaving a gaping hole. One newlywed describes how she and her husband felt abandoned by their single friends as they made the adjustment to “us.” Their friends no longer invited them to certain get-togethers and the social shift felt jarring.
Maintaining and nurturing some of your pre-marriage friendships can be helpful while transitioning from “I” to “we.” Early in our marriage, Kevin and I did things with both my best friend (who was single) and his best friend, who was married. I was careful to always include Kevin in any time with my guy friends. We also joined a couples group to build community with people in our season of life.
When you marry someone, you marry into a new family. Newlyweds can find the act of separating from their families of origin and establishing a new family unit to be challenging. Jackson urges couples keep in mind the biblical mandate found in Genesis 2:24 that says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
While the Bible says to honor our parents, it also instructs couples to make their marriage relationship primary. Couples who are experiencing issues with intrusive or overbearing in-laws should exercise the advice found in Matthew 18 for resolving conflicts. While I have been blessed with wonderful in-laws, when tensions with family arise, I can trust that Kevin will put our relationship first. And he can expect the same from me.
Managing money is an area a couple should discuss as soon as possible. “Usually one person is a spender and one is a saver,” Jackson says. “So getting on the same page financially as soon as possible is crucial to peace in the home.”
He suggests couples take a financial course together, and also create a budget together, discussing expectations for spending, saving and giving. Being proactive about how you handle money as a couple can alleviate a lot of stress and set you up for good money habits throughout your marriage.
While sex is an exciting part of a new marriage, there can also be some surprises and frustrations. Some of the best advice I received as a new bride was to recognize sex as God’s gift to our marriage and a tangible opportunity to love and serve my husband. God designed sex as a bonding agent for the covenant of marriage. When this area thrives, others will too.
If both individuals are considerate and view sex as a way to bless each other, they can overcome many small glitches.
Going back to communication, Jackson says couples can talk about their needs and expectations and look for ways to steward their sex life in a way that is a blessing to both individuals. “They should ask, ‘How are we going to take care of our sexual union together to strengthen our partnership?’”
Jackson notes that some couples will face more significant issues in this area. One or both of them may have been injured by pornography or dealing with unresolved guilt over sexual sin. If issues related to either person’s sexual past arise, Jackson recommends couples deal with this immediately by seeking help from a Christian therapist.
The way of love
You’ve probably heard that happy marriages don’t just happen; they require work. This is true. But the newlywed season can be one of joy, fun and discovery. Kevin and I didn’t let the “towel fiasco” or other newlywed frustrations stop us from nurturing the budding love and affection of our relationship. Instead, we kissed and made up, kept short accounts and practiced a lot of forgiveness. We still do!
Paul encourages believers to interact with one another “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3). This is wonderful advice for married couples just starting out and dealing with newlywed problems. Creating a bond as newlyweds may be different than you expected, but living out a loving marriage is worth our best effort.