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The First Year of Marriage

There are challenges ahead, but you can get ready for them!

Scene 1: The Big Day

The day has finally arrived. You walk down the aisle taking in all of the people who have come to witness this momentous occasion. You and your fiancé enthusiastically say “I do!” There is a great celebration and finally you leave. Now, the two of you begin your journey of happily ever after.

 

Scene 2: Beyond the Honeymoon

Reality sets in. Sometimes it happens on Day One of the honeymoon. Others experience it when they arrive home and are trying to settle into a routine. You both realize it is just the two of you and you have to figure out how to do life together as a team. While this is something you have been looking forward to, it can create some difficult moments.

 

Scene 3: What Nobody Tells You  

Regardless of how long you have been together as a couple, being married is different. The first couple of years can actually be very challenging, but nobody really talks about that for fear that people will judge them.

Learning how to live with your spouse is an adventure. In most marriages, each person has unspoken expectations based on what they experienced in their own home. Things like:

  • Who cleans the toilets, pays the bills, mows the lawn, does the laundry, shops for groceries?

  • How will you deal with the in-laws?

  • Will you eat dinner together every night?

  • Who does the cooking?

  • What about sleep? Do you go to bed at the same time?

  • When you experience conflict (and you will) how will you handle it?

All of these things tend to trip couples up because each person comes to the marriage with assumptions about how things will be.

 

Scene 4: What Might be Helpful to Know

As you navigate the first years of marriage, here are some things to consider that can help make the transition smoother.

  • Get prepared. You probably spent a lot of time and energy preparing for the wedding, but don’t forget to prepare for the health of your marriage. Getting married without preparation is like planning to compete in the Iron Man and hoping you have what it takes to finish the race. Couples who take the time to learn the skills needed for successful marriage are 30 percent less likely to divorce. Make the time to attend a premarital education class where you can practice handling the hard stuff.

  • You are a team. Before marriage you only had to be concerned about yourself. Adding someone else into the mix, even when you love them, can be tough. It isn’t all about you anymore. It is about two individuals coming together with the goal of helping each other grow. This requires give and take, thinking through priorities and being totally invested in making the relationship work.

  • Love isn’t all you need. Many couples believe that because they love each other they will agree on most things. This is when things can get really dicey. Studies show that all couples fight about money, sex, kids, others and time. An advantage of marriage is you have someone who cares so much about you they are willing to disagree and weigh in with their thoughts and opinions. Couples who understand these disagreements are normal and learn to manage those areas of their life do better.

Happily-married couples rarely describe their marriage as challenge-free, even after decades of marriage. In fact, many of them describe the hard times as those that refined them and made their marriage stronger.

Whether you are preparing for marriage or you are a newlywed, remember you are building something new together. You may come to marriage with a blueprint of how you always thought it should be, but as you hammer it out you both realize you need something different. No matter who you marry, there will be challenges. It’s how you handle them that makes the difference.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

The song says it’s the most wonderful time of the year. And, in a lot of ways, it is wonderful. Something about the season seems to bring out the best in many folks. However, too much of a good thing can lead to serious meltdowns for children and parents alike.

As you prepare to enjoy a wonderful season with your family, here are a few things to consider ahead of time.

  • When it comes to your expectations of your children, keep them realistic. During the holidays, everything they are used to in the way of bedtime, the food they eat, who they spend time with and more gets thrown to the wind. While it is tons of fun, children can only take so much before they move into overload – and we all know that never ends well. Everyone will be happier if you can keep some semblance of routine and structure.
  • Talk with your children about your plans for each day. Just like adults, it’s helpful if kids know what to expect. Keep it simple. Share the highlights.
  • Keep your cool. When your child has a meltdown, it can be a challenge for you to not have one, too. Yelling and getting angry will only make matters worse, so stop and take a deep breath. Then, if possible, take your child to a quiet place where they can regain control.
  • If you can, try to spread out the celebrations instead of doing everything in a 48-hour period. While it’s hard to say no to the grandparents, putting boundaries in place can make the celebrations more enjoyable for everyone, even if you celebrate on a different day. A note to grandparents: Your adult children often find it difficult to tell you no without feeling guilty. Asking your grown children what works best for them could really help them as they plan to celebrate.

For those in the midst of co-parenting:

  • Talk about the fact that transitions are difficult. Sometimes just saying, “I don’t have a choice and you don’t have a choice; now how are we going to make the best of this situation?” can make things better for your child.
  • Make a plan. Discuss how to make the transition easier. Then use your time together to make it a special celebration.
  • Be prepared. Help them understand the possibility of a last-minute change in plans. Ask them what they would like to do instead and acknowledge the pain they may feel.
  • Stay in the parent role. While it might be tempting to be your child’s buddy, that is not what they need from you. It is very difficult to go back to being the parent once you have crossed that line. Before you make or change plans, think about how it will affect your child.
  • Children will follow your lead. If you have a bad attitude about the holidays, your children will probably follow suit. Set a positive mood for a holiday to remember.

Planning for bumps in the road beforehand can reduce holiday stress in your family and increase the chances for a joyful holiday. Wherever you find yourself, choose now to make the best of the days ahead.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 27, 2016.

Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Why Anger Isn’t Good or Bad

What you do with it can either build up or destroy relationships.

Have you ever come home from work with an expectation that blew up right in your face?

Your “quiet evening at home” turns chaotic when one of your children says they have a science project due tomorrow and your other child suddenly needs cupcakes for the class party. So much for a calm evening after an exhausting day.

You head to the grocery store for supplies and your spouse begins to oversee the science project. When you return, you realize you should have also picked up some lice-killing shampoo.

You have no idea what time you actually fell into bed, but the alarm blares far too soon. You get up with an edge and start barking out orders to everyone. “Comb your hair! Get the dog out before she has an accident. Where are the lunches you were supposed to pack last night?” At this point, it doesn’t seem like anybody is going to have a good day.

On the way to work, as you yell at the drivers around you, you realize you are angry. The question is, “Why?”

Researchers tell us anger is a secondary emotion, the tip of the iceberg so to speak. It’s the primary emotion – things like hurt, unmet expectations, frustration, disrespect, lack of trust, dishonesty, loneliness, jealousy, rejection, betrayal, disappointment, helplessness and exhaustion – that drives the anger.

In many instances, people don’t stop long enough to figure out what is fueling their anger. While anger itself is not good or bad, how you handle it impacts not only you, but also those around you – your family, co-workers and friends.

Studies show that the emotional part of our brain processes information in two milliseconds. In contrast, the rational part of the brain processes information in 500 milliseconds – 250 times longer. Simply put, it is much easier to react than to slow down and respond.

Researchers studying couples in conflict asked them to hit the pause button before arguing so a videographer could film the argument in real-time. In many instances, the couple had calmed down and moved on before the videographer even arrived.

If you struggle with anger, here are four steps that can help you get a good handle on it.

  • First, determine what is driving your feelings. For the parent who expected a quiet evening at home – unmet expectations, disappointment and exhaustion could be driving the anger, in addition to not knowing or forgetting about the cupcakes and the science project.

  • Next, acknowledge the feelings in a beneficial way. Instead of stuffing them inside or spewing them all over everybody, consider how you will share your feelings. Statements such as, “I feel frustrated when you wait until the last minute to ask for my help with the science project,” are more likely to elicit a conversation than if you lose it.

  • Then, determine a course of action. You may decide to help your child this time. Later on, you can calmly share that you may or may not be able to help the next time they wait until the last minute.

  • Finally, make a plan for the future. Use this as an opportunity to talk about appropriate ways to deal with anger.

So many adults say they never saw their parents actually deal with their anger. They saw the anger, but never learned what to do with it. Teaching your kids that anger isn’t bad or good – it’s what you do with it that can build up or destroy relationships – could be one of the greatest gifts you give them.

But don’t stop there. Model for them what it looks like to be good and angry.