Psychological tips for newlyweds

Drawing from over 30 years in practice treating couples, this first in a two-part series highlights some important advice for newlyweds.

Psychological tips for newlyweds (photo credit: MCT)
Psychological tips for newlyweds
(photo credit: MCT)
It’s June, and the peak of wedding season is upon us. Many couples enter marriage with the thought that life will be like a fairytale, everything will run smoothly and they will live happily ever after.
Unfortunately, married life is not always that perfect.
Certainly, there will be many moments when newly married couples feel they are on cloud nine, madly in love and enjoying every moment. However, there will inevitably be times when conflict and challenges arise.
Drawing from over 30 years in practice treating couples, this first in a two-part series highlights some important advice for newlyweds.
Enjoy the honeymoon; it doesn’t last forever
I always encourage a couple to plan a honeymoon trip somewhere special. Ideally, it should be private and away from family and friends. After all, the beginning of a marriage is a time for privacy, shared excitement and intimacy.
Certainly, the honeymoon feeling may continue even after the official honeymoon is over, but somewhere along the line, the feeling does fade as the couple faces the real challenges of life. It is normal to go through a bit of a crash as things settle down, and each person faces unexpected issues that need to be addressed in one’s self, career, studies, work and/or partner. All couples experience this feeling at some point: “OK, the honeymoon is over” – and now it time for the real world.
Your partner is not your clone; rather, “Love the one you’re with.” It doesn’t take long for couples to begin to discover things about their spouse that before marriage, they did not realize, notice or take too seriously.
I have heard complaints like, “She is disorganized,” “He doesn’t show his feelings,” “She is moody,” “He is angry, just like my father,” “She can’t cook,” “He throws all of his dirty underwear on the bathroom floor and expects me to clean up after him,” and so on.
Don’t despair. A lot of the work in a marriage is coming to terms with the reality that the person living with me is not a perfect person, and acknowledging that you’re not exactly a perfect person either. Couples must learn that part of loving the person you are with means accepting their limitations and faults.
Rather than focusing on all the things that might be bothering you, concentrate on the good points about your spouse and try to respect them for who they are.
Nonetheless, if you feel that your spouse is doing something that is truly unacceptable, it is important that you talk through the issues in a calm way, so that you can start to work things out.
This brings me to my next point.
Good communication is critical in a healthy marriage
If you see that your spouse is in a bad mood, perhaps he or she is worried about something. It is quite common to personalize his or her mood and think it has something to do with your behavior. This kind of thinking can only lead to defensive behavior on your part, and the reality is that the bad mood may have nothing to do with you (i.e. work issues, pressures from parents).
My advice is to be on the lookout for a mood change in your spouse, and ask empathetic and open questions like, “Is everything all right?” “Is there anything bothering you?” “How was your day?” “What’s wrong, honey, you look upset?” Reach out and grab your partner’s hand while asking these questions. Show that you really want to listen, and listen actively. This means being prepared to repeat back what your partner has told you, then asking if you got it right.
Empathetic listening is a powerful show of love to your partner, and when your partner sees your willingness to really listen, they likely will not hold anything back and will really talk openly about what is bothering them.
If your partner is not sure what the cause of the bad mood is, this can be talked about as well.
Use problem solving
There will be plenty of problems and challenges in your marriage. Once you accurately identify a problem, brainstorm and think through possible solutions together.
This is a powerful validation that you are helping each other in your relationship.
If and when you and your partner can’t solve a particular problem, go to an expert – be it a close friend, financial adviser, bank manager, therapist, rabbi or parent, as the problem requires.
Discuss finances ASAP
Research has identified the one thing likely to cause arguments in a new marriage: the sensitive subject of money.
You are both used to spending your earnings as and when you like, and it may be difficult to have another person impose their view about your financial decisions – particularly if one of you earns more than the other. Although it may be stressful, it is important to sit down and discuss your finances openly, and at the earliest possible time.
When talking to your spouse about finances, focus on your budgeting needs. Include everything, such as rent, utilities, groceries, home and health insurance, transportation expenses, recreational expenditures, an emergency fund and saving for the future, such as plans for starting a family, purchasing a car and/or buying a home.
Talk about the use of credit cards or cash, and discuss your short- and long-term financial goals. For instance, you might talk about travel plans and retirement funds.
Stay tuned for part two. Shabbat shalom!
The writer is a marital, child and adult psychotherapist with offices in Jerusalem and Ra’anana; he also provides online videoconferencing psychotherapy.