Lessons for Life

Newlywed? Now the real work begins

How to steer clear of those early marriage obstacles

Tribune "Lessons for Life" columnist Jennifer Weigel offers advice for newlyweds on the marriage challenges ahead.

So you've tied the knot and all those months of planning your nuptials are safely behind you. If you think it's all up-hill from here on out, think again. According to relationship expert Christina Steinorth, the hardest part is yet to come.

"You've come back from your honeymoon and you look around the house and it's like, 'We have to start living together now,'" said Steinorth, author of the book "Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships." "A lot of the kinks seem to occur the first few months after the wedding."

Steinorth said couples have more success if they address issues — such as in-laws, holidays, or everyday expectations — before they get married.

"Whether it's dealing with your family, or the division of labor in the household, you need to establish some clear communication skills early on so you can start your marriage with good habits," she said.

Here are Steinorth's tips for helping newlyweds steer clear of those early marriage obstacles:

Manage your own family.

"We often think that because we are married that it's fair game to tell your spouse's mother how you feel, but each partner should take responsibility for their family communication," she said. "When you don't manage your own family, your spouse will end up resenting you."

Don't vent to your family and friends.

"This is actually one of the worst things you can do," Steinorth said. "When we do that, the general impression we leave with our friends and family is that we're in a bad relationship or that our spouse is not a good person. This is because we don't call them when things are going well, but just when things are wrong. Try to solve the conflict on your own. This helps you work together as a team and increases your bond."

Start your own family traditions.

"Your family may be used to having you around for every holiday and they may expect that you're going to be there, but this is like any habit — at first the family will take a little time to get used to it, but in time they'll adjust to it," she said. "I've seen newlywed couples with young children and they're exhausted and stressed because they're trying to please everyone so they dread the holidays. Whether it's about Thanksgiving or Christmas, sit your families down, each of you on your own, and say 'This is how we're going to do this.'"

Pick your battles.

"Before you decide to pick a fight about the carpool, ask yourself, 'Is this really going to matter two years from now?' If you're arguing about every little sticking point, your marriage will not last," Steinorth said. "You will build up so much anger and resentment that you will end up hating each other. Men and women have different perspectives on what is important and how we manage things."

Embrace counseling early in your marriage.

"There's a saying in the therapy world that people come to marriage therapy as the first stop before the divorce attorney," she said. "If we could collectively change that to addressing issues in your marriage as they come up, I think we can do away with that mindset. It's OK to get a communication tune-up. It's like changing the oil in your car — every once in a while you've got to make sure that everything is running right."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel

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