The 1 Thing These Couples’ Therapists Tell Newlyweds Is Such Valuable Advice
Deciding to tie the knot is a huge step for a couple to take, and while marriage may be all smiles in the beginning, some ups and downs are almost always to be expected. Often, advice can be most helpful before problems arise to avoid doing more damage than necessary. That's why I asked five professionals for their juiciest pieces of advice for couples who have recently said "I do". The one thing these couples' therapists tell newlyweds isn't all the same, but they definitely do echo similar sentiments.
Although it seems like we're constantly hearing about the high divorce rate plaguing the United States, the truth is that according to a recent analysis by University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen, the divorce rate actually fell 18 percent between 2008 and 2016. Surprisingly, the data suggests that younger generations are outperforming their parents when it comes to staying married because more and more couples are deciding against marrying before they're financially established.
It's probably safe to say that divorce isn't top-of-mind for most newlyweds, but actively cultivating a healthy marriage is a process that ultimately might help a relationship work out in the long run. Below, some advice from real life couples' therapists that can help you make sure your marriage starts off strong, and stays that way.
Make sure you're being regularly supportive of each other.
Ask yourself daily, "Am I there for my partner?" And if the answer is ever no, get to work. Emotional responsiveness is a good predictor of how strong a marriage will be — it's absolutely essential to make your partner feel safe and secure in the marriage. If you haven't already, discuss how you both feel supported by the other, what helps you feel able to be vulnerable with the other, etc. And when your partner reaches for you — whether for affection or support — acknowledge their attempt for your attention and connection.
— Anita Chlipala, relationship expert and licensed marriage and family therapist
Make sure you both feel appreciated.
The most important thing I recommend for newlyweds is to never take your partner for granted. One of the very best ways to do that is to find ways to express your gratitude for them. Find something every day to thank them for. It doesn’t need to be a big thing. Anything that you are sincerely grateful for can make someone’s day. Saying “thank you” each day can go a long way. Do this and you will dramatically increase the chances that your marriage will be more fulfilling, because you won’t take your partner for granted. There’s nothing like knowing you're appreciated to help keep your love alive.
— Dr. Gary Brown, Los Angeles-based dating and relationship therapist
Let yourselves feel all of your emotions, good or bad.
Even happy occasions are still transitions. All major life transitions start with an ending. Prepare for a boatload of emotions. Honor the grief that comes up with the transitions so that you can make way for all the new opportunities your married life will present to you. Be patient and remember why you made the choice to marry when things get hard.
— Jennifer B. Rhodes, licensed psychologist
Learning to negotiate with each other is key.
The one most important piece of advice I would give to newlyweds is to negotiate. Forever and ever is a long time together, and couples need to be on the same page about major issues such as money, children, home ownership, relocation and retirement plans, among many other issues. Ideally, couples may want to negotiate a life together prior to an engagement. It is of the utmost importance, however, that couples plan and commit to a the kind of life they both want, together, rather than waiting to be suddenly hit with urgent decision-making. Negotiating life decisions together as early on as possible so there are fewer uncomfortable surprises in the future and so compromises can be made in advance.
— Denise Limongello, psychotherapist and relationship expert
Make sure you're contributing equally to the relationship.
Marriage becomes challenging because of cumulative things that create resentment and unresolved conflict. Establish equity in daily living responsibilities early. Oftentimes people don’t fully appreciate the effort, time and planning related to the things that their partner does. I’m not talking about cultivating romance. I’m talking about daily living and functioning. i.e., If you’re preparing dinner for your partner and prior to you they were used to ordering out or restaurants, they became accustomed to someone else preparing their food. Their needs are being met. The time, effort, and planning isn’t part of their equation so it isn’t reciprocated. That differential is what can cause resentment and arguments.
— Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and relationship coach
Despite how much you know about yourself and your partner, transitioning into marriage isn't always easy. If you realize you might need some outside input, there's nothing wrong with reaching out to a professional. Don't feel like you have to wait until a conflict has reached its breaking point before asking for help.