Adjusting to married life can be a challenge. Read on for three expert perspectives on common trouble spots—and how to address them.
The Rev. Elizabeth Moseley, Highland Park United Methodist Church
In her role as a pastor at Highland Park UMC, the Rev. Elizabeth Moseley meets a lot of newlyweds. Her main message: Don’t think nothing will change when you get married. Even if you’re already living together, there will be a change, a settling, an exhale. “You let out a breath that you didn’t even know you were holding,” she says. Couples might feel a weight now that they’ve said their vows and it’s up to them to live them out, which can feel daunting. But it’s important to remember that love is not a feeling; it’s how you treat someone. “It’s not like getting tenure,” she says. “[Love] is a dynamic thing.”
Moseley’s advice? First, keep good company: “Find a community—people with whom you can vent about the silly things and who also help you grow in faith.”
Second, think like a team. In a marriage, the metaphor of two becoming one is often used, “but you don’t merge into one blob,” says Moseley. “You function as a team, playing different positions at different times, but pulling together for a common purpose.”
Finally, and most importantly, remember to love with grace and understanding: “When we offer each other grace, our lives change, and our marriages change.”
Randy Black, Financial Planner, Spectrum Financial Group
It’s no secret that money is one of the most common issues—if not the most common issue—that couples fight about. After talking with financial planner Randy Black, it’s easy to see why. One might be a spender, the other a saver. One comes into the relationship with debt while the other has never had to budget. A financial advisor can act as a neutral third party to help couples bridge those differences. “When people call me,” Black says, “it’s the sign of a healthy relationship.”
Tip number one: Both people need to be invested—and he’s not talking about portfolios. Both spouses need to work together to find common ground and common objectives. “To me, it’s all about goals and finding those common goals together,” Black says. “Then we ask two questions: Is it a realistic goal? And how do we execute it?” An experienced advisor can take the guesswork, and ultimately the anxiety and tension, out of finances.
Black’s second tip builds on the first: Communication is key—both financially and in the relationship. Black notes: “The more [couples] talk, the more awareness they have and the higher the success they see.”
Beth Reeder Johnson, MSW, LCSW, Individual, Family & Couples Therapist, Certified Imago Therapist
Marriage counselor Beth Reeder Johnson makes a good point: “Unless you had parents who modeled really nice conflict resolution right in front of you, we just don’t have relationship wellness skills.”
So what to do when trouble comes? (And it will.) Know that it’s totally and completely normal, then work on shifting your mindset. As Johnson says, “There’s got to be a paradigm shift from, ‘This person is going to be my everything’ to ‘This person is going to play a really important role in my life, but at the end of the day, they’re their own person.’ ”
When we stop worrying about fixing our partners and start getting curious about them—like, why do they care so much about holding the remote control, or why do they feel so strongly about sending the kids to that school?—then we can get to a place of understanding.
So if you take away nothing else, Johnson leaves us with these three things: 1. Conflict is normal; 2. Accept each other’s otherness; and 3. Don’t argue when you’re drinking. (Pro tip!)