So… Is the First Year of Marriage *Required* to Suck?
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
My friend Emelie, who is a client happiness specialist (how cool is that?) challenged me a few weeks ago with the question: who does your client go to after you?
For events, hopefully me!
But for coaching?
Maybe a couple’s therapist.
The thing is, the first year of marriage often really sucks. For me it did. And that was because I didn’t understand what my husband’s expectations were of me as a wife. I genuinely believed that marriage was just a piece of paper and that it changed nothing about our commitment to each other, which existed before the piece of paper! I did not realize then – and it took me awhile to realize – that we had just become a family unit.
A little exposition: I met my husband in 2011, and we moved in together a little over a year later. In October of 2012 (about 6 months into cohabitation), we received a notice in the mail, saying that Adrien’s application to extend his work visa in Canada had been rejected, and that he must return to France within 30 days.
I called a lawyer, and we decided that we would get married so that I could sponsor Adrien as his wife, and he could become a permanent Canadian resident… which would still take a minimum of six months (and actually took until April of 2015).
We packed his bags, and by the end of November, he had gone to Paris, and we decided I would spend December packing up our apartment, working out details with my best friend who was subletting from me and my mom who was taking my dog for the time, and saying goodbye… because I was moving to Paris.
We were engaged for such a short time, and it was so hectic and fraught: him moving to Paris, us being apart for a month, me rushing to get my shit together to leave (while my dog was sick), fighting with my best friend because she had moved into my home and refused to wear pants and was moving things around, and then getting to Paris, finding a job, and getting married within two months so that we could get the ball rolling on his Canadian residency.
We had no time to breathe, let alone discuss what we thought married life would be like, and it didn’t even occur to us to have a conversation about our values. After we got married in Paris on March 2, 2013, in front of Adrien’s friends and family, and my best friend, Kate, I went back to our tiny apartment and felt like nothing had changed. (Part of that is missing out on having people I loved in the room, which I talk about in this blog post, about my two weddings to French Husband.)
Year one was full of confusion, disagreements, and misgivings. We returned home to Montreal in October 2013, and started planning a much bigger wedding that would include both our families and friends (what I secretly called our “real wedding” that entire year). Unfortunately, I had no boundaries and no backbone. I was struggling to have a wedding that would represent us, but I wasn’t sure who “us” really was, and my husband was constantly saying he didn’t want the party I was planning with my dad. The invitations I chose were “too much” and he didn’t want to be the center of attention. Any conversation we had about the wedding made him shut down and left me in tears.
But those tears were a call to action for my husband, who is an amazing listener, and we started to find things we saw eye-to-eye on, and he realized that all his complaining was not going to make the party not happen. Those emotional conversations helped both of us see where our parents ended and we began, and we became a united front. Talking through our ceremony plan re-framed my Judaism for him and made it about the rituals, something he loves and embraces. (Now he has a kippah collection from all of the Bar Mitzvahs I’ve helped plan and coordinate over the years!)
Arguing with my parents and his parents over the guest list and the menu and the flowers and the…. I could go on FOREVER… helped us to understand one another a lot better, and it is the first time I remember setting a really clear boundary in my life, and it came in the form of a single sentence, what I now call our wedding mantra:
Only people who love us in the room.
It’s so simple, yet it instantly ended arguments with our parents, reassured my husband, and helped me focus on what really mattered to me about my wedding. So even though I will never forget that I hated my flowers, it was a blip on my radar on my wedding day. I saw them, laughed and shook my head, and went about enjoying being adored by everyone around me.
And my husband and I had finally found something we saw eye-to-eye on: we wanted to be independent from our parents. I’m not going to pretend one wedding mantra meant that we never disagreed again, but it did give us a fresh start on the path of us. And when we look back on that day, we both have so many happy memories, and we still feel all the love and support of those 140 people who love us and are rooting for us.
The verdict: don’t put off important conversations about your values. Don’t exclude your partner from the wedding plan because they’re not into it – they might not care about every detail, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. And if you want some insight into what your own mantra could be, and to know what it would be like if all the stress to please everyone around you magically disappeared, check out my new coaching offer – and get your wedding JUMPSTART.
Not sure it’s for you, but want to hear more? Book a free discovery call, or slide into my DM’s on Instagram, where I hang out way more than I should.