Most newlyweds get caught up in the excitement of weddings and honeymoons. They think marriage is all sunshine and roses.
When in the honeymoon stage, it’s hard to imagine there’ll be problems in your marriage. But after the honeymoon, reality sets in, and you might start experiencing several challenges.
While every couple is unique, there’s a general belief that some marriage years are more complex than others. Knowing these tough years can help you navigate every challenge that comes your way together.
So, what are the hardest years of marriage?
The First Year
I know, why would you even marry if the first year is going to be nightmare-ish. However, the first year of marriage involves knowing and acclimatizing to each other.
You’re moving in with a new person to spend the rest of your lives together. This is when you’re trying to adjust to each other’s lifestyle while keeping your love strong.
When living alone, it was easy to live according to your means. You didn’t worry much about spending money, household chores, and limited space.
After getting married, you realize several changes you need to adjust to. First, your partner needs your attention more often, and you have to make most decisions together.
Usually, newlyweds find it challenging to adapt to married life. Some of the difficulties they encounter include:
1. Handling Finances
Finances can pose a significant challenge to couples in their first year of marriage. If you’re not financially stable, you’ll find it hard to meet your needs.
You have a lot that you’re planning to do with money. You probably need to rent a bigger house, update your household items and save money for the unexpected. This also means cutting short on grocery candy, probably.
2. Unrealistic Expectations
After moving in together, you may realize your spouse is different from the one you were dating.
Spending time together for long means understanding the ins and outs of each other. Perhaps there’s what you expected before marriage, such as undivided attention, sexual intimacy, shared responsibilities, and respect.
While it’s crucial to meet each other’s expectations, sometimes it gets difficult, thus leading to conflicts.
Your partner might be too selfish, leaving you feeling lonely and unappreciated. When all a partner thinks about is their happiness and comfort, conflicts will likely arise.
Your partner might be having some form of addiction that you didn’t notice when dating. Whether it’s drugs, pornography, gambling, or the internet, you will likely get disappointed with your partner. If addiction is not addressed early, it may pose a significant danger to your marriage.
5. Fitting in Two Families
Depending on your significant other relatives, you may or may not have tried to avoid them while dating. Now this is impossible, gladly or maybe not so much.
When living alone, you only need to take care of yourself and your family. Moving in with your partner means taking care of more people.
If you’re to make decisions, such as relocation, you have to involve both families. You also have to give both families your time and attention. Trying to accommodate your family and your partner’s family may sometimes feel like a Herculean task.
While the first year of marriage may prove challenging to newlyweds, communication is the key. You can discuss your expectations, goals, and how to solve problems when they arise.
One study states that 67.5% of marriages end due to communication problems. With effective communication, you don’t have to grapple with the question, what are the hardest years of marriage?
When you make it to the third year together, you can rest assured of experiencing happy times in marriage. By the third year, couples are used to solving problems together, sharing finances, and planning to start a family.
The Fifth Year
The fifth year is the next stage where you are likely to experience difficulties in your marriage.
Most likely, by this year, there will be one or several human beings that share you and your partner’s DNA.
This is the time when couples are struggling with kids and work. You come home exhausted, and everyone, including your pets, needs your attention. You have to attend to your household chores, baby, and spouse.
For most couples, dividing their attention at this time is usually challenging. When they get overwhelmed, they even regret why they got married.
Most couples who cannot deal with problems in their fifth year may contemplate divorce. With nearly 20% of marriages breaking up within the first five years, you will likely divorce if misunderstandings persist.
What are some of the top reasons that make the fifth year complicated for married couples?
1. Divided Attention
Marriage involves hard work. You have to struggle to stay committed to your partner while taking care of a baby. Most men find it challenging to navigate this stage of life. Before the baby, they have all the attention they need.
But once kids come, women have to balance between attending to their babies and husbands. The baby comes with a lot of demands. Divided attention and more demands make marriages more stressful.
This is where you’ll have to puff your chest out and decide that your furry friend, although easier to get along with, is not your priority.
2. Disagreements Over Responsibilities
Disagreement in marriage is inevitable. Through disputes, you realize the problem and learn how to solve it. However, disagreements resulting from one partner neglecting their responsibilities can bring conflict and misunderstanding.
For example, you might disagree on a particular parenting style, paying the bills, or daily chores. Any disputes that are not solved satisfactorily strain marriages.
3. Failing To Communicate Promptly
Communication in marriage could be all the cure that most failing marriages need. When married, it’s no longer about you alone, but it’s you and your spouse.
When making decisions or facing problems, your partner expects you to speak up. Remember, everything that you do may have an impact on your marriage. If you fail to communicate, your partner might feel sidelined, lonely and unappreciated.
4. Overbearing In-laws
How do you expect your spouse to treat your parents and siblings? How does your partner expect you to treat their parents or siblings?
Often, spouses in their fifth year have learned a lot about their in-laws. In the case of overbearing in-laws, you may feel disrespected and denied space to do things your way. Such in-laws can cause a lot of friction in marriages.
5. Contradicting Life Plans
After spending the first blissful years in marriage, couples have to step into the other phase of life. This stage usually occurs in the fifth year. Partners start to make serious life decisions such as investment, education, number of children, and how to stay in touch with in-laws. If you disagree on various plans that affect your marriage, things may not end well.
Just like when you grew and decided being an astronaut was not the best option, a few years in marriage could change boths life goals. The key is to talk it over and make a decision together.
The Seventh Year
If you ask couples what the hardest years of marriage are, most will talk about the seven-year itch.
A study suggests that most marriages end in divorce after seven years. But why is the seven-year itch popularized as the most challenging stage in marriage?
During the seventh year, most couples are no longer passionate about each other. In addition, there’s accumulated stress resulting from work and raising children.
For most couples, kids have started schooling, and life becomes monotonous – taking kids to school, going to work, and picking them up. While several reasons come into play, the seven-year itch makes couples long for a different life.
So, what reasons make the seventh year difficult for married couples?
In the seventh year, you’re used to a routine. Whether it’s household chores or work, you rarely find something exciting to do daily. And this is where boredom sets in.
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You feel like you’re stuck in a rut and have no idea how to snap yourself out of it. As a result, you become less happy and dissatisfied in marriage. If you fail to address issues, you might distance yourself from your partner and contemplate divorce.
2. Altered Sex Life
Remember how sex used to be when dating or after the wedding. It was sex anywhere and anytime. Not even the washing machine was a bad option. But living together for seven years, you no longer enjoy the same sexual experiences of your first days or months in marriage.
Life has changed; you have kids, careers to chase, and goals to meet. While you might still have bouts of mind-blowing sex, it won’t happen as often as it used to back then. If you’re struggling with so many things in life, you’ll have less sex and eventually fall out of love.
Couples who get past the seven-year itch together are likely to have a long and happy marriage. If you wish to stay together past this stage, you should seek ways to beat the seven-year itch. Some of the best ways to pass this stage and any other stage in marriage include:
- Being grateful for your partner
- Talking and touching often
- Make weekly dates
- Complimenting your partner
- Solving problems together
- Enjoying intimate moments
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You now have the answer to the question, what are the hardest years of marriage? While every relationship is unique, the first, fifth, and seventh years are the most challenging for most couples.
The secret to getting past the difficult years in marriage is understanding what to expect from the relationship. There will be ups and downs, but sticking together and finding solutions to problems matters.
Don’t wait until everything falters, leading to divorce. If you support and stay committed to each other, your marriage will remain successful past the three problematic years.
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.