Beyond the First Year

Gina Martin

Finding Prince Charming can be exhilarating. First is the dating life where both parties are on their best behavior, dates last for hours, and you can never seem to get enough of one another. Next, is the proposal, where he pops the big question; you are filled with excitement and joy at finding your true love and that he wants to spend the rest of his life with you as well. The engagement is filled with planning. Planning your life together, your wedding, and your collaborative dreams as a couple. Then there’s the wedding and it’s the fairy tale wedding, with you in your favorite dress, him looking dapper, and both families in good spirits and celebrating your eternal love. This is truly a beautiful thing and my, oh my, is it filled with joy and happiness. But what lies beyond this bliss?

This article focuses on the Beyond….the part that comes after the “Happily Ever After” wears out, and it’s just you and your spouse. What comes next? I got married a little over three years ago. That first year is all about finding your bearings on how to be a wife, how to live with someone else, and how to continue the bliss of the planning stages.

In my opinion, there are different stages that occur after the first year. It is important to get your bearings, enjoy that honeymoon phase, and relax and recuperate after the excitement and planning of the wedding. After that it is imperative to continue building your foundation as a married couple, otherwise cracks will seep into the foundation, and eventually you will grow apart. My husband and I have worked on our foundation, and despite efforts, we still find cracks to this very day. Cracks are conflict, tension, or uncomfortable topics that no one wants to talk about.

Cracks must be talked about. Despite the discomfort and negative emotions surrounding them, cracks must be discussed and repaired. If they are left unattended, they will continue to grow and become splits in the foundation. As a clinical mental health counselor in training, I firmly believe in bringing the discomfort to the surface and dealing with it in a healthy way that allows both parties to speak and be heard. That signals respect to your partner, and will allow communication to flow openly and lovingly in a way that can help repair those cracks. Communication is key in relationships; a marriage is no different.

After going through the first three years of marriage I have discovered four foundational pieces of a healthy marriage that help keep the fire alive, avoid cracks, and encourage discussion around cracks.


Faith is the first and foremost pillar of the foundation that must be solid in order to have a happy marriage. God must be the central component of your relationship, and He must stay at the center in order for you to prosper as a healthy couple. This can include things like maintaining attendance at a home church, or finding one if you don’t have one as a couple. It can be getting involved at that church by volunteering or becoming involved in a small group. Community is such an important piece of happiness, and it also helps with the Faith piece of a relationship too. Also in this category it would be important to work on praying together as a couple, and inviting each other into that sacred space that had previously just been yours. Allow your partner to see how you pray, and invite them to pray with you or together. Also show interest in your partner’s way of praying. The curiosity and interest may help your partner to become more vulnerable with you.


Working on your relationship as a couple is another foundational pillar of a healthy relationship. When people are dating, this aspect comes easily. It is the most fun, there is a lot of emphasis placed on dates and seeing one another; but when in a marriage this concept shifts. You now live together and spend almost every waking moment together (aside from work and traveling). How do you keep the spirit of dating alive? I like to use the analogy that your partner will remain your boyfriend or girlfriend even after you are married. It is crucial to schedule in date nights, make time for intimacy, and quality time together. If you allow the daily mundane tasks to take over your life, then your dating relationship goes out the window (along with your passion and desire for one another). This can lead to staleness in a relationship paired with resentment as one member of the couple will wonder what happened and why their spouse doesn’t want to engage in sex, or other intimate acts. This can be particularly frustrating as the members of the relationship reminisce about how they once did have passion and desire for one another. Making time and continuing your dating relationship is allowing your relationship to come first. It keeps the romance alive and keeps that flame ignited.


Everyone knows that when you marry someone, you are also marrying their family. However, despite this knowledge being well-known it is not fully understood until you are married and witnessing the effects of the family ties on your own relationship. No matter how similar you think your families are, you do not come from the exact same family and there will be differences that you must overcome. This pillar of the foundation requires much work and time mixed with patience and love. If you love your partner, he or she came from his or her family, and therefore is part of them. This pillar can be strengthened through spending time with one another’s families and attempting to build relationships with them. This does not mean becoming enmeshed with them, and breaking boundaries in terms of independence, but making the effort to maintain a relationship is essential to happy marriages. Additionally, it would be wise to set up some boundaries with your spouse surrounding family relationships. Determine what is healthy and happy for you and your spouse, as well as the families involved, and then stick to those boundaries. This will create clear expectations within the families and allow there to be some structure.


This pillar of the foundation is also important. Earlier I talked about the importance of community at church and if you don’t have a strong community of supportive friends, life can be extremely isolating. This can lead to you and your spouse depending on one another to be everything for each other. This term “everything” has traditionally been used as a positive, endearing term, but I don’t know many husbands who prefer to be the shopping buddy, the lover, the confidante, the chick flick watcher, chocolate eater, manicure/pedicure buddy as well as the husband. Conversely, I don’t know many wives who want to be the sports enthusiast, beer drinker, best friend, lover, work out buddy and wife. Creating these expectations for your spouse can lead to unhealthy standards and can end in cracks seeping into your foundation. It is important to maintain healthy friendships outside of the marriage in order to maintain your own individual interests and hobbies, as well as respect and care for your partner’s interests and hobbies in a healthy way. Additionally, as a couple it can be fun and strengthening for you to share friends as a couple and bless other couples through your relationship with them. Sharing in meals with others, and having game nights, going out to entertainment, etc. can all be ways to enrich your married life and develop new hobbies as a couple.

These four pillars of a solid foundation have been immensely helpful to my husband and me as we continue to keep the spark alive several years into our marriage. Working on these four areas has helped us to better get to know one another and develop a deeper connection with one another. Marriage takes work and investing in one another, but ultimately putting your relationship with God and with one another first and foremost. Like building a house, the foundation comes first before the frame or other embellishments; the same goes with a marriage. Communication about these four pillars helps introduce them, and begins to work towards the commitment of working on these together as a couple!

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