After the Alter: Navigating the Stages of Marriage

Single folks may think that it gets easier once you say "I do," but that couldn't be further from the truth. As your union matures, you and your new spouse are bound to experience some growing pains. Here's how you can navigate the common hurdles you'll face after your stroll down the aisle.

Newlywed Years

Even if you've lived together before tying the knot, the start of your marriage will be exciting and full of promise as you plan your future together. It's all those warm, fuzzy feelings that will help you overcome the challenges of merging your lives, from figuring out who's in charge of paying the bills to whose job it is to clean out the cat's litter box. The challenge will be to dump your preconceived notion of what an ideal marriage is - because you aren't going to have one (no one does). Have fun figuring out what will and won't work for the two of you.

When the Honeymoon's Over...

No one tells you how tricky the next few years can be. While you'll have the opportunity to grow closer than you've ever been, you may end up compromising that intimacy by holding your spouse up to expectations you didn't even realize you had. (When you were single, you had no idea you'd be so annoyed by wet towels on the floor!) Your union won't grow in an environment that's hostile or critical, so figure out how you can get what you want yourself, and not expect your spouse to fulfill your needs.

And Baby Makes Three...

It's tough to make the transition from couple to family, since big changes require big adjustments. Suddenly, you'll have less time, more stress, and many more chances to be disappointed with your spouse, and vice versa. Now's the time for conversations on parenting styles, family rules, and childrearing philosophies. Having a game plan can keep frustrations at a minimum.


Even good chances - promotions, college or retirement - can tilt the delicate balance of your marriage. When roles shift, like becoming a couple again instead of parents, you need to readjust those expectations of your partner. Just don't let the stress of change make you withdraw or blame each other for your unhappiness.

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