5 Tips for Thriving in Your First Year of Marriage + Our Wedding Video

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I can’t believe that it has already been 1 full year since Sam and I stood on the edge of Lake Louise, declared lifelong promises to each other through happy tears, and said “I do”.

This year was filled with even more joy, love, and growth than we could have ever anticipated. Although it may sound cliche, I love Sam even more today than I did the day that we became husband and wife. I can’t imagine finding a better partner to navigate through the high’s and low’s with, and to have as a best friend and teammate.

Although we may feel like our relationship is effortless, the reality is that it takes work, just like anything else in life. Whenever we get asked advice for new marriages or struggling relationships we always refer to these 5 core beliefs that we have worked at in our own relationship over the past 8 years.

Sam and I are both hopeless romantics and truly love love. Nothing makes us happier than to see a couple in a healthy and loving relationship. Since it is our very first wedding anniversary, we decided that giving back to you in the form of honest, tried-and-true relationship advice would be the best way to celebrate.

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Without further ado, these are our 5 tips for how to build a strong foundation and thrive during your first year of marriage:

(p.s. Don’t miss our wedding video shared for the first time at the bottom of this post!)

1. Prioritize your relationship over everything else

I tell this to everyone, including Sam. Sam is my #1 over any person, business, desire, or commitment. My relationship with my husband truly takes precedence over everything else in my life. We don’t have children yet, but we both agreed that when that day comes we will remain as each other’s #1 priority. How can we expect to raise children in a happy and loving household if we can’t show them an incredible example of love firsthand? When our marriage is thriving, we are thriving; both together and as individuals.

We prioritize our relationship by scheduling a date night at least once a week in our calendars (to be honest, it’s more like 2-3 days a week now that we’re in the same state). There are 0 excuses when it comes to this, no matter what else may pop up. Date nights don’t have to be expensive, either. When I say that we have them 2-3 days a week now, I don’t mean fancy dinners downtown where I put on red lipstick and a flirty dress and we blow a ton of money.

Dates for us can be anything from visiting a local Sunflower Field to grabbing coffee and wandering through the Farmers’ Market holding hands. Oftentimes our dates don’t even require us to leave the house; it can be as simple as testing out a new recipe together in the kitchen (last week it was homemade sushi) and put on a new movie to snuggle up and watch on the couch afterwards. The only thing that is consistent in all of these is that we’re making the effort to continue dating. We make a no-phone rule, light some candles, put on romantic music, and literally shut the rest of the world out.

Think back to your first few dates; you weren’t snapping at each other while cooking the same dinner you’ve had 10 times this month; you weren’t half talking-half scrolling through social media; you weren’t watching mindless TV on opposite ends of the couch. It’s likely that you weren’t prioritizing a work project, spin class, or happy hours with your friends over a romantic dinner with your man or girl. You were EXCITED to spend time together getting to know each other, being goofy, and creating a connection!

Listen, Sam and I have been guilty of allowing life to get in the way of our relationship in the past and asking each other, “when was the last time we went out to dinner just the two of us?” We’re not perfect, but if there’s anything we know to be true, it is that we have to choose to prioritize our relationship, schedule special nights or days on our calendar, and continue strengthening our connection.

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2. Be present with your partner

Look your partner in the eyes more than you look at the screen on your phone. I know this may sound crazy as a content creator myself, but I almost never look at my phone once Sam gets home from work. Unless I have communicated with Sam that I have a deadline or a post that I wasn’t able to get done during my normal work hours (or if he falls asleep way before me), I try my best to put it away and be present on our normal, non-date nights as well.

When we lived in 2 different cities, this boundary didn’t exist for me because I was always alone at night so I could work and engage with my community as long as I wanted. However, when we moved to Virginia, I noticed that the habit briefly carried over into sitting on the couch clicking away on my phone while we’re both half-watching a show or he was playing a video game. It made me feel icky, so even though the majority of my community is active in the evening on social media, I choose to prioritize my relationship (back to my first point) and be fully present instead.

Talking to each other face to face about your day when you both get home from work, or in the morning about what you’re thankful for with no phones or TV is so important. Communication is the most vital part of a relationship in my opinion, and if you are only half-listening or thinking about what you’re going to say the whole time that they are talking, the ability to be on the same page and move forward can be extremely challenging.

3. Fight fair

Arguments and disagreements are inevitable when you are in a lifelong committed relationship. However, they don’t have to be nasty or result in hurt feelings. There are so many things we have learned about “fighting fair” in a relationship over the years. Things like avoiding the words “never” and “always” while complaining, switching out “you did _” for “I feel”, and swallowing your pride when you’re wrong to say “I’m sorry”.

These are all extremely useful tips that we have used over the years, but one of the biggest pieces of advice we relay to couples is something we both learned in our first year of dating. It is this: when arguing, do not curse or call each other names. We don’t even jokingly call each other names anymore because we both know how easily it can shift into hurt feelings and the lingering thought like “did you actually mean that?”

We don’t use curse words when talking to each other out of frustration or anger, even if it’s directed at something or someone totally separate. These 2 things have the ability to heighten an argument and make it more aggressive and long-lasting than it needs to be.

If this is important to you, I recommend bringing it up to your partner in a non-confrontational way during a one-on-one conversation where you can suggest both of you testing it out or doing your best to catch each other when you slip up out of habit. Sam and I still correct each other from time to time if we’re having a heated conversation or feeling frustrated.

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4. Learn both of your love languages

Not only should you know your partner’s love language, but you need to know yours as well so you can communicate to them how you want to be loved. The 5 love languages by Gary Chapman are: Words of affirmation, Gifts, Acts of service, Quality time, and Physical touch.

This is so important because although you may think that you’re showing love to your partner on a daily basis, if it is not in the way that they receive it best, they could be feeling unseen or unloved, leaving you feeling frustrated and unappreciated as well. Each of us are so unique that it is likely that you and your partner give and receive love differently.

For example, you may show love traditionally by surprising your partner with a gift or handwritten card, but if they are craving physical touch and quality time, the message could be lost in translation. They may actually value a couple hours with you snuggling on the couch and talking face-to-face about your day more than whatever gift you spent precious time picking out.

For one of your date nights, I highly recommend taking a love language quiz online or learning about the topic together and discussing each of your results openly. You may find that you learn more about your partner than anticipated.

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5. Always, always have your partner’s back

You are a team. Let me repeat that a little bit louder for the people in the back: You are a TEAM. No one wins in a partnership if one person is hurt.

Even if you don’t agree with your partner on a certain topic or action, you should never allow them to feel like you aren’t supporting or backing them up in a situation. If you disagree with them, feel free to have that conversation on the ride home, but no one wins if you bring it up and embarrass them in public.

One of Sam and my pet peeves is being around a couple while they are fighting, even if it is semi-jokingly with a few real jabs thrown in. It honestly makes us both so uncomfortable and turns us off from spending time with them. We don’t want to see couples that made a lifelong commitment tearing each other down, correcting each other abruptly about insignificant details, or making jokes at the other’s expense in a room full of people.

We share the opinion that a relationship is between two people and to bring others into arguments or a venting session is damaging. The two people in the relationship may resolve whatever issue they are having in private, but the person that was at the receiving end (usually a family member or best friend) probably won’t be so quick to forgive and forget. This is especially true if they only witnessed the argument, or if you only relayed the negative aspects of your partner to them while venting.

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As I said, Sam and I do not claim to have a perfect relationship; we are not perfect people, after all (no one is). Rather, our relationship and marriage is built on a strong foundation of love and respect for each other. We are still learning and growing as a team every single day, and I feel so blessed to have Sam alongside me to navigate through this thing called life.

I hope that this post brought you value, or at least sparked a conversation between you and your partner. To many more happy and loving years!

Photography by Nicole Babcock, edited by me (tutorial here)

Video by Nick and Jade Koetz

Are you currently dating or married? Can you relate to any of these 5 tips? Comment on my latest Instagram post and let me know!

Want more lifestyle inspiration? Read The First 5 Items We Purchased for Our New Home and How I Edit My Photos Using Lightroom.

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xo Anna Elizabeth

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