Honeymoon's over: Is the first year the hardest?

The wedding went off without a hitch, you're bronzed from a week-long Hawaiian honeymoon– heck, you've even written all 200 thank-you notes. Now what?

Anecdotally at least, the first year of marriage can be one of the hardest. As you settle down into a regular life together, your partner's quirks may seem a bit more exaggerated than they did pre-wedding– even if you lived together. Something about "'til death do us part" makes loud chewing and the dirty laundry on the floor somehow less endearing...

So what do you do if your new husband leaves more crumbs in his wake than Hansel? Or if your new wife is single-handedly keeping Scarpa in business?

"Communicate!" advises John Penn Turner, a local therapist who frequently works with couples and who says money and sex issues are the two "biggies" in most marriages. (Turner's own civil union is featured in this issue on page XX.)

Getting off on the right foot is important, and Turner suggests a short run of premarital counseling to help set the stage for happily ever after.

"A lot of times there are unspoken expectations that are a set up for some sort of a problem in the future," he says. When a couple arrives in his office, Turner focuses first on the words they use.

"One of the things we play with is getting the same vocabulary set," he says, "so that when one person says something, the other person understands what that means." For instance, what one person might express as hurt feelings the other might call anger.

"A lot of that," Turner explains, "has to do with the way society perceives feelings for men and women."

If you're irritated by some of your partner's pesky habits (and, really, who isn't?), Turner has some blunt words: it's not your partner's problem. It's yours.

"Saying something about it is okay," he says. "But expecting that the other person will change that behavior probably isn't realistic. You have to do what you need to do to live with it."

Perhaps making it through the first year with a smile on your face is easiest if you go in with realistic expectations.

"Marriage isn't 50/50," says Turner. "It's 100/100 from each party."

Problems? John Penn Turner says money and sex are the two "biggies."