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Episode 14 - It Gets Better

I'll say it... the first year of marriage can be HARD!

Being a newlywed is such a tremendous adjustment, and it can create a lot of insecurity and anxiety for some people.

This week I'm talking about the ways in which our marriages get better with time (and the right focus) and how to find a mentor who will guide you and inspire you in improving your marriage.

00:00 Episode 14: It Gets Better.

00:15 Welcome to the First Year Married podcast, where we get real about building the marriage of your dreams. I'm marriage coach Kayla Levin, and I take newly married and engaged women from anxious and insecure to confident and connected with practical tips, real-life inspiration and more than a little self-awareness along the way.

00:37 Hey, everyone. Welcome back. I am so excited to talk to you this week about this topic. I was on a call this week with a fabulous, beautiful, lovely client and the conversation reminded me, because of where we kept sort of going back to, of such an important message that I don't know if I've been emphasizing enough on this podcast, and it's something that comes up a lot in my course, it comes up a lot with my clients, and I really, really wanted to make sure to take an episode and really focus on this.

01:06 So this week, I'm going to be talking about how it really gets better, and in what ways it gets better and some of the challenges that we deal with early in our marriages and how they shift as the marriage goes on. So one of the biggest struggles that my clients deal with is the thought that they have to now learn to deal with, or they have to somehow fix any issue that's comes up in their marriage. Now that they're married, this is a long-term commitment, and so if anything comes up, there's a sort of added level of anxiety. Of, okay, I either need to fix this and get rid of it or I need to learn how to deal with it forever.

01:46 It's a very challenging thought, because it can create a sort of trapped feeling or a lot of anxiety or resentment, frustration. It can create a lot of negative emotion when this thought comes up, and I see it coming up a lot with my clients. And so, one piece that I think is really valuable is to realize that you are in a specific phase. The whole idea for the course, First Year Married, it came from a Jewish concept. It's called Shana Rishona, which I find to be one of the most beautiful insights, which is that during the first year of marriage, you really take time and you sort of cocoon yourself in your marriage to just focus on building the foundation of the marriage.

02:26 And I think in today's day and age, it's a really, really important concept, because we are fed this lie that you're supposed to go into your marriage and everything should be perfect. And what does that mean? That means that it's perfect at the beginning, and then it could only go downhill from there. But really, this concept of taking a year to cocoon yourself, it implies that you need the time to build a foundation, because you don't have it yet, right? And a lot of what we talk about in my course is this concept of money in the bank. That your emotional relationship with your husband is like a bank account, in a way, right?

03:07 And so there's withdrawals and deposits. When you're early on, it's like you just got your first ATM card and you're in middle school, and there's 20 dollars of babysitting money in the bank. And you make a five dollar withdrawal, and that is suddenly a massive amount compared to the 20 dollars you had in your account, right? So when you're newly married, sometimes what to an outsider might look like a relatively minor infraction or a minor amount of negativity can feel like a lot. We can take things very personally, because the account isn't very big yet. We haven't had time to put money into the savings account.

03:48 As long as we're staying on a relatively focused, connected, positive track, where most of the time, the positive is outweighing the negative, and I would argue clearly outweighing the negative, then even if you're feeling anxiety, even if you're feeling a little bit like growing pains early in your marriage, then what's happening is you are making deposits into the bank. It's like every time you get a paycheck, like a little bit's going into the savings account, right? And so your emotional bank account between you and your husband is getting larger and larger.

04:23 And so now, you're the college student who's been working a part-time job and has a couple thousand dollars in the bank. And when you make even a 200 dollar withdrawal because you wanna go shopping, it actually isn't as dramatic as the five dollars you took out as a middle schooler. And of course, this metaphor can continue on and on. I will spare you, right? But the longer you've been together, the more you really have that backup. John Gottman talks about his concept of PSO, positive sentiment override, which -- excuse me, it's not his concept. He's proposed by a psychologist named Robert Weiss.

05:04 But what it means is the amount of positivity and positive thoughts about your partner, they're so common and so frequent that they outweigh any negativity that comes up. So where this will show up early in a marriage, is that you'll have a husband and wife, and something's going on where there's pressure, okay? And the husband will bark at the wife, "How could you have moved my keys? I put them right here." And he's really frustrated.

05:31 And what will happen with a lot of newlyweds is they will take it as sort of a rejection, or they'll take it very personally. It's very painful. How could he speak to me like that? He didn't speak to me like that before. This is this whole side of him that I didn't know about, right? But mostly it's this personal attack. It's this feeling a lack of love, a lack of warmth, okay? Because it was a five dollar withdrawal, but right now they only have 20 dollars in the bank, right? They just don't have that much behind them.

06:00 And what happens after enough time of just positivity, of making small sacrifices for each other, right? I'm not talking about changing yourself, I'm not talking about bending over backwards for someone who doesn't care about you. But I'm talking about just decent, being a good person and pushing yourself a little outside your comfort zone to make the other person happy where you can. Just a healthy amount of compromise, of speaking to the other person in a respectful way. These things are so underestimated, right?

06:33 The more that you're doing that, the more you're just putting deposits into the bank. So what happens a couple years later, which is a surprise to some newlyweds, is that the exact same situation happens. The husband shouts in the exact same tone, says the exact same thing. And your reaction will be, oh my gosh, he must be so stressed out. Let me help him. Right? It's a shift that happens because you've just had more time to build up that relationship together. And that's really exciting, y'know?

07:08 I think if you had asked me in my first year of marriage, how was it going, I would have been like, "It's so easy. It's so fun. It's great. I love him, it's wonderful." But it wasn't until a couple years later when I looked back and just, thinking about that first your, it was exhausting. So much trying to figure things out. SO much growing pains. So much, just sort of anxiety and concern about how am I doing and does he still like me and whatever it was that my brain was going crazy on that wasn't necessary, but it was just because of a basic level of insecurity, right? A lot of women tell me that insecurity is one of their biggest issues early in marriage. They don't feel solid. They don't feel confident in their marriage.

07:49 And again circling back to this whole concept of Shana Rishona, that is the whole concept. The whole concept is that it takes time for the couple to feel secure, for the couple to feel okay, it's not me and you and your points and my points, and us compromising for each other. It's now us. It's not us as a unit, and our vision for what we want in our life and what we wanna do in the world. And now we're more side-by-side as opposed to sort of facing each other.

08:17 So I really was so inspired by that, and it really made me realize that it's such an amazingly auspicious time to really focus in on your marriage, because even though things really do feel kind of giddy and exciting in that first year, it's also when you're staring to see a little bit of the kinks in the armor. And it's a good time to sort of stop and focus on it before you get to the point where there's major resentment baked in, or there's major frustration, or there's a conversation that's been coming up forever that just hasn't been resolved. When you deal with it really early on, it can be fabulous.

08:54 And one of the places where I find that it's helpful early on to be dealing with a lot of this is that when you take a person who's being very intentional about trying to do their best in their marriage, what that often means is they're being careful about not gossiping. If you've learned the lesson that if you're gossiping or complaining about your husband, it's gonna create more negativity, it feels in the moment like it's helpful, but really ultimately, all it does is it's going to reinforce all those negative thoughts you have, especially if your friends are agreeing with you. And it's just gonna create more negativity in your relationship, and it undermines that basic trust that you should have for each other, that you should be able to have for each other, that you're not gonna go talking about what's going on.

09:38 So, what I generally have with my clients is I have women who are very intentional, and they're really, really focusing on trying to keep the privacy of their relationship, but now they are in a tremendous bind because something does come up. There is an area that they need to fix. There's an area that they need improvement. There's an area they're struggling in. They don't know what to do, because they don't wanna just go to their girlfriend and start complaining, right? Going to their mother is also not generally advisable. So what do you do? Who do you go to?

10:09 So, obviously, I think working with a marriage coach is a fabulous option. So that has to be mentioned. But I wanted to offer to those of you who aren't able to, or you don't have a coach or you don't know how to find one, or I dunno. You don't have one that you connect to, maybe. Another great option is to find a mentor, okay? And so, the way to go about this that I would recommend is you wanna start looking -- and this is gonna be your homework for the week -- you wanna start looking for people and noticing the general vibe of their relationship, okay?

10:40 So they might have very different personalities from you. They might have very different careers from you and your husband whatever it is. But if you're noticing they generally just seem very positive or if you do see them argue, you see that it's done with respect and that it doesn't seem to be undermining the relationship. It's just a disagreement, right? It's not going deeper. It's not becoming more personal. There's just a general positive, healthy vibe in their relationship. Originally, First Year Married as focused specifically on women whose parents were divorced. I would say all the more so that if your own parents aren't a model for you, really take the time -- this is your new part-time job -- find couples that are a little bit -- this is the other piece -- you want them to be a little bit further ahead in life, okay?

11:24 So that means you've been married for a year, maybe they've been married for five years. Maybe even 10 years. I would say don't go so far ahead, you don't wanna be asking your grandmother. And the reason for that would be twofold. One is that cultural norms would have changed so drastically, and pressures would have changed so drastically, right? Social media brings in a whole other element to your relationship that your grandmother's not gonna relate to. The other one is that she simply might not really be able to remember so clearly, day-to-day, what it was like early on in your marriage, right?

11:53 So you wanna find someone who's a bit ahead of you so they've had time to work it all out, and at times they have rear-view vision, that they can say oh, I remember it was like this, but now it's like this. And they can see the difference and the changes that happened. And someone who you really respect the relationship, obviously we don't know what goes on behind closed doors, so you just sort of have to make your best guess. But you respect the way they speak to each other, you respect what you know of their relationship.

12:19 And then frankly, as uncomfortable as this is for some of us, I would recommend explicitly asking that person to be your mentor, okay? This serves two purposes. One is you can find out if they really just don't have time for you. It might be that this person can make space for you in their life, and they're available for every other week or once a month to have a phone call with you, and just to give you time to just get off your chest the things that are struggles for you right now.

12:49 The other positive of this is that when you ask someone to be your mentor, then it's clear when you speak to them that the goal is positive. The goal is growth-oriented. You don't go to a mentor, let's imagine you're in a corporate environment and you ask someone to be your mentor, and then you go and you say, "I'm struggling with my boss, because X, Y and Z." They're not gonna be like, oh my gosh, yeah, your boss is such a jerk. Let's talk about him. Right? That's not what's gonna happen, because they know that your goal is to get somewhere. Your goal is excellence.

13:21 So it's the same thing here. You ask this person to be your mentor, you come to them and you say, "I'm struggling with this area." Now they're gonna know you're not telling me you're struggling because you want me to sit there and tell you how horrible it is. You're telling me that you're struggling because you want me to help you brainstorm and find a positive solution for this problem. So that's a another really good reason that it's great to explicitly ask someone, because then that you're doing is you're framing the role you want them to play in this situation. And that will help a lot.

13:50 So your homework for this week is to really start headhunting, okay? You're gonna start looking around, noticing who might this person be? Even write down a couple suggestions, a couple ideas for yourself. If you think it's helpful, maybe you can present this idea to your husband and ask him if he has any suggestions, if he has any people that he really respects the way that they are together. You might wanna do this one on your own. That's fine.

14:17 The other piece of homework for you is I want you to take this thought that it gets better. And you can change the phrasing a little bit if you want, but if you're still early on in your relationship and you are experiencing some anxiety or some insecurity, I want you to take this thought, write it on a post-it note, or you can do dry-erase marker on the mirror. Whatever you wanna do. Write it out somewhere where you're gonna see it on a regular basis and just try on this thought, okay? Because when you're in a situation where it feels like this is make or break, or I don't know if we're gonna make it, it can be so scary early on sometimes. And that's really, really normal. So if that's what you're experiencing, I want you to know that it's really normal. And even if it's not scary, like you don't know if you're gonna stay together, sometimes it can be scary just like, I don't know if I can deal with this. Or I don't know if it's ever gonna go away. I don't know if it's gonna be fixed.

15:08 And I want you to know that the longer you're together, again, as long as you're on a positive track, as long as you're focusing on each other and you're trying to grow as a couple, you're going to continue putting those deposits in the bank, and so many things are just going to get better. You two are gonna grow up. You're gonna keep maturing. Even if you're in your 30s or your 40s when you got married, the process of being together, it really encourages so much growth. This is one of the areas that -- I used to coach people in so many different areas. In their business, in their weight, so many different areas and I can't find anything that I love so much to coach with as much as I love coaching people about their marriages, because it's such a tremendous place to really see personal growth.

15:58 When we become intentional with our marriages, the growth that you do in your marriage, it bleeds out into every other area of your life. It's really amazing to see. So that's why I'm so passionate about the work that I'm doing. Okay. So again, that's your homework. You're gonna start looking for your mentor, you're gonna start looking at this thought that it gets better, or start thinking about your deposits in the emotional bank account. And if you want a little extra support, if you go to my website, First Year Married dot com, and you sign up to watch the free video, whether you watch it then or not, you're going to get added to my email list. That's gonna let you know about all-new podcast episodes that go out and it's also gonna give you a short thought each Monday to give you a little bit of focus, a little re-focus, a little inspiration for your week in terms of ways that we can focus on our brains and how we can grow, and how we can really improve our marriages and improve our lives.

16:53 So, I would love to see you over there. Again, it's First Year Married dot com. I hope you have a terrific week. Bye-bye.

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