How to get your marriage off to a successful start

(Last in a six-part series)

MANHATTAN, Kan. – After the vows have been exchanged and the cake has been cut, the new couple can finally begin their marriage.

One of the first steps as newlyweds will be defining marital tasks, said Kansas State University Research and Extension family systems specialist Charlotte Shoup Olsen.

Marital to-do list.

Olsen’s marital task list includes:

* establishing family and gender roles; dividing chores. For example, who takes out the trash?

* learning how to give and receive emotional support, including sexual adjustments

* adjusting personal habits; sleeping, eating and spending habits. For example, one partner wakes up to the radio and the other wants a beeping alarm

* establishing budget and financial matters; who pays the bills

* learning to balance family and work

* fitting into the larger community, including the level of involvement and the decision to participate together or individually. For example, which religious group will the couple join?

The beginning of a successful marriage involves more than just establishing marital roles, Olsen said. Problems may arise in the family and family-in-law relationships.

Adjusting loyalties.

This can result from the shift in loyalties that the newlyweds have made. The couple began their relationship with their loyalties focused on their parents and families of origin. Now their loyalties are to each other.

Olsen suggested that to manage family relationships successfully, boundaries need to be respectfully set.

For example, one of the fathers may insist on repairing all of the minor problems in the new couple’s house. While the new couple may appreciate this, having the father over every weekend conflicts with the couple’s routines.

Setting boundaries.

The child of the father needs to address the issue and set boundaries for the father, for example, asking the father to only repair problems when asked to do so.

If the father ignores the boundaries, and continues to do so, the couple may have to work out a compromise and begin appreciating the small steps the father takes in respecting the boundaries, such as asking the father to repair problems every other weekend.

The boundary problem may be complicated if the new couple enters into an agreement that compromises their independence, such as asking parents to co-sign a loan.

Decisions as a couple.

The new couple needs to make decisions as a couple, and that needs to be communicated to the families, Olsen said.

New couples also should remember to continue to nurture their own relationship apart from the family, otherwise they may lose sight of the reasons for getting married, she said.

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