When two people are married and blend their lives together, it is normal for life to change drastically, according to BYU church history and doctrine associate professor Mark Ogletree.
Ogletree is the co-author of several books on marriage and family and has worked for over 20 years as a marriage and family therapist.
Some of the biggest changes married couples face include understanding the differences between men and women, recognizing unrealistic expectations and learning how to communicate, solve problems, express love and establish a religious routine, Ogletree said.
“With another person to care for in your life, that means there is another schedule to manage, another personality to deal with and different ways of doing things that must be discussed,” Ogletree said. “Everyone who enters the marriage arena must be willing to make changes and adjustments.”
Ogletree said it’s important for newlyweds to take life slowly and one day at a time. He said the first couple of years of marriage are filled with adjustment and couples need to be patient with each other as they each make those adjustments.
“You may need to lower your expectations because too many people often expect too much from marriage,” Ogletree said. “Relax, enjoy each other and work tougher as a team. Understand that it takes a while to build a great marriage.”
BYU psychology student Maddie Hoyt has been married for nine months and said she continues to recognize the blessings from her marriage.
“One of the main things I have learned is how you’re able to help each other and find out new qualities about the other that you wouldn’t have learned while dating,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt said having an attitude of never taking each other for granted and treating each other the same as when they were still dating and trying to impress each other has benefited their marriage.
“I think it’s so important that you treat your spouse so that they feel special and that they know they are loved,” Hoyt said. “I heard once that you should treat your spouse walking through the door the way your dog treats you, so I try to do that when my husband gets home so that he knows I missed him and love him.”
Hoyt said she and her husband continue to grow together as they recreate meaningful experiences they had while dating, make new memories and make each other a priority.
Ogletree said another lesson newlyweds must learn is the basic differences between men and women. He said men and women communicate and connect differently, and they feel cherished and competent in different ways.
“Most women need to be cherished, to receive caring and tenderness, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, reassurance and a listening ear,” Ogletree said. “Most men need to be needed, to receive trust, appreciation, admiration, approval, encouragement and to be viewed as competent.”
When Ogletree was learning this for himself, he said his wife would vent to him about problems, which he always had a solution for. He said he realized this was her way of connecting with him.
“One day, as I was giving her a great suggestion for a problem she mentioned, she said, ‘I’m a big girl. I don’t need you to solve my problems. I just need you to listen,'” Ogletree said. “That was a wakeup call for me … I learned women connect with those they love by talking.”
When differences or disagreements arise in marriage, Ogletree said it’s important to recognize problems are present in all marriages. He said married couples must learn to become good listeners and learn to work for a “win-win” solution. Every marriage has challenges, but Ogletree said good marriages are the ones in which couples learn to resolve their differences.
BYU finance student Blake Ziser was recently married and said he has benefited from having open communication in his marriage, especially when differences arise.
“My wife and I handle (things) differently, and as we have talked to each other about how we both communicate, it has helped us know how and when to solve problems,” Ziser said. “Learning one another’s love language has helped increase our communication and helped show the other they are loved in a way they respond best.”
Ogletree said he suggests couples pray together, read scriptures together, attend the temple together, discuss the gospel, help each other in callings and teach the gospel to their children. He said spiritual activities strengthen the family.
“There is no question about it. The happiest marriages in America are religious marriages where religion is practiced and lived,” Ogletree said.
Hoyt said she tries to keep Christ at the center of her home because it helps her with her marriage.
“Keeping Christ the center of our marriage, talking about him in our home and relating my husband’s qualities to the Savior’s qualities has increased my love for the Savior and my husband,” Hoyt said.
Ogletree said expressing gratitude and love for one’s spouse often and not withholding those natural expressions of love will also help create a strong marriage.
“Don’t feel that your marriage has to be like anyone else’s,” Ogletree said. “Create a celestial marriage for each other, and don’t worry so much about what other people are doing. As long as both of you are happy, that is what matters.”