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The first year of marriage can be quite difficult. Whether you and your husband are deciding who will do which chores or whether you will either leave the bathroom door open or closed, the first year presents a significant learning curve. But it’s important not to get bogged down with the big technical questions of making living together work. The truth is, the little things, like simple gestures of affection, matter so much more than who does laundry.

Your first year of marriage doesn’t have to be about just surviving—it can feel like thriving as long as you prioritize things like admiration and positivity. Here are a few ways you can set the tone for a great first year.

01. Learn The Five Love Languages.

The easiest and perhaps most well-known way to encourage fondness and admiration in your relationship is to practice the five love languages developed by Dr. Gary Chapman.

In his book on the subject, Chapman explains that we tend to give and receive love in five main ways: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. While every person will have some attraction to each love language, one will dominate. Chapman explains that when our partner speaks our love language it makes us most loved and fulfilled, filling our “love tank” as he puts it.

It is paramount that you and your partner discover each other’s love languages, and then speak them to each other. Too often, I have worked with couples who have the best of intentions when they perform acts of service or physical touch. The problem is that it wasn't the spouse's love language. Thus, their actions fall on deaf ears. To discover each other’s love languages, I suggest you both take the following assessment provided by Dr. Chapman.

02. Learn how to appreciate one another.

Dr. John Gottman, a storied marriage researcher and author—who can predict the success of a relationship with 90 percent accuracy—claims that a vital part of a strong marriage is how much each spouse feels admired by the other. To assess this, Gottman asks questions like, “Can you easily list the three things you most admire about your partner?” (You can find the full assessment here.)

Another way to enhance fondness and admiration is to put a positive spin on your relational history. For example, you and your husband may not have a had the perfect honeymoon you wanted, but instead of focusing on the delayed flights and food poisoning, you relish the bright spots like that first day you just laid in bed and cuddled.

Focusing on the positive does not mean ignoring the bad memories. It simply means that while you should acknowledge both good and bad, it would benefit your marriage if you chose to interpret your relational past via a positive lens. If you find yourself having a difficult time seeing the positive in your relational past, then that is a significant indicator that your fondness and admiration system is low.

03. Show gratitude.

The smallest gesture that makes the biggest impact in your first year of marriage is simply saying “thank you.” When all the chores have been divided and the explanation about keeping the toilet seat down has been had, look for opportunities to show gratitude.

Thank him for taking out the trash, cleaning up after dinner, for making dinner, or for putting the toilet seat down. Some may claim that, “he should do it out of love for me,” and while I agree, it never hurts to express your gratitude for even routine actions. Expressing gratitude also helps us to also interpret things in a more positive light (all of these actions run together). It’s difficult to feel and focus on the negative when you are focused on finding something to be grateful for.

04. Reminisce about your early courtship.

Another method is to talk about how you experienced your early courtship. Remembering those first few dates should always bring a smile to your faces. Even the most distressed couples I have worked with are able to recall their first few dates with joy. Perhaps a good exercise would be to write down a “dating history,” reflect upon it, and then share it with one another. A word of caution with this exercise: The point is not to see if he “remembered important moments”; it’s simply to share joyful memories and to give each other a chance to laugh as you recall a wonderful and carefree time.

05. List positive adjectives that best describe each other.

Go through a list of positive adjectives and talk about which ones describe your husband. This should generate even more conversation and fondness. Don’t be upset if you both struggle to list a number of adjectives about each other. The point isn’t to have a long list, the point of the exercise is for you both to express your admiration for each other in a clear and concise way. It also helps if you can recall a story with each adjective to talk about a time when your husband embodied that particular adjective.

Succeeding in marriage is not rocket science. Seek to know each other, build each other up, bring out the best in each other, and learn how to apologize and forgive. If you do these things, then you both place yourselves in a wonderful position to grow closer together.

Photo Credit: Elissa Voss