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Newlyweds' 5 Biggest Pitfalls

Experts say unrealistic expectations, avoiding conflict after marriage can lead to disaster.

Marriage Will Make Me Happy

He's lonely and has no friends. She feels inferior to her prettier, smarter, and wealthier sister. Both believe marriage will make them happy.

"In the early stages of a relationship, everything is beautiful," says Leibin. "Couples have to understand that love is never enough, and marriage doesn't make you happy. Happiness is a do-it-yourself job."

According to a 15-year survey reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, an individual's level of happiness before marriage is the best predictor of happiness after marriage.

My Partner Will Change

She assumes he'll stop having lunch with his ex-fiancée. He assumes she'll give up expensive spa weekends with her friends.

Marriage inevitably means compromise, but couples need to compromise without giving away too much of what they value. Freeman advises articulating a marital contract that addresses the expectations each has for the other. "The expectations can be high, but make sure they're realistic," he says.

One task he addresses with couples in pre-marital counseling involves helping them overcome romantic illusions and unrealistic expectations. "When the romance diminishes, the relationship moves to a power struggle, and for a while, each person tries to change the other. Even though people mouth the words that they don't want to change the partner, they still try. It's a developmental stage, and if couples resolve it in a healthy way, they move into stability and long-term commitment. Marriages that blow up early have a romantic view, and once that's dissipated they think the marriage is broken and can't be fixed."

Leibin tells WebMD that rather than compromise and share, some couples continue to lead separate lives after marriage. "They end up pulling apart. Couples should be friends and learn to work together. I believe in a Saturday night date ritual, and maybe she makes the plans one week and he the next. It's a time to share their lives and try to understand each other's worlds."

She says love starts a relationship, and communication makes it grow into a good working relationship in which partners respect one another's differences. She sees many couples who don't make an effort to learn about each other. "One newly married couple divorced over crumbs in the sink. He'd go off on her if there were crumbs, and she couldn't stand it."

Talking About Hard Issues Will Take the Bloom off Romance

She doesn't tell him that once they have children she wants him to quit working. He doesn't tell her his company might relocate him to Singapore.

Leibin tells WebMD that in recent years she's seen an increase in the number of couples in trouble as early as the eighth month of marriage. "Often they'll say, 'I wish I'd known such-and-such.' People present their best selves before marriage, and they overlook serious issues, like alcohol abuse, that can destroy a marriage."

Far from ruining romance, talking openly and honestly fosters acceptance and deeper understanding which is essential if partners are to feel safe with one another. "When you feel safe with someone you love, you won't find anybody prettier, richer, or more desirable," she says.

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