What's the Hardest Year of Marriage?

Being married seems so easy at first: everything's new and fresh, from the bone china to the queen-sized comforter to "officially" sharing a last name. But at some point, the honeymoon's clearly over and you both find yourselves marveling at how tough being married can be.

The hardest year of marriage is something all couples face, and obviously it's different for everyone. But chances are good that it will happen either the second year of marriage, or the first year after you have a baby.

The second year of marriage can be very challenging because a couple is still developing a lifestyle together. "You're putting together a working marriage style," says Mary Jo Rapini, LPC, an intimacy/sex relationship psychotherapist. "But the second year, things start to catch up. It's typical for a couple to fight a lot since they have not yet learned the art of negotiation."

Following on the heels of that first sweet year, the second year definitely brings more of a routine that may be devoid of excitement. It's a time to work hard together, but many couples may be surprised by how trying it is.

While the second year of a marriage can be very difficult, the period after a baby is born can also test even the closest marital union.

"You're focusing on your child and you have to work double time on your relationship when you're both very tired," says Stacy Kaiser, MA, MFT, the author of How to Be a Grownup. "It's a critical year that can set the tone for the rest of your marriage."

Exhausted new parents tend to not have the energy for sex, which means that one of the prime ways of reconnecting fizzles. And for the husband, the abrupt shift of attention from him to a baby can be disconcerting and stressful, to say the least.

"Plus your finances are probably stressed out, and most couples don't go out much the first year that they have a baby," Kaiser points out.

Whatever year of marriage you're finding difficult, here are five tips to help you through.

Think of yourselves as a team. "It's not about win win," Rapini says. "It's no longer my life, it's our life. Start thinking about the we, not the me."

Set goals. "A marriage does best when there is joint vision," Rapini says. "Part of marital therapy is getting a couple to develop a vision that they share." Think about what you'd like to do, whether it is raise kids together or save for that house on the lake you've always wanted.

Make time to talk to each other, just the two of you. "Focus on tending to yourselves as a pair," Kaiser says. This is especially important when you are brand new parents.

Keep the "Four C's" in mind. They are: consider, compliment (one another), comfort and compromise.  "If you are doing those four things most of the time, things will be humming along smoothly," Kaiser says.

Make time for sex. And try to get enough sleep, since there's nothing like being well rested to give you enough energy to find time for intimacy.