They say the first year of marriage is the hardest. Newlyweds are just trying to thrive and survive after jumping the broom. Although this notion varies from couple to couple, finances, pet peeves, household roles, in-laws and even Facebook are just the few challenges that newlyweds face. New Orleans native, Elitia Mattox knows too well about the struggles that married couples face when she and her husband, Cullen, overcame a difficult time in their relationship. After looking for answers to help solve their issues, they noticed a void in platforms that offered efficient and expeditious resources and relationship support.
“About three years ago, we started a discussion that lasted for weeks. We couldn’t stop talking about the state of relationships and realized how much we longed for people to enjoy success in their relationships. In the same way, we were tired of watching the generational impact of impotent relationships. So as we reflected on our own steps from turbulence to success, we wondered how others were faring because we saw a lot of casualties,” shared Mattox.
She discovered her passions for helping others and founded WhenLoveWorks, LLC, a coaching company for those experiencing challenges in their relationships with family, friends, partner and colleagues. With some research, Elitia developed a systematic program to meet the needs of each relationship type and challenge. The programs she and her husband developed are infused with “love actions” that combat any abusive and dysfunctional behaviors and mindsets. Whether by phone, online or in-person, Elitia is helping couples turn their challenges into opportunities to enjoy a healthier relationship. We had the chance to speak with Elitia as she shared her tips to making it through the newlywed phase:
When did you get that “aha moment” that you wanted to be a relationship coach?
I knew I wanted to be a relationship coach during one of the early sessions of my coach certification course. That “aha moment” came as I listened to other coaches in my cohort share stories about their passions. Their transparency jolted something within me. Even though the life coach certification process requires that we are well versed in all areas, I knew I wanted to master one specific area. And that one area, the one topic that I could spend hours on end researching, discussing and brainstorming supportive strategies for was: relationships. That experience helped me narrow my niche to relationship coaching and support those with challenges in their relationship with family, friends, partner or colleagues.
As a relationship coach, what situations do you find causes friction within a black relationship in its first year of marriage compared to others?
I would have to say conflict resolution is the most challenging situation in a couple’s first year of marriage. In my opinion, couples aren’t taught effective conflict resolution skills before saying, “I Do.” Then in this first year of marriage, as each spouse is learning the other in their new role, conflict will naturally arise. And particularly within the black community, unlike our counterparts, we have to expend energy navigating conflict that arise in other relationships, like those with colleagues too. So by the time we encounter conflict in our intimate relationships, we’ve already expended so much energy that we’re now operating in energy-conservation mode. As a result, friction develops. Unfortunately, when both persons are drained and aren’t operating at optimal levels, it’s difficult to resolve any conflict and maintain the relationship’s health.
What are 4 tips you can offer newlyweds through their first year of marriage which is known as the hardest year?
When two people who were raised in separate households and have separate backgrounds come together as one through marriage, the resulting union doesn’t automatically equate to harmony forever and ever. In fact, the opposite is inevitable because conflicts will arise. But the good news is successful relationships are accessible to everyone. They just take work! Just imagine the research, the transition methodology and other intentional processes that are involved when two companies merge. This is the same type of intentional work that must be given to every aspect of marriage in order for it to be a thriving, healthy relationship.
While this work is necessary, it isn’t oftentimes easy. So here are four tips we use at WhenLoveWorks to guide couples through challenges to be successful in their first year and beyond:
(These tips are detailed and paired with customized action steps in our coaching program)
- Be a Love Leader
When challenges arise, transform them into opportunities of infinite possibilities. Become the love leader in the scenario who is committed to guiding the relationship through the challenge back to health. As you lead in love, you learn through repeated practice, how to separate your spouse from the offense. Then you become comfortable at addressing the offense while preserving your spouse’s dignity.
- Extend Grace During the Pain Gap
As you learn more about one another, you’ll discover areas that are in need of development. These areas of growth oftentimes evoke pain just as “growing pains” did when you were younger. The challenge is to evolve in your maturity by extending grace to your spouse during their “pain gap” of growth. Refrain from drawing attention to their growth process in this deficient area and resist any urges to put strict parameters on their development process.
- Disagree Fairly
Look for patterns before you confront your spouse about a disagreement. When the inevitable confrontation occurs, focus on one offense, be open to your spouse’s feedback and expect resolution. Resist the urge to bring up prior incidents, refrain from name-calling and mudslinging and sincerely listen before offering solutions.
- Trust Your Choice
You made vows to forever. So at the first, second or even third sign of difficulty, resist the urge to run. Instead, put the 3 tips above into your relationships’ routine. Trust the choice you made when you said, “I Do,” and enlist the collaboration of your spouse to put in the daily work to reinforce your decision.