The Party’s Over: Dealing With (Real) Life and (Real) Feelings After The Wedding
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By Mia Bolaris-Forget
Since your very first crush you envisioned yourself as a bride and as a M.R.S. Now, you officially hold the “coveted” title and may be thinking to yourself, “be careful what you wish for” (at least next time), you just might get it.
Getting married, (especially if you didn’t cohabitate with your spouse beforehand), conjured images of princess-like gowns and “Red-Carpet” attention. People doted over you and your significant other, beaming with excitement at your upcoming nuptials and your induction into “family” life, and for many perhaps your first “official” induction into “adulthood”. Unless you lives on campus (during your college years), on your own or with your spouse upon graduation chances are “playing house” appeared much more appealing than the reality of being a part of a household, where YOU (and your spouse) are responsible for your own decisions (successes, failures, mistakes, et al), and where you are responsible for all your own responsibilities.
The wedding and the honeymoon are officially “over” (even if you and your honey are still in your honeymoon phase), and, you’ve lost your “celebrity” status, as your realize that it’s time to pass the “diamond” baton (or rather ring) to someone else. Your endless months or planning, prepping and working toward “perfection” have come to an end, and the wedding is “over” but the “marriage” has just begun.
Marriage, when compared to dating, the initial thrill of living together, and especially to the wedding may seem “anticlimactic”. After all, no longer is everyone focusing on your relationship, how it’s progressing and if and when you are going to “take the plunge” (not unless they’re “hounding” you about starting a family. And, according to professionals, for many couples, the reality is a real let down. Here you are married and living the same typical life as your parents, and everyone else who tied the knot before you. Romantic dinners have most probably been replaced by cooking dinner (often wondering what to cook, how, and if you’ll have enough time to prepare it after work), doing laundry, and weekends spent playing catch-up. For the guys it could very well mean your women no longer as “enthusiastic” about seeing you, or “being with” you, as her focus and priorities shift. It may also mean less time out with the boys or doing what you “want” to do and instead doing what you “have” to do or what your wife wants you to do. Experts note that marriage is simply one of those happy beginnings and transitions that simply need some getting use to. And they note, that couples facing post-wedding blues are not alone. In fact, statistics show that one in ten newlyweds experience postnuptial depression. And, they note that with most young adults staying home (and being pampered) longer, or living longer on their own and becoming more independent and set in their ways (especially with regards to getting what they want, when they want and how they want…and independently striving for and achieving instant gratification), the incidences are increasing. The condition (especially if not addressed) may continue for months and can result in feeling of confusion, disappointment, disillusionment, and a re-evaluation of their choice to “settle-down”. Still, couples realize how much they’ve invested both financially and emotionally, which only adds to their discouragement.
Experts emphasize that among the key concerns couples face are the following:
1. Financial Stress: Most couples put more emphasis on the wedding day than their marital “bliss”. Experts note, with most of the current generations, use to indulging their inclinations toward “extravagance” the wedding industry has seem a boom in how much couples spend on their “Big Day” and it’s not unusual to see “budgets” upward or $10, $20 and $30 thousand dollars. Unless the parents consent to “foot the bill”, experts assert that many couples start their future in financial debt, primarily premised on their wedding and honeymoon expenditures. Once the honeymoon is over, the reality that basic necessities such as furnishings for their home, romantic nights out, or weekend getaways are just not financially feasible, the disappointment of the reality compared to what (both) dreamed of often places great demands on the couple and behaviors (and lifestyle) they are (each) accustomed to and can often be a “rude awakening”.
2. Power Failure: Planning for “The Big Day” can be very exciting, and most couples spend months (some even years) preparing for this Grand Soiree. According to experts though they may always have has busy schedules, obligations and responsibilities, their “comfortable” lifestyle combined with adrenaline, made it “easy” to the bride and groom to be to keep up with the hectic schedule. Now that the “I Dos” and rings have been exchanged, and you’re off for some R & R or just returning from your grand getaway, many couples find they are plagued by exhaustion and lack of enthusiasm and energy. In fact, many, according to the experts, suffer from viruses as their immune systems shut down, after months of working overtime to help fight off illness and keep up with the extra wedding planning pressures and workload.
3. Emotional Embitterment: One of the greatest contributions both newlyweds bring to the marriage bed and table is their emotional vulnerability. With reality often dashing their envisioned hopes and dreams, promoted and over-glamorized by the media, experts say, that the attempt to meet and live up to the “publicity” makes it only natural for couples to feel “inadequate” and unfulfilled.
4. Getting Settled: After the emotional ride is over, and couples are called upon to “live” life, many begin to feel like settling down, is synonymous for settling for less, less than they could have had, had they not married or lived with their mate.
Many couples (even those that lived together previously) find the first few months to the first two years of marriage the most trying, with both acknowledging that pet peeves are no longer a valid excuse for “abandoning” their partner, nor is it any longer so easy to do. With each trying to adjust to the other’s way of thinking, reasoning, rationalizing, coping, and doing things, often times even minor issues become a big deal.
Experts attest that most differences are brought about by different backgrounds, different experiences, different belief systems, and different expectations and definitions of what marriage really means.
Professionals suggest throwing aside your pride before throwing in the towel and coming together to come to a mutually acceptable solution to your areas of disagreement and frustration. They cite the following as the areas of most importance and deserving the most attention.
A. Money: Both too much (and how to handle, spend or invest it) to not enough (and how to budget and save for the future while still trying to (occasionally) enjoy life, is often the core of many newlywed, wedding blisters. Experts say that although we focus on things such as what to do with out money, often times the issues are much deeper such as how much we value things, how much influence we have, how ambitious our partner is etc. It’s important to discuss priorities and why certain things are important to each of you. It’s also important to try to understand the other’s perspective and try to work together to achieve common ground.
B. Housework: People often asked me (after I initially got married) how married life was. My standard answer was, (since I’d been living on my own for well over a decade), that it was just like single life, only double the work and half the gratitude. Though I was joking about the gratitude part (at least most of the time, because honestly I have nothing to complain about), I was serious about the increased workload. No longer can I get away with grapping a pint of brown rice on the way home from work and eating it in front of the TV, or indulging in a pretzel while dashing through the mall doing my shopping. I have an obligation to make sure my other half has something to eat, even after a hard day’s work. I have to make sure the shopping is done and there is either something prepared or something to choose from. And that’s just one of the many MUSTS. Yet, experts say, that while couples don’t generally mind the extra obligation(s) they are often struggling with issues of fairness, respect, appreciation, caring, and love.
C. Sex: Many first time marrieds enter the marriage realm thinking that living with their beloved will entitle them to all the sex they want, as often as they want. What they don’t realize is that with a new home (apartment, condo, whatever), work, responsibilities, etc., there simply might not be enough hours or energy in a day to actually live up to expectations. According to experts, this may especially pose a problem for couples who waited until marriage to enjoy the benefits of married life or for those who did have a sexual relationship, but did not live together and “got together” every chance they could. They note that all too often couples find themselves struggling with their (differing) sexual styles and appetites (now that they are together all the time) and coping with their fears of becoming sexually boring or a “statistic”. Furthermore, women may feel that they may no longer be as attractive or as much of a challenge to their mate, and men may feel that their ladies are using sex as a tool.
D. Intimacy: Experts note that before you can establish a healthy relationship in the bedroom, you must first have an enjoyable relationship outside the bedroom. They note that when you were dating and then planning your wedding you had lots to discuss, especially if you weren’t yet living together. Now that you share your lives on a daily basis, sharing daily experiences may not seem so engaging. In fact, experts agree that many couples feel that they spent all those years becoming best friends and after matrimony, many feel like they are becoming strangers. They suggest using the early stages of your newlywed life in nurturing your bond and finding creative ways to maintain it. They remind couple that if you don’t “use it, you lose it”, and that failure to relate and include your partner in your life and decisions as you once did may make him or her feel unloved.
E. Communicating and Relating: Experts note that most couples, even if they somewhat let their guard down, are inclined to put their best foot forward prior to taking their vows. And, they stress that for better or worse does not give either partner the right to behave badly. Good communication, they assert, is essential to a healthy relationship and polishing your skills is necessary for civilly solving differences without hurting your partner’s feelings or leaving him/her discouraged or disappointed.
F. Get To The Bottom Line: One of the biggest challenged newlyweds (and even many married couples) face is that they don’t understand each other, and are inefficient at handling conflict. Professionals point out that at the root of every issue is probably a deeper concern. You both need to work on learning to express and evaluate what is truly going on and why.
Experts remind newly married couples, that marriage is not simply a union between two people; it’s a union between two very similar but also very different people and requires time for you both to adjust. They recommend reminding yourself daily why you initially went out with your spouse, the qualities you loves that made you stay with him or her, and ultimately what made you decide to get married. They also suggest approaching each day with love, patience, respect and understanding and they make the following suggestions to help direct you down the road to happily ever after.
· Make sure you take time away from married life. Definitely go on your honeymoon if you can, and plan for doing things that are not “marriage related”, like a night out alone, or with another couple (like you use to before you were married), put off cooking, order in and rent a movie. Keep it fresh and alive.
· Set your sites a bit “lower” and be realistic. Revel in the fact that you are no longer the bride to be, but instead the wife (that is what you wanted wasn’t it?). Embrace your new role, the same way you embraced your new status after high school and college graduation, entering the work force, getting your own apartment, etc. Keep in mind that the “novelty” wore off for all those things too, but you moved forward with your life.
· Be honest with yourself and others and let it out. Keeping your feelings bottled up may give others the impression you are okay, but you’re fooling nobody but yourself and potentially doing yourself more harm than good. Remember, if you have these feelings, chances are you’re not the first or the last. Talk to others in your situation or have successfully gotten past the hurdles. A good support system (for both of you) is essential during this very critical time.
· Learn to compromise. It may not be something you are use to or “want” to do, but it’s necessary for the survival of your relationship. Remind yourself that if others can do it, so can you. Experts suggest reflecting on your childhood and the dynamics you implemented with your siblings and schoolmates, or to examine your office protocol and how you handle disparity in the professional arena. Furthermore, they remind couples that you don’t do it “for” the other person, or to simply “keep the peace”, you do it because you truly “believe” that what you are doing is the right thing to please the other person (in this instance, maybe next time he or she will do something to please you), and because you want to.
· Accept your feelings as normal. Don’t beat yourself up over them, and give yourself enough time to adjust.
· Include your partner in your struggle. He or she may be experiencing similar feelings too. By being honest you can support each other and actually grow during this “difficult” transitional period.
· Retain your own identity, goals and interests. Surely you want to be there for your spouse, but that doesn’t necessarily mean 24/7. Take some time out to pursue some (if not all) those things that made your significant other fall in love with you in the first place.
· Spend quality time with your spouse and try to engage in some of the things you aspired to before you were Mr. and Mrs.
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