For many, marriage is the dream, the hope and the end game. Romantic notions can dance in our heads, often blinding us to some surprising realities of what can change by something as impactful as the exchange of vows. Through careful attention and team work, you can learn to turn the points below into an opportunity to ensure the health and longevity of your marriage.
1. You start thinking as a unit.
Choices move from “I" to "We.” It’s no longer about determining what is best for you as the individual; it’s about what is best for you as a couple. When it comes to choices big and small, the questions “What serves us best as a couple?” or “What diminishes us as a couple?” will be life altering. This doesn’t mean that you're never free to make a decision based on what’s best for you. It simply means that you prioritize the partnership and safeguard its survival before you shift to yourself.
2. You may experience some post-marital panic.
Some tend to have a negative reaction (ranging from mild to severe) once they realize they can no longer walk away from the relationship without hiring an attorney. After the vows and a legally binding contract, a fear or resistance can set in. Be honest about your concerns, problem-solve to address those worries, and the anxiety can dissipate over time.
3. You'll start to see the full range of your partner's personality.
Down the road, charming characteristics can start to turn sour, and you may begin to see those once endearing aspects of a personality in a different light. For example, the “A Side” of a characteristic may be your spouse’s strong work ethic. The “B Side” may be her long work hours and lack of availability for quality time. It’s imperative that you actively remind yourself of the A Side because it’s real, meaningful and part of why you fell for your partner. Dwelling on the negative intensifies feelings of discontent and can negatively color additional aspects of his/her personality and your experiences together.
4. You can fall victim to a post-honeymoon letdown.
Planning a wedding and going on a honeymoon can be one of the pinnacle moments of exhilaration in the course of your life. The stark contrast experienced after the honeymoon can lead to feelings of boredom, depression and concern over having made the right choice to marry. This is a completely human and common reaction to sustained build up and can easily be remedied. First, over the course of planning, remind yourself that this is an unusually busy, thrilling time. You should savor and enjoy it, but you must also keep perspective. Second, talk to your partner about the imminent deceleration and work together to generate ways to introduce freshness into your post-marital transition.
5. You start to realize the little things become big things.
Once the vows are exchanged, and the “post-marital panic” (to whatever degree) sets in, a focus on the little things can increase. Silly matters like how your spouse squeezes his or her toothpaste or hangs their towels become a bigger issue because of the realization that you will now, officially, have to deal with these quirks for the rest of your life. This is where deep breathing and those active reminders of what is truly important will be imperative, in order to keep you in a loving and constructive head space.
6. You begin to see that the buck DOESN’T stop here.
Comfort, security and stability are just a few of the wonderful gifts that marriage can offer. Unfortunately, it can also unconsciously signal the sense that you’ve “made it,” and can get lazy in the efforts you make to maintain the quality of the relationship, personal health/fitness etc. In a successful union, there is no finish line or end point. Partnerships are a constant evolution and once you accept this fact, you can make a mutual commitment to maintaining what you put into the relationship before you got married.
7. You may experience a sexual slip.
While some report a spike, many feel that the sexual relationship declines in both frequency and enthusiasm after the vows are exchanged. Feelings of depression can arise over the realization that there will no longer be “firsts” and as a result, diminished interest can take hold. In order to move forward and work to redefine what is “exciting,” you must allow yourself time to mourn the loss of “newness.” It’s real and needs to be tended to.
Then, turn your attention to all of the positive aspects of “comfort sex.” Don’t be turned off by the lackluster name. “Comfort sex” represents the act of two people who know each other’s bodies and know how to please each other because they’ve been together long enough to master technique and pleasure. “Comfort sex” represents the idea that you are comfortable enough to ask for what you want and be matched with someone that is comfortable enough to give it to you. What’s hotter than “newness?” Getting what you want!
8. You'll have difficulties.
In any long-term relationship there will be disagreements and heated debates. Many choose to pick up their shields and fight to the death. But what happens when you realize that your pledge to be together until the end also means that you'll have to fight until the end? This officially leads you to a crossroads: the point at which you decide to continue trying to change your spouse or truly start to practice accepting his or her flaws (personality flaws, NOT character flaws). Either decision sets the course for your future. Neither is easy, and both take fortitude, but only one creates relationship success.
Remember that knowledge is power. By absorbing and accepting these shifts, you can prepare, anticipate and ward off those typical post-wedding pitfalls and settle into the many benefits that await you after you say, “I do!”