Dear Dr V,
I guess you could say that my husband and I are still newlyweds; we’ve been married about nine months. But we don’t really feel like newlyweds anymore. In fact, I’m kind of freaking out about a lot of stuff. Nothing’s really happening to make me feel this way, we’re getting along OK, no big horrible fights or anything but I feel myself questioning my decision to get married, worrying if I made the right choice or not. Immediately after our wedding and honeymoon I felt like we were glowing with joy, and now that’s kind of faded. I think about the future and all I can see, aside from kids, which I don’t think we’re ready for, is just more of the same. Sometimes I find myself getting nostalgic for when I was single. What’s wrong with me?
Please believe me when I tell you that what you’re feeling is almost as much a part of the “newlywed” experience as the wedding and honeymoon. For lack of a better phrase, let’s just call it “The Comedown.” It’s far from uncommon, and nothing of which to feel guilty or ashamed.
I’m not sure how much time and planning went into your wedding, but you mentioned a honeymoon, so I assume there was at least some degree of anticipation leading up to the Big Day. Which is as it should be. But now that you’re over the threshold (literally and figuratively), I think it’s perfectly understandable for these less-than-enjoyable sentiments to be swimming in your emotional ocean. It’s almost as if you got into a habit of excitement for these joyous events, and now that they’re past, what is there for you to look forward to? (I assure you, there’s plenty, and we’ll get to that in a moment).
I’d like to take a moment, however, and examine how the difficulties you’re going through highlight what I believe is a problematic cultural misconception we hold about marriage. So much emphasis is placed on the Wedding Day that I think the focus is often taken off of marriage itself and sometimes even worse, the couple (ask any bride or groom who’s had problematic parents or in-laws who need to be in on planning the wedding). Of course getting married is a major life-shifting event that should be celebrated and honored, but it’s just a symbol, not the substance of a marriage. If you stop and think about it, spending the rest of your lives on the emotional high of your honeymoon would most likely land you in an institution. Can you imagine someone being that happy, always? Think of it this way, would you want to subsist on a diet of wedding cake for the rest of your life?
So, coming down off of that high, the usual day-to-day routine of life may seem a bit lackluster. Take heart though, without really knowing anything about you, I can promise you that more joy and excitement lies ahead in your future, it’s just one of the perks of being alive on the planet. To borrow a phrase, you just have to trust in the process.
However, as in most situations, I think what will get you on the road to feeling better sooner is to be proactive in your situation. By taking action you will not only affect change in your life, you will have the comforting knowledge that you are doing all you can.
First and foremost, you need to understand that marriage is work. It can also be joyous, empowering, exciting and filled with love and laughter. But like nearly everything worthwhile in this life, it does not come easy. Making the relationship between man and wife work can be complex in the details, but simple in the long view. The simplicity of it is that if you both strive to stay honest, loving, empathetic and open with each other, very often the rest of what you need to sustain your relationship will follow organically. I’m not going to advise you to say “I love you” in the middle of a heated argument (I think that’s rotten advice), in fact you may even go to bed without resolving things now and again. And while I certainly wouldn’t recommend making a habit of it, sometimes getting that eight-hour cooling off period is just what’s called for to allow you both to approach each other from a place of better understanding.
For now, I suggest you give yourself a break. You’re allowed to feel a little blue at this point (haven’t you felt similarly after getting back from a trip you’d been looking forward to?). You don’t need to beat yourself up over being nostalgic for the past, either. Who wouldn’t look back fondly on a time when they were responsible to nobody but themselves? Remember though, that the past only seems so enticing because it’s the one place in our lives where nothing ever changes. Yet, it’s the one place we can never return to, no matter what we do or who we are with.
As you and your husband move through your life together, you will no doubt encounter challenges and conflict. What’s important to remember is that each resolution you two forge, every time you gain a better and deeper understanding of who your partner is (and who you are), your marriage gets stronger. And as it gets stronger, you may be surprised to find you and your husband achieving things you never thought possible, things you never could have accomplished on your own. I’m not talking about the fairy-tale ending of a bedtime story, what I’m talking about are the dividends of hard work. You can’t get the paycheck if you don’t put in the hours.
Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.
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