After the honeymoon

The period leading up to your nuptials can be one of the most blissful in your life, from showing off that shiny new diamond to the moment you finally say “I do,” you celebrate with friends and family at that pitch-perfect reception you planned so carefully and head off on the honeymoon you’ve always dreamed of. You’re on the proverbial cloud nine—so high you can hardly imagine coming down, even when the honeymoon’s over.

To be fair, you are probably wise enough to expect a period of adjustment when you return to the world of work, chores, bills and normal life. But it might actually be harder than you think. Studies have shown that many couples struggle more during their first few years of marriage than those who have been married for a long time.

In the beginning, many couples struggle with a let-down period that’s not unlike the post-holiday January blahs. Depending on how much you invested in the wedding festivities themselves—both financially and emotionally—you might experience some sadness just because it’s over. Some couples may have also saddled themselves with some serious wedding debt, introducing an unwelcome element of stress right away (now why again did you insist on the champagne-and-caviar bar?).

But the challenges usually run a lot deeper than post-wedding come-down and buyer’s remorse about the fancy flowers at your reception. Though many couples today live together before getting married, for others, this could be the first time they’ve had to work on divvying up household chores, finances and a world of other details about the new life you’re sharing. Maybe he thought her tradition of joining girlfriends for a drink after work every Friday was over now that they’re married, but she thought differently. Maybe he never mentioned that not only does his beloved dog shed like crazy but also has a voracious appetite for shoes…until after her favorite pair of Ferragamos are history. When conflicts catch you off guard, tensions and resentments can build quickly, and even lead to a sense of panic: What have I gotten myself into?

Down the road, other realities sink in. While sparks still fly in the bedroom, one or both partners may begin to take intimacy for granted now that they’re married and caught up in the routine of daily life. This is normal and natural—no couple can sustain the hot-and-heavy chemistry they felt in the beginning any more than a new Mercedes convertible would hold the same excitement after a few years of driving it. But that doesn’t mean you’re in for a long, slow decline in your sex life. Studies have shown that married couples have more sex than single people, even those who’ve been married for a while, and one key is as simple as continuing to do it. Even when you don’t think you’re in the mood, make the effort—your appetite might return faster than you’d think. And never underestimate the power of flirting; telling your partner how good he/she looks in that new pair of jeans can go a long way toward reminding both of you of the attraction that brought you together in the first place.

For all of these issues, the key is having realistic expectations of your post-honeymoon life together. Anticipating conflicts, resolving them ahead of time where possible while understanding that others will still take you by surprise, and taking the time to talk things through in depth before the wedding—even with professional premarital counseling—can make all the difference in the world. And it will be a healthy first step for building a lifetime of marriage skills that will serve you well for many happy years to come.

You deserve to have a great love life.  Let’s see if we can make yours better.Our Orange County relationship counseling services can help you get your relationship back on track. We look forward to connecting with you.


Breaking Up is Hard to Do

A friend (we’ll call her “Leslie”) recalls the simplest, but most poignant, words anyone ever spoke to her about the pain of a relationship breaking up.

She and an old friend (“Greg”) had been good friends in high school and recently reconnected over the Internet. Though they lived in different parts of the country, they managed to see each other several times over the better part of a year, and before long she felt very much in love. But between their respective careers and children from prior marriages, uprooting their lives to be together did not feel like the right choice for either of them, and they decided to end the relationship. She knew it the best decision. But that didn’t make it hurt any less.

She remembers the last morning she spent with Greg. He had an early flight and she was barely awake as he gathered his bags and got ready to go, and she felt her eyes beginning to well up as he came to sit beside her and say goodbye for the last time.

“It’s so hard,” she said, fighting back tears.

He looked at her and replied, quietly, “It’s supposed to be hard.”

It could have come across as callous, but for Leslie, it felt like an affirmation that the breakup was hard for him, too. More than that, it reminded her what we all need to hear in the midst of heartbreak—that the pain is one hundred percent normal.

Just as no two relationships are exactly alike, all breakups are painful in different ways. No matter who initiates it, a whole range of emotions may come along for the ride—anger, sadness, loneliness, regret, or even fear that you’ll never get over it or find another person to love. You’re experiencing a significant life change—you identified yourself as a couple, with everything that comes along with that, and now you aren’t. You need time to feel sad about that.

It’s so important in the face of heartbreak to be gentle with yourself and respect the normalcy of your feelings. Amid whatever swirling of emotions you’re experiencing, now is not the time to make any major life decisions or changes (or even small ones; no matter how tempting it is to hold a ceremonial burning of the gorgeous dress you wore the day he broke it off, chances are it won’t make you feel any better…and believe it or not, one day you’re going to want that dress back

That’s not to say you should just lock yourself in a closet and wait to feel better, either. The relationship may be over, but your life is still very much there—your family and friends who support you, and your job or other responsibilities that require your attention (and can offer much-welcome distractions). Sooner rather than later, you’ll notice that all the things you used to enjoy, whether it’s mountain biking, a great day on the golf course, a well-made meal or just a beautiful spring day, are still there too. It is possible to grieve the loss and enjoy life’s small pleasures at the same time.

However, if you do find that your heartbreak is impacting your day-to-day living—not being able to sleep, for instance, or a loss of appetite—consider talking to a therapist to help you organize your thoughts and feel more in control. Needing a little extra help from an impartial professional is perfectly normal, too. It’s just another part of taking time to take care of yourself. And we all deserve that, whether we’re suffering from heartbreak or not.

You deserve to have a great love life.  Let’s see if we can make yours better.Our Orange County relationship counseling services looks forward to connecting with you.