The thank you notes are done, the dress is being preserved, the cake is safely in the freezer, and you're married. Sadly, many new brides sink into a depression shortly after the wedding. Some say it is because the chore that has occupied so much of your time is finished, and you don't know what to do with yourself. Others think it is because the bride spends so much time involved in the "fairytale wedding" cloud, real life looks rather drab and depressing after the big party with pictures and everyone making a fuss. In some cases, one or both of the newlyweds had very different expectations about what married life would be like, and that has turned out to be false.
It does not have to be this way. Many brides have watched too much television and believe that now that they are married, they must suddenly morph into a combination of Donna Reid and Martha Stewart, making a perfect three-course meal every night and having every hair in place. But that might not be your style! Remember, in most cases your husband did not marry you for your ability to hand-letter place cards or wear a petticoat and pearls. He married you because he loved YOU, even if that you wears jeans and a sweatshirt and prefers Chinese take-out to home cooking. Don't alter your personality to fit an image that wasn't you to begin with.
Some brides feel the pressure, from family or society or complete strangers, to start having a family right away. It is much more important to solidify your relationship with your new husband and create the life of your own family (yes, you and your husband are your own family now!) A new baby adds incredible stresses to any relationship, much more so to a brand-new one.
Maybe you feel that you must spend all your free time with your new husband. Again, he married you because you had your own life and interests that made you a special person. Don't give those up just because you are wearing a new ring. If you enjoyed scrap booking or salsa dancing before your marriage, don't let your books or dance shoes gather dust.
One of the greatest things any new bride can do is read, "What No One Tells the Bride" by Marg Stark. You will know that you are not crazy for feeling sad after the greatest day of your life. You will discover that your feelings are real and valid, and you will learn that your marriage *IS* normal, warts and all. Most importantly, you'll be prepared to move on with your life as a wife.
You've operated at full tilt for months, consumed by your wedding and all the planning that went into it. Now, all of a sudden, it's over -- and its absence can actually leave a hole in your life. We spoke with psychologist Miquela Rivera about fending off the post-wedding blues.NEWLYWEDS: Paula & Todd
One evening, Paula started crying. The wedding was over. There was suddenly a gaping hole in her life where the hustle and bustle of planning had been. She had nothing to do. "Even the thank-you notes were written," sighs Paula.
Paula's hectic pre-wedding life started when Todd proposed six months after they moved in together. There was always something going on -- personalizing the apartment, decorating for the holidays, planning the wedding. "Then it just stopped," explains Paula. "I'm in limbo, between wanting the wedding day back and wanting to move forward and have a family."THE EXPERT SAYS:
Post-wedding blues are common after such a major transition, according to licensed psychologist Rivera. "Even though we gain something positive, there is a loss," she explains. "Depression is part of the grief reaction."NEWLYWEDS: Kimberly & Neil Dempsey
Ever since the wedding, Kimberly has relived her big day over and over in her head. "After one quick day, it's over. I'm no longer the bride-to-be, I'm the wife," she says. "I think about things I should have done differently. While my wedding was beautiful, I wish I had done some things sooner so I could have had more time to enjoy the day." Kimberly sunk even lower when she got her wedding pictures back: "I know I obsess more about it than I should," she admits, "but I'm one of those people who always lives in the past."THE EXPERT SAYS:
"Many people tend to romanticize married life. They don't look beyond the wedding day," explains Rivera. "After all the excitement of the wedding, they find themselves in an everyday situation that isn't very glamorous and they're disappointed." Rivera believes couples who live together before marriage sometimes experience further letdown. "Some people think it's going to be different after marriage," she observes, "and in most cases, it's not."
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
After the big day, try these tactics to ease your post-wedding blues and enjoy newlywed life.
- TAKE A BREAK:
Paula suggests taking time off to relax before returning to the routine of everyday life. She and Todd didn't go on their Myrtle Beach honeymoon because Hurricane George was threatening the coast. The couple had a week off after the wedding, but they just hung around Indianapolis. "I think if we had gone away, instead of staying in the apartment, things would have been a little better," muses Paula. "We needed a break and we didn't get one."
- BE REALISTIC:
"Be a little more realistic about marriage," Rivera suggests. "If you are more up-front with yourself about what married life will be like, you won't be disappointed. Building a life takes time; it's not going to happen overnight. Give yourself enough time to get used to the marriage."
- TALK ABOUT IT:
It's also important to have a good support system. Talking with others about your feelings is good therapy: Organize a night out with friends and explain how you feel. Kimberly found support in her mom. "She understands what I'm going through and that helps a lot," she explains. Paula talked to her husband about her post-wedding sadness: "He can see where I'm coming from, but he asks me to be patient and hang in there," she says with a smile.
- MEET HALFWAY:
Compromise. "Both people have to be willing to give of themselves in ways they wouldn't normally," cautions Rivera. "You don't do it for the person, you do it to maintain the relationship. In this day and age, we get whatever we want instantly. Marriage isn't instant -- it takes time to make it work."