A dear friend of mine recently got married. About a month after the wedding, she called me completely stressed out. “What have I done? I feel like I should have waited to get married!” Along with a new husband, she also inherited his teenage daughter and an ex wife who … well, let’s just say they were poster children for their roles. Her new husband was starting a new job, she was moving out of her house into his, and the stepdaughter was perfecting her dramatic teenage moves. Everyone was stabby, overwhelmed and panic was starting to set in.
It reminded me of another friend who called me a couple months after his wedding. “Do you know any good lawyers? I think I need to write a post-nup.” He too had been going through stress in his job and he had recently been in and out of the hospital fighting a chronic illness. He was mentally and physically drained and had nothing left to give his beautiful new wife.
What encouraging words did I offer them? “The first year of marriage completely sucks.” Good friend, eh? I told them both about my first year of marriage: I left a job I loved in Milwaukee to move to the Chicago suburbs to live with my new husband, my dad was seriously ill and had his second open-heart surgery, my new husband’s job was demanding and stressful and I was left floundering. “What do I do now?” I too questioned my choice to get married. “Wedded bliss” was a total crock!
As you look at these three situations, what do they have in common? Stress and change. I bet if I asked other married couples, most of them would tell me that their first year of marriage was filled with all sorts of stress that had been thrown at them, life changes and the overwhelming feeling of, “this is not what I signed up for.” And then we beat ourselves up for having such feelings. “But I married the love of my life! We planned for months, had this beautiful wedding surrounded by loving family and friends and now it’s supposed to be ‘happily ever after.’ What is wrong with me that I’m feeing so rotten?!”
Well, let’s unpack that a bit. So you’d been planning, anticipating and stressing about a huge life event for months. All that time, you had been showered with attention and parties and gifts. You’d been waiting for your big day for as long as you can remember. Now that it’s over, now what? You’ve now launched yourself into the great expanse that is to be the new rest of your life. Those fluffy towels you gleefully scanned when you were creating your registry aren’t quite as luxurious as you thought they were. The shiny new pots and pans have not magically turned you into the next Ina Garten, even when you serve your pathetic attempt at a gourmet meal upon the twelve place settings you fell in love with. (Hint: this is the time when you really need to get out those sparkly new wine glasses and try every single one out.)
The next thing I told my stressed-out, panic stricken friends was this: It’s okay to feel less than perfect. Cut yourself some slack, coast for a bit and detox as you try to navigate through this new life. Most of all, talk with your new spouse. Be honest about how you’re feeling, because I’m guessing he or she’s feeling a lot of the same things. Sharing these worries and doubts doesn’t mean you’re headed for divorce court. In fact, it will probably be a relief for both of you — you’re not in this alone and aren’t the only one feeling weak, scared and far from perfect. Now’s when the “for better or worse” part of your vows kicks in and you can get through this together. It gets better. Because now you can move onto the next big things to plan and dream about: buying a new house and having a baby. Those things will totally make your life fun and care free! Good luck with that.