Words and image by Sophia C Pages
When the honeymoon ended, and the plane landed in a new city, I found myself “weddinglagged.” I had to adjust to a life that was no longer colored by the wedding excitement (yes, that meant no longer being the center of attention), and to adjust to the unmet magical newlywed expectations.
I lived with my partner before getting married, and I had marriage 101 covered. Good communication + intimacy + teamwork + quality time = a bulletproof marriage. While my success formula had been a reliable tool pre-marriage, something changed. I began wondering if I would make it to the new year as a married woman.
These two beliefs I always had about marriage were slowly falling apart. First, I knew that the initial months of marriage would be filled with the same excitement and adventurous spirit we shared during the honeymoon. I also knew that I’d enjoy every moment of newlywed life, because my married siblings and friends would tell me that the best years were before having kids. They warned me to enjoy every moment.
I heeded their warnings. “If these are supposed to be the best years of marriage, then I just made the worst mistake of my life.” This was the torturous recurrent thought that permeated my first two months. Settling in was very difficult - my partner and I fought constantly and argued about the most insignificant details. I knew something was terribly wrong when we both “went bananas” over a banana peel.
The peel was inside the garbage disposal, and so I removed it, and put it in the waste bin. My partner reacted, he fished out the peel from the waste bin and shoved it firmly in the sink, “this is where I placed it”, he said. We went to war, and the victor would decide where the best place for disposing a banana peel would be, but in the end, neither of us won. Little arguments would turn into full blown fights followed by silent nights and awkward mornings. I never felt more alone. I had moved from Mexico to a new country to support my partner, and I felt emotionally and physically deserted. I wanted my partner back. I wanted us back.
We struggled individually with many fears about marriage, our careers, and our future as a family. I couldn’t come to terms with what being a wife meant, and how I wanted to contribute to the partnership. I found myself trying and failing to be a “good wife.” I thought it meant ensuring my partner’s happiness and maintaining the stability of the relationship. But how could I possibly ensure his happiness? And unless he were a rag doll, how could I be responsible for maintaining our stability?
Months passed, and I became increasingly frustrated by my inability to fix things. I saw the growing abyss between my partner and I, and experienced a lot of shame. In this time, I did not talk to anyone about my marital problems because I was afraid. I was afraid of others confirming my growing belief that I had made a mistake by getting married so young, or even worse, that I had chosen the wrong partner.
My partner, on the other hand, was able to talk about his situation with close friends and family. I was hurt that he could sustain intimate conversations with others when we were unable to do so. I reacted with jealousy and resentment and declined any invitation to talk, go out, or socialize with my partner. This increased the shame I felt for being an unhappy newlywed. These feelings kept me stuck in an perpetual cycle which made me lose perspective on the whole situation. I realized I needed to speak to someone so I decided to re-start individual therapy. The therapist was not a magician but was able to provide a space for me to reflect, step back, and look at the situation I was experiencing with different eyes.
The reality was this: I had just made a HUGE change in my life, and adjusting to it took time. In the wedding aftermath, life got ordinary. My body was not overcome by intense emotions and excitement. I was experiencing life again in a mundane world. A simple, beautiful, everyday life.
Being a newlywed had a learning curve, and for me, it was testing the validity of my catastrophic thoughts. For example, not being able to resolve conflicts quickly did not mean I was going to get a divorce. Or that going through sexless periods did not mean we weren’t attracted to each other. But the biggest part of learning came from understanding one big thing: my expectations were wrong.
When I no longer feared the space between us, and when I realized that my expectations of having a happy and exciting marriage beginning were unrealistic, I was able to relax. I had more mental energy to take care of my own needs, and soon enough, the intimacy I longed for in my marriage came back. My rocky start began to smooth out when I began sharing my experience as a newlywed and found that it resonated with people in my life. I was not alone in my rocky marital beginning. Speaking out helped me challenge my fear of having my marriage scrutinized and it helped me further acknowledge I was just going through a period of adjustment. It was as if all along I had been holding down the sails of a boat in fear of catching a bad wind, but once I surrendered to the beauty of the subtle changes in the breeze, the sailing became pleasurable again.
I am no longer “weddinglagged”, the period of initial marital adjustment is gone, and my ordinary life is subtly colored by everyday stresses, worries, and joys. My marriage is far from perfect, but now I can enjoy the good and also be comfortable with the uncomfortable. I no longer feel shame about the conflict and stress, and I am grateful for having the opportunity to learn how to navigate married life, with a loving partner who is equally dedicated to sailing the marriage boat with me.