Does being married “feel different”?

Give me some good news

If I had a penny for every time I’ve been asked the million dollar question since I tied the knot… usually asked by single friends, eyes wide with fear, whose response to me getting married was “it’s sooooo exciting,” followed by an afterthought: “bloody scary though!”

Yes, I’m the first into what some of my friends see as the far-off, mystical abyss of marriage – something for “one day” –  except I’ve gone and done it already – and it’s only natural that they want a postcard from the other side with some good news.

In the same way I obsessively ask all my friends with kids (with a pleading tone to my voice, secretly begging them to tell me otherwise) “did it hurt? Was it really that bad?” my unmarried friends are silently asking the same question.

Time to test the waters

But just as when people ask you if it feels different when you reach a landmark age the minute the clock has turned midnight, or when you win a big award, get your degree, see your name published for the first time, they always ask the question too soon.

Because, I’m sorry to say, folks, the truth is that before you’ve had a chance to encounter a situation in which something might be different about your life, being married feels exactly the same as being in a loving, committed relationship where you live together.

It doesn’t feel like you’ve made some surreal, floaty transition into a higher state of being – you’re the same people in the same situation – unless you’re one of the rare few who moves in together after you say “I do”. The immediate questioning about whether it feels “different” to be married is from another era – one where marriage was a huge change, from living with your parents to living as a couple for the first time.

Us before we got married – Image © 2012 Modern Vintage Weddings

So what does change?

So with that somewhat anticlimactic news to offer, why did I get married at all? Well, in a way it does feel different. No, I didn’t go through some immediate transformation where I felt like a “wife” suddenly, but then when you turn 18 do you really feel different before you go out and buy your first legal booze? When you get your degree do you really feel different until you get your first job?

Marriage is full of those little landmarks – the first time you say “my husband” out loud (that still feels odd – good, but odd) the first time you see your name change in print (if you’ve changed your name) suddenly noticing you have time to do things together, turning your heads towards new projects, turning your thoughts towards children if you want them. No, it doesn’t feel different right away. It would be strange and unrealistic if it did. But slowly, slowly, life gets you used to the temperature of marriage by allowing you to sink into the pool of newness slowly, and things change naturally – gradually.

And right after – did we feel really different right that second? Probably not. Image © 2012 Satureyes

Alter your expectations

So why am I telling you this? It sounds horribly unromantic and disappointing right? Well, no. I think if you’re expecting to feel like a totally different couple the minute you say “I do” you’re setting yourself up for a bitter disappointment – moreover if you’re getting married because you want things between you to dramatically change, you may want to re-think the reasons you’re getting married in the first place.

The night before my wedding, my cousin came up to the attic room at my parents’ house where I was sleeping (guarding my dress). Being several years older than me and a double cousin (my mum’s sister married my dad’s brother – read it back a few times it’s totally legal) she’s the closest thing I have to an older sister. She asked me, in all honesty, if I was nervous about getting married. I replied without hesitation “no, because I’m marrying John.”

I wasn’t nervous because I knew the relationship I was marrying into. I’d spent two years creating it with John, building bridges between us, special in-jokes, a kind of trust that isn’t shared with anyone else. I didn’t expect that to change, nor did I want to. I knew that over the years it would evolve and grow into something else, but did I want an overnight transformation? No. That would be terrifying.

So a word of advice for brides to be – if you’re marrying somebody because you’re in a happy and healthy relationship, then don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel totally different after you get married. You’re getting married to make that commitment solid and official – but the love, the trust and the feeling of being together forever – those things were all already there – you had them all along.

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