So What happens after “I Do”?
1. Take Care of Yourself. You know that thing flight attendants tell you in the airplane safety instructions no one ever listens to? “Secure your own oxygen mask first before helping others.” It’s true in life too. If you don’t make sure to keep taking care of yourself, there’s no way you can take care of another person. The most sage advice I got about this came from a woman named Chana, an Orthodox Jewish wife and mother in Jerusalem who was my age, but raising six children in a city constantly roiled by political conflict. “It’s easy to lose yourself in a marriage,” Chana told me. “It’s easy to nurture your husband and your relationship and forget about nurturing yourself. Take the time off to reset and your marriage will be better for it.”
2. Don’t Stop Adventuring. I got really depressed on my honeymoon. And then I got depressed about being depressed. Isn’t the honeymoon supposed to be the happiest, greatest, most Instagrammable vacation of your life? Turns out the post-wedding blues are a totally normal thing. After the excitement and planning of the wedding it’s only natural to feel a dip in your emotions once the big day is over. But how can you keep that excitement in a marriage? Keep adventuring with your spouse. The anthropologist and relationship guru Dr. Helen Fisher put it best when she explained that “Research shows that novelty—taking risks or trying something new—can trigger the release of dopamine in the brain. I’m not just talking about novelty in the bedroom (although that would be a good start). You can get the same effect from sampling a new type of cuisine together or riding the roller coaster at an amusement park.” Relationships thrive on newness and the ability to keep learning and growing together.
3. Make Your House a Home. We spent a lot of time in Denmark learning about the concept of hygge, the idea of cultivating warmth, happiness and coziness in all aspects of your life, and figuring out how this applies to a marriage. The Danes believe in creating a cozy and happy home in order to have the kind of space you want to nest with your new spouse. When I first got married I was working 80 hour weeks. We’d just bought our first home and had no furniture (because we used our entire savings to buy the house). The Danes taught us to take the time to make our home a place where we wanted to be, where we could have dinners just the two of us, and completely let go of the stress of the outside world to truly connect and enjoy ourselves.
4. Put Your Phones Away. This was yet another tip from the Danes who were horrified with how much time most American couples spend on their phones while they’re together. Plenty of research shows that real-life interactions suffer when one partner is constantly on their phone rather than interacting with the other. “Studies of conversation both in the laboratory and in natural settings show that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone on a table between them or in the periphery of their vision changes both what they talk about and the degree of connection they feel,” the author and academic Sherry Turkle wrote in the New York Times Sunday Review. The phone and screen habits you set early on in a relationship will set the tone for the long-run so make a conscious decision for how and when to turn it all off and devote your attention to your spouse.
5. Keep the Mystery Alive. “Stop peeing with the bathroom door open,” a very sophisticated French woman with very sophisticated short-cropped bangs told me. “Maintain some mystery in your marriage.” I was also informed to stop walking around the house in dirty sweatpants. “Walk around naked instead. Much sexier,” the French ladies told me. And “spend a night a week apart and never sit next to one another at a dinner party. Don’t complain about the small things and keep the conversations interesting.” The French told me to behave as if I were my husband’s mistress (which to be honest sounded exhausting). But there was something to maintaining that sense of allure and mystery that existed in the days before we got married to keep from falling into a rut and taking one another for granted.
6. A Marriage Takes a Village. “Do you want a co-wife?” a stunning Maasai woman asked me when I met with the polygamous tribe on the Maasai Mara in Kenya. My husband with other women? I wasn’t into that. But what did stick with me from that trip was how the Maasai women stressed the importance of having a strong community around you to nurture a marriage, to having other couples, both older and younger in your social circle who can help you to keep things in perspective and provide a sounding board when things get tough.
Thanks to Jo Piazza for sharing!