It was just two weeks after we touched down from honeymoon that I realised I hadn’t prepared for actually being married. I was dragging my husband around a potential new neighbourhood (there was a wedmin-shaped hole in my life that needed filling with a move to the country), pointing out family-friendly parks, when he turned to me and said, “Are we even having children?” In the whirlwind of wedding planning, the serious conversations had fallen by the wayside. A few better-late-than-never heart-to-hearts later and we’ve reached the one-year milestone, minus a house in the country and the kids, but just as happy as we were when we said, “I do”.
Image: Just Married sticker from Featherandbirch on etsy.com
I’m not the first to suffer from blinkered bride syndrome. It’s all too easy to get swept up in planning the day only to forget what it leads to – a life together. Be honest, in all the hours you’ve spent drawing up the guest list, have you spoken about your hopes and fears for the future? Can you say with 100% certainty that you know if and when your other half wants children, where they want to live, how they expect your finances to work or how many times a week they want sex? Unless you can answer this not-quite-as-fun-as-the-hen-party version of Mr & Mrs with anything other than a confident “yes” then it’s time to put the favour boxes down and get talking. To get you started, we asked the experts about everything from sharing your money to post-honeymoon sex. Here’s to your happily ever after…
The Great Depression
OK, so we’re being a bit dramatic, but there’s nothing like the realisation that your wedding (aka the best day of your life) and honeymoon (aka the best holiday of your life) are over to bring you back down to earth with a bump. While so much has changed – you’re married and possibly have a new name – everyday life hasn’t and, as much as you pretended not to love it, you’re no longer the couple that everyone wants a piece of. “Many brides and grooms get back from honeymoon to find they are staring into an abyss with the words ‘The rest of your lives together’ written over the top,” says author and TV behaviour expert Judi James. “The shock of coping with ‘the new normal’ can be a challenge and to make sure you achieve the wedded bliss you’ve been working towards you’ll need to prep for it while you’re mapping out your wedding. Create fun contingency plans for moments of nuptial jet lag* and don’t assume that because you’re in love you think alike. You need to get chatting about kids, bank accounts and even washing up before you say ‘I do’.” *See our top 10 activities below.
Honeymoon map keepsake box from Popsyclunk on Etsy.com
On The Money
Answer this: if you got a £10,000 windfall what would you do – spend it on your wedding or pocket it for the future? And what would your h2b do? Some people are spenders, while others are savers, and when these two budgeting personalities collide expect financial fireworks. Chances are you’re feeling smug about your spending at the moment – with budget spreadsheets and a wedding day savings fund keeping every penny in check. But post wedding it’s unlikely you’ll be so disciplined. Before you become one of those wives who hides her shopping bags at the bottom of the wardrobe, you need to have the money chat.
“There’s no one formula for everyone,” says Lucy Tobin, author of From Yes To I Do. “Different things will work for different couples, whether that’s keeping separate accounts, merging everything, having your own savings accounts and a shared current account for bills, or the breadwinner paying their partner an ‘allowance’. If you’re pooling your cash, it’s a good idea to agree a spending limit, e.g anything above £100 needs discussion. Ensure you’re both involved, even if your partner is a banker. There are practical issues, too – for example, if one of you has debts that could damage the other’s credit score when you open a joint account. The most important thing is that you know, and agree with, your partner’s attitude to money. If it’s vastly different from your own you’ll need to work out a compromise.”
From every day to once a week to once a month… sex can slip from a relationship with surprising speed. “Give your sex life a regular MOT,” says psychosexual therapist and couples counsellor Cate Mackenzie. “Once they stop dating, people tend to make less time for sex. It’s important to allocate time by booking regular weekends away and planning a morning in bed on a Sunday instead of getting up to do chores.” If you go red in the face at the mention of the S-word, this is one area that doesn’t always need a face-to-face discussion. “Try a technique called simmering,” says Cate. “Start by thinking sexy thoughts inspired by films or books, send your other half a flirtatious message like ‘hey hot stuff, can’t wait to see you later,’ then get yourself feeling sexy with a bath or new lingerie. It’ll completely change the energy.” And never underestimate the sexiness of a surprise. “When you date, you surprise each other all the time. But when you get married you get into a routine,” says Cate. “Take it in turns to plan a date each month, it’s a sure-fire way to keep the sexiness alive.”
The awkward “When are you getting married?” questions are over, but it’s about to get worse. The bane of every newlywed’s life isn’t the toilet seat being left up, it’s being asked when she’s having a baby. Recently, the issue reached fever pitch when one fed-up woman’s Facebook rant went viral: “Before you ask the young married couple when they’re going to start a family… just stop. It’s none of your business.” Hear hear! While you’d be within your rights to ignore these pertinent questions, preparing an answer is the socially acceptable way to deal with it. “Ugh, kids? No way!” as you take a gulp of see-I’m-not-pregnant wine might be how you want to respond, but it can cause alarm. “Try the more neutral ‘we’re just enjoying being married for now’ instead,” suggests Cate. “Work out something you can roll off pat.”
It’s often said that when you marry your partner you marry their family, too. And while doubling your relatives overnight sounds wonderful in theory, there wouldn’t be so many in-law jokes if it were as simple as that. So, before you outlaw the in-laws, take time during the planning to develop a strategy for letting them into your life – after all you’ve had at least two or three decades to get used to your own family’s quirks, so expecting a harmonious relationship straightaway with another family isn’t realistic.
The engagement period can actually be the perfect time to discuss the subject with your h2b. Both sets of parents will have opinions about the wedding and, whether your in-laws are getting too involved, not getting involved enough or being right on the mark, it’s good to let your partner know how you feel, so that he can understand for future situations.
And while every in-law relationship is completely different, these guidelines will certainly help to set you off on the right foot: Never bad-mouth your husband in front of his family, remember blood really is thicker than water; always let your husband raise any issues with his parents first, he knows how to deal with them; make as much time for his family as you do for your own; and finally if they call, don’t just chuck the phone at him while mouthing, “It’s your parents.” They are his family after all.
Whether you’ve shared a home before the big day or he’s planning to carry you over the threshold of your new marital home, living together as a married couple can have its highs as well as some unexpected lows. “Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves to conform to your expectations of wedded bliss,” warns Judi. “At the start, you’ll be too busy discovering all those annoying habits about your new space-sharing pal and arguing about things like how much time you’re spending apart and whose job it is to clean out the cat’s litter.” Forget trying to be the perfect partner, too – unless you’re a culinary genius who loves cooking every night and cleaning makes you genuinely happy (yes, apparently there are people who actually enjoy hoovering) then you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. “The first year of living together can have its bumpy patches and a lot of couples stop having sex,” says Cate. “When you live together your partner becomes family, which isn’t that sexy. If you start nagging your husband about leaving his socks on the floor, you’ll remind him of his mum, so it’s important to maintain the passion from when you dated.”
10 newlywed activities for an awesome first year
1. Enjoy the post-wedding wedmin (writing thank you cards and unwrapping your presents) together.
2. Make a big moment of receiving your photos and video – turn down the lights and pop the champagne.
3. Save money in the honeymoon budget for a romantic weekend away a few months into married life.
4. Book a fun couple’s course. Try Cate Mackenzie’s The Art of Flirting workshop (catemackenzie.com).
5. Write a wish list of activities you’ve always wanted to do and DO THEM.
6. Host a dinner party where your two social circles can meet again after the wedding.
7. Learn to cook together and, of course, sample the results together, too.
8. Plan a first wedding anniversary that will rival the day itself.
9. New home? Get decorating. Overalls + paint = a surprisingly fun combination.
10. Reminisce about the wedding. Your partner is one person who’ll never get bored of talking about that day.