I had a friend who fell in love...with her wedding. It was a grand affair, to be sure: rustic chic in a converted barn, with bucolic views and twinkly white lights. Every detail had been thought through during the months of preparation. Like so many brides-to-be, the wedding became a veritable full-time job during that season of her life.

Afterward, she seemed down. She was having trouble letting go of her activity on bridal websites, and she continued living vicariously through the weddings of other bride friends she had made. There was a big, empty space in her life where a grand event had once stood. In short, she was grieving the passing of her wedding.

At the time, I may have groaned inwardly (OK, I’m pretty sure I did) at her continued fixation with her wedding, but having had my own, I now understand her sentiment a little bit better. As small as our wedding was, Constantino and I have felt “off” during this first month of marriage. We’ve been a little bit out of sync with the rest of life; a little bit out of rhythm. And so I have to admit, even we may be suffering a touch of postnuptial blues.

But our funk, I realized, had nothing to do with sadness about our wedding day being over. In fact, Constantino and I are both glad it’s in the past. It was a magical day that we made our own, but although we’ll always cherish the memories, I don’t think either of us wants to do it over again. And yet still a vague depression lingered.

So what was it we were grieving? What was the empty feeling inside? I think it had less to do with the wedding itself and more to do with the direction and purpose the wedding provided. It gave us a mission—it was something for us to work toward.

After we returned from our honeymoon, and we were left with nothing but some wrinkled wedding programs and each other, we had no choice but to ask ourselves: So now what? There was one evening when we were lounging at home doing a lot of nothing. I remember turning to Constantino and quipping: “Well, just fifty more years of this.” In one sense, 50 more years of cozy, serene evenings together sounds glorious. But Constantino knew what I was getting at: Having accomplished our goal, we were aimless. 

For the duration of our relationship, we’ve had a tangible benchmark in mind: marriage. It gave us something to plan for, something to look forward to. But now, achievement unlocked, the future has seemed wide open—too open. The path in front of us has appeared so vast and vague. It has lacked definition, like a long road disappearing into a fog. Our postnuptial blues were not about missing the past; they were uncertainty about what comes next.

OUR POSTNUPTIAL BLUES WERE NOT ABOUT MISSING THE PAST; THEY WERE UNCERTAINTY ABOUT WHAT COMES NEXT.

The fallacy of “happily ever after” is that marriage is the end goal, when really it’s only the next chapter. That fairy-tale outlook does couples a disservice, because it encourages a focus on one single point in a relationship rather than taking a long view. Fortunately, Constantino and I received some wonderful pre-marital counseling from our pastor, and long before that we took the time to ask each other some of the more important questions about each other, like these and these.

We returned to those questions we had asked ourselves earlier, about our values and our expectations. We talked again about our goals in terms of family, work, and life in general. And after a few nights of discussion, that long, foggy road became a tiny bit clearer. We can now see a few signposts instead of endless nothingness—aspirations we have for our lives and our family. Instead of walking aimlessly, we are now walking toward something.

Our immediate goals have been pretty small so far: make a chore list (and stick to it!), create a budget and set up our finances, identify relationships we want to invest in, and establish a practice of deliberate communication. One of my favorite bits of advice comes from my parents, who, early in their marriage, had a weekly “airing of grievances” over a bottle of wine. It was an opportunity to talk about all of those nitpicky things that bother us but seem too trivial in the moment to mention. Just knowing that there will be a time and a place for honest communication makes it so much easier to extend grace for the little things.

There are bigger goals down the road, too far along to worry about just yet, but there’s comfort in knowing they are there. And although our road hasn’t changed, it’s our outlook that makes all the difference. We hope to approach the rest of our lives in the same way we approached our dating relationship: with intention. Just being mindful of that has given us more confidence in the decisions we make and how we relate to each other.

More than six weeks have passed since our wedding, and only now are we finally starting to feel in rhythm with each other and the world. The honeymoon’s over, and that's a huge relief.

 

David Khalaf is a fiction writer living in Portland. Follow us on Twitter: @daveandtino

Photo by Andreas Graulund, used with permission through Flickr Creative Commons.

3 Comments