Managing Feelings — 03 September 2006
Dealing with the post-wedding blues

As though we needed one more subcategory for depression, recent news reports reviewed a new syndrome, “the postnuptial depression”. Last week’s BBC reported that “It has been estimated that for one in ten new spouses, the anticlimax of married life is so severe it develops into what is known as postnuptial depression. This increasingly common condition can continue for months, leaving sufferers feeling disillusioned, confused and even questioning if getting married was a mistake”.

Most of the sufferers are women. In western societies a woman’s wedding day is the actualization of the culturally idealized dream and mission. The multi-million dollars bridal industry flourishes on selling the Cinderella magic mainly to women.

For many brides the preparations for the big day is a year- long project of enormous complexity. Much thought, planning, energy and excitement are invested in creating the once in a lifetime day of perfection. Every detail from selecting the wedding location, setting, ceremony, the dress, the veil, the bridesmaids, the flowers, food, the cake, guest list, seating assignments, the photographer and more are complex, exciting and unnerving.

Due to the new couple’s inexperience in planning a wedding, family and expert professionals are often recruited to guide them in the process. Group decisions are immensely challenging as the blending of visions, preferences, tastes and monetary restrictions are considered. This often leads to interpersonal conflicts at a time of needed cohesiveness.

During this period of preparation the couple is lavished with everyone’s attention. All involved people strive to please the groom and bride and help their day of union become the epitome of beauty, romance, pleasure and delight.

Anyone who has ever worked on a long-term involved and demanding project knows that the enormous satisfaction of completing the task is accompanied by a let down. Human energy and emotions can escalate while managing anxiety and solving difficulties during the climb to the top while also feeling the ongoing pull toward resuming the homeostasis as soon as possible.

It is no wonder that after the buildup toward the nuptials, the waking up from the dream may be traumatic. The next day the king and queen are none other than an ordinary couple facing reality. They miss the attention, the glamour, beauty and ecstasy and experience sadness, gloom and loss. But to think that their marriage may have been a mistake is a grave cognitive distortion. To call the awakening to reality a depression is needlessly frightening and inappropriate. It is not a disease or aberrant state, but a NORMAL transition from fantasy to reality.

There is disorientation and grief even in waking up from a wonderful night dream, yet we know that this was only a dream and its nature is short lived. It is wise to savor the joyous parts of the recalled dream, understand its meaning and attempt to live it in wakefulness.

Similarly, the wedding day is the idealized, romantic and blissful event, whose flavor can be preserved and savored intermittently throughout the marriage. Regular life is the antithesis of magic and perfection- it is real and imperfect. Yet, sharing a life with a loved, chosen and special partner is magical enough.

The romance of the wedding can be remembered, recalled and intermittently reactivated throughout the couple’s life together. It is a treasure they uniquely share that can be cherished anew. The emotional euphoria of being cherished and admired can be set as a goal to strive for throughout their years.

Dear Newlyweds,

• Do not be alarmed by the dramatic titles of post-wedding depression. If you feel a let down after your big day, it is a NORMAL, anticipated temporary reaction to the stress of the preparation and the transition to marital life.

• Getting married was not a mistake, thinking so-is. Count your blessing of finding a mate with whom you have already shared the bliss of one perfect day.

• The fairy tale day was just a sample of your capacity to plan and create the loving excitement you desire. “It” doesn’t just happen; the two of you already demonstrated that you could have it once you make intimacy, tenderness, sharing and affection your daily diet.

• You can be the princess in his life forever. Act like one and treat him as your prince.

• It is a greater achievement to conquer the ordinary than to languish in fantasy. A healthy dose of reality sprinkled with magic makes married life the sweetest.

• It is not the wedding day –but the wedding years- that count.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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