How to be content in a new marriage?
November 20, 2017 9:19 AM   Subscribe

I happily married 6 months ago, but since then have the urge to leave everything and escape. How do I sort through these feelings?

I (33F) married 6 months ago. I was very happy to marry and my husband is a doll. Since the marriage, however, I have grown depressed, distant, have a feeling of being trapped, and frequently find myself judgmental towards my new husband. Instead of planning for kids or our own home (we rent), I daydream by looking up 1 bedroom/1 bath condos in my city.

I have been on anxiety/depression medicine for a few years, and am now seeing a therapist to sort through these feelings. Some things that have been brought up:
-were you ever abused or abandoned as a child: no. I actually had a very sweet and happy upbringing in a complete and loving two parent home.
-do you maybe not want marriage/kids? no. I actually do want these things very much.
-is there anything you can only do alone that you feel you need to do? no. I am kind of a sedentary person who enjoys quiet nights with a laptop.
-post-wedding planning blues? no. I wasn't all that into wedding planning and just did one of those all-inclusive venues (even picked their cheapest bottom barrel plan ) so I didn't have to do anything really.

So the best we have come up with is that I am not self-actualized or satisfied ever really. Which in a way is true except for one area: I love my job.

Also, this isn't new for me. I had actually been engaged three different times before, and before serious marriage planning occurred, got these feelings and left (granted, those men also had pink/red flag issues my husband does not have). I never got these feelings with my husband, that is, until we came back from our honeymoon.

I don't have urges for dates, talking, sex, anything. It's like a candle that blew out as soon as we got off the plane from our honeymoon.

Have any of you all been through this before? What can I do? My husband and I do talk honestly and have brought up it went from happy to ships-in-the-night rather quickly.
posted by ilyilynot to Human Relations (25 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
There are all kinds of post-project letdowns that have nothing to do with whether you were really into wedding planning or whatever. Call it a post-milestone letdown, and it sounds like you are especially prone to it.

Do you have anything in your life besides your job that satisfies you? Hobbies, volunteer work, continuing education? Is it possible that you need less sedentary-with-laptop time and more physical and mental exercise? Is your life just kind of occurring without any real reward or motivation? It's not going to do it on its own, you have to participate, and you can't just sit and wait for an urge before you do anything.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:36 AM on November 20, 2017 [7 favorites]

I don't find much insight into what could be going on for you from your question other than unpacking this, "I am not self-actualized or satisfied ever really."

I was a person who never really planned to get married and then I was with my partner for eight years and we had lived together for years and I knew I had no plans to ever be with anyone else and I didn't think much would really change and so I accepted his proposal. I was fine at that stage, being a fiancee. I ended up planning the whole wedding because his mom died and he was depressed and although I was kinda like, "hey this was your idea!" I was also okay during all the wedding planning.

Then after the wedding, I had this passing thought, "I am now a wife" and I had a violent emotional reaction to that. I was really not expecting anything like that! I was super angry and disgusted for about four months at the idea that anyone would call me a wife, or think of me as a wife, which made me realize I had a lot of emotional/feminist baggage about societal connotations of "wife" and it was really a struggle because I was really angry.

I'm not saying this because I think you're in the exact same boat, but because perhaps you have baggage about the state of being married that you are unaware of. Were your parents romantic together? Did they have dates and affection? Did you see loving, fun, affectionate married couples together growing up?

Or do you maybe think of it as the end of things, somehow?The end of sex and dating?
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:46 AM on November 20, 2017 [12 favorites]

I do have issues with being vulnerable, even in an anonymous setting I guess. I don't mean to post-sit, and will refrain from doing so, but I don't think I put a lot of specific detail in my question. Other things:
- I don't have many/any hobbies outside of work. I have things I am good at (art) but can't bring myself to really do it and when I do make it, it just goes under my bed, I don't try to display or show it anywhere
-I don't often have fun, rather feel neutral, but an area where I did find fun, even if it led to unhappiness, was dating and attracting males. I can carry conversation easily and make people feel special if I try and I liked the affirmation I would get from that.
-I do have some anxiety about aging, especially as a woman. not about death, but the changes your body and face go through as you get older.
-It seems more and more difficult for me to bond as I get older, unless you are a kid or animal.
posted by ilyilynot at 9:59 AM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

The way you talk about this marriage sure does sound trapped. All of these “solutions “ don’t sound very optional the way you’re feeling about them. They sound like part of the cage.

Every day you can choose whether to stay married or not. It’s a rare thing that not everyone gets to have. But if you feel you have no choice but to stay, you will never truly be free to stay.
posted by billjings at 10:02 AM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I had two friends divorce within 3 and 6 months of marriage and they had similar reasons why: They thought things would be "different".

Marriage doesn't really change a relationship. It's an affirmation of a relationship, but it doesn't really change anything at all. People think it's like this big milestone, but in my experience it was a milestone for the people who came to our wedding, not for us.

When compared to a milestone at a satisfying job, it is indeed dull! At a job when you get a promotion you get a raise, more responsibilities, more people reporting to you, more remit, etc. And the change is almost immediate and tangible. You have clear progression and visible indications of growth and achievement.

Marriage is the long haul. Changes are usually minute and subtle and you don't even know the relationship is changing until you're at your 50th anniversary (touch wood) hopefully celebrating how the two of you have gotten closer and stronger together.

I know you say it's not post wedding planning blues, but is your feeling of dissatisfaction in any way related to the question of: "Ok, now what?"

The answer to that question is highly individual to the couple. But for us "Now what?" was really as simple as just keep living the way we were, for the rest of our lives, with the other person at our side, and not alone and not with anyone else.
posted by like_neon at 10:05 AM on November 20, 2017 [10 favorites]

I don't know if this applies to you specifically, but I know when I got married, it brought up a bunch of weird feelings I did not expect to have.

-Changing your name (you don't say if you've done/are doing this) is a bit of a head trip, even if you're "theoretically" okay with it. It definitely brings up real questions about your identity that can feel disconcerting & like a loss.

-At least in my experience, societal expectations ramped up A LOT after marriage. Suddenly if my husband didn't clean the house/send thank you notes/dress well/decorate the house for holidays/whatever it was at least partially my fault because of gendered bullshit. This is usually subtle... it's not like people are explicit about this and suddenly go from 0 to 100. You just start noticing the judgement here, the judgement there, the silences when you don't do something expected of you, the looking at you instead of your husband to answer household related questions, etc. This really bothered me and I underestimated how much it would increase after marriage. Turns out there are a lot of people (especially in the older generation) who still have very traditional ideas about what a wife is & does.

-My husband was suddenly ALWAYS THERE. And I was ALWAYS THERE. This cuts down on romance and spontaneity significantly (we did not fully combine households before marriage). I definitely got the sense that I was "caught" and was now "old news" and there was some sliding into "taking for granted" territory. There was less fun wining & dining, which was another loss.

-My relationship with my friends and family changed. My parents definitely acted less like my parents, if that even makes sense. They certainly acted like they were feeling a new "husband and in law boundary" which prevented them from having as much influence/say in my life as before. This is another loss. (Or a blessing, depending on your family of origin, I suppose.) Friends who were unmarried tended to drift away a little bit.

All of this shit is real and deep and has nothing to do with "post-wedding planning blues". Not to diminish people who really do like planning weddings, but thinking that's all that could possibly bother a new wife is sort of a shallow & sexist idea. There is a lot more deep shit that goes along with marriage that few people talk about openly.
posted by stockpuppet at 10:23 AM on November 20, 2017 [33 favorites]

I have things I am good at (art) but can't bring myself to really do it and when I do make it, it just goes under my bed, I don't try to display or show it anywhere

This is not at all related to your original question, but here goes - it's okay to not display or show your art. It's okay to make it just for yourself, for your personal satisfaction. It's okay to make 3 garages full of art you never share with anyone. I'm sensing from this comment and your comment about enjoying dating and attracting men that you rely a lot on external validation and you think that's...part of hobbies and stuff. You don't make your art because you don't want to show it to other people because you are afraid they won't appreciate or praise it enough?

This is maybe a great topic to discuss with your therapist. How do I internally validate and give myself license to enjoy things that don't involve lots of praise from other people?
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:29 AM on November 20, 2017 [21 favorites]

-I don't often have fun, rather feel neutral, but an area where I did find fun, even if it led to unhappiness, was dating and attracting males. I can carry conversation easily and make people feel special if I try and I liked the affirmation I would get from that.

So, it really sounds like you're dealing with some significant dysthymia or depression. But even if not, even if truly the only thing you've ever enjoyed is flirting and carrying conversation and making people feel special and getting affirmation from them, I can do this with your husband. A lot of people would actually say that it's a pretty critical component of marriage.

So yeah, if getting married has meant that your husband now ignores you and doesn't affirm you, or that you no longer have conversations or try to make each other feel special, then that's really crappy and no wonder you don't like being married!
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:31 AM on November 20, 2017 [9 favorites]

I don't often have fun, rather feel neutral, but an area where I did find fun, even if it led to unhappiness, was dating and attracting males. I can carry conversation easily and make people feel special if I try and I liked the affirmation I would get from that.

I am not self-actualized or satisfied ever really

This seems to be what the problem is. You are all squishy in your core. You don't know who you are or who you want. EMDR might be something that would help if your therapist is trained in that - you don't have to have a traumatic experience to work on, I don't think. You could work on something like why do you get so scared to do any hobbies (and/or show the work to anyone). It seems like there is a lot to unpack about yourself that you're scared to get into. Work on those things and maybe worry less about being married and how that feels.
posted by dawkins_7 at 10:33 AM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oops. On a re-read I see you mention that you just don't feel like doing any of those things anymore. But one thing a lot of folks will tell you about low-grade depression is that it makes you never want to do anything. So sometimes you just gotta do the thing, and let the feelings follow the actions.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:34 AM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

A term you may want to look into and bring up to your therapist is anhedonia. It really doesn't sound like your depression is successfully managed and it may be time to a) revisit your medication b) make sure you're keeping an eye on thyroid, Vitamin D, etc.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:38 AM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

i met a guy who is a life coach for big time celebrities and athletes. he tells a story of coaching a US Olympic gymnast. he ask the group: "What do you think the worst day of her life was? This won't be a surprise to many of you. The day *after* she won her gold."

From a buddhist perspective, what occurs is a desire is satisfied. but it's not the object-of-desire that gives relief. it is the very temporary absence of desire.

a gratitude practice may be useful. also, sitting quietly and holding the question 'what is next?' importantly, be very, very patient with yourself.

in my youth, i was a lifeguard at a lakefront beach. the water was cloudy enough that the bottom isn't really visible. an adult man -who was clearly not a good swimmer - jumped in the water and started sort-of-dog-paddling. then, panic!!! he starts floundering, swallowing water, choking, and getting the fear-of-drowning terror in his eyes.

i hopped in and made a simple pole rescue from about twelve feet away. i verbally calmed him, and when he composed himself, i gently said, "can you try to stand?"

he did so. the water was only 4' deep.

maybe see if you can catch your breath and put your feet solidly on the earth.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:58 AM on November 20, 2017 [13 favorites]

I will wholeheartedly and emphatically second Lyn Never. Unless you can absolutely rule out depression being a factor here, this sounds very much like the symptoms of depression: a feeling of being trapped, and frequently find myself judgmental towards my new husband

That judgmental and nitpicky feeling like everyone you spend lots of time with is irritating is pretty familiar to me from times in my life when I've been depressed. I call it being at "bitch eating crackers status with the entire world".

Why after the honeymoon? Yes, I do think it's the situational "comedown" aspect. It doesn't really matter what the inciting event is - revisit your medication FOR SURE.
posted by capricorn at 12:24 PM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I want to second a lot of what stockpuppet said, too. Marriage doesn't change you, but it does change how people treat you.

You've also lost one of the few things you find fun (dating). Maybe there's some way you can recapture that in a non-romantic context? Being able to make people feel good about themselves is a useful skill in a lot of contexts.
posted by corvine at 12:28 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm also recently married, and it's a good situation. But I also find myself looking at apartments with envy--namely because a part of me laments no longer being 100% in control of decor, furnishings, and level of tidiness in my home. And it's fun to fantasize about having a secret apartment where I can have a fancy settee and a rug with a loud pattern, and a clean refrigerator.

So I wonder if your feelings have much to do with your immediate surroundings--how do you feel about your home? Do you have a space that's all yours? If not, could you create one? Taking charge of a spare bedroom and making it an office for myself has been a massive boon to my mental health and in helping me transition from independent person to partnered person.

Apart from that, I would super-most-definitely revisit your current treatment/s for depression, maybe adding exercise to your routines. Also, the Buddhist approach described by j_curiouser above.
posted by witchen at 12:30 PM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Loss of control is a big thing. The trapped feeling you describe sounds very much like how I used to feel when I realized that no matter what I did, husband/kids could come in at any time and in one felled swoop, destroy my clean kitchen/tidy living room/spotless bathroom.... AND NOT CARE AT. ALL. I oversaw the home, but I was incapable of enforcing anyone else's relationship to the home according to my wishes. I was in charge but I had no power. I cleaned and they destroyed. I tried to read and they watched TV or blasted music. I did laundry and they left clothing strewn all over in a trail from front door to bedroom and back again. I hid in the bathroom just to escape.

This can be unsettling in the extreme. Now that I live alone, I cannot fathom relinquishing that power. I love my friends and family but it also happens that after a time, I cannot wait for them to leave, so I can restore my environment and my sanity.

That you mention fantasizing about your own private condo tells me that perhaps this may be true for you also. The resentment over lack of personal space and personal autonomy can build to toxic levels very quickly. Do you have your own space, in the marital home? Not just your dresser in the bedroom or that sort of thing. Literally a room?

Only women lucky enough to have a large home usually get this. They get a craft room or some such. Most women look around and say, "My kids have their own rooms. The kids also take over the family room/living room, at will. My husband has the garage and (often) a den, basement or 'man cave.' But in my own home, I have NOTHING I can call my own. I have zero space that is ALL MINE, where no one else can come in and mess it up."

If possible, consider how you can create a defined, private space for yourself. At least the equivalent of what your husband has. (It's hard to know what is possible absent more information about your living space.) Then, give yourself permission to spend time there. Get your husband to understand what you need. Hopefully he will not feel rejected; but understand that you need to recharge in a space that you can control and occupy all by yourself.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 12:55 PM on November 20, 2017 [12 favorites]

One thing that might be worth thinking on is the fact that in getting married you give up all the possible futures in which you were not married. If you are a sort of person that has always had an unlimited view of your future and possibility it can feel like a loss when you first start pruning your life options. It is possible that you may be in morning for the future possible lives you gave up when choosing this one. This is something that is very close to me. I always valued my ability to go anywhere and be anything and when I chose to settle down and be a husband I gave up some of those other possible futures. For me it was easy and worth the trade, but if someone wasn't ready to give those things up or hadn't really thought about them it could be quite depressing. If that was the case it is quite possible that the person could begin to resent their partner and that is something that is absolutely corrosive to a relationship.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 1:51 PM on November 20, 2017 [10 favorites]

an area where I did find fun, even if it led to unhappiness, was dating and attracting males. I can carry conversation easily and make people feel special if I try and I liked the affirmation I would get from that.

Like corvine I was wondering if you can try some other ways to get that affirmation. Maybe mentoring or volunteering with people who could use the attention, or teaching an art class, or even taking (e.g. art) classes in a setting where it's easy to talk with people?

Do you ever host people at your home, like for dinner parties? You could do that with friends or, alternatively, host some regular events where you encourage friends to bring people you don't know.

If you're not sure any of these things will actually give you the enjoyment that dating gave you, you can still give them a try and assess after a while.
posted by trig at 2:01 PM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I came to say pretty much exactly what The Violet Cypher said. Publicly announcing your intention to be with someone for the rest of your life can be a big, scary deal that feels very final and very inextricable, and even under the happiest of circumstances it can be a claustrophobia-inducing experience.

It's totally normal to feel a little hemmed in, and it's likewise normal to grieve the loss of all your other possible lives. Because it truly is a loss, even if it's worth it in so many ways and you have no regrets. It's OK to feel sad about loss while simultaneously feeling happy about what you gained.
posted by jesourie at 2:48 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think marriage is a huge adjustment, especially for women, especially for young, single women. You go from being a "catch," and having lots of freedom and fun and options, to being... a wife. And, for even the most egalitarian and wonderful relationships, that word and role has a lot of social and emotional baggage attached to it. Generally, speaking, wives aren't portrayed as "fun" or even very interesting, usually aren't the heroine of their own stories, and have had lots of pressure put upon them to be in a supportive role to those around them, but not to receive much support themselves.

Oddly enough, a book called "Marriage Shock" by Dalma Heyn (who used to write for Redbook or some similar magazine) helped me identify and grapple with my feelings around marriage. I don't know if it's still in print, but your local library might have it.
posted by dancing_angel at 6:26 PM on November 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

You might be gay. This kind of "meh" feeling towards men you otherwise are fine with as people is a classic thing I've heard from women who were really deeply closeted. Turns out that they do not have the same kind of ambivalence or "dating is nice I guess because he likes it" kinds of feelings towards women --- it's a whole different ballgame.

Something to consider.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:54 PM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also, if you had a great upbringing in a (straight) house and you really want kids and a "family" it can be hard to separate that from wanting to marry a specific man. This is also a struggle I have heard from women who realized they were gay later in life.

Good luck with this.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:57 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I married a dude who was lovely for a year and who was playing at "nice normal person"; I was literally in tears in our huge luxury suite the morning after, as marriage was his permission to resume being a sack of shit. He is widely known as a sack of shit and is kind of a laughingstock and...anyway, we tried counselling, it didn't do a thing. He was aggressive and abusive and I got out in a hurry.

I really, really hope this has absolutely nothing to do with your situation, but, if he seems like a different guy at all post-marriage, it might be something to keep an eye on, that he played nice until you were "his" once you married. You're not and can leave anytime, of course.

I'm really sorry you're going through this. I would probably see a therapist by myself to help me sort stuff out, and I would steer clear of stuff like making major purchases together or discontinuing birth control until things are more clear for you.
posted by kmennie at 7:16 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Only women lucky enough to have a large home usually get this. They get a craft room or some such. Most women look around and say, "My kids have their own rooms. The kids also take over the family room/living room, at will. My husband has the garage and (often) a den, basement or 'man cave.' But in my own home, I have NOTHING I can call my own. I have zero space that is ALL MINE, where no one else can come in and mess it up."

Both my grandmothers had their own bedrooms, and they still managed to have six children each. I'm all for married couples having enough personal space that they don't drive each other up the wall.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:41 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Part of it may be because people often view marriage as the beginning of the end of their lives. You may not even consciously think that way. But it seems to be a pervasive cultural sentiment that once you get married, that it's all downhill from there. That marriage is 'forever' -- and so, you're locked in to a 'We're married, so it's this person til death do us part!' mindset. That's not true of course, marriages break up all the time, but the thought that marriage is unbreakable is pretty ingrained in most of us, even subconsciously.

That thought, can signify a lot of things. Lack of freedom, being trapped and locked in forever to a choice. It's a wonderful thing to commit to someone so deeply but it can also be super scary. And not everyone is ready for that level of monogamy and commitment. And look, monogamy is hard. And I speak as a completely monogamous person. Polyamory isn't for me, not even a bit. But love is a choice, and monogamy is a choice, and sometimes, these choices are a bit trying, and also, the thought of being locked in to that choice forever, can trigger escape fantasies in the most committed of us.

And well, flirting is fun, dating is fun, falling in love is fun. It's possibly the most intense, fun thing you can ever do. It's incredibly euphoric. Now, your mind is telling you, that you can't do any of that, ever again. Could it be that subconscious thoughts like may play a part?

Personally speaking, I love the absolute poop out of my partner, and I want it to be him forever. But even I have my days where I look forward and think; 'wait, is this forever?' and question it. Or days I look over the horizon at the greener grass and think it's better than my situation. It's very easy to idealize someone else's life, especially in this internet age of social media, and not know the truth of it. And, like you, I also have moments I don't feel self-actualized or self satisfied, and my moments of discontent with my partner absolutely play into that. I've had to work hard to feel more contentment and gratitude for my life as it stands-- and that it's not about my fiance at all, it's about me, and what 'forever' represents in life in general. Especially since I come from an age where I was told I was a special snowflake and 'mediocrity' and 'settling' in life is bad. (Not settling for a partner, but just settling down in general).

So, I work on gratitude a lot. I remind myself the ways I am very very lucky, and lucky to have him, and to have found him. I remind myself the ways I felt when we met, and why I feel the way I feel. Deep down, I really don't even want anyone else, or even think of other guys. It's more that I occasionally get a weird 'fog' and all the happiness I felt with my partner gets dulled. I also know, deep down, that I would have these thoughts with anyone. I could be the wife of someone ridiculously perfect in every way, and I'd still sit there occasionally and wonder why he's so stupid with his impossibly handsome yet stupid face.

I know that this seed of discontent would crop up with anyone and in any situation, because its depression speaking. So I try to work on that.

Also, something that helped me to realize this, was finding out that contentment tends to stay the same, regardless of what things befall you. As the article says (I can't find the original Science of Us article except on google cache); If all things are judged by the extent to which they depart from a baseline of past experience, gradually even the most positive events will cease to have impact as they themselves are absorbed into the new baseline against which further events are judged.

This was a real eye opener, because it definitely rings true for me. "I'll be happy when..." except it isn't true. But because of depression, I often look a lot to external events to define my baseline happiness, when I have to control that, because I control that baseline. When the good event happens (meeting someone, getting engaged etc) and then the euphoria passes, I'm the same as before. And understanding that was key.

So again, for me, it's doing my best to be satisfied in the here and now. Gratitude, therapy, etc.

And lastly, it's not that I'm not truly self-actualized at all. It's that I don't feel self actualized-- I feel crappy and inferior-- but no accomplishment can truly make that go away, because I was taught I wasn't enough as I was. And part of the things, I think may help me become self-actualized, are cognitive distortions, or pipe dreams. Thoughts like, " I'll be happy if I become famous like soandso actor!" aren't reality and don't help me. Again, it's important for me to pull myself out of that and back down to the here and now, and focus on how amazing my life and partner is, and how lucky I am. I don't recommend comparing yourself, but sometimes, seeing the ways other couples fight and don't get along, make me feel really grateful for my relationship.

Sorry, my thoughts are a bit all over the place and rambly.

I don't know if it's the same for you, but for me, that's a lot of what tends to run through my mind when I feel unhappy with someone. It's really just reflected unhappiness in myself.

I hope that helps somewhat. Best of luck to you.
posted by Dimes at 9:20 AM on November 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

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