Well, we’ve made it to five years!  It’s been a truly wonderful five years despite the challenges.  It’s funny.  Looking back, I realize that all of my “problems” were not due to marriage.  A lot of the challenges are just the growing pains of becoming an adult.  We’ve bought a house, we’re preparing to start having kids, we’re paying student loans, I could go on and on.  I have learned a lot over the years, about myself, about relationships.  It’s amazing how similar I am to my parents and how behaviors I’ve learned from them have affected how I act in so many facets of life.  Becoming aware of those influences and learning how to behave the way you want despite your first impulse can be really freeing.

I realize I’m not really a newlywed anymore, so this will most likely be my last post on this blog.  I don’t really have regular readers, that I’m aware of, and most people happen upon this blog for my post on Post-Nuptial Depression.  That said, I’d like to give you some general relationship advice that I’ve learned through my five years of being married.  I hope you’ll find it helpful and that you’ve enjoyed the few posts I’ve written.  If you’d like to get in touch or follow me in other avenues, you can find my email on the Contact page.

Here goes:

  • Compromise:  One of the first things I learned after getting married is that compromise is essential.  It’s almost impossible to do anything together unless you’re both willing to give in, even if it’s just a little bit.  Every time we make big purchases, it takes us weeks or months (or more!) to make a decision, because we both have to like it.  If you just go along with whatever your spouse wants, you’re not going to feel a sense of ownership, and you might be setting yourself up for either resentment toward your spouse or disappointment in yourself for not being strong enough to fight for what you want.
  • Communication:  I have always found that it’s better to communicate how I feel even if it’s silly.  I feel like this one should be self-explanatory, but in case it isn’t: talk to each other, and listen to each other.  Talk about sex, talk about the future, talk about having children, talk about finances, talk about your biggest fears, talk about your insecurities, just talk!
  • Expectation:  Lose it.  I’ve learned that you cannot expect someone to behave how you want them to behave just because you want them to.  Expectation only leads to disappointment, especially if you haven’t fully communicated what you expect out of someone.  Recently I had a talk with my husband about something trivial (it seems like it’s always trivial…).  I think it was something as little as putting his dirty clothes in the hamper.  I asked if it’s just a waste of time for me to keep asking for him to do it, and he said it was.  He knew I wanted him to do it, and he was just choosing not to.  My nagging literally didn’t matter.  I don’t even think the nagging bugged him, he just totally ignored it.  So, I sort of just realized there’s no point in even bothering.  He’ll do it if he wants.  If he doesn’t put his socks in the hamper, they won’t get clean!  And, as weird as it might sound, it’s almost like a relief.  If I’ve already told him to do it, he knows.  Then it’s just up to him whether or not he wants clean socks, and I can just kick back and let it go.
  • Roles:  As egalitarian as you think you are, there are always roles that people fill in relationships.  I’ll give you an example.  We go to a movie theater that’s technically a bar, and they serve food and drinks.  When the pizza (or whatever) is ready, your number comes up on a little thing next to the screen.  My husband always goes and gets the food during the movie.  I don’t know why.  It’s just always been that way.  I would never want to do it.  I never have to ask him to do it.  He just does it.  In the morning, I always put the blinds up in our front room.  I always do it.  He never does it (ok, if I ask, he does it).  But, it’s not something he would do by himself.  I even tested it.  The other day, I just left them down, and he didn’t even care.  We went through the whole moring with them down, and it only bugged me.  So, since I care, it’s like part of my role.  It just works.  Also, I take out the trash.  He has an aversion to taking out the trash, and I have an aversion to smelly trash being inside the house.  So, it’s easier and faster if I do it.  I’m sure there are other ways we fill “roles” in our marriage… (get your mind out of the gutter…).
  • Fun:  Have fun together.  Find something that you both like to do, and do it regularly.  I did ballet when I grew up, so I was never allowed to ski.  So, I had this totally irrational thing against skiing.  And then I married a ski-obsesso.  He was basically born skiing.  He thinks our kids will come out of the womb with skis on their feet.  Eventually, I decided to learn to ski.  I didn’t do it to make my husband happy, I did it because it’s something he really likes to do and maybe I would also like it.  Well, it was a rocky first couple of years learning, but now it’s something that we do together most Sundays during the winter and totally love!  Doing something together that we both really like has made us closer as a couple.

I’m sure this list could go on and on, but that’s probably a good start.  Best of luck to all you newlyweds!  Hang in there.  The beginning can be tough, but if you’ve found your perfect mate it can only get better!

Ms. Newlywed

It took me a really long time to decide I wanted a puppy.  I grew up in a family where pets were forbidden.  Neither of my parents were raised with pets, so they didn’t really feel they needed any.  They also had six kids and probably thought that was enough to take care of, enough pitter-patter of feet, enough mouths to feed.  I tend to agree. It would be tough raising that many children.  I fell in line third out of the six and desperately wanted a white, fluffy kitty when I was about eight.  I pleaded with my mom to let me get one.  She wouldn’t let me, because she thought the cat would wrap itself around the baby’s neck and choke it.  She said I could get one after he was a few years older.  But, then she had another baby, and so on until I was in my teenage years and getting a pet wasn’t as high of a priority.  While I wanted a cat, I never wanted a dog, because they terrified me.  I was never bitten, but I do remember some traumatizing incidents with barking and snarling teeth. 

My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a family where pets were abundant.  He had a pet rabbit, a pet lizard, a hamster, and two salamanders.  They bought a pet dog, a Maltese-Lhasa Apso, when he was five.  He barely remembered a time without her.  When I met him, Annie was 16.  Old for a dog.  I had missed out on her youthful days and only knew her as elderly.  I sympathised with the family when she neared death, but I didn’t have the same connection.  I had never bonded with a pet.  She passed right after we got engaged.  The funeral was really sad, and I tried to be as supportive as I could.

In my early adult years, I really had never considered getting a dog and was known to not like them.  I was always awkward around dogs and kept my distance.  I tolerated being around them, petted them every once in a while but was really not sure what to do.  They were foreign to me.  My stepmom even refused to let me dog-sit, because she knew I would be horrible.  But once I met my husband, I knew it was  inevitable that we would get a dog of our own.  For a long time, I thought we could just put it off until after we had kids.  We would have more freedom.  We could travel.  I wouldn’t have to take care of it.  Also, my husband’s still in school, and I didn’t want to become the sole caretaker.  So, I pushed to wait on getting one until after we had kids.

Then, a couple of months ago, I started getting really fed up with work and living in the Bay Area and was lonely when my husband would have his evening classes.  So I started seriously looking at different breeds.  After much searching and debating, we finally settled on a Maltese-Shih tzu.  We found some irresistible puppy pictures online.  We mulled over the idea for a while.  Weeks later, it was tax time, and our jaws dropped when we saw how much we would have to pay.  Utterly depressed, we decided to give the breeder a call and go see the puppies.  The “waiting until we have kids” concept had flown out the window. 

Getting a puppy was one of the most terrifying experiences.  There were seven in his litter, and it took us two hours to pick him out.  When we left with our new bundle of joy, he was yelping tiny, cute squeeks, and I felt unbelievably horrible for separating him from his family.  Who were we to take this tiny creature away from all he knew in the world?  My husband drove, so I held him on my lap.  We bonded over the drive home from Sacramento.  He weighed only three pounds.  He was this itty bitty helpless creature that now relied solely on us for his survival!  Talk about responsibility!  The way he kept looking at us to comfort him and tell him everything would be ok.  The way he yelped and cried.  He needed us.  We literally became parents that day.  My “it’s just a dog” mentality did a 180 that day to become “this is my baby” and “he’s a member of the family.” 

After having our new puppy for just a few days, I couldn’t believe that I had never had one before.  I was really missing out my entire life on something truly wonderful!  He is a blessing.  He wakes us up in the morning with licks, jumps up and down with joy when we get home, and loves us no matter what.  Now that we have him, I don’t mind taking care of him like I thought I would.  It just comes naturally.  And, my husband helps out a lot.  We take turns getting up in the morning to let him out, and he makes a valiant effort to clean up.  He is an excellent puppy daddy and it makes me think he’ll do just fine with babies when we have them.  I can see why people say that getting a puppy is like a test run for parenthood.  It shows how well you work together when taking care of a helpless being that depends on you for its survival.

It’s hard to believe my husband and I have been married for two years.  So much has happened since June 9th, 2007 it’s difficult to know where to start.  Time has gone by so fast that it seems like longer, and in ways I feel like a completely different person.

Two years ago last night, I was having what we now call my bridal freak out.  After screaming at my loved ones and loudly venting the frustrations that had built up during wedding planning, I called my husband-to-be.  He could barely understand anything I said over the phone, because I was speaking in high-pitched squeaks interspersed with deep breaths.  Part of him was worried that I wouldn’t show up the next day.  I’m sure he got a great night’s sleep!  I, on the other hand, was given my own bed in the hotel room I shared with my mom and sister in an attempt to get more sleep than the two hours I had gotten the night before.  Plus, I think they were both terrified of me after the yelling rant.  In fact, I think the whole hotel was terrified.

The next morning, I had only a few requests.  One was for my brother to go get us jamba juice and einstein’s bagles for breakfast.  Next, I needed a nice long shower followed by extensive “getting ready” time so that I wouldn’t be stressed out or rushed.  I had planned to do my own makeup and hair.  Being a makeup artist, I was anal enough to not want anyone else doing it, and I found it to be very calming.  Eventually I and the other girls were ready to go to the nuptial destination to take photos before the ceremony.  My only real regret on the bridal side of things was that I should really have gotten more comfortable shoes, since I ended up wearing flip flops for most of the evening, and that I should have lost ten pounds so that my dress wasn’t so stifling.

The wedding ceremony and reception were absolutely beautiful, and I am forever grateful to those who helped it be the success it was.  It truly was a surreal experience that I wish could have lasted days instead of hours. 

During the two years that followed, I have gone through several life changes.  I suffered unbearable insomnia that threatened my husband’s normally sound sleep.  I went through a difficult period of adjustment and post-nuptial depression.  I, we, paid off several thousands of dollars in debt.  I reformed my spending habits.  I became incredibly lazy.  After giving it quite a go in the Bay Area, I gave up pursuing a career in film.  I gained weight, I lost weight.  I got braces.  We got a puppy.  I have begun to enjoy the simple things in life.

I’m incredibly proud of my personal growth over the past two years and our growth as a couple.  While it hasn’t always been easy, it has been incredibly rewarding and I wouldn’t trade it for any other experience.

Happy anniversary Sweetbean!

I thought it was bad when my husband became addicted to his new Blackberry phone a little over two years ago. He had resisted plunging into the world of Blackberry for some time, even buying another smartphone just to rebel. But apparently his other smartphone, which I can’t even remember the name of, was far inferior to the new Blackberry Pearl we were both eyeing after I moved out here. So, we decided to get a family plan together and splurge on the Blackberry Pearls. We got a pretty good deal on them and were required to carry a data plan for several months in order to get a rebate. He instantly became a fan of his new phone and all its functionality and carried it around like a baby. Then, four months later he got another Blackberry phone to use at work. He went from an anti-Blackberry snob to having two within six months. It was all I could do to just roll my eyes.

He soon became one of those Blackberry addicts who had to check his email every five minutes or see if anything interesting was happening on his favorite news websites, just because he could. He would insist on using the slow-loading google maps even when we knew where we were going. Why remember how to get places, when you could look it up on your phone? It was his Crackberry. Addicted. He became so preoccupied with his toy that I could be speaking to him, and he wouldn’t even notice.

One day, he came home from work and proudly proclaimed, “I have bionic Blackberry ears! I was in the kitchen at work and heard my phone receive an email all the way from my office, and sure enough it had received an email when I went to check!!” Wow. Just wow. I really didn’t think it could get any worse.

But then something happened that shook the very foundation of the Crackberry world and all of its addicts. The iPhone. It was new. It had no buttons. No rolling pearl in the middle that would wear out in a matter of months. Just simple, user-friendly design genius. A hard drive to hold pictures and music. Easily accessible internet that didn’t require typing on those tiny little buttons to see a less-than-ideal version of a website. A mini computer with a phone, camera, etc. Need I say more? You have surely all heard of the iPhone by now. Crackberry addicts the world over were salivating to get a taste of iPhone madness, and my husband was no different. He resisted at first, like he did with the Blackberry, saying how it was just all fluff or for show. No substance. Too expensive to possibly be worth it.

Over the next several months, his resolve softened. He had heard that one of the new work phones that would serve as a replacement for broken Blackberrys would be, you guessed it, the iPhone. He immediately began planning his work Blackberry’s downfall. Secretly, he yearned for his very own iPhone, though he wouldn’t admit it at first. Then his brother who works at Apple got one. On a visit, he had the chance to play with the iPhone and began openly pining for one.

Then I concocted the plan to get him an iPhone for Christmas. I needed his brother’s help, and together we made it happen. You wouldn’t believe his unbridled excitement at opening his small-but-expensive gift on Christmas morning. It was love at first sight. Soon, over the course of the day, he had disappeared into an even higher state of addicted bliss. This was worse than a Crackberry. This was an iGone. He began to recede from life. His ears stopped hearing those around him speak. His mind only had enough focus for his new little gizmo. If he didn’t hear me ask him questions when he had his Crackberry, he didn’t even know I was in the room with his iGone. His iGone literally took him into another state of being. An alternate reality. There was no point in trying to get through to him. He was just… gone.

It has been several months since I’ve last written, and I can tell you that I am no longer going through post-nuptial depression. More recently, I have been experiencing the growing pains that come with maturity. I feel as though I’ve gained a great deal of perspective in the past couple of months. Things are different than they were before, different in a good way.

While I was going through bouts of depression, I would often place blame on my husband for the way I felt. This blame was misplaced, and he didn’t deserve it. Since then, I’ve had an epiphany of sorts, which has to do with the way I now view our relationship.

After my doctor recommended I see a therapist, I asked my sister if she would talk to me once a week about how I was doing. She was taking a psychology class at the time and told me to read a book about dysthemia, a moderate form of depression. In the book, there was a section that talked about how people with dysthemia suffered from a lack of communication with loved ones. This was me, of course, since I’d cut off most of my contact with the outside world.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I got into a trivial fight. Some of it had to do with the fact that we both don’t have very many friends where we live, and the friends that were here temporarily had left. I actually have a couple of friends at work that I see regularly, but he doesn’t. So, in the midst of the fight when he said, “you’re my only friend, you’re my best friend,” I started to break down.

I realized that I had been selfish all this time and that I wasn’t the only one having a hard time. We’re not just married, we’re friends. I know it sounds silly, but for some reason, this caused a major breakthrough in my attitude and my thinking. I no longer just viewed us as a married couple. I no longer saw him as just my husband. I began to see him as my best friend.

Since then, we have fought less, done more things together and enjoyed our time together even more than before. Looking back on it now, I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that one simple thing. But now that I have, I am truly greatful. It reminds me of the time when we were just dating, without the pressure and obligation of marital roles.

I have to say that this Halloween is looking much better than last, and hopefully we’ll have trick-or-treaters!

For several months after getting married, I suffered from a moderate form of depression. It took me a really long time to figure out that what I was feeling was actually related to getting married and the wedding itself. There seems to be little research done on the subject, with most publications or articles I’ve found calling the phenomenon post-wedding, post-nuptial or post-honeymoon blues. In some ways I find writing off depression as any old case of the blues to be rather aggravating. For several months, depending on the day, I would actually go from mild to severe depression. This was a constant state of being that wouldn’t just go away. I am doing a lot better now, but it was a real emotional process that I had to work through personally and still deal with every once in a while.

Most of the internet research I have done states that one in ten women experience post-nuptial depression – PND – after their wedding. I was honestly comforted to hear this. For a while, I thought I was either going crazy or had a serious problem. Just one month after the wedding, I began to go down a road of withdrawal from social activity. I had volunteered to be part of my company’s softball team but was finding myself not wanting to go to the once-a-week, hour-long games. All I really wanted to do was go home after work and sit on the couch. I stopped exercising. I even stopped talking to people I cared about, like my mom and my friends. It was all I could do to go to work every day. Wasn’t that enough? It got to the point where I was barely functioning on a minimal basis and began to self-medicate daily. I wasn’t self-medicating to the extreme, but I did begin to consider drinking 3-4 glasses of wine a night normal. My husband didn’t appreciate this. He didn’t really like that I never wanted to do anything and thought that I was drinking too much. That would make me angry and want another glass of wine out of spite, which, as you can obviously guess, is not a good thing. I really didn’t feel like he understood me. I really couldn’t explain myself in a rational manner, either, mostly because I couldn’t even figure out what was wrong. I just knew how I felt.

After my doctor advised I get a counselor to work out the life changes that were affecting my emotions and causing me to self-medicate, I decided to do some research on depression. Here are a few definitions from Wikipedia:

Clinical Depression: A common psychiatric disorder, characterized by a persistent lowering of mood, loss of interest in usual activities and diminished ability to experience pleasure.

Postpartum Depression: A form of clinical depression which can affect woman, and less frequently men, after childbirth.

There was no definition for post-nuptial depression. Although there has been significantly more research done on postnatal depression, I find similarities within my own experience that make me think PND may be on the same level as postpartum. Both forms of depression affect mainly women and follow a major life-event – a stressful, life-changing event. I think that it’s only a matter of time before more research is done, and we’ll find out for sure. Whatever you call it, it’s still depression.

If you are suffering from PND, you still need to get treatment of some kind. My doctor recommended for me to go see a therapist, not to get medication, but to work through the issues affecting me. She also recommended that I stop self-medicating. While I haven’t actually gone to a therapist, I have done a bit of research and stopped self-medicating. So far, things have gotten better. Every once in a while I will get depressed, but it seems to not last as long. Now that I recognize why I feel the way I do, it is easier to confront and work through difficult issues when they crop up.

I was asked about how I am handling married life this morning while in the break room at work.  Attempting honesty, as opposed to the typical “great,” I replied by saying that it is nothing like I expected.  It seems that no matter how much you prepare for marriage, you are inevitably left feeling like you have no idea what you just got yourself into.  You really have no idea until you’re in it.  The way your relationship changes, the way your sex life changes, the way you change, the way he changes, it’s quite unbelievable.  In fact, sometimes I think things have changed so much, I don’t even know who I am anymore.

People are waiting longer to get married these days.  You see it more and more that men and women are postponing marriage until their 30s or beyond.  In fact, I thought I’d be one of those people, until I met the right guy.  I thought I’d be going on fun vacations with my single friends, buying cute shoes whenever I wanted, filling my free time with whatever sounded like a good idea.  Even though I’d heard that after the wedding I would become a “we” and have to compromise, I didn’t know how that would translate into my own life.  And let me tell you, it’s a huge adjustment.  It’s not necessarily a bad adjustment, it’s just a sort-of strange, sideways adjustment.

My husband confirmed it for me last night.  He said, “Relationships change after you get married.  Everything’s different,” like he was some kind of marriage expert.  But, I get that things change.  I just didn’t realize how much things would change.  I didn’t realize that every time I wanted to do something for myself, it would affect him in some way.  Either it would affect our budget, or it would take up my time and he would miss me.  In a way, it’s a loss of freedom.  If I impulsively want to buy something extra at the grocery store or eye a pair of heels at a boutique that I may have bought had I been single, I have to think twice now.  I can’t just do whatever I feel like doing unless I want to explain my behavior, or purchase, later.  In some ways I equate it to the feeling you have when you’re young, you haven’t left home yet, and you had to ask your parents for money to go to the movies or justify buying a new outfit to your skeptical father.  The difference here is that you have had the taste of living by yourself and have been able to do whatever you want whenever you want.

That’s the problem with waiting several years before getting married.  The more time you spend in the real world fending for yourself, the harder it is to compromise or adapt your behavior.  After you enter the real world, you create a set of goals and set up a life path.  When you get married, if you’re lucky, you and your spouse have similar or complimentary life goals that will mesh as you grow together.  Even if you do have these similar life goals, the way you go about achieving them may differ from the process of your spouse.  That is what creates the period of adjustment.  Like I said earlier, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just… different.  As things have begun change in our relationship, I have found my own personal goals begin to change.

My husband knew I was in debt when he proposed, he just didn’t know how bad it really was.  I tried hard to brush off my credit card spending habits and appropriately blame them on not making enough money to begin with.  Being a full-time student with two part-time jobs, making nickels and dimes was hard enough without having to defend a $100 clothing purchase at the local mall.

Spending inevitably got out of control when I began to plan our wedding.  My parents have been in the middle of a cross-continental war since they divorced 10 years ago, so I would have shot myself in the foot before I would have gone begging for money.  But, that’s a story for another day.  When it came to the wedding, I knew the one thing I would regret the most would be skimping on a photographer.  Neither of my parents, or stepmom for that matter, really thought that photography was worth spending money on.  One day, the perfect photographer emailed me!  I took some time to check out his online portfolio and knew it was meant to be.  I just didn’t realize how much it would cost.  Along with the couture dress that I bought on an unaccompanied, nervous whim, photography was the most expensive thing my husband and I are still paying for, aside from the honeymoon.

I don’t know how it gets so out of control, and I don’t know why I keep making excuses, but credit card debt can be the source of all evil for a newlywed couple.  You hear it everywhere that money is one of the biggest causes for married couples to fight.  Well, it’s true.  I would have never fought with myself over my massive amount of debt.  I could justify even the most expensive soap!  Plus, he could have never really done anything about my debt before we were married, because our finances and credit scores weren’t tied together.  Whether you want it or not, these issues surface with a big fat whack-in-the-face after the big day!  Take this commercial, for example.  This is us!  Not literally, of course, but every time that commercial airs on TV, I try to shrink into the sofa.

One day, somehow, something possessed me to tell him how much debt I actually had… for real.  The days of underestimation and avoidance were gone.  No turning back.  I think it was the first time my husband was actually speechless (he likes to talk a lot).  In all seriousness, though, it was a huge weight off my shoulders, not to mention a very emotional breakthrough.  But, the elephant in the room had inadvertently stepped on him.  It was not a quick and painless recovery.  What seemed like days later, we had a very structured, aggressive and efficient debt-payoff plan that would put us debt-free within a year.  And you know what?  I am actually very excited to get the debt paid off and live plastic free!

It just so happens to be the one day that’s set aside throughout the year to celebrate love.  It also happens to be the first Valentine’s Day my husband and I are spending together – married.  Call it coincidence or call it fate, but today’s the day I’ve decided to tell you the story of my newlywed life.  It’s not sugar-coated, and it’s not super-depressing.  It just is what it is. 

If you’re anything like me, you were probably really excited that you finally found the man of your dreams after years of finding the wrong man, over and over.  I had basically given up on love and marriage and was preparing myself to end up a Sex in the City spinster, hopefully living in some fab metropolitan city like New York, and pursuing the career I always knew I was meant to have.  Things didn’t turn out quite as dreary as I thought, because one day I met the guy who embodied exactly everything I had put on the list of characteristics I wanted in a perfect mate.  He was smart, romantic, a good listener, good looking… blah, blah, blah.  You get the point.  In fact, he was so perfect, it kind of freaked me out for a while.  He even shared my viewpoints on not wanting to get married and not wanting to be in a serious relationship.  Well, after a couple of weeks of bliss, our reluctance to enter into a serious relationship deteriorated as we spent every waking, breathing moment together we possible could. 

Eventually all of this blissful dating lead to a proposal, a wedding and a marriage.  So, today we celebrate that sequence of events in our first married Valentine’s Day!  At least we will when he gets home from class at 9:30 tonight.