It’s interesting, the ways our brains work. How they interfere with our abilities to make decisions because they imagine that by making changes, we will become people that we’re not. People that we don’t want to be. That marriage, or motherhood, or new jobs, or new locations will strip us of our abilities to shape our own choices. Also, 3am-brain is a total head case. So in the throes of wedding season, here is a story of adjusting to marriage.
by Diane Day
Around 3:00am on our wedding night I woke up in a panic.
“Holy shit, what have I done?”
Thoughts of calling our JP and asking her to not send in the marriage license on Monday raced through my mind. Forget the beautiful, sunlit ceremony the day before; it doesn’t count if we never file the paperwork, right? The lawyer part of my mind completely agreed.
Suddenly, I was terrified of being married and here I was, married. “How on earth did this happen?” I had been very calm throughout our engagement. I experienced only slight, occasional jitters and a healthy mix of anxiety and hopefulness regarding the wedding day. I had breakdowns over improper cupcake display and receiving far too many wedding-related emails, but I was mostly steadfast in my certainty that marrying Robert was right. In the months leading up to our nuptials, friends, families, and coworkers all proclaimed that I was a remarkably calm bride-to-be. I did not obsess over plates or flowers or my hair. I calmly repeated my mantra that everything would all be okay.
But at 3:21am, everything did not feel okay. What we had done a mere eleven hours before was big. This was really, really big. How the f* had I been so calm about this before? Suddenly, I felt completely unprepared for marriage. My mind screamed at me, “YOU ARE ROBERT’S WIFE. YOU ARE NO LONGER YOUR OWN PERSON. YOU CANNOT LEAVE.”
Eventually, I fell back asleep and slept fitfully to a more reasonable hour. But even then I felt strange. I moved gingerly around our hotel room, remembering the night before. It had been so awesome, so fun, it had flown by in a flash. I’d seen all my favorite people and had an awesome party with them. And now here I was in a hotel room with matted hair, last night’s makeup, and a man who would have a nasty hangover once he woke up. I did not feel like a blissful newly wed. I felt vaguely panicked.
The morning wore on. Robert woke up. We had sex, and he said how hot it was to be with his wife. We chatted about the night before as I pulled bobby pins from my hair, and remarked on the strange newness of marriage. We went down to the lobby for breakfast, and saw family and friends. They all asked how it feels to be married, and, oddly, it started to feel normal. Somehow it resembled a pretty normal Sunday morning for us. The only things missing were our French press of coffee and NPR in the background.
I began to see that yes, things were different now, and I felt a little different, but life as part of a married couple was not so radically different that I needed to lay in bed freaking out about it. Robert was still Robert, and I was still me. And yes, there was the new element of us being legally bound to one another, and yes it was really weird to think about it. But as the day continued we settled back into our normal selves. We playfully called each other husband and wife, testing out the words, and it felt good. We still felt like us.
Gradually, I realized things weren’t that different and started to wonder if we were doing this whole newlywed thing right. Thankfully, a month after the wedding a coworker asked me how we were adjusting to married life.
“Fine,” I replied, “it really doesn’t feel that different.”
“Good, that’s how it’s supposed to be.”
Hearing that reassured me, and I’ve often remembered those words during the last six months because now being married seems totally normal. Now it’s the idea of not being married that feels strange to me. Those things that had me wide awake on our wedding night I started to like and appreciate. I like that we’ve made a commitment to stick with each other and help each other. The promises we made to each other in our vows add sturdiness to our relationship.
Day by day, life progresses in much the same way it did before our wedding. I still make dinner and Robert still cleans up the dishes. Robert still does his own laundry and I ignore the piles of clothes he doesn’t put away. I can see now that my wedding night freak-out was just that—a freak-out. I’m still my own person and while I can’t just get up and leave, I have someone to call my hubby and a much easier to pronounce last name. Both of which are pretty great.
Photo by APW Sponsor Kara Schultz