MARRIAGE SURVIVAL GUIDE.
Honey moon is over and you're looking forward to a lifetime of marital bliss. Beware - the problems may have started at the altar!
Despite howls from the moral diehards that society is crumbling, with people living in sin willy-nilly, the truth is that we're still a bunch of romantics. As statistics prove, we are still keen to rush down that isle and more marriages last then fail.
Nevertheless, that wedding certificate you've tucked safely away, brings changes in you, the man who has become your husband, your friends - in fact, to every aspect of your life. And it makes no difference whether you lived together beforehand or not. "because you have a more solid commitment, you feel more secure in the relationship," says psychologist Evelyn Perlmutter.
"That's the biggest thing. I've heard many women say that even though they have lived with a guy for years in a committed relationship, once they'd married there was a sense of setting down. "In a de facto relationship, any one can walk out at anytime. Although they can do that in marriage, it's a bit harder.
"There's also a feeling of being more grown
up. There's more acceptance by society, which in turn makes you
feel like an adult. People treat
you with more respect and that does heaps for your self-esteem. "On
an emotional level, it provides a wall of safety against the
world and against other men." For women in a traditional
wedding there's also a loss of identity. Sydney clinical psychologist
Gary Boyle saw a lot of that when he was a marriage guidance
councilor. "They lose their names and they become attached
to a man. For a man there is a sense of gain. For a woman, an
initial sense of tremendous loss. You also stop pretending and
playing another role. "In the initial
stages of a
relationship each looks after the needs of the other, as you see them.
Later you become more selfish and say 'what's in it for
me.' Those pretences don't break down until after the marriage. That's
often why the first crisis in a marriage is what I call coming-down-to-earth-crisis.
It doesn't matter how long you've known each other before marriage, you've
only seen each other playing roles."
How marriage changes him!
Marriage also brings your man security. He's
succeeded in one of life's tasks, he's found himself a wife and
he's now ready to start planning a family. But it can cause a
latent male chauvinist to surface. He could view you as his personal
property. "I've seen that so many times" says
Evelyn. "people have been living together happily and after
they're married, whammo! The husband suddenly wants the woman
to spend lots of time in the kitchen, and to dress modestly." But
in Gary's experience, men are far more romantic about marriage
then women. "men are more idealistic. Consequently, a man
is more easily let
down and feels bitterly disillusioned by a wife that doesn't live up to his expectations. Whereas a woman will adapt for the sake of the relationship, a man tends to say, 'I made a mistake.'"
Sue, 24, married 18 months ago. "We had a
great time before we got married. We used to spend all our time
together, and we seemed to think alike. Now, I spend all my time
cleaning, or going to work. My husband says we've got to save
for a house, so we can't go out. He controls money with an iron
and cross-examines me if I ask for money. It makes me boil."
Evelyn and Gary both agree that your parents treat you more as an equal once you have married. Says Gary, "There are two definitions of maturity in our society - one is if you get a job, the other if you get married." Says Evelyn, "there could be a lifestyle difference that goes with a marriage and your single friends and you might find that there's not much in common any more." Says Gary, "as couples move towards marriage, they tend to cut friends out.
The changes are stronger once a child is born. Friends who haven't experienced that, can't share it. Friendship patterns inevitably change." If you're career minded, marrage could be a disadvantage. In some companies they feel marriage will be followed by having a baby, so they tend to over look you for promotions. "It's a distinct advantage for men." Says Gary. "As a general rule, if you're a married man in a business, you tend to do better then if your single. You're seen as more reliable."
Your sex life!
Before you married, it was exciting and romantic. "The moment it's allowed, it ceases to have the same importance." Says Gary. "Therefore, one or both may take it for granted, rather then maintaining some romance. For some it doesn't even last the honeymoon!" Case history! Since marrying at 28, everything has been coming up roses for Helen. "It has given me a new world to explore. I have kept the best parts of my single life - my family, my friends and my job. The only thing I have lost is solitude - and I don't want it back."
So, how do you cope with the changes? Money always leads to arguments. Some men feel threatened when their wives earn more then they do. Professional women, who give up work, find it humiliating to have to ask for money. Work out your lifestyle and what you really need. Work out who handles the money, what bank accounts you keep or whether each of you does your own thing with finances.
Every person has a different idea of what a marriage should be. It often has a lot to do with how you were raised and what you saw at home. Be honest with yourselves. Ask yourself, and each other, what you want in a marriage and what you want in a partner. Domestic chores are a frequent source of conflict. That's due to the blurring of the roles of men and women. Women now expect their men to do their share around the house. Clearly define who does what. Make a list, even down to the nitty-gritty of who cleans the toilet.
Romance can often get buried in the everyday clutter of life. Make a special effort to keep the spark alive. Have candle lit dinners, make surprise gifts, renew some of those crazy things you did when you were dating.