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What happens AFTER you say 'I do'

Whether you haven’t put much thought into what happens after you say ‘I do’, or have already got your first five years of married life planned out, there are some serious changes coming your way.
Don't worry, that's not as ominous as it sounds; most are super exciting! You'll be hitting major milestones as a couple and these are something definitely worth celebrating - any excuse to pop open the bubbly, hey?!. Events like putting a deposit on a house - if you're already done this, snaps to you - and beginning to think about if or when you want to start a family are all things that generally go hand-in-hand with getting hitched. Or at least that's the expectation. We don't think it's too crazy to say that there are a lot of stereotypes about what a pair of newlyweds should be doing, and that's not always on the money when it comes to what they're actually doing. If you asked us, what newlyweds go through once they've swapped has all the makings of a meme. It's high time that the stereotypes swirling around a newlyweds' sex life and children were busted wide open, so that's exactly what we decided to do. We talked to two experts, a sexologist and a reproductive health researcher, to get the skinny on the expectations versus reality, and we're sharing what we found with you. 

Jumping straight into the (marriage) bed...


What everyone thinks happens
Ever heard of the newlywed glow? It’s a fabled condition, where freshly-minted married couples live in a lovey-dovey bubble of post-wedding bliss; part of this assumption is that newlyweds spend more time in the bedroom… er, not, sleeping. “It [being a newlywed] can be a really good influence on your sex life,” explains Dr Nikki Goldstein, a sexologist. “You’re not complaining to each other, you’re treating each other better and you’re more positive. Transfer that to the bedroom and you’re going to want to be more giving, more enthusiastic and more aware of your partner’s wants and needs. There’s a higher level of satisfaction.” 

What actually happens
Sorry to burst your bubble, but the #truthbomb is that not every couple goes through the newlywed glow, and if they do it won’t last forever. For Nikki, this misconception is summed up in what she calls the fairytale curse. “It comes from thinking that you’ve married Prince Charming and everything is going to be perfect; thinking that you’ll have amazing sex, having multiple orgasms and just be unbelievably happy,” Nikki says. Sure, this could happen for a few months but it’s not going to last forever. Why? Because it’s just not sustainable in the long-term. Enter the post-wedding blues, which is a period when couples come down from the excitement and buzz that happened around their nuptials. “When you come down from that high, some people get disappointed because their relationship doesn’t say on the level they expected it to be,” says Nikki. “When you realise it’s not going to be like that all the time, you can suddenly go into a negative head-space and start thinking ‘Why isn’t it working?’ and ‘Why isn’t my relationship like it was before?’” 

It’s a fabled condition, where freshly-minted married couples live in a lovey-dovey bubble of post-wedding bliss...

What the means for you
For Nikki, the key to stopping the post-wedding blues is trying to manage your expectations about what your life as a newlywed will be like. “People tend to raise the bar high, so when it’s not quite met it’s more devastating than if they were to just go with the flow,” she says. “Challenge where you get your expectations from and what you think is realistic in a relationship. For example, I expected I’d go to my 10-year high-school reunion married and with a bun in the oven. Then I thought ‘Where did I get this idea from?’ and I realised it was from my mum, because that’s the age she was when she had a baby.” What you expect out of your marriage should definitely be a conversation you have with your partner, preferably before the wedding, recommends Nikki. Once you’ve swapped ‘I do’s, sustaining a healthy sex life comes down to two things: keeping it a priority and communication. “People get over hearing this, but it’s true. What tends to happen is that people think that now they’re married, so they’ll have the rest of their lives to figure this shit [their sex lives] out and it gets pushed down the list of priorities. I love the saying, ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it.’”

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What everyone thinks happens
Think about any of your friends or family that are newlyweds, and the questions they often get asked once they’ve said their ‘I do’s; we don’t think it’d be a stretch to say that the ‘So when are you two going to start having kids?’ doozy would be close to the top of that list. To be honest, it's not that surprising considering that having a child after you were married was once thought of a natural progression. Think that's where the stereotypes stop? Unfortunately, no. The idea that a couple can quickly fall pregnant once they've decided to start trying was first established way back when, and despite awesome advances in reproductive medicine and general awareness about a couple's fertility, it doesn't quite work like that. 
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What actually happens
If couples do decide the time is right to start a family, it's not necessarily a snap decision and it doesn't always happen overnight. It's important to remember that there are heaps of contributors - lifestyle, smoking habits and weight - that contribute to a couple's fertility. "The most important thing that influences fertility is age," explains Karin Hammerberg, a senior researcher at Your Fertility. "It is the single most important factor for determining if you're going to be able to conceive. A woman's fertility actually starts declining in a her early 30s, then rapidly declining in the late 30s. Age is the top factor that will influence how many children you will have." Read: couples tend to underestimate the role age plays. "Biology doesn't change just because we're getting married later, staying in school longer and have longer lives. Fertility has a natural end and we can't escape that unfortunately." 

What that means for you
"Jump into bed as much as possible!" encourages Karin. "If you have intercourse every two to three days, you'll cover all bases and have the best chances of conceiving." And before you get too excited, you do need to put in a bit of effort to make sure your health is in tip-top shape. That doesn't just apply to women either; the health of the male partner will have an affect too. "We often think that women need to take folate and not drink and not smoke before they conceive, but we often forget about the male partner," Karin says. "The health of the egg and the sperm will influence the future health of the child. We need to be in the best health we can be before trying for a baby." How do you do this? Well, it'll change from couple to couple. It could mean putting a (total) stop to those social smoking habits, aiming to get yourself into a healthy weight range or even talking about your priorities - career and travel, not just children - as a whole with your partner. When you've ticked this off, it's time to press play on your Barry White playlist and hang the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on your door. "Within a year most couples will conceive," she explains. And what about it you don't? "There's no shame in going to your doctor, so don't feel scared seeking out medical advice. If you have a condition like blocked Fallopian tubes, or if something isn't working right for your partner, a doctor can point you in the direction of things like IVF."

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