FEATURES – Spring/Summer 2012
We're Married! Now What?
Dealing with the realities of postnuptual depression.
I got married exactly two years ago. Well, if you
count the second wedding, it was one year ago. My husband and I eloped and then waited until our one-year anniversary to do it again with our immediate family and best friends. We planned our second wedding for months and anticipated our families meeting for the first time and how they would behave. But the love we felt from them mixed with the "Kumbaya"-aura of everyone finally getting along turned out like a PG-13 movie that I would have replayed over and over.
However, even with all the time that had passed, I still hadn't ordered any wedding photos. I don't know why; I just didn't feel like it. "It's nothing, I'm just busy," I kept telling myself. But after speaking with a friend, I realized that this nothing may actually be something.
Postnuptial depression is not a clinical diagnosis, but it's a term that has become more recognized by couples and psychologists. In fact, 10 percent of American couples seek counseling after experiencing postnuptial depression.
Dr. Candice Cook, a licensed professional counselor, marriage counselor and family therapist in Virginia Beach, says the melancholy that brides and possibly grooms can experience after the big day occurs for a number of reasons.
"This is the bride's day; the whole world stops on that day for the bride. And suddenly, your day is over," she says.
Besides dealing with stepping out of the spotlight, Cook explains that the immense stress that occurs during the planning process of a wedding can cause the body to produce an excessive amount of cortisol, a stress hormone.
"When it keeps coming out it literally rips the body apart," explains Cook. "It's seizing every available opportunity for the body to make energy." This results in not eating or sleeping well, thus leading to the body and mind crashing. "The body is like an orange that's been squeezed dry."
Yvonne Alers-Folden, 28, described the eightmonth planning of her 11-11-11 wedding as very stressful. She and her husband, who are both in the military, were six-months pregnant, in the midst of purchasing a home and dealing with separate military orders, in addition to the normal nuptial necessities.
Now, after moving into their new home, Alers- Folden still craves to re-live her wedding day. "It's sad that it's over," she says. "How often is it all about you?"
Shawn Femia, a professional wedding photographer, works with her husband, Ronnie Form, an event director and owner of Primo Events in Hampton Roads. Both encounter a number of brides who continue to contact them long after their weddings to reminisce. "After dealing with these couples I can see that it's not just about the wedding," says Form. "It's like they're afraid of being married now that the wedding is over."
While men typically stress before the wedding, women will often deal with their stress afterwards. They ask the question, "Who am I now?" says Cook. This, along with the new roles of man and wife that the couple must resume—based on each person's family upbringing—can add more pressure to a marriage.
"Most marriages are really two superegos interacting with each other," says Cook. "In a marriage the superego does not know the difference between you and your mate. It judges your mate in the same way it judges you, and your mate is doing the same thing to you." Cook explains that because superegos are created between the ages of 2 and 6 years old, they are immature and must evolve. Couples must have the willingness to explore and work on this with one another, she says. "They must understand that a marriage is based on love and understanding, not rules and regulations."
To beat the postnuptial blues, Cook says, "Don't neglect the basics." Couples should get sufficient rest, proper nutrition and a good multivitamin along with exercise such as yoga or even medication to offset the cortisol. When couples have bothersome feelings about their mate, Cook recommends that they have a sitdown— not a confrontation but a description of what is going on inside.
Since coming to terms with my feelings, I have picked out my wedding photos. They have been retouched, framed and were admired by our friends for the first time during our holiday party at home. After writing this article—which I admit was partially selfish because it was therapeutic— the aftershock of my wedding day is subsiding. While I cannot relive it, my husband and I have our sights set on a definite renewal of vows.