It seems that everyone is surprised--yet no one is surprised really--by Kim Kardashian's 72-day marriage. There are many things I've wanted to say about that, but I didn't want to just add to the noise. When talking with a friend yesterday, I finally narrowed it down to what I wanted to add to the conversation.
My friend, you see, has a family member who just got married in the last year. "She's the most stable she's ever been yet she's facing depression. I don't understand it."
We've heard the term "honeymoon phase" to talk about the first year of marriage, but I've known few people who feel this time is an extended honeymoon period filled with joy and ease. Instead this first year is one of the toughest. We have the man of our dreams, everything should be perfect ... right?! It's usually far from perfect.
But why the depression? Why the questions? Why the urge to throw in the towel after 72 days? I have a few ideas.
1. Living with another person is hard. When two self-centered people (as we all are) try to merge their lives they're sure to butt heads. It's easier to think of our ease and our needs than to consider another person first. It takes time and practice to learn to compromise and work together for our mutual benefit and long-term solutions.
2. We feel a let down after the excitement of the courtship and the engagement and the wedding. It's over?! Now what? I was talking to my 19-year-old daughter about this yesterday. "It's sort of a let-down," I told her. "You're excited about who you're dating. You're excited about being engaged. You're looking forward to the wedding and then a few weeks later you wake up and it's all done. Now you're just looking at this guy who leaves his dishes in the sink and his dirty socks on the floor--who'd rather watch TV than go for a romantic walk like you used to do. And you wonder, is this all that's left?"
Leslie had a wise observation. "It sounds sort of like the slight depression after Christmas. The wedding was fun, but now it's over."
The Christmas analogy is a good one. I've felt that low-spot after Christmas Day. The long distance family members are long distance again. The gifts aren't as much fun as you expected them to be. And then there's the mess to clean up and the 7 pounds to lose. Of course, we do know that Christmas will come again next year, and we do look forward to that. With marriage there's not another wedding to look forward to, just days and days and days of self-sacrifice, patience and putting another's needs before your own.
So what's a person to do?
1. If you know a newlywed, be sure to ask the hard questions. "How are you really doing? What do you like most about marriage? What disappoints you?" Then offer a listening ear and an understanding heart.
2. Let young couples know that you faced the same problems ... and overcame them. Young couples often see loving, committed, happy couples that have been married a while and wonder what they're doing wrong. My own daughter was surprised to hear about some of the struggles John and I had in our first years of marriage. She assumed that the way we treat each other now is how we treated each other 21 years ago. WRONG.
3. Encourage couples to create their own "Christmas mornings." Romance doesn't have to end at the wedding altar. Spend time planning and dreaming together. Schedule special times you can anticipate and celebrate together. We all want things to look forward to and it's not just the vacations, date nights, or play dates that bring us close. It's the time talking about what's coming--and the reliving our favorite moments--that reminds us that our lives together aren't just about a BIG DAY, but also about the many happy days to come!