10 Surprising Things That Change When You Get Married

How you see you

I becomes weme becomes us: that seemingly simple shift in pronouns can stir a whole mess of different emotions. “Couples are often surprised within that first year they have almost an identity crisis,” says Michelle S. Park, MA, licensed marriage and family therapist in NYC. Part of it may stem from the realization that your life is now intertwined with another; that you made what will hopefully be a lifetime commitment and are, in a sense, responsible to that person, she explains. Plus, there’s wrapping your head around what it means to be “husband and wife,” and who you are outside of that role, adds Park. For some couples, the decision to share a last name is part of that identity shift: “I didn’t realize how difficult it would be,” says April M. “It took me 10 months to actually change my name.” And six years later, she still misses it. “But, it makes sense now that we have kids,” adds April, who continues to use her maiden name professionally.

Your sassiness in the sack

When you vow to be together ’til death do you part, that kind of commitment provides a sense of security and comfort—which for some couples, could be a game changer in bed. Feeling safe in a relationship may allow for more experimentation, says Susan Heitler, PhD, clinical psychologist in Denver and author of The Power of Two. You might feel freer and more confident in the bedroom—and not just between the honeymoon sheets or during the can’t-keep-your-paws-off-each-other phase that follows. Over time, you become more connected and comfortable together, says Park; as that emotional intimacy grows, sex can get even better.

How often you do the deed

Chances are it’s less—and that’s probably not so surprising. But what’s worth noting is that a lull in your sex life does not mean that your game is gone or your groove is lost. “Dry spells will happen,” says Park, “but less frequent sex does not signal the beginning of the end.” Sex can become about quality over quantity, she says. And it’s important to make sure when you’re not doing it, you’re still doing something to connect—hugging, holding hands, kissing. “Even if sex is happening only a few times a month, you can still have intimacy,” she says.

Your need to mind-read

Sorry, your wedding band doesn’t come with telepathic superpowers, nor does it grant you the ability to decipher every brow furrow and eye crinkle. And when you try to guess what’s prompting the tick, twitch, short response, or prolonged silence, chances are you’ll presume the worst case scenario. “The antidote is to ask,” says Heitler. “And good questions begin with one of two words: how or what.” No matter what follows, neither can be answered with a simple yes or no; and both can help get to the real root of the issue. (Instead of “are you mad at me?,” ask “what are you thinking right now?”) Oh, and by the way, your spouse’s ring is made from mere-mortal materials as well: He can’t read your mind either. “Being married doesn’t mean you can stop articulating your needs,” says Park. “Let go of the idea that if you have to tell him what you want, it’s going to be less meaningful in some way.” Preferences change over time—both yours and your spouses, she says, and if you say what you need and the other person responds, it can mean even more because you know they heard you.

Where you celebrate Thanksgiving

Holidays can reach a whole new level of complicated when “Thanksgiving is always at Aunt Susan’s” meets “we have to go to my dad’s.” That was a reality Ricardo L. didn’t expect. “I spent some holidays with my wife’s family before getting hitched,” he says, in part for a few brownie points during their courtship. But once they were officially married, figuring out how to split holidays—like Christmas and Thanksgiving—became a point of contention. “Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays—not just because I have a large family (she does too), but mostly because my old man can make a mean turkey,” he says, one that puts other birds to shame. Their solution: alternate the big holidays, a plan he says they’ve stuck to for the past 12 years (and one that includes asking his dad for turkey leftovers). Other couples may opt to visit both families on a given holiday, or host it themselves and start new traditions.

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