Part II: What Married Life Is Really Like Once You Say "I Do"

Older married couple

Photo: Getty Images

Sherry Amatenstein is a New York City-based marriage therapist and author who wrote First Comes Love. Then Comes Marriage. Then Comes ...? in the new issue of Brides. For the piece, Amatenstein interviewed nearly 50 couples who've been married between one and 28 years to find out what happens once newlywed bliss wears off and real life kicks in. Here, Amatenstein reveals how the 10th year of marriage differs from the 15th and 20th year according to the couples she surveyed — and the results are surprising. (Click here to read Part I, where she dissects the first and fifth years of marriage.)

Year 10: Passion Morphs

Sexually less inhibited: Lovemaking isn't always rockets bursting in air, but sexual connection grows as couples become more comfortable. "We've talked about what feels good and being aware of that makes it more fun," David Huynh says about sex with his wife Lia. Chris Grova has this to say about the morphing of his and wife Maria Cimini's sex life: "Not as burning hot as when we met but there's still combustion!"

Less mystery, more comfort: When couples keep the lines of communication open and don't fall into the 'taking each other for granted' trap, there is satisfaction in the quiet day-to-day joys of togetherness. David Huynh shares, "One of the great blessings I get out of our marriage is our nightly chats before we go to sleep. We talk about our day, fears for the future..."

Accept what you can't change: You may wish you could alter a few things about your other half, but at this point you've hopefully stopped getting worked up about those imperfections. After all, you've got your own. Still, Chris Grova sighs, "If Marla could be a little less messy it would be ideal!"

Year 15: Through Thick and Thin

Romance is redefined: At this stage it's less chocolates, candles, and flowers and more, 'How can we make our lives together more comfortable.' "Spending time together involves buying toilet paper, scrubbing the toilet bowls, and changing the litter boxes!" Heather Luby, who's been married for 14 years, admits.

No hurdle too high not to jump over together: This is a time in life when you might face the illness of parents, financial hardships, and other trials and tribulations. But at this stage, instead of succumbing to stressors, couples have a strong core relationship to help one another through crises. In their 17th year of marriage Cyndi Finkle and Temple Williams live on opposite coasts: Cyndi and their 12-year-old daughter are in Los Angeles, while Temple works in New York. "We've made a commitment to have the weekends he is home to be as sacred a time as possible for all of us," Cyndi says.

Year 20+: Two Souls Beat as One

It's about you, not me: When couples first say "I do," each person's mindset is usually, 'How can you make me feel happy and loved?' Though with age — and a lifetime together — comes less self-absorption. Amy Blackstone, married for 19 years to Lance, says, "20 years ago it was about what he would be doing for me. Now it's about making the other person happy." She finishes, "I feel intense love for Lance when I see him happy. My younger self didn't appreciate that."

Familiarity breeds deeper love: To know someone as well as you know yourself, to completely trust someone, and to be fully vulnerable because your secrets will be safe is a very special gift that couples in long-term happy marriages share. Mike Freemire, married 28 years, shares, "I love Lori in ways I didn't know existed when we were newly married because now I know so much more about her."

Spiritual sexmates: When a couple shares such deep trust and commitment, they can be naked together in way more than the physical sense. Lovemaking is not just touching body parts; it is touching in the deepest parts possible.

Be sure to pick up the April/May issue, on newsstands now, to read Amatenstein's accompanying story.

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