First comes the shock, bliss and awe — "OMG, I'm getting married!" Gradually it sinks in sans shock, bliss and awe: "OMG, I'm getting married. Big gulp!" Below, a few women share how they handled the transition from single to on-the-way-to-being-permanently-coupled.
Marriage Is the "Natural Next Step," Yet...
When Morgan Shepard got engaged two months ago she didn't expect a big impact as it felt like the "natural next step" after a six-year relationship. Yet, explains the 24-year-old, "The real moment of, 'Holy crap, I'm engaged and my life will never be the same hit me during the holidays. For the first time in my life I spent Christmas without my family."
The realization that the rest of her life would involve splitting holidays, spending time away from her relatives and having to make compromises was an eye-opener. Morgan, whose wedding is set for May, explains, "For the first time the commitment felt real. Don't get me wrong. I had a wonderful time with my new family but suddenly I got that Bryan and I are really starting our own family."
What Does Being Married Actually Mean?
Saying "yes" when her boyfriend popped the question in September 2009 was the easy part for Gervase Kolmos. "I felt 100 percent confident he was the right partner." What she wasn't confident about was about how her identity as a strong single woman would jive with coupledom. "I felt like I was betraying my unmarried girlfriends and feminist ideals."
The solving of this dilemma happened with "clear conversations" with her partner. What roles would change? What would stay the same? What potential struggles might they have down the road and did they agree on the best ways to overcome them? Gervase, married since September 2010, says happily, "As we methodically went through the list of what we wanted our marriage to look like, it became less overwhelming and way, way more exciting."
The Relationship Is No Longer "Ours"
For *Belle Jordan, the queasiness began when family and friends began flooding the couple with post-engagement exuberant congratulations. Belle, 36, confides, "We'd been together for years. Things were great. Suddenly I got a ring and it felt like everyone was shining a police light in our faces and shouting: 'This is life-changing! Woo hoo!'" Married two years, Belle says, "I didn't want our lives to change. Quite the opposite: I wanted our dynamic — how we treat each other, what we are to each other — to last forever!"
Belle's nerves settled as she came to realize: "However people want to regard us is up to them. What Jim and I really share was and always will be beautifully private."
Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW is a New York City-based marriage therapist and author.
*Name has been changed