You’ve walked down the aisle and said "I do." Now what? Once you’ve got that ring on your finger, you might think that you and your partner will race off into the sunset together. However, many people experience a deep sadness after the wedding bells have rung.
"Post-wedding depression is a term used to describe the feeling of anti-climax after the ceremony and the honeymoon is over and the reality or ordinariness of married life kicks in," relationship therapist Geoff Lamb tells Brides. "I think the word 'depression' is used because there is a flatness together with a lack of fulfillment or pleasure in life, which are similar to some of the symptoms used to diagnose clinical depression," he continues. "However, unlike clinical depression, which often doesn’t have a definable cause, post-wedding depression is clearly linked with the period after the ceremony and is almost certainly something which won’t last."
This type of situational depression is likely to hit directly after the wedding day, making you feel down in the dumps. Per psychosexual therapist Cate Mackenzie, "it’s more common than people think." So, what causes post-wedding depression and how should couples handle it? Both Lamb and Mackenzie explain the reasons and signs of post-wedding depression as well as offer expert advice below.
Meet the Expert
What Causes Post-Wedding Depression?
Reality hits after the vows.
In the lead-up to the wedding, the world shone brightly. However, after it’s over, you may find that reality isn’t as glimmery. "Post-wedding depression can be caused when people think that the wedding may sort any issues out but then reality hits," says Mackenzie. "Or they were very sexual before getting married and afterward sex may be affected because of the feeling that marriage is a trap."
The spotlight is gone.
Of course, if you’ve been using your wedding day as a way to get some much-needed attention, the comedown will be tough. "On your wedding day, you’re the center of attention, and rightly so," explains Lamb. "It’s your special day and you and your partner are the most important people there. We all like getting attention, but, as adults, we don’t actually need it."
He continues, "However, some of us feel like we need it, but this is usually because we haven’t had enough, or the right kind of attention when we were growing up. If we have this tendency, and most of us have a bit, then we’re going to get a boost by being the center of everyone’s attention on our wedding day, making up for what we haven’t had in the rest of our lives, and experience a comedown when we get back to ordinary life."
Marriage doesn’t fulfill you.
Pinning all your hopes on wedded bliss? You might want to think again. "Another common pattern that most of us have is to live in the future. We think: 'When I get this promotion, I’ll be happy. When I’ve passed my exams, I’ll be less stressed. When I own my own house, I’ll feel secure,'" says Lamb. "The problem is that we’re never happy, less stressed, or secure now," adding that "weddings are a prime example of this. Of course, we want our special day to be special and we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t enjoy the planning and anticipation, but for some people, it’s as if their lives are put on hold and they become blinkered to anything other than the planning for the day. Once the day has happened and you’re back from the dream honeymoon, it isn’t surprising that ordinary life seems boring and mundane."
Rather than presuming that your wedding will be the 'happiest day of your life,' count it as one of the many joyful moments you will experience.
Signs of Post-Wedding Depression
Now that you understand what causes post-wedding depression, let’s talk about the signs to watch out for. The obvious side effect of this issue is a low mood. When the wedding day is over, you might experience feelings of sadness or a lack of excitement. However, as Lamb notes, there are other signs of which you should be aware.
"The signs or symptoms of post-wedding depression are quite varied, but can include boredom, apathy, lack of pleasure in life, tetchiness with your partner, not having a purpose in life, even having doubts about the person you married."
It goes without saying that if you are experiencing the symptoms of depression for a long time, you should seek medical support. You can go to your doctor or a therapist for advice. Tending to your mental health and well-being needs to be a life-long habit.
How to Handle Post-Wedding Depression
Worried about post-wedding depression? If you’re concerned about what the aftermath of your special day will bring, it pays to take some precautions. Lamb explains that there are two approaches that you can use to help manage this problem.
Be mindful when wedding planning.
"The first is to try and prevent post-wedding depression in the first place," he says. "We can do this by paying attention to how we plan the wedding, how we make the day really special for both of us in a way that’s consistent with who we are, who we experience ourselves as being, both individually and as a couple. It’s difficult to avoid comparison with other people’s weddings, but try to do so."
Focus on your long-term relationship.
"Pay attention to your day-to-day life, especially your relationship with each other," continues Lamb. "Yes, of course it is a special day, but there will be other wonderful moments in the lead-up to it and more afterward. Don’t put your life on hold. It’s important to keep talking to your partner in the run-up to your wedding even if there are some difficult things to discuss. Open conversations will bring you closer to each other and this closeness will do a lot to prevent post-wedding depression."