It's easy to fool ourselves into thinking not much will change after we say "I do." After all, if you've lived with one another before the big day, it's likely you've already seen the best and worst — whisker hair-caked sinks, anyone? — of each other. But, "although typically things do not change dramatically, there is a psychological shift that usually takes place," explains licensed marriage and family therapist Alisa Ruby Bash. And it's that psychological shift that has a way of changing your life and your priorities. In other words, once you're married, what once seemed small can become enormous; what used to come first now lands in last place.
You may find your loyalties no longer lie with your parents or friends. "This can be challenging emotionally for all parties, as we reestablish ourselves as someone's spouse, not just someone's son or daughter," explains Bash. While you used to clamor for girls' night out, you could find yourself craving the company of other couples so you can share your free time with your friends and your spouse. "Often people feel a little awkward hanging out with their single friends in clubs or bars, without their spouse," Bash says. "Slowly, unfortunately, some of these friendships can begin to fizzle, when people are in such different phases in life with different priorities. The focus usually shifts from trying to be cool to trying to build a partnership, and a family together."
Money takes on new meaning, too. A spare $100 may no longer mean a new pair of shoes. "Instead of just spending money casually and living for the moment, couples tend to become more frugal as they are saving for the future," says Bash. While you once aspired to enjoy each Friday night sharing a fine dining experience, you may now squirrel away the money for a down-payment on a house or the dream honeymoon you postponed.
Another item that will slide further up your priority list is your desire to communicate and work through arguments. "In the past, fights may mean one of you will walk out the door and never come back," explains Bash. "However, after marriage, couples realize that there is nowhere to run with small fights, and may let them go and reach a resolution more quickly."
Each couple's priority list will look different, too. The important thing is to remember what's important will shift, and to work through those changes together. "It is usually not as simple as happily ever after and riding off into the sunset after the wedding bells ring," Bash says. "It always takes work and commitment."