Marriage is a life-changing event—or is it? How much really changes after the big day? To find out, we caught up with two licensed marriage and family therapists, Melody Li and Dr. Victoria Raymond of Lotus Counseling Center, and asked them to dish on the elements of a relationship that typically do and do not change after you say “I do.” Here’s what to expect.
May Change: The Butterflies
As you settle into the routine of married life, you may find you’re less heart-eyes emoji and more straight-line-mouth emoji. That’s okay! As a romantic relationship goes on, the brain produces less of that feel-good hormone that made everything about him so cute a year ago. “Couples that don’t understand this may falsely believe that this drop means their relationship is in trouble,” says Li. “In my office, it sounds like, ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you,’ ‘Our chemistry is over,’ or, ‘I’m not attracted to you like I used to be.’ But the truth is, it’s just part of your evolution as a couple.” Li recommends taking Gary Chapman’s Love Languages quiz to really understand how your partner receives love, and then consciously find ways to consistently fill each other’s “love tanks.”
May Not Change: Your Issues
Ready for a dose of realness? Marriage doesn’t make your relationship better. It just makes it different. “Many couples get married hoping that their existing arguments will cease to exist,” says Raymond. “And while the honeymoon period is real, the disagreements won’t just disappear for good. Marriage won’t fix existing problems.” Raymond points out that there are many difficult conversations around money, sex, and family that often come up during the first year of marriage. You’ll need solid, respectful foundation to get through them.
Related article: Tips for a stress-free first year of marriage
May Change: The Holidays
Once you say “I do,” you begin to share more than just a last name. With a whole new family in need of quality time, the holidays can become especially stressful for couples trying to figure out what to do. Luckily, Raymond has a helpful mantra for when you’re in the throes of holiday chaos. “When it comes to in-laws, consider the fact that these people raised the person you’ve chosen to love, so they must have done something right.” It also helps to know that these growing pains are more than just about which house has the better meal. “The first year of marriage is a time when couples begin to prioritize their new family unit over their family of origin. Understanding the difficulty of this, and being supportive to each other, is key.”
May Not Change: The Fun
There’s no such thing as the old boring married couple! You can continue to take fun trips, join kickball leagues, throw parties, and carry on all of the exciting activities from your dating days. But sometimes, binging on shows and romantic movies with your built-in BFF is going to be the most fun option.
May Change: Your Home Life
If you weren’t already shacking up with your betrothed, get ready for a lot of adjustment on the home-front. For the newlyweds who have recently become roommates, Raymond notes the topics that will need to be covered to ensure a smooth transition. “They’ll need to address how much time is spent together versus apart, what the expectations are for each partner, who makes dinner, who cleans up…couples need to communicate about these logistics, recognizing and respecting how each person functioned prior to marriage and cohabitation.”
This article originally appeared on Martha Stewart Weddings.