How to Transition from Long-Term Singledom to Married Bliss
How to make your relationship work like Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux.
-Anne K. Gross, Ph.D.,
Jennifer Aniston has long been an example of a woman who picked herself up after a crushing and humiliating divorce and enjoyed singledom for a number of years. She dated around, had a fling or two and then met the guy of her dreams. There was just something about Justin Theroux that clicked for her. The woman who loved being single was finally in a committed relationship. And who hasn’t had a long stretch of singledom in their lives, right? The thing is how do you enter and keep a relationship after being single for so long…
Undeniably so, when you tie the knot, your spouse becomes the most important person in your life, and you each enter into marriage with a desire and commitment to make it last. But first you have to ask yourself, what makes a marriage work? If I had to sum it up in one phrase, it would be:
A successful marriage has balance.
On the one hand, you and your spouse are emotionally close and intimate, able to share both your strengths and vulnerabilities. On the other hand, you want to remain true to your own beliefs, wishes, and values.
Achieving that balance requires work. And if you’ve been single for a long time (and even those who haven’t), you often carry the extra burden of feeling pressured to do everything you can to assure that this time the relationship will last. As a result, you may enter into a marriage in one of two ways, each of which creates a sense of unbalance:
The head over heels, nothing else matters.
Having dreamed of this moment for so long – this woman dives head first, pushing aside all of the friends and activities that she worked so hard to cultivate over the years. She relishes every moment with her new spouse, brimming with marital bliss. And if you haven’t lived this scenario yourself, you may look envyingly on those who do: the celebrity couples who are joined at the hip, engage in frequent public displays of affection, and present the image that all is perfect.
This picture of a trouble-free relationship may not be all is appears to be. Why? Because a woman who gives up everything likely has difficulty voicing her own needs, and instead focuses on pleasing her husband at all costs. She forgoes evenings out with her friends, she drops out of her book club, and reluctantly re-arranges her apartment to please her spouse. The woman’s entire self-esteem is tied into pleasing her spouse, betraying her own needs as a result. Over time she is likely to feel angry at her spouse that she has given up so much to please him, or guilty that no matter how much she does, it is never enough.
Switch your thinking from believing that pleasing your husband at all costs is helping your relationship to being mindful of the fact that it may cause problems down the road. Be careful not to lose your sense of self. It is okay to give up eating in front of the TV every night, but think twice about foregoing your morning runs with your girlfriends. And more often than not, your spouse will appreciate and respect what is important to you.
I’m declaring my independence with every step I take.
This is the woman who–weary of commitment–does so hesitantly, obsessively clinging to her past life. She declares her independence at every opportunity–demanding that she and her husband keep a detailed list of expenses to avoid the possibility that one may contribute more than the other, is unwilling to modify her busy schedule to meet the needs of her new relationship, and sees everything from the viewpoint of not wanting to give up what she has worked so hard to obtain.
Although such a woman may appear strong and independent, problems often lie underneath her steely resolve. For her independence is often at the expense of shared experiences with her husband, denying both of them an opportunity to be close. Distance and lack of sharing may come to define their relationship
Rather than thinking of your extreme independence as an insurance policy against being hurt in the future, think about it in terms of crimping intimacy. Carve out time that the two of you can be together. And although it’s important to hang onto your interests, make an effort to learn about your husband’s. For example, if he loves to ski, rather than staying behind when he heads to the mountains, go with him, and take some lessons. You might be surprised to see how much you enjoy it.
Finally, be mindful of the fact that creating a balanced relationship is an ongoing challenge; but working hard to achieve it will reap you many years of marital happiness.
Anne K. Gross, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who writes regularly for BettyConfidential on personal growth and relationships. You can follow her blog Opening Doors to Intimacy at annegrossonline.com/blog