Depression during your first year of marriage is common. Some people feel the post-wedding blues right after their wedding. Others feel sad later in their honeymoon year. These feelings can be distressing, but they don’t mean your marriage is a big mistake. Ups and downs are normal during your first year. Knowing how to face them and when to get help are key to overcoming post-wedding depression.
The term post-wedding blues describes the feeling of sadness, being let down, and flat after your wedding. It’s usually temporary and stems from the excitement and distraction of a wedding.
Depression is common at any point during the first year of marriage, not just after the wedding.
If your depression lasts for a prolonged period of time and has multiple debilitating symptoms, you could be clinically depressed.
Most depression in a couple’s first year is situational and often resolves with patience, love, and honest talks.
Post-wedding blues vs clinical depression
Post-wedding blues describes that sense of feeling sad, let down, and flat after your wedding. The glitter and excitement are suddenly over. Ordinary life sets in. No matter how memorable and perfect the day was, sadness after a wedding is a natural emotion, usually resolving within a few days or weeks.
It’s also common to feel great after your wedding but depressed later at any point during your first year of marriage. Experts say the first year is often the hardest whether you lived together before your wedding or not.
Marriage is a pressure cooker. Anxiety and sadness can build when a mixture of stressful triggers occurs at once.
The feelings are similar to clinical depression symptoms. But in your first year of marriage, they’re usually a type of situational depression – a depressed mood from adjusting to a new situation.
If your depression lasts beyond any new adjustment, you may be diagnosed with clinical depression. Also known as major depressive disorder, this is a more serious mental health condition with several debilitating symptoms lasting beyond a single situation.
Whether it’s just the temporary blues or a deeper sadness, knowledge is power. Let’s look at the causes and remedies for depression right after your wedding or later during your first year.
How to avoid the post-wedding blues
The year before your wedding was likely a long voyage of excitement, stress, and distraction. Your brain and body experienced a roller coaster of plans, deadlines, worries, joys, and social pressures. The sudden plop back into ordinary life can be a letdown. “What now?” some newlyweds wonder.
For many, however, marriage increases their tedious to-do list right after a wedding. Suddenly, you’re overwhelmed with innumerable places to change your name, bank accounts to reorganize, thank-you letters to write, and photo albums to compile. This can be overwhelming and quite frankly, boring.
You may also feel lingering stress or sadness over wedding things that didn’t go so well – the tense relationships during the event, the complaint about the dinner you overheard, someone’s embarrassing drunkenness. The social pressures of a wedding can be suffocating.
Without realizing it, you may have also thought life would be happier once married. Facing the unmet hope of feeling cheerier may make you even sadder.
Your post-wedding blues are likely a mixture of the above. Or these blues could simply reflect a sudden drop in dopamine.
According to Loretta Breuning, Ph.D., of the Inner Mammal Institute, your brain isn’t designed to be happy all of the time. As she explains in her book, Habits of a Happy Brain, dopamine increases as you envision a goal and plan to meet it. You’re then flooded with dopamine-driven satisfaction when you see your goal materialize.
However, when all your plans, hopes, and dreams for the wedding are suddenly over, your dopamine levels take a deep dive as they’re designed to do after you meet a goal.
What to do about post-wedding blues
It can feel overwhelming to experience post wedding blues. However, there are a number of things you can try to help alleviate your symptoms.
- Embrace the feelings as normal. Feelings are road signs pointing to a bump somewhere along the way. Take time to consider which bump caused the emotion to rise. The great therapist Shakespeare is helpful here: “Know thyself.” This mantra is foundational for many successful couples because to love well you must first know and understand yourself well.
- Let your brain unwind. That hard-working brain of yours can’t live on a constant and busy high. It needs rest. Let it take a break and even feel a little sad before you rush into the next season of life.
- Focus on the good. Depression easily shifts your focus to the negative, causing your mind to fixate and even blow things out of proportion. Try this visual meditation: close your eyes and see yourself accept the things that went wrong at the wedding. Embrace each one like a wounded child, and then smile beyond them at the people who love you and the things that went right.
- Set your next goals and plans. Goals can be as simple as finding contentment in the here and now or being grateful for your spouse’s presence. Plan your next romantic date or new ways to show your affection. Even small goals and plans raise your dopamine levels. Set achievable ones because your dopamine levels are the highest when you fulfill a goal.
- Spend time with friends and loved ones. Plan a get-together with friends after your wedding. Meet with a kindred spirit for coffee. Maintaining valuable relationships boosts your mood and your sense of belonging.
- Focus on your long-term relationship. Your wedding isn’t a climactic end. It’s a new beginning.
Depression beyond the post-wedding phase
Even if you didn’t feel post-wedding blues, depression in marriage is common for newlyweds when they feel like the honeymoon’s over, no matter how much they enjoy each other.
Studies and experts point to many reasons for this depression. Bringing two people together isn’t easy. You both have different backgrounds, personalities, expectations, needs, stress triggers, attachment patterns, and communication styles. You can feel overwhelmed and helpless fast.
But here’s the good news: Depression early in marriage is common, so there's plenty of help and resources.
Let’s take a look at shared challenges and solutions.
Nearly every marriage faces silent, unfulfilled expectations. We’re so optimistic we may miss the need to talk about expectations before we say, “I do.” One study suggests this could be why couples often decline pre-marital counseling. We’re in such a honeymoon phase of optimism we don’t see the value of seeking support.
Before long, however, unexpected adjustments are required. A study published by Family & Consumer Sciences found six challenging areas that newlyweds didn’t see coming: letdowns, serious responsibility, competing loyalties, the little things, relationship roles, and sex.
Differences in dealing with distress
We’re each different in dealing with these surprising adjustments and unmet expectations. At first, we don’t see how these differences impact each other. We expect our spouses to help us face life’s distress, but we don’t often tell them how. To make matters worse, we may not see how they need help.
Different problem-solving methods
Solving conflict is usually a rough road early in marriage, but it’s vital. One partner may be conflict-avoidant. The other may anxiously hover over every argument, pressing their spouse too hard.
Talking effectively about differences and misunderstandings takes time, empathy, and diligence. Certainly, couples need more than the first year to refine.
As two people adjust to the life and roles of marriage, their personalities and relationship morph into something new. The transition is challenging. A 2018 study published in Developmental Psychology argues that personality changes can be significant and overlooked. When a couple ignores the changes, marital satisfaction takes a serious hit.
Common life stressors
According to a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, finances, and stressful life events often cause negative communication between newlyweds. The greater the stress, the greater the negativity. Damaging communication can send you into a spiral of sadness, feeling misunderstood and sure you’ve made a mistake in getting married.
Rather than harbor resentment or lash out with hurtful words, try to rationally uncover and solve the stressor together as a team. Target the real problem, not each other.
Interestingly, another study found couples who faced stressors early in their marriage grew stronger than couples with fewer stressors, even though both groups had equally supportive resources. When stressful events pressure you and your spouse, it’s wise to seek support and view the stress as an opportunity to grow closer.
Other psychological challenges
Humans invent intricate coping skills to survive. Therapy helps people uncover their childhood coping mechanisms that no longer work and may plague their marriage. Pre-marital counseling is important, but post-marital counseling is also worth the cost.
For example, studies show that if you have one or more serious adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), you’re also likely to experience adversity in adulthood, impacting marital satisfaction.
With or without serious childhood adversity, we each slip into marriage-affecting emotional behaviors like codependency, enmeshment, dysfunctional attachment, narcissism, manipulation, victim-mentality, and other common dysfunction.
Getting help with post-wedding blues
Navigating our coping mechanisms and personality issues is impossible on our own. We need loved ones and trusted counselors.
There could be several reasons you’re feeling depression from marriage. It’s vital to seek a safe and wise friend or therapist to help you understand yourself, your spouse, and your marriage. Many of the ups and downs of marriage are normal and solvable.
However, deep antagonism toward each other early in your marriage predicts possible divorce sooner or later. Gather supportive people and resources early to help you face marriage bumps and roadblocks along the journey to a lasting and fulfilling relationship.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
- Journal of Family Psychology. Adverse Childhood Experiences, Stress, and Intimate Partner Violence among Newlywed Couples Living with Low Incomes.
- BMC Psychology. The relationship between personality traits and marital satisfaction: a systematic review and meta-analysis.