Decided to tie the knot? We look at what the first momentous 12 months of wedded bliss mean for men.
The first year of marriage can be a rollercoaster, from the thrill of the wedding day to the simpler joys of settling into a married routine.
So what's it like for men? What changes when the "I do's" are exchanged, and how can men ensure that loved-up feeling lasts a lifetime? We ask some people who should know.
The sex can be great
According to Steve, 32, who got married in 2009, marriage proved a boon to his sex life.
"We'd been together for five years before we tied the knot so we'd got into a routine with sex it was good, but not wild. But for the first few months after the wedding it was like when we first met. We were going for it every night. It was great, and a massively pleasant surprise."
While this sexual honeymoon period is unlikely to last forever, it's true that marriage can rejuvenate your sex drive, even if the couple have been together even cohabiting for years. For the woman in particular, the romance of the wedding and the luxury of the honeymoon can bring sexy hormones flooding back into her system.
"That real sense of excitement and romance has much to do with the dopamine system in the brain. It works a bit like an addiction," says relationship counsellor Elly Prior.
Make the most of it while you can, she advises. The sex and romance might be great for a few months, but it won't stay like that forever, at least not without work. "Eventually the same level of stimulation is likely to have less of an impact," she adds.
There's a sense of security
You may think moving in with your partner was a major commitment. But researchers now view cohabitation as an "intense form of dating" rather than a sincere commitment.
The average length of cohabitations is less than two years and only 4 per cent of cohabiters stick at it for more than 10. Within five years of the birth of a child, 8 per cent of married couples in Britain split up, compared to 52 per cent of cohabiters.
In other words, if you want the comfort and security that comes with real commitment, you may have to get married.
"That's one of the things I valued right from the outset," says Steve. "I didn't have to bother with dating or chatting up or any of that any more. I had a wife, and she was and is as committed to me as I am to her."
Paul, 36, agrees. "That was great, the sense of security that sweeps over you. The fact is, you've always got someone on your team and you're never alone and, as long as you work at the marriage, you never need to be."
You take each other for granted (in a good way)
There's no doubt that the first year of marriage is exciting, but it can also be a time for couples to get comfortable with each other, and settle into routines that may still be there forty years on. If that sounds dreary, it needn't be.
"It really doesn't have to be negative," says Elly Prior. "I think there is comfort in partners being able to "take each other for granted", at least to some extent. In my view it can also mean just being able to be yourself."
In that respect, the first year of marriage can be truly liberating. To some extent, dating even long term is an exercise in showing off your best side. When you're married, you no longer have to pretend.
You move on
Steve says getting married felt like moving on in life, in a way even cohabiting didn't. "The first year gave a sense of having taken a step forward. We were moving from one stage of life to another. We weren't stagnating."
Other major commitments like getting a mortgage give a similar sensation, but marriage can feel like a real progression, says Elly Prior. And people feel good when they think they're moving forward.
And it really is a progression. "You start doing much more together," says Paul. "In that first year one change you have to make is to start thinking about another person, and including them in your plans, in a way you didn't before. As a married couple you expect to do things together even more than when you were boyfriend and girlfriend."
Life changes when you're married. You may go to less pubs and more dinner parties. You may start seeing more of other married couples, and less of footloose friends. With the security of marriage can come a more serious pride in your surroundings. "I even did a bit of DIY," says Steve.
The downsides of marriage
That idea of 'moving on' might not be everyone's cup of tea, however. "Actually, that was one of the hardest bits," says Paul. "I can't really describe it but it changed things a bit with one or two of my single friends. We just didn't seem to have as much in common for a while, and they stopped asking me along on occasions when they were out on the pull."
Some dynamics will change. After all, when your unhitched friends are at the pub, you might be at the in-laws. OK, not all the time, but often your duties as a husband will have to come first.
And though your sex life might get a boost, that's not always the case. According to research for infidelity dating website AshleyMadison.com, 7 per cent of women have had an affair before reaching their first anniversary, and 3 per cent of men.
"Once the honeymoon period is over, the presents unwrapped and photo albums stored away, the day-to-day of life as a married couple hits some people hard. The realisation that marriage is not a perpetual whirlwind, and that we take our vows for life, through highs and lows, can seem suffocating," says AshleyMadison founder Noel Biderman.
And it's not just sex. The first year of marriage can set the direction in one of two ways, says Elly Prior, "with romantic love turning into anything from a deep sense of attachment and love to utter boredom and disconnection." That might partly explain why marriage is hitting low rates.
The truth is, it's only after marriage that some people realise they've married the wrong person. If you are starting to feel dissatisfied in your first year, your next call should be to a marriage or relationship counsellor.
Starting good married habits
The routines that you start to develop in the first year of marriage will differ depending on your mutual likes and interests, but Elly Prior thinks there's one habit all newlyweds should embrace.
"I suggest couples start up a regular 'board meeting'," she says, "with phones and TV off. The agenda could include the mundane and the meaningful: the garden, the current DIY project, our sex life, the kids, your mother, our spending, etc. By scheduling such a meeting, you give a sense of safety and enable both partners to talk about things that matter when they're calm. If you like, have candles on, relaxing music and a special bite to eat. Make talking about important things an occasion you look forward to."
So if you do little else in your first year of marriage besides having earth-shattering sex and painting the spare room, instil a talking habit. For all the good, and the occasional bad, of early married life, that's one thing that will help to ensure you're still taking each other for granted in a good way years down the line.
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