BY CARRIE MADORMO, RN, MPH
Weddings can quickly take over our lives. Keeping track of flowers, budgets, and seating arrangements feels like a full-time job. So after all of the wedding day craziness is over, what happens?
Actually, a lot happens — to our health. Marrying a supportive partner tends to motivate us to make healthier choices, but that’s not all. Here are just a few of the changes going on after you say, “I do.”
You’ll feel less stressed
Here’s a relief. After stressing about your wedding for a year, you can finally relax. Married couples tend to feel less stressed than singles. “Since you are no longer looking for a partner to settle down with, priorities change after marriage, as well as thought processes, anxieties, and fears,” Clinical Therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW told me. “Stress can actually reduce after marriage. Love becomes deeper and more compassionate, allowing you to let your guard down and share your deepest thoughts without feeling judged.”
So take advantage of this phenomenon and lean on your partner when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
You may get healthier
If you were on a strict wedding day diet, you can relax that now. Being married will motivate you to get healthier without even realizing it. One reason is that marriage gives you accountability.
“Having a committed partner allows you to be accountable to someone,” Hershenson explained. “You may motivate each other to keep doctor’s appointments, eat well, and exercise. Studies show that marriage can actually increase life span.”
Now that your life affects someone else so deeply, you may take it more seriously, and that can start with health. According to a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers found that when study participants transitioned from single to married, their physical activity levels increased. In fact, getting married could be as beneficial to your health as giving up smoking!
Or you could gain weight
However, just being married won’t get you fit for summer. Marriage leads to healthier choices, but if you decide to start skipping the gym in favor of eating chips and queso in front of Parenthood together, you can kiss those health benefits goodbye.
“On the flip side, marriage can lead to weight gain. As you get more comfortable with your partner and gain a sense of safety, you may not feel the need to impress your partner as much,” said Hershenson. “Additionally, you may have more responsibilities in the home and forgo eating healthy and exercising.”
If a healthy lifestyle is important to you, schedule gym dates or meal preparation time together. Support each other on your journeys.
Prepare for a dad bod
Another reason you could gain weight after you get married is because your body is literally changing its form. This is especially true for the gentlemen.
“A Harvard study found that when a man commits to a woman, his testosterone drops. This causes changes in his body, particularly muscle mass and body fat,” Dawn Maslar, a biology professor and author of Men Chase, Women Choose told Elite Daily. “This is what can lead to the ‘dad bod.’ Testosterone builds muscles, so with less testosterone, you tend to have less muscle and burn fewer calories. This causes more fat to be stored, usually around the belly.”
Time to embrace the dad bod.
Decision making changes
When you commit your life to another person, everything changes. Being raised in Chicago, I always thought I’d return home after college. However, here I am ten years later, still living in my husband’s home state. Decisions suddenly feel very different when you factor in another person’s feelings. “Your mindset changes from ‘I’ to ‘we.’ You start seeing yourself as part of a team instead of going through life solo,” said Hershenson. “Decision making changes because you now have someone else to think about.”
This change is decision-making could be due to the physical changes happening in your brain. When you are in love, new chemicals flood our brains. A rise in dopamine activates our pleasure centers, and those increased levels continue even after years or decades of marriage. “A state-of-the-art investigation of love has confirmed for the very first time that people are not lying when they say that after 10 to 30 years of marriage they are still madly in love with their partners,” Harvard Medical Professor Richard Schwartz told On the Brain.
You’ll live longer
With all of those healthy choices you two will be making together, it’s no wonder it’s going to affect your life expectancy. Sure, working out and going to the doctor is important, but marriage provides another health benefit. Having that social support is priceless.
“Speculation is that couples encourage each other to eat better, exercise, keep doctor appointments, and do what the doctor says,” Dr. Ben Michaelis told Elite Daily. “Socializing together is also good for mental and physical health. The comfort of having a trusted, reliable partner creates endorphins that are healing influences in the body. As people age in marriage, having a partner who knows you well can help you live longer and be happier.”
So next time your spouse is driving you crazy with the same questions he asked you an hour ago, just remember he’s helping you live a longer, healthier life.
You could develop pain
Having a supportive partner who encourages you to be active and see the doctor definitely helps your health, but what happens when your partner is ill? If your spouse has a chronic medical condition, will it affect your health?
A study in Psychosomatic Research studied the effects of chronic pain on a marriage. Researchers found that when one spouse has a chronic pain disorder, the other spouse is more likely to report pain symptoms related to depressive symptoms. Simply put, having a chronically ill spouse weighs on you and can affect your health over time. Make sure you’re still taking time for yourself and your own health.
You may exercise less
Even though tons of studies have found that married persons workout more, that’s not always the case. Once you get married, life to seems to move in fast forward, and all of those life changes can make it tough to workout. As you age, you experience other changes like work promotions and babies. All of these changes take away free time that may have been spent working out.
A study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that certain factors caused married couples to be less active. This isn’t exactly shocking, but married couples with children under the age of five report exercising less. So do couples who work long hours.
When it comes to marital body changes, focus on supporting one another. That’s the best way to create a healthy and happy life together!
Focus on the positive
When it comes to the physical changes we experience after marriage, they’re really up to us. You have the choice between encouraging each other to veg on the couch in front of House of Cards every night or encouraging each other to train for a half marathon together. Be supportive of one another’s health goals, and you just may find that you’re feeling better yourself!