For many couples, getting married feels like crossing the finishing line: Whew! You can breathe a sigh of relief now that two are one. No more looking, no more dating, and maybe, just maybe, you can let down your guard and ease up on your diet, beauty, nutrition, social routine. "The first year of marriage is a relief for couples," says marriage counselor Sharyn Wolf, CSW, author of How to Stay Lovers for Life: Discover a Marriage Counselor's Tricks of the Trade. "It feels like nothing can come between you and your mate. Nothing matters as much as the love you have together. Well, that's a lovely fantasy." While the temptation to nest with your sweetie and build a more insular life together is both natural and normal, marriage is no excuse to allow your diet, exercise regime, appearance, or other relationships to go to pot. "Chances are, you and your mate fell in love with a person with a life," says Wolf, who advises carrying the healthy habits of your single life over the marriage threshold. Here are her tips for keeping your new life together emotionally and physically healthy—long after the ink on the marriage certificate has dried.
"Now I can eat anything"—not.
Before you were married, you made a point of watching your weight. Now you've got to realize that your marriage license is not a license to eat everything in sight. "This I-can-eat-anything mentality hearkens back to the feelings of relief, of not having to pursue a mate anymore," says Wolf. "You want to be together for a long time, so don't you want to be healthy?" She suggests planning an eating strategy: "First, talk about your diet with your mate. Then establish ground rules. Who cooks when? What nights are healthy-eating evenings? When can you just pig out on McDonald's?" This method will also help if you and your spouse have drastically different culinary tastes.
Unglue yourself from the couch.
Maybe you never really loved the gym, maybe you were working out to fit into the wedding dress or tux, or maybe you just don't have time to hit the treadmill anymore. Changing your exercise routine because your life has changed is understandable—but don't abandon it altogether. Find a way to incorporate it into your new lifestyle. "Look for an activity you two can do together. Maybe suggest a walk after dinner," Wolf says. And if you've always exercised and your mate doesn't, don't let that stop you. "If you can encourage, cajole, or seduce your partner into exercising with you, that's great," says Wolf. "But don't let your pressure turn into something to fight over."
Remember those people you used to call your friends?
Probably one of the biggest mistakes newlyweds make is forgetting their friends. This is: a) not a nice thing to do to the people who've listened to you whine about singledom, and b) a good way to isolate yourself. So stay in touch. Even if you'd rather be with your honey, force yourself to go out with your compadres. You'll have a good time, and it will keep things fresh at home. Try meeting your old buddies for a run in the park, or catch up with them at the gym. That way you'll kill two birds with one stone—you'll get a workout and a restorative chat with a dear friend. And while it's dandy to pal up with each other's gang, don't feel that now that you're married you can only have mutual friends. "Sometimes newlyweds hate each other's friends," Wolf says. If so, don't worry about it. "Don't foist your friends on each other. Maintain the relationships you had before, but don't feel the need to make everyone like one another."
Take off those sweatpants, please.
"There's a tendency to let your newfound comfort devolve into complete disregard for your appearance," says Wolf. Think about it: Do you want your spouse to look nice? Well, then do the same for him or her. "Always be as gracious for your mate as you would for a guest," Wolf says. "If a guest came over, you would put something nice on. Do the same for your spouse." Wolf also recommends taping up a reality check. "Put up a couple of pictures when you were a couple, falling in love and glowing. Every few weeks look at those pictures, and look at yourself now." That ought to give you the motivation to stick with a healthy program. At the very least, it will remind you of just how it felt to fit into your old jeans.