Samantha and Simon are in love. They have been dating and believe that moving in together is the next best step to seeing if this relationship is really going to work. They do that for a year and everything is peachy keen. They decide to get married because living together, or "playing house" as we will call it here, worked so well.
They have a medium sized wedding, go on a honeymoon, it is glorious! They come home and figure now its business as usual, only its not.... Even though they have the same jobs, live in the same house, have the same friends, something is very different and they don’t know what! They don’t talk about it, at leat not with eachother. They are both pretty preoccupied with their careers, in fact they start talking to their friends outside of the marriage more than each other because neither wants the other to get wind that something doesn't feel right.
At home they pretend it's business as usual but in the rest of their lives Samantha is talking to her "special friend at work, trying to figure out how her fun, slightly rebellious husband seems to be turning into just another working guy who only want a beer and a quickie before he watches the game and goes to sleep. Simon is trying to figure out how his beautiful sexy wife Samantha seems to be tired all the time, and never available so he distracts himself by going out with the guys at work to have more beers and watch the game. All the while they are deepening their friendships outside of the marriage, the relationship itself gets weaker and still they don't get it!
What Samantha and Simon did not account for in their plan was that the decision to get married is a major game changer both for individuals and the relationship itself. Marriage is a major commitment in almost any culture and with it comes all kinds of ideas about who a husband/wife is and how they act. The moment they said “I do” everything changed in a way that there can be limited preparation for, and living together is the least effective form of preparation since it assumes that people don't change much. .
In the moment they said their vows, each individual's value system, life experiences, concepts, principles all shifted and altered and the relationship altered along with them. In fact their experience of living together before they got married and after was completely different which is why I like to say people who are living together are playing house, because it gets a whole lot more real when you say “I do”.
What's missing? Playing house is well and good, but preparing for the change that the marriage commitment inevitably drives involves a combination of exploring generational ideas about marriage, as well as establishing a shared vision, exploring values and principles, and gaining clarity on how each individual will manage change in each other and the relationship as they inevitably occur. Last but not least, a shared understanding of what love is and how to apply it to life will ultimately be what carries couples through the relationship transitions of marriage and beyond.