In my time as a love and relationship coach here at Happily Committed, I’ve had plenty of clients come to me in tears before their weddings, completely overwhelmed by anxiety. If you’re also struggling with pre-wedding anxiety, then you know how the feeling can be so intense it’s hard to make sense of it. You simply don’t know if you’re stressed out, if you’re overly emotional, if you’re scared, if something’s wrong, or sometimes even if you’re happy or unhappy! It is an absolutely debilitating state to be in, especially in the days and weeks leading up to one of the most important moments of your life.
Of course, plenty of people suffering from this anxiety find that it disappears when the wedding is over! They’ve simply been blindsided by the intensity of normal wedding jitters, and didn’t expect to have such a serious nervous breakdown. In these cases, the anxiety didn’t affect their relationships, nor was it a sign that anything was wrong. However, on the other hand, I’ve seen countless others try to dismiss very serious warning signs before their marriages as simple nervousness. So how are you supposed to know the difference? Well, for today’s article, I want to help you understand the relationship between anxiety and marriage, which can allow you to better understand how you’re feeling right now.
First we’re going to define anxiety, which is more than simple nervousness! Understanding how it works is key to pinpointing where it’s coming from. After that, we’ll go over some questions you can ask yourself that can show you where you need to focus your energy if you want to get your pre-wedding anxiety under control. At the end of the article, I’ll share my thoughts on how to best deal with marriage anxiety. With these tips, I’m confident that you can get yourself out of this rut and enjoy this special time in your life to its fullest. Let’s dive in!
Understanding the Difference Between Anxiety and Marriage Nervousness
Before we go any further, it’s really important to understand what anxiety is. Everybody has a built-in warning system deep in their subconcious, and it helps us to recognize and avoid danger. It’s a pain-avoiding mechanism, and one of the most basic evolutionary parts of your brain designed to ensure your survival and keep you safe. As soon as it picks up on any subtle signs that something is a threat, it starts sending signals that you experience and fear and unease. That way, you know something is wrong, and you can avoid it. Fear and nervousness are unpleasant, but most of the time, they’re signs that this warning system is working the way it’s designed to!
But, what about when it’s not working properly? That’s anxiety. This inner warning system is essentially malfunctioning, sending your brain the signal to feel fear and unease without any justification. In this case, you’re not only feeling nervous and afraid, you’re also not sure what’s causing those feelings! And when you’re trapped in this kind of anxiety, it’s normal to start blaming it on things that aren’t actually the root of the problem. This is when you feel like you’re anxious about your relationship for no reason.
Anxiety affects a lot of people, some more severely than others. One of the most important tools you have to cope with it is just knowing what you’re dealing with in the first place! When anxiety is affecting your upcoming wedding, you owe it to yourself to determine whether the feeling is really coming from an outside source, or just a false alarm.
Am I Overthinking Relationship Anxiety?
Think of the times in your life when you left your comfort zone, and tried something new. Whether it was skydiving, an exotic meal, traveling, you name it. I bet you that you felt jitters and nervousness before you finally took the leap and did that thing you had never done before! Because, of course, we’re always nervous before we leave our comfort zone. And the reason for that is that same internal warning system I described earlier: leaving your comfort zone means leaving a certain degree of ‘safety’, and your brain to talk you out of it by making you nervous and afraid. Of course, you know better, and push through the fear to gain an experience that is worth it in the end.
Well, what is marriage if not a step into a completely new life? It’s the ultimate moment of leaving your comfort zone, and embarking on something new together. So you’re bound to get the same nervousness and fear that happens before any big leap, except it’s going to be far more intense than anything you’ve experienced before. Even though the emotions through which this is expressed are unpleasant, the root cause of this is typically natural and totally harmless.
But, how do you know if your internal warning system isn’t sending you a false alarm? What if there is something actually wrong that your subconscious is picking up on? Here are three things you can ask yourself to try to make some sense of your feelings:
Is Your Relationship Stressing You Out?
When you’re trying to determine the root of your anxiety, it can be really hard to distinguish whether it’s coming from the inside or the outside. But this is one of the first things you should try to find out! So how can you do it?
Start by asking yourself when you feel nervous. Is it a constant hum of anxiety, or does it seem to spike around certain moments, or even certain people? If it’s simple marriage jitters, it’s going to be a lot more consistent, since you’re constantly in that uneasy state before something big. However, if you’re noticing that simply being certain people is causing your anxiety to spike, then chances are there’s something they’re doing or expecting that is causing you to feel that way. Sometimes, the anxiety is caused by your fiancé!
Often, it’s precisely the period before a wedding when people discover how their partner behaves under pressure, and sometimes that’s not a pleasant discovery! While a lot of people are fortunate to find that their fiancés handle the stress of putting a wedding together gracefully, there are just as many for whom this period is when they first encounter their partner’s short temper, negativity, or even abuse. Sadly, a lot of people brush off these huge red flags by convincing themselves that they must simply be pre-wedding jitters in their partner.
It’s not. If it’s your fiancé who’s stressing you out, you need to address it immediately, because that core dynamic is not going to change after the wedding. At best, it’s an opportunity for you to set the tone of your marriage by working through issues right away before they spiral out of control. At worst, if the problems are really serious, it’s an opportunity for you to jump ship now and save yourself a lot of unhappy years.
Is it Wedding Anxiety?
Weddings don’t always have to be a lavish, expensive affair. Plenty of people enjoy wonderful, intimate, and simple ceremonies. But time and time again, I see people planning small-scale weddings fall into the same trap: thinking that they’re safe from wedding anxiety. It’s perfectly natural for them to think so, too! After all, if it’s not a destination wedding, and there aren’t hundreds of guests, or bickering relatives, or expensive venues, then what is there to get worked up about?
Well, there’s plenty, actually! At the end of the day, this is a moment when all eyes are on you, and the way the wedding goes or even how the day feels can ultimately wind up seeming like a reflection of you and your relationship. This is even more stressful when you factor in your fiancés family and what they may be thinking. Obviously, when you take a step back, you can see that this is nonsense. But emotions aren’t always sensible, and when you’ve got all of this and more swirling around inside of your mind, it’s hard to see these things clearly. And that’s what leads to the biggest danger: thinking that it can’t be wedding anxiety, but still feeling anxious, so then laying the blame somewhere where it doesn’t belong. This is what leads to a lot of those nonsensical fights that commonly happen before weddings, where neither side really knows what they’re even arguing about in the first place.
Am I actually experiencing depression and marriage regret?
Like I mentioned earlier, there’s a natural nervousness that comes when we’re taking a huge step out of our comfort zone into the unknown. The thing about this that’s important to understand, though, is that it’s a nervousness and excitement about the future. It’s all about looking forward, and it has nothing to do with the past or present. It’s not about who you are right now, it’s about who you’re going to be! However, this feeling is easy to confuse with another one: the fear of losing something.
Being afraid of losing something could take a lot of shapes and forms, but it always involves some degree of giving up something integral to your identity. It could be losing friends, losing the ability to walk away, losing the boundaries that you had set, losing safety, losing independence, or even losing the option to find someone better for you.
When things are in good shape in a relationship, these types of fears don’t weigh on you. If you’re reading this and the above resonates with you, then your internal warning system is trying to tell you something, and it’s worth listening to it. Something is wrong: you shouldn’t be scared to get married. Far too many people are dismissive of the voice in their head telling them to pump the brakes on a marriage, sometimes because they’re ashamed, they dismiss it as wedding jitters, or they feel trapped into going through with it. And, tragically, they end up making the most damaging decision of their lives: entering an unhappy marriage. If you’re barreling towards a life where you regret getting married, or depression is starting to set in because you feel like you’re on a course you have no control over, remind yourself that you DO have the power to change this. It’s going to be hard, but now is when you need to take a stand and do what’s right for yourself.
How to deal with Relationship Anxiety
No matter what your precise situation is, there’s one solution that’s going to apply across the board: healthy communication with your partner. It’s more than simply sharing that you’re nervous before the wedding, it’s about being vulnerable and opening up about having intense feelings that you’re having trouble deciphering! Of course, it’s scary because you don’t want to offend or hurt them right before you get married, but this is actually an opportunity for you two to demonstrate your trust in each other and your ability to work to overcome problems. After all, that’s going to be one of the most important skills you need to make your marriage work, so don’t be shy about giving it a shot. Together you can really discover the root cause and work on it, whether it truly is simple jitters or something bigger that needs to be addressed, and your relationship will be stronger for it. Of course, communication isn’t always natural or easy, so if you’re looking for some tips and tricks that can help, feel free to check out our courses on communication.
If you’re trying to work out how to talk to your partner about the problem, ask yourself those three questions first to help clear up some of the confusion you may be feeling. Let’s recap them:
Is your relationship stressing you out?
Is it wedding anxiety?
Are you actually experiencing depression and marriage regret?
If you can narrow down the root causes of the anxiety, you’ve already come a long way towards solving them. More importantly, the first step to success is always being proactive. And the fact that you’re here, reading this, is a great sign that things are going to be okay and you’re going to be able to handle the anxiety about your upcoming wedding.
Of course, if you need more personalized help, feel free to reach out to me or any of the other coaches here at Happily Committed! We can work with you to craft an action plan unique to your situation, and give you the tips and tools you need to address your anxiety before your wedding. I sincerely wish you all the best.
Your coach when you want to overcome anxiety and marriage fear,