Congratulations, you’re engaged! Feelings of shock and excitement are expected, but one emotion that takes many soon-to-be brides and grooms by surprise is anxiety. Tying the knot is a big step, and let’s face it, preparing for a life change of this magnitude can be overwhelming. The good news: Zola is here to help you along the way.
The important thing to know is that feeling engagement anxiety is normal—and it’s temporary. “If you don’t have second thoughts about becoming someone’s partner, you’re not human, but they are just second thoughts,” says Dr. Ish Major, dating and relationship expert, and star of WEtv’s “Marriage Boot Camp” series.
“Engagement anxiety is commonly referred to as cold feet, and it’s a common response to the enormous change your life is about to undergo,” explains Sharea Farmer, LCSW, owner of RS Counseling and Wellness. She says couples aren’t just dealing with their emotions, but also the expectations of their family, friends, and societal pressures surrounding a public engagement and marriage. “All of these factors can drive your anxiety through the roof and cause you to question everything, even if you are ready to get married,” she explains.
How do you know if what you’re feeling is engagement anxiety? “Engagement anxiety feels much more intense than just nervousness or butterflies,” says Dr. Curtis D. Jasper, Ph.D., therapist, couple’s counselor, and relationship expert. He adds that it’s a common occurrence among newly engaged couples. “Even for those individuals and couples who feel like the engagement is the right step and that the choice of partner is the correct choice, there still will remain a bit of anxiousness that can lead to extreme anxiety—usually about the unknown, the newness, and the grieving of anticipating giving up the current or single lifestyle,” he adds.
The good news is there are ways to reduce your anxiety levels over time so you can focus on walking down the aisle. Here, some tips from relationship experts on how to handle your pre-engagement anxiety.
It’s understandable to feel a range of emotions about the big commitment you’re about to make. Experts say it’s crucial to remember that life has its ups and downs—and the same goes for your wedding day. “Have realistic expectations about the wedding, the marriage, and the life you wish to build. Our experiences and expectations around marriage have been shaped by years of conditioning through fairy tales, television, and movies, so we often overlook that this is real and will take real skills to succeed,” says Farmer. Dig deeper to find what could be triggering your anxiety. “Engagements and marriage aren’t about what you’ll be giving up; they’re all about what you’re gaining,” says Dr. Major.
Engagement anxiety is common, but it’s still important to acknowledge how you’re feeling. Write down your fears and evaluate how realistic they are, says Farmer. This can help you replace fear-based thoughts with more realistic ones. Dr. Jasper also suggests seeking out a professional to help squash those anxiety-riddled fears.
Couples tend to keep those second thoughts from their other half, as they don’t want to have their feelings taken out of context. But part of a healthy and happy relationship is being able, to be honest with your partner, especially if you are experiencing higher anxiety levels. Keep the lines of communication open with your fiancé. Communicating your feelings and sharing your emotions may help you deal with them as a couple rather than having to handle it alone.
Expert Tip: Use “I” statements and avoid blaming language, global statements, and talking with increased emotions. Start slowly to avoid arguments.
Self-care is important when you’re dealing with an overwhelming amount of stress and anxiety. Farmer suggests practicing self-care, including meditating or breathing techniques, to help calm those nerves down. “Do the things that you love with the person you love. Whether it’s your partner or spending some time alone, do what is necessary to ground yourself,” says Farmer.
Talking to family and friends may not be such a good thing. “Many will be quick to tell you their worst experiences and these can easily shape your thoughts,” says Farmer. Seeing a professional for premarital counseling with your partner can also ease your engagement anxiety. “Find an unbiased, experienced professional to ensure you and your partner are on the same page and speaking on the issues out loud under the leadership of someone with training. You may be surprised to learn that your partner is feeling some of the same anxiety you're feeling,” she says. If you’re experiencing pre-engagement anxiety, know that it’s normal and will subside. To help you enjoy the process of your engagement and wedding planning, Zola is here for you. For more tips on how to get started on wedding planning, click here.