Are you truly ready to say “I do”?
by UB’s Joyce Marter, LCPC
It’s natural to be nervous before vowing “’Til death do we part.” Marriage is a big commitment. For some, it can be difficult to distinguish between normal wedding jitters and serious concerns. Based on knowledge gained from counseling individuals and couples for over 15 years, I recommend asking yourself the following questions:
Are you afraid of the commitment?
Consider if you’ve had enough life and relationship experience to take this step. Identify commitment issues or patterns in your relationships, because we all unconsciously recreate what is familiar until we work through issues. Think about how long you have been with your partner, if you have passed the honeymoon phase, and if your relationship has been stable for at least 1-2 years. Ask yourself why you are choosing to marry rather than make some other form of commitment. Reflecting on these points should bring you some clarity.
If you don’t see yourself being able to be monogamous, don’t set yourself up for failure. Many people today choose less traditional partnerships, including living together or having an open relationship.
Do you have serious concerns about your partner?
It’s easy to love “better” parts of your partner but marriage requires that you also accept the “worse”. Being able to accept your partner’s issues is perhaps a bigger predictor of marital success than how much you adore them. Also note that what we initially love about somebody is invariably what drives us crazy about them later. For example, you loved how laid back he was and now wish he would get his rear in gear. No person and no relationship is perfect, so reflect on whether your concerns are in a normal range and if they are things with which you can deal.
Take your concerns very seriously if they’re regarding:
• Your partner being abusive in any way or you do not feel safe in the relationship
• Your partner has an untreated addiction or mental illness like major depression
• There are significant trust issues in your relationship
• Your partner is not functioning like a responsible adult (with work, money, etc.)
• You have significant, unresolved sexual problems
Marriage doesn’t solve relationship problems. In fact, the stress of married life can intensify existing relationship problems.
How long have you had these worries? How intense are they?
Fleeting moments of fear or doubt are normal. However, cold feet should not be ignored if they stick around for more than a couple of weeks or are so intense that they are keeping you from sleeping or functioning normally in your life.
Then, do the following:
• Write out your concerns. This will help you clarify the actual source of your anxiety.
• Seek consultation from close friends and family. Ask your closest friends and family for their perspective and to share about their own relationships to get a better sense of what is normal and what is not.
• Talk with your partner. Address your concerns diplomatically and directly. It is best to speak up than forever hold your peace.
• Seek individual therapy or pre-marital couples counseling. Talking with a therapist or religious advisor can give you support and tools to address and resolve relationship issues now and later.
When in doubt, err on the side of caution. As difficult as it may be to cancel or postpone the wedding, it’s easier than the anguish of a bad marriage. When you take the plunge, you want it to be with confidence and joy that you are taking the right step with the right person.