This guest article from YourTango was written by Ashley Seeger.
Are you feeling anxious about your upcoming wedding? Sick to your stomach? Having bad dreams? Does the sight of the dress fill you with dread? Feeling like you may have made a mistake saying “yes” or proposing?
If you answered yes, you are experiencing pre-wedding jitters. This is your subconscious telling you that something is not right and you need to listen to it. It may be that you are nervous about your own ability to be a husband or wife, anxious that your fiancé can’t be the spouse you need or both.
Having wedding jitters does not mean that the marriage is doomed or that it is time to call off the wedding. But all jitters mean that an intervention is needed. Something is making you anxious and you need to understand what it is.
We all have an internal compass that guides us in our life and when we go against it, there is a reaction. At first, you feel a gentle tugging at the back of your brain; something does not feel right. You feel “off.” If you pay attention to this feeling, the cause or causes will slowly become clear. But if you don’t pay attention, your subconscious will get louder and louder and the bad feelings begin to turn to physical symptoms — you may have bad dreams, difficulty sleeping, stomach issues, illness or even injuries.
I have worked with many brides and grooms who have had jitters and some that have had physical symptoms of anxiety and stress about their upcoming nuptials. The work is focused on finding the cause of their “jitters” so they can clearly see what action is needed.
I have outlined my own list of the main causes for wedding jitters. I hope it will help you to begin to understand where your anxiety comes from so that you can begin to take action and have the wedding and marriage you want.
1. The wedding day. Sometimes it is the wedding day itself that is the cause of anxiety. Having one’s entire family together for a day or weekend can cause a great deal of anxiety especially when there are divorces, step-parents, estranged family members or just one particularly difficult family member. For other brides or grooms, wedding-day stress is about being in the spotlight.
One bride I know, who was anxious about being at the center of attention, decided to get rid of the aisle at her wedding. She and her fiancé walked together into the middle of the cocktail reception and said their vows surrounded by friends and family. Your wedding does not have to be conventional — you can set it up so that it works for you.
In all instances, I believe that getting support for your wedding day is essential. A counselor or wedding planner can help you create a plan for dealing with difficult family members and organize your day so that you feel safe and connected with your spouse.
2. Becoming a “wife” or “husband.” Our parent’s marriage is our blueprint for our own marriage. We learn from them how to argue, how to ask for our needs and how to negotiate power in an intimate relationship. Some of us did not get an ideal blueprint to follow; we come from broken homes, homes filled with anger, violence, shame or neglect or homes where there is little or no emotional intimacy.
Sometimes, when we become engaged the fear that we will become just like our mom or dad is overwhelming. It is important to remember that you do not have to mirror your blueprint. You can choose any type of relationship you want. But, if you do not actively choose a different way of connecting or expressing anger, you will go on autopilot and fall back on familiar behaviors.
If this sounds like what you are feeling then what you need is to gain an understanding of your past so you can clearly define your future. Get support around understanding your own blueprint so you can then decide what you want to keep and what pieces of your parent’s marriage you want to get rid of. Once you have this, you and your fiancé can openly discuss your plan, goals and dreams for the marriage.
3. What is the plan? Have you talked through the BIG items with your intended? A few of these big items include: do we want kids and when; where do we want to live; how much money do we plan to make; how will we budget; how much time will we spend with our extended families; who is staying home with the kids; how ambitious are we individually and how are we going to make room in the relationship for this ambition.
When you talk through all of these questions, a picture or plan for your marriage emerges. Many couples don’t discuss their overall plan before they get married because they either don’t know how to or because they already know there is a conflict and they don’t know how to find a resolution.
If you have not discussed the big questions with your fiancé this may be a source of your wedding jitters. There can be the illusion that these conflicts will all “work themselves out.” I will tell you from personal as well as professional experience that they don’t. But I do know that your anxiety will be greatly relieved by beginning this conversation. Consider finding a workbook or a couples counselor who can guide you through this discussion, help you set goals for yourselves and teach you the communication skills you need to negotiate when your desires or needs differ.
4. Violence or the threat of violence. Violence is never OK. It is never, ever, ever, ever OK. If there has been violence, threats of violence or shaming or controlling behavior in your relationship, you need to seek the support of a therapist to better understand the dynamics of the abuse and why you choose to stay.
If you are questioning the relationship because there has been abusive behavior in the past, please listen to your instincts. Slow things down and find some support. Abuse rarely only occurs once. It is a pattern of behavior that cycles through wonderful times and then abusive or controlling times. It will happen again unless there is an intervention.