Do I really want to marry you? When doubts are a good thing.

April 2 | Guest post by Natannya
Photo by Jana Morgan.

Lately I've been having anxiety attacks about being married. Mind what I said — Being married.

I'm all into the wedding planning and I love my husband-to-be, but suddenly I was in full on panic mode. We have started pre-marriage counseling, invitations are about to be sent out, and I'm about to be wed in less than two months; we are in full wedding planning and execution hype.

I have doubts. I wanted to blame them on the stress of planning the wedding but I couldn't lie to myself. I have always had them. So after one particularly long and emotionally draining day, I talked to my partner about my doubts and even created an action list of thing we should do to move forward. I neither cried nor was I as emotional as I thought I would be; I was actually very logical.

That's when I recognized that it was going to work out. Rather than be my usual overly-dramatic self, I was finding ways to overcome this obstacle and have a clearer understanding on how to make our marriage stronger.

What a great breaking point. I feel so much better now that I'm not only planning my wedding day but my marriage.

Here are the things we talked about and decided that we'll be working on as a team:

  • Where we see each other in five years. Sometimes we think we know where our spouse sees themselves but then we realize we don't, so I want a clear picture.
  • Where we see each other as a couple in five years. This is so we can see where we can offer support and grow together.
  • Creation of a family mission statement and vision, maybe even a motto. I'm a lover of words and I want these things posted in our home to keep us focused.
  • A check-list on expectations. Expectations were something that I realized we had of each other during our pre-marriage session.

These are just a few of the things we've decided to work on together, and maybe they'll inspire similar discussions for you and your partner, with equally positive results.

  1. What a great article! I know in the last few months leading up to my wedding, I was going crazy and having little panic attacks about whether I was doing the right thing. I have to admit that we didn't even do any counseling or anything until we were in the car ON THE WAY TO BASTROP where the wedding was going to be :P We got this workbook off the internet and basically filled it out together while we were driving. And then I was kicking myself for not doing it earlier because I felt SO MUCH BETTER after we had talked about all of the things in there. Why didn't I think to do it 2 months earlier? Who knows. Anyway I totally recommend this talk to any and all people on their way to taking wedding vow. It is a huge relief.

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    • Where did you get your workbook if you don't mind me asking? I'm looking for something that isn't as religious, my guy isn't into all that and would scoff at the idea immediately…

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        • Sorry to make you do more work… but the only thing I'm finding in a google search of "woman power marriage workbook" is a book by Dr. Laura… and I'm assuming that isn't what you're referring to?

          Do you have a link?
          Thanks!!!

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          • I think I found this link ages ago in another comment somewhere on Offbeat Bride : http://www.equalityinmarriage.org/cc.pdf

            I've never used it myself in an actual 'commitment conversation', but I *have* considered its points in relationships.

            Congratulations & good luck *more grins*

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  2. Excellent points and great piece. We had our doubts about marriage–not about marrying each other, but just about the whole INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE as a whole. It sounds scary and overwhelming to suddenly be A Spouse. For a while we wondered if we should just not do it. But after we talked about things and realized that we could build our marriage however we wanted and make it mean what WE wanted it to mean, the doubts were vanquished and we forged confidently ahead. It's been nearly 6 months and we are loving married life–doing it our way.

    I think it's incredibly wise for anyone who is engaged or contemplating marriage to carefully introspect as to why they are having doubts, like the author of this article did, and determine, individually and with their partner, what is causing their anxiety and whether it can be overcome. I think it often can. You just have to be sure to pay attention to those feelings of doubt and think things through. Marriage is a scary thing, just like all big life decisions, but it is also a wonderful and joyful thing. People get so wrapped up in thinking about wedding details that the emphasis is taken off the important part: the marriage! It's okay to feel mixed emotions. Just respect that they are there and pay attention to dealing with them in a healthy way.

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  3. This is great, thanks so much for sharing!!

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  4. I so wish this had been posted a week ago. My fiance broke up with me and left town last Wednesday because he was having doubts and he wouldn't believe me when I told him doubts were normal. I know if he hadn't abandoned me like he did we could have figured it out. :(

    1 agrees
    • i'm sorry you are going through this. i know it is very hard. i hope eventually you find someone who won't abandon you for ANY reason.

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  5. Gah! This is perfect timing, I just started searching for information on premarital counselling, and while we still want to do the formal meetings this is a great conversation starter for us. Thanks for reading my mind!

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  6. Why on earth wouldn't you be discussing the things you listed well BEFORE the wedding? The idea of only just discussing your future plans and what you expected from each other with only weeks before the wedding seems a bit weird. I thought it was totally normal to discuss these ideas before you were even engaged. Call me crazy, but I would like to know how my partner felt about these issues well before committing to marriage.

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    • Exactly! I was actually teased by my friends of being "unromantic" because I wouldn't let my fiancee propose until after we had discussed everything from # of kids to where we would (and wouldn't live).

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    • lol haha i'm the freak who did this on the first date. i should've read first b/c i kinda made the same comment down there VVV

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    • I think with a lot of people the conversation doesn't happen because they literally don't think of it. Especially in relationships that have been established for awhile, the first thing you think about after getting engaged is not 'we should go to counseling/evaluate our commitment', it's 'let's get this marriage journey on!'. Not to say people in long-lasting relationships don't care about the trajectory they're on with their partners, just that they feel they know so much about this person they're marrying that they don't feel the impulse to do an evaluation the way other relationships do. (I hope I'm making sense)

      4 agree
      • You nailed it, at least for me. By the time my (now ex-) husband and I got married, we'd been together for over 7 years and were sure we'd gotten everything hammered out. However, all we'd really done was a great job of sweeping things under the rug. I wish now that I HAD had doubts about him!

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        • THIS! I have been in that exact place. My ex and I were married after 4 years of dating, and signed the divorce decree 8 months later. Nothing was ever talked about effectively. Wish I would have voiced some doubts too.

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    • I think many people DO talk about these things before getting married… but I think one thing that we tend to overlook is that people change. Especially for those of us who meet our SO's in our teens or twenties (so, many of the people reading this site), it's important to keep having these conversations, because you may not realize that you or your partner has changed dramatically without your noticing it. Or, even if they/you haven't changed, they/you may not have realized how they/you REALLY felt about something until suddenly confronted with the reality/responsibility. Or, they/you lied. The sad fact is, all the "pre" conversations can do is give you a solid starting point, and a place to launch your hopes from, but people change and life is uncertain, so keep talking… and don't stop once the wedding is over, even though you feel you're committed.

      3 agree
  7. After having failed engagements on both sides, we're being really cautious about this relationship and our future. However, we've become comfortable saying things like "In five to ten years' time we'll be […]" listing things we want from a house together, working out where we're planning to live, when/where we want to get married, when we want to start trying for children, how many, etc.

    The idea of being someone's wife still freaks me out a little, though! It's easier when I remember I'll be *his* wife. :)

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  8. i really think those things should be discussed well before even getting engaged. otherwise, it can get seriously painful trying to turn something into what it's not. now, granted i was VERY picky. after a few really dumb longish relationships i thought i'm not going to waste my time w/ anyone without knowing this stuff pretty upfront. if it's not right, i'm out. worked out for me

    2 agree
  9. I have been engaged before (Caitlin, there is a wonderful after-life waiting for you NOW) and my fiancé has been married before. We're both a little skittish about the idea of marriage. We talk a lot about expectations and visions. I live the idea of working with something more formal than a Saturday morning conversation but less formal than pastor-led counseling. Thanks for the resources!

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  10. My husband and I are Catholic and participated in required pre-marital counseling. It was led by an older couple who volunteered to be 'counselors' for the program. We really didn't know what to expect, we both thought we'd get nothing out of it, and that it would be incredibly awkward. We considered ourselves to be very aware of each other, we're 'planners' and we thought we had already talked everything out. Turns out we were WRONG. It was an awesome experience and totally unexpected. We basically got together one night a week for 6 weeks, drank tea, and got 'real'. They shared their experiences (often hilarious), we talked about everything from finances to sex to our parent's attitudes about house cleaning. They gave us 'communication tools' that seemed super cheesy (they made us practice too)… but we've been married for almost two years… and we have used those cheesy communication tools and they've diffused many a blow-out. I know it's not for everyone, (we didn't think we needed it) but it was a cool experience. Looking back, I'd do it again.

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    • Yes! We did both secular and religious counseling, and our secular counselor taught us (probably similar)"Cheesy Communication tools." At first they felt awkward, but a year of using them has greatly improved our communication. (It's amazing how two smart people can say something and hear different things!)

      2 agree
  11. Oh thank goodness! I was terrified that I was the only one. I will be stealing your method. Like you, I'm dealing with the fear of being married, some of which is exacerbated by some serious personal upheaval over the past year. I just thought I was crazy, lol. Thank you for sharing :-)

    1 agrees
  12. Is it wrong to have doubts whether you are getting married to the right person before the wedding even when you are engaged? All feeling have disappeared after a major argument do you think it is easy to feel the same before or after a wedding.

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  13. Hi All!
    I'm really impressed by all the well thought out comments here! I got married when I was 26 and believe it or not, we did not talk about anything! We've now been married for 26 years and boy was it tough there for a few years. We got caught in the power struggle phase and had no idea how to get out of it. I can happily say that we are loving our life together now, really enjoying each other, true soul mates-thanks to finally finding the help we needed. But back then, we were completely unprepared for the challenges of marriage and didn't even talk about having children, if I would work, where we would live…none of it. It really would have made such a difference- we would have been able to avoid a lot of the drama and would have started having a lot more fun a lot sooner. So just wanted to say, hats off to all of you for thinking about this so mindfully. Another important point to mention is that so often, individuals marry without knowing themselves, who they are, what they want. It's essential that you start this voyage of self-discovery-and if you do it prior to marriage, it just makes everything a whole lot easier. It's pretty hard to share your expectations and vision with your partner when you don't have one. The good news is that 'the journey of self-discovery is an endlessly enjoyable adventure'. Vernon Howard

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  14. I think it's great to be upfront and realistic about your differences and expectations as a couple. It's not going to "ruin the magic" of the wedding…. it will make it even better.

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  15. This. It's really nice to know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

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  16. i really think those things should be discussed well before even getting engaged. otherwise, it can get seriously painful trying to turn something into what it's not. now, granted i was VERY picky. after a few really dumb longish relationships i thought i'm not going to waste my time w/ anyone without knowing this stuff pretty upfront. if it's not right, i'm out. worked out for me

    0 agree
  17. Sigh, we're 10 days away from our wedding and we are both having doubts. I'm not sure anyone ever knows 100%.

    2 agree
  18. I needed to read this. Having a child with my future husband is already stressing me out, mostly from the very expectant in-laws, but now he popped the question. We're pretty sure we aren't having a big wedding, but I was having my doubts.

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  19. I've been having doubts for almost exactly a year (2-year engagement). Our wedding is in four weeks. We did couples counselling to figure out what I wanted to do about these doubts, but it made things worse – it seemed like indulging my doubts and talking about them made them more real and caused my fiance a great deal of anxiety. These days I am trying to practice mindfulness on my own, not let my fiance see how anxious I am, and to remember that doubts are just thoughts, that they are not real, and that it makes sense to have anxiety before committing to spend the rest of your life with someone – but it's really hard…

    I've also been finding this therapist's books and website helpful: http://conscious-transitions.com/

    1 agrees

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