As the child of divorced parents, I always knew I had some baggage that would surface when it was my turn to get married. It turns out, I was right. For weeks after I got engaged, I had anxiety dreams that jolted me awake. There was a knot in the pit of my stomach that wouldn't go away. I didn't understand the feeling. How could I be both overjoyed and in a panic at the same time?
After some self-reflection, I realized it was time for me to address the baggage that had been with me since I was a child. I'm petrified of divorce.
I love my fiancé and can't wait to be his wife, but the thought that I have limited control over how our marriage works out is a helpless and uncomfortable feeling for me. It's scary to know that no matter how good of a wife I might be, he could still wake up one morning and decide to leave. Intellectually, I understand this is extremely unlikely (after all, if I thought it was an actual possibility, I wouldn't be marrying him). However, the fear of abandonment has lived inside me for most of my life. I've seen marriages fall apart in front of me, so why would mine be any different? These thoughts have repeatedly played in my head. In the beginning, it made me feel terrible that I couldn't just focus the fact that the man of my dreams asked me to marry him.
We all have baggage. If you're engaged and are struggling with similar feelings, you're not alone. No matter how happy or healthy your relationship might be, these feelings can still live inside you.
I'm not a marriage expert by any stretch of the imagination. However, I do know what it feels like to have so much anxiety that you can't fully enjoy your engagement. Thankfully, I have been able to calm those fears by taking a few simple steps. Hopefully, these steps will help you too.
Get Premarital Counseling
I have always been an outspoken proponent of therapy. If your insurance plan offers mental health coverage, I highly encourage you to go this route. Although society tends to associate couples' counseling with failing relationships, that isn't the case with everybody. Even if you don't think you have any issues with your partner, I believe premarital counseling is crucial. When you battle with anxiety like I do, sometimes it's better to take preventative measures in your relationship. After all, the grass can't stay green unless you water it.
My fiancé and I have been in premarital counseling for the last 18 months. Although most people wait until they get engaged to go to counseling, we made an appointment as soon as we knew things were headed in that direction.
Premarital counseling has been an incredible experience for both us. We adore our therapist and look forward to our sessions with her. Going to regular sessions has drastically improved our communication skills and has given both of us the opportunity to voice our concerns and expectations. In addition, we've been able to clear up any minor spats we might have had that week.
Although counseling has helped us stay emotionally connected, it has also allowed us to discuss practical issues: How many kids do we want to have? How will we split our finances after we get married? Where will we spend our holidays? What are our deal breakers? Do we eventually want to move out of state? Plans and circumstances could always change, but I feel comfortable knowing that I'm walking into a marriage with a mutual understanding of each other's expectations.
Get Advice From Other Married Couples
I have always tried to learn from other peoples' mistakes. I have a lot of friends in the 40 to 50 age range, so I like to ask them for life advice. For the last few years, I have been asking people I know who have been married long-term if they have any suggestions for how to keep a marriage strong. I have also asked what they wish they knew before they tied the knot.
Some of their advice has been typical and underwhelming, but most of it has been incredibly useful. I have received some brutal advice from people about marriage. It has taught me a lot about common marital mistakes and has provided guidance on what I should avoid saying and doing. It's also nice to talk to people who understand that marriage isn't all sunshine and rainbows. I understand that marriage is hard work, which is why I want to be conscious and aware of my flaws before they manifest and cause potential harm to my marriage.
Communicate Your Fears With Your Partner
It was no surprise to my fiancé that the thought of getting divorced terrifies me to my core. Still, it helped to talk out my feelings with him so he could offer me reassurance. Be open with your spouse or future spouse about your fears and insecurities; it can help calm your mind and bring you closer at the same time. It's OK if the thought of marriage scares you. Just don't let it cripple you. Verbalize your feelings as much as you can. I felt much better after I did.
Go on a Trip Together
Countless outlets and experts have said that traveling is the ultimate relationship test. This is partly due to the fact that you're spending 24/7 with your partner. It allows you to test boundaries and space, and it forces you to compromise on activities. My fiancé and I have traveled out of the country and out of the state several times. Luckily, we've never had any issues. Even if you already live with your partner, traveling is an excellent way to test your patience. After a few days, the best and worst in both of you is bound to come out.
My anxiety has drastically improved since getting engaged, and I now have an increased sense of security. I know that deep down, these anxious thoughts will never completely subside. However, if you communicate with your partner and are open with your fears, I promise you'll enter your marriage with a much calmer and clearer head.