We know what engagement means (in the marrying kind of way). We also know what anxiety means. Put those two words together and you have something that’s exactly what it sounds like.
What is Engagement Anxiety?
Simply put, engagement anxiety is worry about whether you're making the right decision. Even if you know deep in your heart that you're making the right decision, you still feel nervous about it. Engagement anxiety is a logical reaction. Marriage is a major commitment. It’s nothing to be taken lightly and thus results in a predictable amount of anxiety. However, marriage is often treated so casually in our culture that we may feel abnormal if we openly stress about it.
So, engagement anxiety is what happens when we feel unprepared to take such a big step. It’s also what happens when we feel too self-conscious to discuss how stressed out we are about it.
Of course, we experience fears and nervousness when moving towards a huge decision. Left unexamined, however, those fears and nervousness can translate into chronic anxiety.
What Does Engagement Anxiety Mean for Your Relationship?
Let’s back up and ask: What does any form of anxiety mean for your relationship? Yes, of course, engagement anxiety has a specific source that impacts both partners. But there are always underlying factors. In the end, it’s a form of anxiety and can, therefore, put a strain on you as a couple. Engagement anxiety may result in:
- Passive-aggressive behavior
- One or both partners becoming withdrawn
- Doubt, shame, guilt, and resentment
- Loss of trust
Hence, like other forms of anxiety, this situation is best handled with awareness and acceptance. Anxiety is not a reason for shame. It’s an emotion. In some cases, it’s a condition. Either way, it loses some of its power when identified and dragged out into the light. From there, both partners can begin taking steps to address the overt and covert factors.
How to Deal With Engagement Anxiety
1. Recognize that it probably doesn’t mean you’re making a mistake
No matter how intense the anxiety, it’s not automatically a reason to hit “eject.” There’s never any harm in being introspective—except those times when it’s under duress. Don’t make a big-picture assumption when engagement anxiety hits. Stay in the moment and focus on what needs your focus.
2. Accept that pop culture has done you no favors
Marriage in real life is not like marriage portrayed in pop culture. Rarely, if ever, do movies, books, and TV show you the never-ending work. Don’t stack yourself up against fiction. In addition, don’t stack yourself up against social media perceptions. Relationship success cannot be judged by likes and shares.
3. Use this as practice for a lifetime of intense communication
Your relationship depends on communication skills and conflict management. Dealing with engagement anxiety has a silver lining; you will develop a new communication style and you will learn to recognize how to step up in urgent situations.
4. Don’t take it personally
Your partner isn’t anxious simply because of something you did or didn’t do. Taking it personally will only pile anxiety atop anxiety. This may be the hardest part of all and the best reason to consider couples counseling. Relationships require perspective and patience. Mastering these qualities before marriage makes a lot of sense.
Couples Counseling Before the Wedding Can Help Calm Anxiety
There is no predetermined time frame in which relationship issues arise. Ask yourselves: are we spending more time and energy on planning the wedding or the marriage?
Couples counseling is one of the most powerful and successful bulwarks against engagement anxiety. Talking openly with a professional about any reservations and fears you have can put your mind at ease.
This is why so many couples are choosing to attend counseling together before saying their vows and/or before moving in together. Counseling is a worthwhile investment in your future happiness.