Why It's Okay to Have a Post-Engagement Freak Out
This post has sat blank for a good 2 weeks now, I’ve thought about changing my topic, but finally forced myself to sit down and write. Truth be told, even though I have become an advocate for talking about the emotions we feel once engaged, it’s still hard for me to openly write about. Perhaps because we have been molded to view anything but pure joy during the engagement period as failure and or as certain doom. Maybe, these feeling are what keeps some women from getting married, maybe not discussing these feelings is what leads to some divorces, but most certainly, not discussing these feelings has led to many bridezillas and wedding meltdowns.
The night I got engaged was pure bliss. Magical. Unforgettable. Then, I woke up the next morning with a ring on my finger, and anxiety pulsing through me. I thought, “Oh my God, is this what I really want?” It’s not that I don’t adore and love my fiance, it was the realization that my self identity had completely changed overnight. Something I was unprepared for, and at the time, unaware of.
I did not realize the anxiety I was feeling was coming from the many changes that had occurred with one simple question, “Will you marry me?” So instead of thoroughly examining my feelings, I turned into who I will call “the critic”. I grew a distaste for my ring (a ring that I had designed with my fiance), worried obsessively over vendors, sought after perfection to no avail, and criticized every aspect of my life down to the atom. I remember feeling like I was on a roller coaster of emotions; one day I would be ecstatic that I was marrying my best friend, then the next day, I would feel like running away from it all, scared that I wasn’t making the right choice.
I knew I could not survive the next year of wedding planning aboard the emotional roller coaster I was on. At one point, I had even convinced myself that I had a bipolar disorder because the extreme differences in feelings that I was experiencing. At that point, with the help of google, I had diagnosed myself as a bipolar nun with extreme anxiety. Finally, one day, I discovered “The Conscious Bride”. Within the first chapter, the author (Paul) expresses her, “retreat after waiting months for her husband to propose,” and, “initial distaste for the ring,” and I realized I was not alone in my anxious bridal state.
As I read, I discovered just how normal it was for me to turn into a critical perfectionist. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Page after page I turned and was able to address the fear, anxiety, anger, and confusion, comforted to know that I was not alone.
My brain began to see the act of getting married in a new light as learned just how strange the ritual of a wedding truly is. Think about this: all of the bride’s best friends dress in gowns to assist and send her away in a white dress. Meanwhile, the family of the bride and groom come to watch as the father holds onto the bride releasing her into the arms of her new husband. Similar to rituals and symbolistic acts followed in other cultures, a wedding is no different.
It wasn’t until after reading “The Conscious Bride” that I realized, a wedding symbolizes death. The death of our identity up until that point, and the white dress, symbolizing the rebirth of our newly formed identity. You see, everything we knew ourselves to be undergoes a transformation and rebirth at the time of the wedding and into the first year of marriage.
The anxiety I had initially felt after the proposal came from the overnight change in my self identity. I had gone from a single woman, free to make my own choices, to a woman who was about to belong to a man. I would now have to care for him as much as I cared for myself, and even though we had dated and lived together for five years, the final solidity of marriage scared me.
Just like many other women, I had been faced with an overnight identity change that I was unprepared for. I am very thankful that my fiance was understanding, and did not expect me to undergo this transformation without confusion. His patience allowed me to fully explore the fear, sadness, guilt, and anxiety I was feeling. Women in our culture seem to be expected to undergo their identity change without flaw, which is an unfair expectation. Especially for those of us who come from divorced families or situations that have led us to distrust the act of marriage. Whether the bride reacts in anger, becomes a perfectionist, lashes out at loved ones, or retreats in fear, it is important for us to be able to discuss and address our feelings as we transition into marriage and take on the title of “wife”, knowing we are not alone.
Along with “The Conscious Bride”, I found these additional books helpful:
Do you have any books or websites that you love when it comes to relationships? I’d love to hear some of them in the comments below!