When I was promoting my first book, The Conscious Bride, nearly twelve years ago, interviewers often asked, “What about men? Why don’t you talk about “The Conscious Groom”? At the time, my answer was that, while women are conditioned to view the wedding and all that surrounds it (proposal, engagement, honeymoon) as the pinnacle of unbridled bliss, men are culturally conditioned to understand that they will be losing something when they get married: namely, their identity as a bachelor. As such, they’re more prepared for the reality that getting married is a loss as well as a gain and so they don’t need a book called “The Conscious Groom” to validate that it’s normal to feel a mixed bag of emotions on the way to the altar.
Even the cultural idioms reflect this knowledge: “It’s the old ball ‘n chain, son!” and “You’re going to the gallows!” When men have cold feet, no one bats an eye; in fact, it’s almost an expected part of the engagement process. When women have cold feet, on the other hand, the response is, “You’re having doubts? You must be making a mistake! Maybe you should break it off.” This is why The Conscious Bride filled a cavernous niche in the wedding world and still helps women around the world breathe a sigh of relief to learn that it’s normal to feel loss, fear, doubt, and confusion alongside the joy and excitement of getting married.
However, while the cultural expectations for women and men remain basically the same today as they did twelve years ago, my perspective on grooms has radically shifted. Yes, there’s more room for men to feel scared, but we still don’t offer viable rituals to facilitate a healthy process of grieving the loss of their bachelor identity. Does going to Las Vegas for a weekend of shameless debauchery facilitate a man’s transition from single to married? I don’t think so. (In fact, I would argue that it only reinforces his bachelor identity and sends a message of disrespect to his soon-to-be-wife regarding his boundary with other women, which is why I’ve included an e-book entitled “Alternatives to the Common Bachelor Party” in my Conscious Weddings Premarital E-Course.)
And we still don’t talk publicly about the sometimes heart-wrenching transition that men endure as they loosen ties to family of origin and traverse the rocky terrain of saying goodbye to the possibility of dating, the possibility of first kisses, the possibility of hooking up with other women, the possibility of marrying any other women. When a man says yes to one woman he’s saying no to every other woman on the planet and, for many men, this is a hard pill to swallow. And yet it has no bearing on how much he loves his bride.
If you’re reading this article and planning to respond with something like, “I’ve been married for thirty years and never felt a second of doubt that the girl I was dating was the one for me,” all the blessings to you. And while this is many men’s experience, just as it’s many women’s experience, you’re not the person I’ve writing this article for. I’m writing it for the men who email me and write the following:
I’m a thirty-four year old man and I’m with a wonderful woman. She’s kind, beautiful, honest, devoted, and for the first year of our relationship I was clear that she was the one I wanted to marry. I couldn’t wait to propose to her. But as soon as I proposed, I was hit with anxiety. I had trouble eating and sleeping. I couldn’t talk to my friends about it because they would tell me to break it off, and that’s the last thing I wanted to do. It wasn’t until I found your work that I realized that I’m normal and that I need to explore the roots of my anxiety.”
The women on my Conscious Weddings E-Course forum far outnumber the men, but the men are there in increasing numbers honestly sharing their struggles with great courage and vulnerability. They talk about their fear of leaving behind their bachelor identity. They talk about their struggle in saying yes to their fiancé or wife when it means saying no to their mother. They talk about their fears of intimacy and commitment. And then, as the weeks turn to months and they’ve remained dedicated to effectively addressing their fears and false beliefs about love and roman and grieving the end of their identity and lifestyle as bachelor, they learn how to embrace what we all long for: the experience of giving and receiving love.