The Royal Wedding: What Is Kate Really Feeling?

My husband has been urging me for months to comment on celebrity weddings and other transitions, but I usually heed my own advice and adopt an anti-media diet. The media is a hyped up, amplified version of life, and sometimes it’s hard to find the kernel of reality wrapped up inside layers of glossy taffeta headlines. As I like to live my life as close to reality as possible, I generally swerve away from internet news flashes and newspaper headlines. In fact, when standing in line at the grocery store, I consciously remind myself to avert my eyes from the magazine rack so I can avoid the temptation of indulging in the fantasies.

But occasionally something catches my eye and causes me to wonder what’s going inside on a celebrity’s mind around a major life transition and the media’s response to it. Such was the case a couple of years ago when Liam Neeson tragically lost his wife, Natasha Richardson, and was applauded for returning to work just a couple of weeks after the loss. The magazine article mentioned his strength of character and commitment to his work, and I thought, “What kind of a culture encourages people to stay busy after a tragic death?” I obviously don’t know the details of Liam’s inner life, and I allow for the possibility that this was the best course of action for his healing process, but what caused me to react wasn’t so much Liam’s choice as it was the mainstream comments about it. Do we, as a culture, really view staying busy as the sanest response to a major loss?

A few days ago, my mind started wondering again as I happened upon the following headline about the upcoming Royal Wedding:

Radiant Kate Admits Royal Wedding Jitters: Kate Admits Pre-Wedding Nervousness in Final Public Appearance Before Royal Wedding

Well, given my professional expertise on the emotions ignited by the wedding transition, I had to read on. Did she divulge the nature of her nerves? I can imagine that getting married in front of two billion people would be enough to cause nerves in anyone, but what else is brewing inside her mind? As is often the case, the article didn’t reveal much more than the headlines and I was left feeling frustrated and hungry for more details.

But here’s my guess about what’s churning inside Kate’s elegant head: the same questions, doubts, and concerns that everyone who finds their way to my work struggles with, magnified by the massive expectation that she and Prince William provide a real-life fairy tale for the world to hang their hopes and dreams upon. While other brides have to grieve the fantasy that their engagement would feel like a fairy tale, Kate is expected to fulfill this fantasy to the hilt.  While other brides have the luxury of struggling through their anxiety, grief, and fears in relative privacy, Kate lives in the public eye and I imagine feels that she must put on a happy face all day even if she goes home at night to cry. (The fact that she admitted to nerves is an act of courage and a breath of honest admission amidst her fairy tale image.) And while some women wear a tiara on their wedding day to simulate the feeling of being a crowned princess, Kate will wear a royal tiara and will be adorned an actual princess. I can only imagine the layers of legacy, story, expectation, grief, hopes and dreams that will be transmitted into her when the jeweled crown is placed on her head.

So what are the common questions that surface during an engagement? What do most brides, if they’re honest, struggle with during the letting-go and grieving stage of the wedding transition, the questions that send them into a tizzy of anxiety until they find my work? These are the most common:

• Do I love my partner enough to marry him?

• If I’m not feeling infatuated and head-over-heels in love every time I see my fiancé, does that mean I’m not supposed to marry him?

• What if it doesn’t last? What if our marriage fails in some way?

• Why am I grieving and struggling with a sense of loss?

• What are the expectations of being a wife?

• What if I’m making a mistake?”

When Kate wonders if she loves William enough to marry him, the wondering must be laden with the pressure of the entire world hanging their dreams of “perfect love” on their story. When their infatuation fades (as it probably already has), she might be wrought with guilt that she’s somehow failing to fulfill her obligation as a real-life princess. When she notices a sense of loss about the freedom and independence of her old life, it must be magnified tenfold by the fact that she will be handing over a significant aspect of her freedom as a sacrifice for the duties of a royal princess. When she wonders about being a wife, she’s also wondering about being a princess, and I imagine that there are a host of explicit and tacit expectations that she’s wading through as she prepares to enter the royal line. My heart goes out to her. Being engaged is hard enough; being engaged with millions of people traipsing through the inner workings of your mind and watching with a distasteful combination of projection (“I hope they live happily ever after so I can vicariously live out my fantasy of perfect love through their story”) and envy (“I hope they fail because no one deserves to be that happy”) … well, I can hardly imagine it.

The headlines framed her nerves in terms of normal “wedding jitters”, but my guess is that she’s more than just a little nervous. And if by chance she finds her way to this blog post, here’s what I would say to her (as I say to every woman who finds their way to me):

It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to doubt. It’s okay to want to run away. It’s okay to wonder if you love him enough. It’s okay to question your decision. It’s okay to wonder if you’re making a mistake. It’s okay to feel anxious and panicky. The fear and the grief are a normal part of this, and every, transition. The best thing you can do is to let the difficult feelings in and trust that you’re making a good choice. Find one person who you trust and bare your soul. Breathe. Cry. Journal. The true princess is the heroine who finds the courage to dive into the dark unknown of the underworld and emerge on the other side with a rune of wisdom. The wedding transition is, at its core, a heroine’s journey which requires you to access the deepest levels of grief and fear so that you can take the leap of faith that that must occur when you risk your heart through the commitment of marriage.

In the eyes of the world, you and William are a Princess and a Prince, but at the end of the day you’re just two human beings – two fallible, imperfect, young people taking the brave plunge of committing to a lifetime of learning about what it means to love each other. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to have any answers. You don’t have to be perfect; perfection is an impossibility and its goal only creates guilt and frustration and a sense of inadequacy. You only have to be you, doing your best to learn about love. Just as we all are.

20 comments to The Royal Wedding: What Is Kate Really Feeling?

  • Kathryn

    I’m so glad you wrote about this! I too avoid this kind of thing, but saw a segment on CNN about it a few weeks ago, so I googled “Kate and Prince William wedding” out of curiosity. Turns out they’ve been dating eight years. Eight years! This was comforting to me because it’s a tad opposing to the idea of “I just knew he was the ‘one’.” Granted, I don’t know what has gone through either of their heads (maybe they knew all along), but the fact that it took them 8 years to get to this point told me that they probably both had some kinks to work out in their relationship, had to both come to terms with the idea of marriage, and probably both had some internal struggles. I guess it’s nice because it goes against the whole “well if you haven’t married yet, something must be wrong,” which I’m sure Kate heard a lot of from other women in her life… I’m just saying, we all come to things in our own time and the fairy tales we’ve been inundated with as little girls are absurd!
    I think that whole “how do you know if it’s ‘the one’?” question has been burning in my mind recently along with NUMEROUS other obsessive thoughts and “what if” statements. I’m 28 and in a pretty stable relationship with a great man (first time in my life). He’s just a gentle soul and I tell ya, they don’t make em like this anymore!! Nonetheless, my commitment phobias stare me in the face all the time, and I always battle that feeling of wanting to RUN! (I recognize this place – been here before). I go to these extremes in my brain. I’ve been on both sides of the fence – “I could have a future with this guy” AND “I want my freedom back.” I realize alot of what I’m going through is some anxiety stuff and I recently sought out cognitive-behavioral therapy to help me with interpreting my thoughts. It’s working, but sometimes it’s really tough! I should mention that I also start grad school in August (it’s a one year program for a single subject credential and masters in education), so I think alot of what’s happening is me feeling like I’m being funneled into a place of permanency. Does this make sense? Like I’m losing who I am..
    Naturally, when I’m feeling anxious all the time I start to go “well something must be wrong with him” or “I guess I don’t want to be a teacher.” I’m almost bitter that our society responds to anxiety this way. That if we have this much uneasiness something external needs to be fixed, when it’s become quite clear to me that something internal needs repair. I think it’s easy to say, “well someone else out there can make me feel at ease.” I think my anxiety comes from embarking on two journeys that take my commitment, take my heart, and take responsibility. It’s scary! When you plunge into these things without uncertainty it’s hard to give up control and let things happen. I project and get scared and it takes away from enjoying all that I’ve been blessed with. Yeah, things could end up awry, but I don’t seem to let myself just be okay with that. Because at this age, we’re supposed to “just know.”. . . Sounds like Kate took a while to get there and she’s a princess!! 🙂
    Sheryl, I need advice! Or any ladies out there who have been here or with whom this story resonates, help!!
    xx
    Kathryn

  • Roxanne

    Sheryl, I absolutely loved this post. I can only imagine what Kate must be feeling and I do hope she finds this site and reads your advice to her!

    Kathryn, I also loved your post. I can totally relate to EVERYTHING you said–even the career aspect! What is interesting is that my husband and I are talking about having a baby–very seriously. We’ve talked about it for almost a year now and decided we would start “trying” around this time. (I really dislike the term “trying”) and suddenly, some of those old questions similar to what Sheryl posted above, are arising again…but this time, they are in the form of:

    “Do I love my partner enough to…have a baby with him?”

    “If I’m not feeling infatuated and head-over-heels in love every time I see my husband, does that mean I’m not supposed to be with him…which means we shouldn’t have a child together?”

    “What if it doesn’t last? What if our marriage fails in some way…and now we have brought another human into the world?”

    “Why do I feel so ready to be a mother…yet every time we start to talk about “trying” I put up a wall?”

    “What are the expectations of being a wife AND a mother?”

    “What if I made a mistake marrying him and make a bigger mistake by having a child with him?”

    Ahhh…anxiety, how I despise you. The thing is, my husband is a wonderful man. We have a strong and healthy relationship. We love each other, support each other, and want to be parents. Yet now that the time has come where we thought we would start “trying” the anxiety has started to rear it’s ugly head again. It is a vicious cycle. I start feeling sad for having the thoughts, then guilty for having them, then depressed for not sharing them with him…or really anyone for that matter. Then I wonder..why don’t other women have these thoughts about having a child…then I get scared that “something” must be wrong. And round and round we go.

    SO- I can totally relate. Any advice Sheryl? Here’s a question–many women ask “how do you know he is the one?” (although I don’t personally believe there really is just “one” for every person out there; I believe humans are capable of being compatible with various people–I think we choose who we will be with despite the possibility of compatibleness with other people. BUT–“how do you know when you’re ready to have a baby?” It appears as if everyone is so ready and excited about starting a family. Just as if it appears as if everyone is so ready and excited about getting engaged…I wonder if the idea is the same.

    WOW—I am SOOO sorry for bombarding everyone with this gigantic, all over the place post!

    Comments welcome!

    THANK YOU!

  • Kathryn – Thank you for your comment. If you read through many of the posts on this site under the wedding category, you’ll see your exact story reflected. It sounds like you have a good understanding of what happens for you when the anxiety takes hold, especially when you say “I’m almost bitter that our society responds to anxiety this way. That if we have this much uneasiness something external needs to be fixed, when it’s become quite clear to me that something internal needs repair. I think it’s easy to say, “well someone else out there can make me feel at ease.”

    Commitment ignites fear for most people – as it should! It’s scary to risk your heart and your soul when you say YES to a big journey. Letting go of control and diving into the unknown are key elements that emerge, and learning to work with that feeling of being out of control and accepting the unknown are life-long processes that will serve you during every transition you ever endure.

    All of these areas – and much more – are covered in the Conscious Wedding E-Course. Take some time to look at the information page. The sooner you inundate yourself with accurate information and solid tools for understanding and managing your anxiety, the more serenity you will have around all of your life transitions.

  • Roxanne – This a great comment and one that you should also post on the Conscious Motherhood Forum (see Forum tab above in the navigational menu). Your questions are all valid and quite common, especially that of “How do you know when you’re ready to have a baby.” For some women there’s a clear knowing, but for many women it’s just a sense that it’s time to dive in despite the fears and questions and doubts and anxiety (just like the engagement process).

    It’s also quite common to question your partner all over again. You’re about to embark on yet another life-altering commitment together and it’s healthy to hold him under the microscope to make sure you both have what it takes. But, unless you find an area of serious concern that makes you question whether or not he’ll be a good father, the over-focus on your partner during the preconception stage serves the same function as it does during the engagement stage: a distraction from your own fear and grief on the threshold of this transition. So if you can move beyond the focus on him and put it back on yourself, what would you be feeling/thinking?

    There have been several wonderful posts on the Conscious Motherhood message board on the question of readiness and the fears that arise prior to trying to conceive. I’ll be bringing them over to the new forum on this site in the next couple of days, so keep your eyes peeled : )

  • Roxanne – This a great comment and one that you should also post on the Conscious Motherhood Forum (see Forum tab above in the navigational menu). Your questions are all valid and quite common, especially that of “How do you know when you’re ready to have a baby.” For some women there’s a clear knowing, but for many women it’s just a sense that it’s time to dive in despite the fears and questions and doubts and anxiety (just like the engagement process).

    It’s also quite common to question your partner all over again. You’re about to embark on yet another life-altering commitment together and it’s healthy to hold him under the microscope to make sure you both have what it takes. But, unless you find an area of serious concern that makes you question whether or not he’ll be a good father, the over-focus on your partner during the preconception stage serves the same function as it does during the engagement stage: a distraction from your own fear and grief on the threshold of this transition. So if you can move beyond the focus on him and put it back on yourself, what would you be feeling/thinking?

    There have been several wonderful posts on the Conscious Motherhood message board on the question of readiness and the fears that arise prior to trying to conceive. I’ll be bringing them over to the new forum on this site in the next couple of days, so keep your eyes peeled : )

  • Dutch25

    Yes, thank you so much for this post. I’m a few short (too short?) months from my wedding and it seems like high tide for my waves of anxiety. It used to be the positive thoughts outweighed the negative thoughts but lately the reverse is true and it’s just so frustrating. It’s gotten to the point where it’s actually keeping me up at night and every breath seems like it’s punctuated with “postpone, postpone, postpone, postpone…” I’ve worked through the Conscious Weddings series but I still keep asking myself the six questions you listed above. My fiance is amazing and kind and funny and I hate that my anxiety makes me nitpick at how wonderful he is and I’m scared it’s going to turn me into the runaway bride. Reading posts like this makes me feel less “crazy” and more like it’s totally okay and completely normal to feel this way. So, again, thank you.

  • Kathryn

    Thanks Sheryl!! Since I was a little girl I’ve prided myself on what I can do ON MY OWN. This is deeply embedded in me. A since of independency and freedom. Quick question Sheryl: are the women who find you also strong and independent women who are used to having control in aspects of their lives?

    As for Roxanne, I’m no where near being a mom but I know one day I’d like to be. I can’t imagine the levels of anxiety I’ll be at in that time. Oh gosh!! I don’t know you but I would bet that at some point in dating your husband and even during the engagement anxiety, you suspected that he’d be an amazing father ?? Furthermore, I’m sure this was attractive to you, and one more thing that made him a great candidate for marriage… I guess, what I think is, even though we can never guarantee what will happen in our relationships, you can always guarantee that you and your loving husband will provide a stable and loving home for your children. Sounds to me like you’re farther than most. The fact that you married a “wonderful man” with whom you have a “strong and healthy relationship” with means you’ve already made some wise decisions. AND, just you being this concerned about your future baby and already doing what’s best for he or she means you already love it :). . . . Again, I don’t know you and I am not currently dealing with this stuff, but as someone who feels overwhelmed in transitions, I feel ya 😉

  • Kathryn – Yes, I would say 100% of the women who find me are strong, independent and have a very hard time letting go of control. In fact, one of the articles in the Lesson One of the eCourse is on the Conscious Bride profile where I list the common personality traits of every woman who finds their way to me. Things like: tendency toward perfectionism, prone to anxiety and depression, introspective, emotional, analytical, difficulty making major life transitions, struggled with other transitions. Sound familiar? : )

  • Dutch25 – The anxiety comes in waves, and it’s important to trust that all the work you’ve done and all of the accurate information that you’ve absorbed through the eCourse will work its way into your psyche and take effect in doses. That said, there’s always one or two key issues that surface for women during the engagement that need particular attention – and the transition magnifies the issue and presents it as an opportunity for growth. For you it sounds like the key issue is nit-picking your partner (very common, as you know from the eCourse). You may may need more support around this if it’s going to get worked through enough for you to move forward with serenity. Have you posted on the eCourse forum about it?

  • Roxanne – I’m working on the prepregnancy lesson for my Conscious Motherhood eCourse and I came across a journal entry of mine where I wrote about my fears about getting pregnant and becoming a mother. One of them speaks exactly to your comment so I’m sharing it here:

    “I’m scared about the finality of the commitment to my marriage. Marriage is one thing; having a baby together is quite another. We all know that there is a way out with marriage. We might feel trapped sometimes, but we know that the escape hatch of divorce is always an option. But when you have a child together you are linked for life. My god, creating life with another human being? I must really love this man to want to create new life with him and embark on the lifelong endeavor of being parents together. He will be a wonderful father; this I know. And I’m sure we will grow immensely through the challenges and joys of co-parenting. It sure scares me. It solidifies an already firm, but not solid, commitment.”

    Sound familiar? : )

  • I hope your blog post crosses Kate’s path or that she has similar confidents or mentors in her life. Great synopsis of what of our human condition and how to transcend and evolve gracefully into what we are becoming in coming together.

  • Roxanne

    Sheryl,

    Thank you so much for both of your thoughtful responses to my post as well as sharing your personal story. YES! It does sound familiar. This line speaks directly to me: “I’m scared about the finality of the commitment to my marriage. Marriage is one thing; having a baby together is quite another.” That is exactly it! We’ve been married for just about two years and for the most part–they have been wonderful! No real big “bumps” in the road…maybe a few pebbles, but that’s about it. Although I KNOW he will be an amazing father—I still feel so scared about finalizing the commitment. You hit the nail on the head by saying: “We might feel trapped sometimes, but we know that the escape hatch of divorce is always an option. But when you have a child together you are linked for life.” This is my thought exactly and it is so so so scary to think about! So many of my friends were so eager to start a family and it seemed so natural to them (as did their engagements while I on the other hand struggled with getting engaged with many “what-if” questions!) I really do appreciate you sharing your journal entry with me; I admire you and your work so much and to see that you have had similar thoughts and fears makes me feel better. Thank you. I think I am going to check out your prepregnancy e-course. I wish I could sit down and talk with you over a cup…or many cups of coffee! I’d love to pick your brain! One last question (for now) when you had those fear-based thoughts about finalizing the commitment to your marriage, did you share them with your husband? How did he respond? When I bring up the idea to my husband, he usually reacts with something like, “Roxanne, do you really think we’re not strong enough? I think we’ve proved that we’re a wonderful couple…” He is very very ready..as am I…I’m just so scared!

  • Roxanne

    Sheryl,

    Is the prepregnancy e-course available yet?

  • No, the eCourse isn’t available yet – but soon! It’s a course on the transition into motherhood but one of the lessons is devoted to preconception.

    As far as sharing my fears with my husband, I can’t quite recall, but I don’t think I did. I pretty much saved it for my journal and my therapists’ office : ) Each marriage is different and I know some women derive a lot of support from their husbands/partners around these types of fears. For me, it’s been best to work through it privately.

  • Cori

    Hi Sheryl!

    My thoughts are a little off topic with this article, but I wanted to check in with you since I just began my second week of marriage 🙂 Leading up to my wedding day I had no anxiety. I was so excited (thanks to your help!). Walking down the isle was difficult for me because I have a little stage fright, so I was definitely nervous. Once the ceremony was over, everything was great. Our first two days of marriage were anxiety free – but then, on our honeymoon, the anxiety set in. I dont know what set it off, but most likely it was my fear voice planting seeds that eventually grew into huge weeds 🙂

    I began the nitpicking and distancing myself. Right now, in the midst of the anxiety, everything he says I take as a sign that he might not be right for me and that our marriage won’t work out. I analyze everything. The “what-if’s” are overwhelming – what if i made a mistake? what if i truly dont enjoy spending time with him? what if our marriage fails and/or becomes really boring? (FEAR!!!) i could go on and on…

    I think this is a good experience to share with ladies who are under the impression that marriage will take away their anxiety. While it takes away the anxiety of making a decision of whether or not to marry someone, it comes with a whole new set of concerns. This is not to say that you should not get married, but it is to say that you need to know how to use the tools Sheryl gives to manage and work through the anxiety. I know I made the right decision to marry my husband, he is an incredible man. For now though, I am trying to use the tools Sheryl gave me to work through my anxieties and hopefully be able to live in the moment and enjoy my marriage.

    Thanks again and hope all is well!

  • Hi Cori!

    Congratulations! You did it! And yes, the anxiety doesn’t magically disappear because you get married. It’s a transition, which means it begins during the engagement and usually continues for at least a year.

    It would be interesting if you could trace back to the moment your anxiety started on your honeymoon. Are you aware of any thought that triggered it?

  • Cori

    Sheryl – I have been trying to dissect my thoughts and the timeline, and I keep coming back to the ride to our resort (we live in South FL and our honeymoon was in the keys- so we had a three hour drive there). This is when I realized how much time we would be spending together. I got scared that we would run out of things to talk about – that he would be seeing every side of me – the good and bad (happy, sad, fun, boring, etc), since we would be spending just about every moment together for a week. Maybe I would bore him – maybe we wouldnt get along and what if the honeymoon turned out to be a terrible time (a thought i have had since before the wedding). I know these fears have been a huge topic of conversation between you and I. But I think these thoughts set off the cycle of what ifs, analyzing everything he said, and that gut feeling of fear and doom.

    My anxiety has decreased somewhat since we have gotten home, but i think it is going to take a while for me to get used to the idea and the fact that i am married.

  • kate

    Thank you Sheryl for another wonderful post. I am preparing for my own marriage on May 14th and I have spent years working on and ultimately managing my issues with commitment and transitional anxiety. In those moments of doubt, which hit me today on the airplane as we flew to Rome, IT for our wedding, I remind myself that they are simply doubts and I begin to breathe. Deep, cleansing belly breaths. It helps me drop back into my body and ultimately move through that moment. I send prayers to soon to be Princess Kate because I can only imagine what she is going through!!

  • Hilary

    This is a very welcome post. I was actually in London for the wedding on Friday, and I saw “the kiss”. It truly was a royal pageant and modern fairytale in every sense. Unfortunately it didn’t do good things for my own engagement anxiety! I’m getting married next year and in recent weeks have been incredibly calm. But witnessing William and Kate’s “fairytale” actually set off a lot of anxiety, issues and doubts for me – well how come I’m not living a fairytale, should I be aiming a little higher in the marriage stakes like Kate?(!), my relationship is so boring compared to theirs… when I know in reality that they are a relatively normal couple, the fairytale is manufactured, and she is likely going through even more anxieties (albeit perhaps different ones) than I am! Thanks for reminding us of that.