Is He The Right Man? How my Fears of Marriage Caused me to Doubt
It was January 2002, only four months to go before my wedding. My fiance and I had just rented a beautiful loft apartment in Philadelphia and I was in the process of moving from New York. While I was excited about the prospect of decorating my new home with all of the things we had received for our engagement and wedding, I suddenly became panic-stricken at the thought of living with and marrying my future husband. When I would visit him on the weekends (I was still working in New York), the days were excruciating roller coaster rides of emotion and doubt. I questioned whether he was the “right one” for me. I doubted that I could ever be happy in a marriage. I was convinced that he would fall out of love with me or I would have an affair. I winced at the thought of falling into a routine and becoming one of those couples that never speaks or always fights. On one Sunday night, as I prepared for my return to New York from Philadelphia, we had dinner by candlelight in our apartment. I glimpsed into the future and saw us sitting in the same place in 10 or 20 years and could not, for the life of me, figure out how I could possibly have dinner with this man night after night.
I became overwhelmed with guilt and anxiety. After all, I was supposed to move in with my fianc in less than 4 weeks and marry him in less than four months! Wasn’t I supposed to be the happy bride-to-be? Instead, I was completely frozen with fear. Why couldn’t I just be content like all of my friends and family when they were engaged? My fianc and I began seeing a therapist and all I could do in those sessions was talk about the reasons that my husband and I weren’t right for each other. The therapist, however, was convinced that I just had wedding jitters. But the panic did not subside. My every waking moment was filled with dread and I was prepared to become one of those people who breaks their engagement right before the wedding. I even began taking medication. During this time, I researched high and low for answers. I couldn’t be the only person in the world who felt this way before their wedding.
It was at this time that I found the Conscious Weddings web site. As soon as I read excerpts from the website, I felt an immense amount of relief. After days and weeks of research, I finally found that in fact I was not alone in my feelings of grief and dread prior to my wedding. On the contrary, I learned that most women have at least some of these feelings in the days leading to their nuptials – some feel more acutely than others. As I read further into the web site, I wondered why these feeling were so commonplace and yet no one ever talked about them. You never hear or read about or see on TV the “depressed bride” or the “emotional roller-coaster bride”. It’s always the “princess bride” and the fantasy of a life lived happily ever after. While delving further into the web site did provide some relief, it did not erase the immense doubt and the dread I was still experiencing in the pit of my stomach. I read that the author of the website, Sheryl Paul, provided counseling and decided to immediately pursue this option. After e-mailing a few times, Sheryl and I agreed upon 4 phone counseling sessions. During the initial four sessions (which ultimately turned into four more sessions before and after my wedding), Sheryl and I explored the basis for the feelings I had been having.
The Counseling Sessions: Exploring the Fear of Marriage
The scariest feeling to me was being convinced that my husband was not the “right person” for me, and so we worked on this issue the most. With Sheryl’s guidance, I learned that the issues were not around my husband, but were really about me. I had been creating reasons that my husband and I weren’t right for each other so that I could avoid the vulnerability associated with intimacy of marriage. As a product of divorce and the loss of a parent, I was literally scared to death that I would lose my husband. And thus, I threw up a million obstacles in my mind, creating a wall around my heart so that I wouldn’t ever have to feel that hurt again. I conveniently forgot about the three years we had spent together – three years filled with wonderful, cherished moments and supporting each other through life’s curveballs. We had overcome in three years what many don’t experience in a lifetime – the loss of my father, a tragic fire where my fianc lost a neighbor and everything he owned, three biopsies for breast cancer, long distance, and many other challenges. However, I still convinced myself that our different religions, upbringings, and personalities would lead to our ultimate demise, and therefore, we shouldn’t get married. My counseling sessions made me realize that I would have felt this way with anyone, not only my fianc. Sheryl suggested that I make a list of all of the fears I had about my fianc and impending marriage and as I looked at each one, I realized that they were all a bit unrealistic. She also suggested that I create a conversation with the wall of fear around my heart. This led to a breakdown of the old fears that had been protecting my heart for far too long.
Fantasy versus Reality
As I worked through this issue, I also uncovered many other preconceived notions I had about marriage. I realized that I had some strange fixation on the word “wife”. When I pictured what a “wife” looked like, to me it wasn’t any of the things I wanted to be. In my mind, “wife” was old and frumpy sounding, not young, beautiful, and sexy. My sessions with Sheryl helped me make the connection between society’s stereotypes about “wife”, our youth-bsessed culture, and the “perfect relationship”. In truth, I came to realize that the fantasy of the perfect marriage, the mom who bakes cookies all day, and the white picket fence I had grown up with was just that – a fantasy. It certainly wasn’t me. I had been carrying a great deal of guilt around the fact that I love my career and my independence. I am never going to have a drink ready for my husband when he gets home at night. Nor am I going to cook dinner every night. Nor am I going to bake cookies just for the hell of it. But in the end I realized I had never done these things for my fianc and he loved me anyway. He not only loved me in spite of these things, but because of my fierce independence and my career and educational goals.
A Joyous Wedding
I have now been married for 18 months and I can’t imagine not being married to my husband. Our wedding day was incredible and I watch my wedding video often and leaf through our album at least once a week. I enjoy these remembrances because I don’t think I have ever looked so confident or beautiful, and I have Sheryl and the Conscious Weddings web site to thank for that. If I had not come across the web site when I did, I shudder to think about where my husband and I would be today. Our relationship is certainly not perfect and there are days when those insecurities creep in to the crevices of my mind. But overall, we are very happy and pursuing our dreams together. We just bought our first home in Philadelphia and we feel so grateful to be starting this new chapter in our lives. My husband has completed nearly all of his actuarial exams and is successfully establishing his name in the industry. I am working full-time as a hospital administrator and am attending school part-time for a PhD in health policy. We are incredibly fortunate to have loving family and friends around us, but most importantly, to have each other. I can finally say without a shadow of a doubt that I have married my soulmate.