Most people think about being engaged and getting married as a happy time, a time in which they finally get to settle down and be secure that they have found someone to love them. And in many ways it is, but there are aspects of the engagement stage leading to the wedding that make it stressful. In fact, studies have found that getting married is rated in the top 10 most stressful life events. In doing pre-marriage counseling with couples, I have often found that couples are surprised when they encounter these challenges and they think that something is wrong in their relationship. They might even doubt their partner or their commitment.
Why is it so stressful?
1. You might have fears and concerns.
Getting married is a huge commitment, a lifelong commitment, so it's absolutely natural to have fears, concerns and doubts. You might find yourself having an inner dialogue where one part of you is saying "Of course I love him/her and want to get married!" While the other part is bringing up all sorts of arguments to the contrary, such as "I'm not ready", or "how do I know s/he is the right partner for me?" You may even find yourself testing your love every day, looking for signs that this is the right move and that you really love this person.
What can you do about it? It is important to realize that most people have fears, concerns and doubts and that this is very natural. In fact, it is probably a good thing to have a realistic view on your relationship — knowing that a healthy relationship is not necessarily perfect. Realize that your confidence in your relationship will always go up and down. There will always be periods in which you feel close and in love and periods in which you feel more distant and this isn't a testament to how much you love each other.
2. You find that you are trying to change your partner.
You are about to make a commitment for life so you will find that you naturally start looking at your partner more carefully. You notice things that never used to bother you, but begin to wonder whether this is something you want to live with for the rest of your life. You become less forgiving and you get into more conflict as you try to shape your partner into the perfect partner for you.
What can you do about it? Remember that a relationship is a long term journey and you don't have to fix everything right now. There will be plenty of time to work on it and improve it. Most importantly, realize that no one is perfect for you in every respect. You will need to learn how to accept the areas in which your partner is less than perfect (in your eyes).
3. You are trying to navigate the wishes of many people.
Initially the couple believes their wedding is just their own. The truth is that they are part of a community and other people, especially family, have their own thoughts and ideas around their wedding. Depending on your families or the culture that you come from these can play a small or a big part in your decisions and may add extra pressure because you find you are caught between the two families.
What can you do about it? In many cases you will have to take your families' needs and ideas into consideration but make it a clear intention with your partner that you are not going to let their opinions come between you. Decide together on the aspects of your wedding that you will not let other people influence and the aspects that other people may have a say over. When disagreements arise (as they are bound to) don't fall into the trap of criticizing your partner's family and defending yours. Rather focus on how you can resolve the issues together as a united front.
Making It Work
Understanding that getting married is a naturally stressful event will make the process much easier. Accepting that having doubts and concerns is also a natural part of the process reduces the stress you may feel in making this lifelong commitment. It is important to explore and accept the stressors that come with planning a wedding and getting married. After all, it is only when you acknowledge these issues that you are able to deal with them and move forward.
Check out recommended relationship books with your future spouse. Also, learn about our premarital counseling workshop. It can help you learn how to navigate the stresses of getting married and will prepare you for your future together.
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