If you're one of the people who finds themselves taking the ultimate plunge during this engagement season, congrats! You might be fielding thrilled texts from your friends and family, answering questions about wedding planning (which, good luck), and soaking up every moment of this loved-up time. But after the excitement over hitching your life to someone else's for all of eternity wears off, you may find yourself questioning the whole situation. That can be a seriously alienating feeling, because this is meant to be the happiest time of your life — right?
But a major life moment like this is bound to bring up some anxiety. It's a huge deal. "If you didn't question your engagement, that could actually be more of an issue," says Amie Harwick, PhD, a licensed family and marriage counselor. "It's important to say to yourself, 'Is this something I want? Have we talked about this enough? Is it consistent with both of our individual goals?'" And those questions are natural for most people who have recently gotten engaged.
According to Kelley Kitley, LCSW, a clinical psychologist, we need to normalize this kind of questioning. "The expectation is so high, especially for women, that we've been waiting for this our entire lives, that we think it's supposed to be so magical," she says. "But once the excitement wears off, the reality can be scary." And in reality, people question their relationships at every stage — even those who've been together for years. "I have those days with my own partner where I ask myself if they're crazy, and if I can really spend the rest of my life with this person," she says. "But then the next day is better, and the questions go away."
But in the case of her newly engaged clients, Kitley says 90-95% of have questioned whether this big step is the right next step. "The biggest question they ask themselves is, 'Is this really forever?'" she says. And that's definitely a good place to start.
What you have to pay attention to, though, is whether those questions turn to doubt. "Questioning your engagement could be something like, 'I wonder how my agnostic parents are going to get along with my Catholic boyfriend,'" Dr. Harwick says. "Doubting is more negative. It's asking, 'Can I live with a Catholic for the rest of my life?'" Doubts should be taken seriously — especially because they can point to larger incompatibilities.
Whether you're straight doubting your new commitment, or just parsing how exactly you feel about changing your life as you know it, it's a great idea to sit down with a trusted person to explore your thoughts. Both Kitley and Dr. Harwick suggest some pre-wedding therapy. "It could be with a psychologist or a religious leader," Dr. Harwick says. "But working through these questions can really lighten the emotional load of your engagement."
Kitley adds: "People are more well-equipped and feel better about their decision if they've processed it with a therapist." This kind of check-in doesn't mean signing up for couple's therapy for life; it could just be a one-time sit-down, and it's a strategy that can be useful at other times in your relationship, too.
Taking a moment to be sure you and your partner are hearing and acknowledging one another, and that the partnership is progressing in a way that's positive for everyone, simply can't hurt. So don't conflate your questions for cold feet. Working through your anxieties could actually lead to a happier marriage in the end.