|E N G A G E M E N T — W H A T W O M E N R E A L L Y E X P E R I E N C E
The flowers, the dress, the caterer, the guest list. Our focus during engagement is obvious - the ever so important details in planning the perfect wedding. Yet if we can manage to tear ourselves away from the 5th revision of the seating chart for just a moment, we realize that engagement is one of the most significant psychological transitions in our lives, packed with an assortment of tangled emotions and conflicting feelings. Inside the newly engaged woman often lie fear, anxiety, sadness and loss. It is these important internal details, so largely ignored by conventional wedding guides and planners, that an engaged woman must face and confront if she ever hopes to arrive at the altar fully prepared to enter into a healthy marriage.
Feelings of loss?
There is no other time in your life when you are truly giving up one identity for another. The transition is more complex than simply taking a new last name, a literal change of identity and a decision that brings with it its own set of questions and anxieties. You are also giving up your symbolic identity as a single woman, even a child. Women often worry, "I'm losing my youth," or, "I won't be able to relate to my single girlfriends." A stage in your life, the only stage you have ever experienced, is ending, and many women experience feelings of loss as a chapter closes on their lives.
As one chapter closes, another begins. A chapter of commitment and togetherness. This new stage brings forth feelings of joy and excitement, but fear and uncertainty are also involved. You are entering into a partnership with another human being, causing your future's happiness to rely so heavily on the actions of another. Needless to say, this realization can expose feelings of fear. What if our marriage doesn't last? What if he cheats on me? What if I cheat on him? What if the passion fades and we grow apart? What if something terrible happens to him? These questions can penetrate the veneer of even the most outwardly joyous bride.
Am I making a mistake?
Popular culture and society seems to conveniently ignore these questions and uncertainties. As engaged women, we hear a barrage of "congratulations!" and "what will your dress look like?" when we announce the big news. Even those closest to us neglect to recognize the importance of more internally probing questions and advice during our engagement. As a result, many women begin to question their readiness for marriage. Any feeling less than euphoric is deemed as indication of making a mistake, as we have been conditioned to believe that anxiety and confusion are a reflection of "not being ready" or choosing the wrong partner. Thus, instead of accepting and discussing these feelings, we distract ourselves with the wedding planning and ignore our internal emotions.
Harness and Accept your feelings!
In reality, these thoughts could not be more normal. In every other major life transition, simultaneous feelings of loss and gain are not only expected, but encouraged. When you graduated high school, when you graduated college, when you moved away from your hometown, when you left your first job for a better opportunity, those around you understood and sympathized with your conflicting emotions. But did those feelings of sadness and loss hinder you from taking that next step and succeeding with flying colors? Of course not. You allowed yourself to address and analyze your thoughts, and then you proceeded with the change. This is exactly what you need to do during your engagement as you prepare for your journey to the altar and marriage. Realize that feelings of sadness and anxiety are normal, allow yourself to feel these feelings, and discuss and analyze them with those around you. Don't allow your friends and family to focus on the wedding planning process to the exclusion of your internal struggles.
The engagement stage involves more than simply planning a big party. It involves introspection and emotional analysis. It involves open communication with your fiancĂ, family and friends. It involves acceptance of fear and sadness. Once a bride realizes the complexity of this transition, she can address her emotions and move forward in planning for both a fabulous party and a successful next chapter in her life.