"Pre Wedding Jitters VS. Second Thoughts" C. 2009 by Pamela Smale Williams LPC LMFT AAMFT AASECT

The ring has been chosen and placed on the bride-to-be’s left hand, a symbolic representation of the circle of love that will follow and is accompanied later by the glorious wedding band that tells us she is dedicated to her husband. Showers, parties, wedding plans and in law problems start to arise. Schedule conflicts, budget concerns, honeymoon dilemmas, housekeeping questions…. these seem small in comparison to the ultimate major conundrum, “do I know what I’m getting into”? Either bride OR groom may be asking themselves this very question and then wondering if it’s even OK to be wondering about the question!

*What are pre-wedding jitters?

For a working definition I define "jitters" as being the normal questions one has about the immediate and long-term changes in the indivual's lifestyle that go along with the act of becoming a partnership or committed couple.

Normal questions may include:
"Is this what I want for myself in my way of interacting with the world in ways that must include my spouse to be?

" Is this person capable of meeting my needs and desires on a basic and reliable condition or duration?"

"Can I hold up my end of being available to my future mate's desires and needs and be prepared to maintain the behaviors involving that with a consistency that will honor and satisfy the other person?"

*What types of feelings come with pre-wedding jitters?

"Jitters" generally apply to feelings of anxiety or nervousness. If it’s more a sense of "dread" or "terror" you have exceeded the intensity of this merely being ‘pre-change commitments’. Find out what it is that specifically has you “over the top with your fears” and address it immediately. Seek help from experts and not family members or friends---they can't be objective in this situation no matter how hard they may try or offer to be. If you do get their advice at least weigh it against another qualified and objective source!

*What are examples of pre-wedding jitters?

As illustrated in the previous question, jitters are often demonstrated by typical signs of anxiety...pre-occupation on the topic of concern, physiological changes such as increased heart rate, shallow breathing, and "feeling on edge". You may find yourself having difficulty concentrating, becoming more clumsy, forgetful, and possibly even shorter temper as you are interrupted from your normal course of routine---which is often already changing due to the social events and obligations that go along with Today's matrimonial demands.

If you experience Anxiety without a clear focus and no specific behaviors you object to or traits that you worry about---this would indicate just a generalized fear in the whole idea of being a married person.

*What should you do if you have pre-wedding jitters?

Practice relaxation techniques...deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or exercise. Talk to your partner and ask if he/she is having any of the same concerns. Seek reassurance from that person. If your jitters decrease as you "vent" about it, you will likely have less cause for the continued reaction. Allow for some nervousness as being a normal adaptation to change. TALK it out or use a piece of paper and write about it, just get it out! These are usually feelings that can be purged and decreased with openness and time.

*What are some signs or signals that a bride/groom is having second thoughts
about getting married?

2nd thoughts---we'll define here as actual true doubts that are bothersome enough to illicit the individual to actually question their fiancé’s traits, lifestyle, behaviors, and have a high level of concern about specific areas of the relationship.
As compared with "jitters" where an individual is simply wondering if the idea of marriage is right for them and if this is a good choice they have made in selecting a mate.
With this as our working definition, I offer the following:
What should the bride/groom do if he/she is having second thoughts?
Second thoughts, in this perspective, need to have actual answers. Professional advice may be warranted. Marital or pre-marital therapy could help in an assessment of the state of the relationship and how it is meeting the needs of BOTH the bride and groom.
Asking one's best friend is often harmful and benign at best...a friend that has known only one of the partners is going to have a subjective viewpoint and can't be impartial. It may also damage future relationship between the friend and the other spouse-to-be in the future since this could create the opposite an otherwise positive support system for the couple.

*Should the bride/groom who is having second thoughts share his/her
feelings with their future spouse?
Absolutely! If there are behaviors or attitudes that the partner in doubt is having, the only way to find out if this is "open to change" is to discuss it with the partner.
Ask for what you want if you truly plan on getting it, or even part of it. If you don't ask, you expect mind reading and mere luck for it to work out! If changes are amenable on both sides, ask for a PLAN on how to change it and don't accept "I'll try to do better"... this can be passing off the request at best and ignoring it to disguise the fact that the partner really has no intention to change OR that they might not know HOW to change.
Measure the success of changes with a definite measuring stick...be certain you are clear what you need and know how and when you will be expecting to see change. If this part is missing, you may be waiting for efforts a long time or you could even miss the efforts that might be taking place on the other's part.
For example, if it important to you that your fiancé change the amount of available time for you vs. how much time is spent in doing other activities---albeit work or time spent with buddies/girlfriends, or other events and dedications. Be clear that you have a need to have more quality time together and that this seems to be missing in the relationship. Define how much time you need, what your expectations are for change, and create a target for expected or wished for availability to you. You may have to compromise and agree to a smaller amount of time but look for at least SOME increased time with you...discuss this. Is it a trait or simply a situational circumstance?
Will you be seeing the change anyway due to a change in a particular outside force---or are you looking largely at a personality trait---perhaps avoidance or lack of commitment to the need you are expressing. If you discover that it seems more a trait than a short-term circumstance, ask yourself if this is something you are willing to live with if it doesn't EVER change.

If the answer is NO, you have good concern to seek help or consider that the person you are engaged to is not likely to be able to meet your desired wants or needs. THEN you have a decision to make...are you giving up a part of yourself to be with this person? A good resource for reading on this topic is "Do I have to Give Up Me to be Loved by You" by Drs. Jordan and Margaret Paul, 1989 in paperback.

Pamela Smale Williams LPC,LMFT,AAMFT,AASECT practices in Plano,Texas Copyright 2009

******Pamela Smale Williams LPC LMFT is a sex therapist and couple’s counselor in Plano, Texas. She is a member of the American Association of Marriage & Family Therapists as well as The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. Author, educator, and speaker, Pamela has over 25 yrs. experience in private practice. For more information on Pamela’s practice, visit http://pamelasmalewilliams.com Phone 972-596-1338 for appointments/consultations.

Author's Bio: 

Pamela Smale Williams LPC LMFT AAMFT AASECT is practicing Counseling and Sex therapy in Plano, Texas. Her office phone is 972-596-1338
EMAIL: counselor@pamelasmalewilliams.com.