Jan 13, 2024

Engagement Anxiety: Why Am I More Afraid Than Happy?

Congratulations! You’ve taken the step of saying “Yes” to a lifetime of love and commitment. The proposal was perfect, the ring was beautiful, and your heart soared with happiness. And yet, amidst the excitement and joy of being engaged to the love of your life, you find yourself grappling with an unexpected emotional whirlwind – post-engagement anxiety.

If you’re experiencing a mix of excitement and fear, you’re not alone. Post-engagement anxiety is a common phenomenon that can affect even the most secure and enthusiastic individuals. It’s the emotional counterpart to the momentous decision you’ve just made, triggering a range of thoughts and emotions as you transition into this new chapter of your life.

In this article, we’ll delve into the realm of post-engagement anxiety and explore how to navigate its challenges with grace and ease. Whether you’re second-guessing your decision, feeling overwhelmed by the wedding preparations, or contemplating the magnitude of lifelong commitment, I’ll offer some practical insights and empowering strategies to help you embrace this transformative journey.

Want to know whether this person is the one for you? We’ll get into that.

Wondering if the fact that you’re feeling these more negative emotions means something bad for your relationship? We’ll get into that too.

Take a deep breath. What you’re experiencing is completely normal, and much more common than most people believe.

Read to the end of this article, and I promise you’ll feel clarity and a hefty dose of relief.

My Story Of Engagement Anxiety

I was the one who proposed to my now-wife, so I had months to get used to the concept of being engaged.

And yet, once I had proposed and she said yes… the fear set in.

It was like my ego put a magnifying glass up to every little detail about her.

‘Can you love this trait of her forever? Will this thing be annoying 30 years from now? Can you really commit to being with one person for the rest of your life? Could someone else love her better than you? Oh boy… that argument didn’t go well… does this mean the relationship is doomed and you’ve been in denial the entire time you’ve been dating?’

My mind was reeling.

Every little thing that didn’t bother me or was off of my radar in the dating stage was now magnified ten-fold.

And you know what? That was largely appropriate.

Committing to someone… saying yes to an entirely new life path… is a rite of passage. And it makes sense that there would be some stuff bubbling up so that you audit the relationship through a new, more granular level of filtering.

Why Does Engagement Anxiety Exist?

Engagement anxiety exists because you’re committing to a person in a new way.

When you’re dating, it’s lighter. It’s more casual.

They’re your boyfriend or girlfriend.

The things they do are cute, and unique, and novel.

But when you start to seriously weigh the notion of being with them for life, of course your mind would give them a much more thorough scan through the filter of, ‘Can I be with that part of them forever?’

I see the hyper-engagement of our minds during these major life transitions as being correct and healthy.

When someone buys their first car and then thinks, ‘Oh wait – should I have chosen this other color?’

When someone buys their first home and then thinks, ‘Was this a terrible decision? Did I buy at the right time? Did I buy in the right neighbourhood? Does this house need too much work?’

When someone becomes engaged and then thinks, ‘Is this really what I want? Is this the right person? Am I making a mistake?’

I repeat… the fear, anxiety, and second-guessing around these major life decisions is entirely normal and appropriate.

It would be more worrisome if you didn’t have any of these kinds of thoughts.

Better to have the awareness to know if something actually isn’t a fit before you get married, then to go through with it and then realize that you made a major mistake in choosing the wrong person.

What Is Engagement Anxiety Actually About?

Engagement anxiety is about a wise part of your mind wanting to make sure you’re not making a bad choice, because it wants you to have the best life possible.

And the process of being engaged is a rite of passage.

And like any rite of passage, there is an inherent death and rebirth journey to embark on.

But we’ll come back to that.

How To Know If You’re Marrying The Right Person

engagement anxiety

Engagement anxiety kicks up, in large part, because a deeper part of your mind wants to make sure that you aren’t making a mistake.

So how do you not make that mistake?

By making sure you are marrying the right person.

How do you know if you’re marrying the right person?

It’s simple…

You audit your core values. You figure out what your life is truly about. And then you feel into whether this person fits into the vision that you hold for your life.

Now, for an exceptionally self-aware person, that proposition might not sound too scary.

But for most people, questions of, ‘What are my core values? What is my life about? What is the vision I hold for my life?’, can bring up self-doubt, fear, or even existential dread.

You can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re trying to go.

So the first step in auditing whether this is the right person for you is feeling into what your life is about.

For example, if you know that you want a huge part of your life to be centered around being a parent, then it would stand to reason that you would want a partner who also wants to be a parent, and who you believe would be a great parent.

Or if you wanted a life of travel and adventure and easy laughs, then you would likely want a partner who also enjoys those things.

It all starts with you.

Who are you, and what do you want from life?

Once you feel in touch with the answers to those two questions, it will be easier to feel into whether this person would be a good forever-match.

They will either be a supporter and multiplier of the best aspects of you… or a suffocater or limiter of those same aspects.

Some other things to feel into:

– Do I enjoy our conversations?

– Do we laugh together?

– Does my heart feel safe with this person?

– Do I have a functional, healthy level of physical attraction to them?

– Do we want similar things from life?

– Have I seen them in a variety of social situations, and have I been consistently (95+% of the time) happy with who they have shown themselves to be?

What To Expect As You Navigate Your Engagement Anxiety

Engagement anxiety is common, but it rarely gets talked about.

The feedback you get when you are engaged is often a barrage of, ‘You must be so happy! So excited! This should be the best time of your life!’

So when you feel anything but excited (read: doubtful, sad, anxious, terrified), the dissonance can feel disheartening.

First let me start by saying that it is normal to be feeling things other than just elation.

It’s a big deal to get engaged!

It is one of the most significant death and rebirth cycles that any of us go through in life.

You were a ‘me’… and now you are transforming into more of a ‘we’.

Before, you could get away with still living quite single-y even while dating your partner.

You didn’t have to consider them in all of your decisions to the same degree. Maybe you didn’t yet live together, or maybe you had relatively more separate lives.

But there is a new level of merging when you are on the path of deciding to get married.

It’s a whole new level of intimacy. One that you’ve likely never experienced before.

So it’s important to make room for the conflicting emotions that pop up as you navigate this transition.

There can be feelings of sadness, grief, loss.

Grief of your former self. Sadness around shifting dynamics in your family system. Loss as certain friends fall away.

There can be feelings of fear.

Fear for the unknown of what your new like will look like. Fear of making the wrong decision. And even fear of losing aspects of yourself that you’re not sure are fully compatible with married life.

One thing that is for sure… is that our fear that we aren’t supposed to be feeling (fill in the blank negative emotion) is a surefire way to amplify the intensity of that particular emotion.

Yes it is normal to feel fear, doubt, hesitancy. Yes, it is normal to get engaged and feel feelings of sadness and loss.

They just rarely get talked about because most people aren’t willing to be publicly honest about the range of emotions that they experience if they fall outside of the commonly expected joy/elation/excitement narrative.

You are not alone.

How To Navigate Engagement Anxiety With Grace And Ease

For me and for the clients I’ve worked with, the process of being engaged tends to resemble grieving a death more than it does a birthday party.

There will likely be layers to grieve, to mourn, to let go of.

You might be asked to let go of the cool guy/girl… the wild one… the late night partier… the workaholic… the player… the perfect son/daughter… the bestie.

Your relationships with your friends and relatives will have subtle (or sometimes significant) shifts as you navigate how to relate to them in the context of you becoming a husband or wife.

And just as I would hope that you would extend yourself grace and compassion if you were grieving a death for a loved one, you can extend yourself that same level of grace and compassion as you grieve the former iterations of yourself that you have been.

Have patience with yourself. Accept your emotions as they come in and allow yourself the time and space to be with them fully.

Cry when you need to cry. Stomp your feet and allow yourself to feel angry if there’s parts of you that feel harder to let go of.

Whatever comes, let it come.

And remember that it’s generally better (and easier) to proactively experience the grief and the fear and all of the emotions while still engaged versus shoving them down and pretending they’re not there and then having to experience them during the first year of your marriage. Better to choose it now than to have it force its way into your awareness once you’ve already crossed the threshold.

Expectation vs. Reality 

I went skydiving once, and only once.

But I learned something while doing it.

The whole process was deeply nerve-racking.

I was afraid when I was doing the ground skills training…

I was afraid when the airplane door shut when we were about to take off…

And I was afraid while we were flying up.

I thought, ‘What am I doing? Should I not have signed up for this? Am I going to die?’

As soon as the airplane door flung open while we were flying (because, yes, that’s a part of skydiving for all of you non-skydivers out there)… it was go-time.

The guy strapped to my back gave me an option of how we could jump out.

‘Do you want to roll out sideways or have me go over top of you?’

‘Over top of me as in we do a front flip??’

I chose the front flip. If these were going to be my last moments alive, I’d rather go out in style.

So we front flipped out of the plane and started free-falling…

And the craziest thing that I absolutely never expected…

Was that I felt completely at peace.

It was one of the most peaceful experiences of my entire life.

We were free-falling for a full minute, and it was one of the most calm minutes I’d ever experienced.

Zero tension in my body. The moment was beautiful. I felt like I was floating.

The reality of the moment was in stark contrast to what I had expected to feel.

Before we jumped out of the plane, I had honestly assumed that I was more likely to have a panic attack mid-free-fall than to feel this at peace.

And yet, the fact remained. It was exclusively peaceful.

The gap between expectation and reality was so profound that it left a lasting mark on my mind.

This is exactly how it felt when I went from engaged to married. When I made a lifelong commitment that, yes, I am in this for life. Yes, we will literally be together until one of us dies (hopefully many, many decades from now).

Leading up to the marriage I was a bundle of nerves.

And not because of the wedding logistics (our wedding was very simple)…

But because of the notion of being with one person for life.

My ego was thrashing!

I thought, ‘What am I doing? Should I not have signed up for this? Am I going to die?’

But once I was over the threshold, it felt entirely peaceful.

Like something I had wanted my whole life.

I am now years into this particular peaceful free-fall… and I can promise you that it only feels better every day.

I wish the same for you.

Dedicated to your success,

Jordan

Ps. Do you still feel unsure about whether or not the person you’re now engaged to is right for you? The person you decide to marry is one of the biggest decisions of your life. The wrong decision could literally cost you years (if not decades) of your life. I am here to support you in getting clarity on this vital decision. You can apply to work with me on a 1-on-1 coaching session via my coaching page. For this topic in particular, I am always happy to prioritize speaking to you as soon as possible.

Pps. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll also love checking out:

How I Met My Wife

Growth Feels Like Death, Because It Is Death

I Used To Think That Men Who Got Married Were Idiots

Emotionally Engaged: A Bride’s Guide To Surviving The Happiest Time Of Her Life (book)

– Also, here is a recent podcast episode (below) of my wife and I speaking about engagement anxiety, and all that came up for us as we were navigating this tricky time in our lives.

Blog

Related

See All
How To Stop Any Argument In Its Tracks (Yes, Really)
Jan 19, 2015
Jordan Gray
How To Stop Any Argument In Its Tracks (Yes, Really)
Fights happen in all relationships and they are a completely healthy occurrence. But are you engaging in them in a way that might be doing long-term damage to your partnership? And what if you knew how to swiftly and accurately defuse any fight from escalating? Well, wouldn’t that just be nifty! I’ll...
Continue Reading
Why It's Easier Than Ever To Stand Out From The Crowd
Jun 4, 2013
Jordan Gray
Why It’s Easier Than Ever To Stand Out From The Crowd
We live in a society of instant gratification. There is always an easy way out or shortcut to take advantage of.  Men are being encouraged to do the bare minimum to achieve result in their lives.  And this trend is negatively affecting modern masculinity. The masculine in you thrives off of being...
Continue Reading
Help Your Partner Work Through Past Sexual Abuse In 3 Steps
Jul 6, 2015
Jordan Gray
Help Your Partner Work Through Past Sexual Abuse In 3 Steps
Although this is the first time I’ve written about it publicly, the issue of sexual abuse is one that is very important to me. I have had multiple friends and lovers who have had sexual abuse in their past (either early childhood or later in life) and, with the average statistic saying that 1 in 3 women...
Continue Reading
How To Ease Into Love When Love Terrifies You
Nov 10, 2014
Jordan Gray
How To Ease Into Love When Love Terrifies You
“The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday. That’s guaranteed.” - Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook We all suffer tragedies in life. Break ups, abandonments, lost loved ones, and countless other bumps and bruises will take their toll on our hearts as we live. It’s so tempting...
Continue Reading
How To Manage Stress (or How I Weathered My Shit Storm Of A Year)
Sep 5, 2016
Jordan Gray
How To Manage Stress (or How I Weathered My Shit Storm Of A Year)
What do you think of when you hear the word stress? A business person with clenched fists? A shy person anxiously walking out on stage to give a presentation? A Wall street day-trader with veins bulging on their forehead? My relationship to and understanding of stress shifted this year. I had always...
Continue Reading
5 Innovative Ways To Get Over Your Ex
Jul 3, 2013
Jordan Gray
5 Innovative Ways To Get Over Your Ex
Breaking up sucks. It's hard to get over someone that you were so close with. Your brain was chemically addicted to them, and now your drug of choice is gone. Whether it's been a couple of days, weeks, or years, you still feel some old emotional residue around that certain someone. With a couple...
Continue Reading