Wedding Day Anxiety: What If I Don’t Feel In Love?


Groom

Three weeks after I got married I wondered whether or not I had made a mistake. Something was terribly, terribly wrong. Things didn’t “feel” right. There were even times when I would look at my wife and feel nothing. No attraction. No desire to be near her. I wasn’t even sure I was in love with her anymore. After that it got worse. That’s when the anxiety hit.

It was quite a change from last January when I began blogging about getting married to the girl of my dreams. Everything was going smoothly. There were signs everywhere that our love was made in heaven. We were compatible on virtually every level. We never had a shortage of things to talk about. Our faith lives meshed perfectly. We “got” each other.

Less than two months after our first date I proposed. Less than nine months after that, we were married. Somewhere around a month-and-a-half before the wedding I began to feel the stirrings of doubt. Was I actually ready to commit to one person for the rest of my life? Was I actually ready to raise children if God blessed us with them? I was 45 years old! I was set in my ways! What made me think marriage was for me? Why get married now? Of course, as stressful as these moments of doubt were (they were often accompanied by a cold sweat), they were very brief. They usually happened in the small hours of the morning and lasted about 5 minutes. And they didn’t happen every day. It wasn’t until the week before the wedding that I noticed I was more often anxious than not.

The thought of backing out never occurred to me, but I began to imagine a life of boredom and regret. A life where I would make do, where I would learn to love my wife, but where I would have no true joy. I wondered if I had the fortitude. I wondered if I was about to ruin two lives.

The night of the wedding rehearsal I got angry at myself. I was in my hotel room getting ready, and I began to talk to my reflection in the bathroom mirror. “This is crazy! You love her! You were made for each other! You had 10 months where everything was okay! Man up!” And it wasn’t just my own voice I had to listen to. I had prayed often before the tabernacle and had heard God tell me “Marry the girl.” Clearly there was a disconnect between my gut and what I knew to be true. I knew I had made a good choice, but my gut was telling me it was wrong. It told me I was about to ruin two lives. My gut told me to turn tail and run.

And there’s the problem. The gut. We’re told that we should always listen to our gut. We’re told to let our feelings be our guide. It is true that our feelings are valuable, but they are rarely a good indicator of what is true. And this causes loads of misery in modern relationships because we have come to believe (mostly because of the popular culture) that if we are not happy, or if things don’t “feel right,” then something is objectively wrong.

I lost track of how many first dates I had gone on with CatholicMatch contacts only to pass on further exploration because I “wasn’t feeling it.” True, I might not have met my wife if I had pursued someone else. Who knows? The point is I realized that my whole life had been lived that way. If I wasn’t feeling it, I didn’t do it. Not always of course, but more often than not, I did things because I wanted to do them and avoided situations that seemed risky or tedious.

My parents’ generation didn’t do that. They didn’t always do things because they felt like it. They had a less romantic view of things. “Of course you won’t always feel like you’re in love. Where did you get that idea, anyway?” my mother asked me when I told her of my anxiety. 

Somewhere along the way the fireworks diminish, or the fluttery romantic feelings dim or disappear. But they’re replaced by something else, if you take a mature view of love. We’ve all heard it before. “Love” is a verb. It’s action and sacrifice and it can be very, very hard work.

So I’m telling you to beware of your gut. Yes, pay attention to big red flags when it comes to relationships such as abuse, addiction, serious personality disorders, or a misalignment of faith, values and core beliefs and life goals. But if you do have alignments in those important areas, and if you do find the person attractive, don’t be so quick to turn tail when you find you aren’t “feeling it” anymore.

At some point when I was yelling at myself in the hotel bathroom mirror, a light went off in my head and all of my anxiety washed away. Certitude returned, all was well in the world, and I rushed to my bride-to-be to rehearse our big day. The certitude lasted through the wedding (much to her relief).

But as I indicated at the beginning, those anxious feelings returned shortly after the wedding, and they returned with a vengeance. I had still not come to grips with exactly what was happening to me. When I did, it was a surprise. A dark night of the soul, as St. John of the Cross put it. But that’s something I’ll tackle in the next post.

Editor’s Note: Check back next week for the second post in a series about anxiety.






16 Comments

  1. Girl-263891 January 5, 2013

    A friend of mine got engaged after 7 years of being in a relationship with her boyfriend. During wedding preparations, she found out the guy cheated on her once and the wedding was called off. Then a few months later, she met another guy. He was intelligent and she liked him. In her head, she thought she can grow old with this guy. The courtship was done in one month and the wedding took place by the end of the second month. And they have stayed married for 38 years…She once told me that in marriage, the romantic feeling will eventually fade and what I have to look for in a man is someone I can talk and listen to until we both have gray hair. There can never be any certainty in life. Only God, death and change are certain. Although our guts, feelings and thoughts may be bases in making decisions, they are never a guarantee that they are right. God has plans for each of us but it is not always easy to discern what it is. But if we stay connected with Him, we will eventually see the signs.However, our freedom makes us either conform or divert. But humans as we are, our choices never “stay” definitive. Even those who give themselves to God in religious vocations have to constantly renew their “yes” to stay faithful. Only God can keep the commitment intact and keep the “yes” definitive.

    • wow, 38 years after 1 month of COURTSHIP and another month of being engaged? That is how to do it right when you know it is right!

    • Lois-765906 January 10, 2013

      Story is great but I also love this wonderful about the 38 year marriage with the very brief courtship. :) It gives me hope that the “right one” must still be out there somewhere!

  2. Interesting post… I am not sure where exactly he is going with this story so it is hard to comment. I am eager to read the next post. However, I can relate. I was engaged once for a very brief period of time. I dealt with many of the same feelings Erik dealt with – she is great on paper, a great person, my family loved her, but I didn’t “feel it.” When it came time to getting proposed, I nearly backed out, but once I had gone through and asked her dad for permission, I am felt obligated to go through with it. I felt good initially but during the week the feelings of anxiety kept getting worse and worse. It got so bad that I had to call off the engagement a week later. I then endured ridicule from friends, family, her family and herself. It was like I was the devil but I knew I made the right call.
    I know feelings may seem like a Hollywood production, but I wouldn’t ignore them either. I don’t know what is the best balance between head and heart, but they are both important. As for Erik, since he is married, it is a different situation. I hope it all worked out in the end.

    • Patrick, I see one big difference between your situation and Erik’s, and that’s that you had found a girl that was great in every way but just not in your heart, while Erik had found the girl that he knew in his heart he wanted to marry, but the emotions sometimes weren’t there. I’ve never been engaged but I’ve felt that kind of difference in other situations. I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the story, too.

  3. You are, in my opinion, one of the finest writers on this website!

  4. Absolutely a great article ! Thank you for being so transparent , vulnerable , honest , strong , concise , and sharing your feelings . This was to listen to a guys perspective . Thank you !

  5. Having the light, butterflies-in-the-stomach thing when with someone is soooo lovely. However, I found that what is vastly better and much more satisfying is when you and that other person share similar values and beliefs, and can really create a great team together.

  6. Mary-272665 January 5, 2013

    Thank you for your honesty.

  7. Thank you, also from me, for your honesty. Commitment and intimacy can be frightening things for all of us humans! I’m looking forward to the next posting too. A “Dark Night of the Soul” can be a deep spiritual experience that makes one’s soul truly alive to God’s presence in a new way. I have been through this and although my life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, I am grateful for that experience that has taught me so much. Thank you also for mentioning “addictions, personality disorders, etc.” as those are, unfortunately, real situations that we encounter in our relationships.

  8. Francia-824432 January 14, 2013

    Very interesting article, thank you. Anyway, I think you were not really in love, the mature and calm love will come with the time but not since the beggining I guess… the rest are words and more words. For a lasting marriage is vital being in love to face its stages. Good luck!!!

  9. Tami P. January 17, 2013

    I can relate so much to this article because I am going through relationship anxiety as well. I’ve been with my boyfriend for about a year and a half now. I know I love him. I’ve never wanted to be with someone as much as I want to be with him. He makes me so happy. A few months ago was when the anxiety started. He took me out to dinner and for some reason the entire time at dinner I started question if I wanted to be with him anymore. That’s when the anxiety kicked in. Everyday I question “Do I want to be with him?” “Do i really love him?” “Does he love me?” “Should we break up?”. Those are just a few of the questions that run through my mind. I’ve become very dependent on him these past few months and that isn’t the person I was when we first started dating. I was very independent and that’s what he liked about me. My friends all tell me that this is all in my head and that I feel anxiety because I have a fear of losing him. I do believe all of that, but why do I still question it? I just don’t understand why this happened or why I can’t get rid of it…

    • Erik-215414 January 18, 2013

      Hi Tami – it sounds as if you’re normal, based on my experience, and on the stories I’v read on Sheryl Paul’s Conscious Transitions blog. I provided a link to her site in the second of my posts on this series (posted January 13th). Unless there are any major issues, I think your relationship is fine. By the way, I’ll be posting the third installment on this series in a couple of days.

    • Camille-661963 January 21, 2013

      Tami!
      Your concern about dependancy to independancy is something to address It is in good order that a woman is dependant on man. This dependency is one to study in light of the submission a woman is EXPECTED to show in marriage; exemplary in the relationship of the Church to Christ. If your boyfriend likes a woman who is determindly an independant woman than how he will relate to her will not be healthy. Each woman deep down wants and needs to CONNECT with this NATURAL truth of dependancy. Yet, the world tries to stuff down our throats that this is not what works or even what men want! It comes down to this, we women should have a child-like trust in our husbands to meet our needs so we can focus on being the tender, strong, beautiful, and enlightening forces in this world. Love!

  10. The author didn’t provide very many details, but I can say this – I would feel very, very sad and let down if my husband felt that way after marrying me. And although he has my prayers for him and his wife, the couples I know that have lasted for years and years and are visibly in love don’t feel that way. I think because of the dearth of single practicing Catholics, some in the Catholic community are pushing this idea that you can get married to just anyone, as long as you believe the same things or are both faithful Catholics. Almost an “arranged” marriage type of thing. I believe love is real and is what God wants for us in marriage (see Adam and Eve). And I also believe you shouldn’t get married to someone you don’t love and aren’t excited about. Because everyone deserves to be with someone who is thrilled to be with them.

  11. To Tami –

    Camille does not present an accurate view of the Church’s teachings on marriage and the role of women. It does not require women to have a “child-like” dependency on her husband. That would be inappropriate, as you are not a child, but an adult woman. We are only meant to have child like dependency on God.

    Please refer to St. Pope John Paul II encyclical Mulieris Digintatum (On the Dignity of Women) http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_15081988_mulieris-dignitatem_en.html
    as well as his Theology of the Body http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2tbind.htm
    and the Catechism – 1612 and on – http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c3a7.htm

    His teaching and the Church’s teaching, is one of mutual submission between husband and wife, submission not out of as struggle for power, but out of love, similar to the way that we are all called to serve one another as Christians, but different in that the relationship of husband and wife is a special one, unique from other human relationships.

    I will pray for you and wish you God’s guidance. Best of luck. It’s a big decision.

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