Maybe it’s because I wrote the book on it (literally), but I get a lot of questions from brides- and grooms-to-be who are wondering whether or not their pre-wedding nerves should be chalked up to typical wedding anxieties—or if they are cause for alarm. Since getting married is one of the most important decisions we make in life, figuring out if our intended is truly a good match for us is vital. After all, this is the person who should be your best friend, your partner, your lover, and a good parent should you choose to have children. You underestimate the importance of such a union at your own risk.
Whether you are obsessing over your wedding details, trying to plan the perfect honeymoon, worrying about the life changes marriage will bring, or panicked about settling down after many years of singlehood, wedding jitters go with the territory. But if you are having troubling fights with your fiancé, are questioning if he/she will be a good mate, or know you don’t agree on critical issues, then it’s time to take a closer look at your relationship—before it’s too late. Isolating the reasons for your jitters can help you determine if they are harmless emotion—or red flag warnings.
The first time I got married I did everything in my power to ignore all the warning signs. At 36, I was feeling desperate to tie the knot, and so I embarked on a bizarre, marital nightmare of epic proportions. Luckily, it didn’t last long, and after divorcing, I took stock of the ordeal and examined why I had made such a poor decision. For a strong, independent woman, it was humbling. I resolved to make lemonade out of lemons and turned this life saga into an entertaining novel, but the trauma of it did leave an indelible mark on my psyche. So, with thoughts of sparing others a similar fate, I’ve devised a guideline to help you decide if your wedding jitters are harmless and transient, or if they may be serious enough to land you in divorce court.
It’s probably wedding jitters if…
You are just nervous about making sure your wedding day is everything you hoped.
Otherwise known as the Bridezilla complex, weddings can bring out the micromanaging maniac in a lot of women. It’s probably because you’ve dreamed about your wedding for years and are afraid it won’t live up to your fantasies. As long as you are not getting lost in the planning of it in order to avoid dealing with other, more serious issues, this is probably just passing anxiety that will lift once the wedding is over and you have time to breathe again.
You and your spouse-to-be are bickering about nonsensical or unimportant things.
Sometimes, fear leads us to focus on things that would normally never be of concern. You might suddenly find you are hyperaware of your partners perceived “faults” or “flaws.” If you are picking on your mate for things that have no real bearing on the relationship, or seem irrational in nature, then it is likely just jitters. Sometimes fear of the unknown makes us act in a juvenile manner, “test” our mates for a response, or heightens our apprehensions about making a big change in our lives.
You are afraid you won’t be able to make a success of your marriage.
Maybe you are a product of a broken home. Maybe you’ve been divorced yourself. Or perhaps close friends of yours are weathering failing relationships. Such a backdrop can cause you worry that you and your spouse-to-be may suffer the same fate. If so, then it’s important to determine (a therapist can be quite helpful here) if it is due to any significant problems, or whether it’s merely the fear of recreating the chaos of others in your own relationship. Remember, you can always make conscious choices to NOT repeat the mistakes of others, once you identify what they are.
You are letting the ghosts of partners past rear their ugly heads.
It’s a very rare bride or groom who doesn’t have a past that includes either troublesome ex’s, painful breakups, unrequited loves, broken hearts, or bad memories. Sometimes these past experiences are swept under the rug until an emotional trigger brings them to the fore. Getting married can do just that. Make sure you are not projecting the bad behaviors of others onto your current mate. If he/she is still your best friend, your champion, and your confidant, then the wrongs of the past should not taint the promise of your future.
It’s probably something to worry about if…
You are incompatible and do not want the same things in life.
One of you wants children, the other doesn’t. One of you is a workaholic, the other needs more quality time together. You have very different financial or moral priorities. Your temperaments are mismatched. All of these things and others like them can signal long-term problems and strife within your union. Opening the lines of communication, couples therapy, and compromise may alleviate the difficulties, but ignoring them will probably ensure they grow and fester.
One of you is letting family members or friends interfere in your relationship.
Strong relationships have strong inner bonds. If one (or both) of you is allowing others to assert control in your relationship, you have a recipe for trouble. It’s one thing to take some good advice from a loved one; it’s another thing entirely if that person tries to pull the strings of your relationship for their own purposes.
You are not able to confide in your partner about important concerns.
If you can’t tell your best friend, whom can you tell? And that’s exactly what your spouse should be: your best friend. You are a team now. You look out for each other, boost each other in hard times, and play confidant when one of you needs an open ear or a shoulder to cry on. If you don’t have that bond with your fiancé, your marriage will suffer for it, so ask yourself: why? Is it because of your own fears? Or are you avoiding a negative response you’ve gotten from him/her before? Either of these would need to be addressed before commencing that trip down the aisle.
One or both of you have cheated on each other.
Unless you are entering into an agreed upon open relationship (many of which do not have the outcome the participants hoped for) a marriage is supposed to be a monogamous relationship built on trust, intimacy, and love. Going behind your partner’s back and committing the ultimate betrayal can leave wounds on the relationship that may never heal. If you don’t want to settle down with one person, then don’t settle down at all.
There are problems with addiction that are not being addressed.
Addiction, whether to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, or other vices are often the cause of misery and discord in a relationship. An addict who is indulging and has not accepted the fact he/she has a problem, can be an extremely difficult partner to live with. The dynamic doesn’t change because you get married. In fact, it often gets worse. So if your partner is not open to getting help, you are most likely dooming yourself to a painful rollercoaster ride through hell.
The relationship is plagued by physical, verbal, or emotional abuse.
There are no two ways about it. If your fiancé is abusive to you whether through verbal insults, emotional torture, or physical violence, breaking it off before the wedding will save you years of anguish. Like relationships with addicts, relationships with abusive people only get worse as time goes on. Don’t doom yourself to a life of pain and despair. Get out now—and consider yourself very lucky that you did!
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