Cold Feet Before the Wedding? Here’s How to Deal
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
You’ve hired the caterer, booked the venue, and spent hours curating a playlist that is danceable, family friendly, and that neatly conveys the story of your love. You think you should be feeling excited for your wedding — you love your partner deeply and this is supposed to be the best day of your life! But instead you’re feeling nauseous, and considering possible escape routes à la Julia Roberts in “Runaway Bride.”
If this is sounding familiar, then you, my friend, might have a case of cold feet before the wedding. It’s a common occurrence, and something that premarital counselors even expect. When thoughtful, responsible people prepare to make the biggest commitment of their lives, they’re bound to feel some apprehension. When you add all the stress of the wedding day itself into the mix, it’s no wonder you’re daydreaming about booking a flight to Havana.
The good news is, these thoughts and feelings probably don’t mean that you’re making a big mistake. But they’re also not something that you should ignore. It’s a vital life skill to be able to listen to the signals your emotional guidance system is sending you, and distinguish the helpful bits of information from the counterproductive noise. This ability is at the core of emotional intelligence, and it’s never more essential than when you’re experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety in the lead-up to your wedding day.
If you have cold feet, this article will help you tune into your emotional guidance system, get clear about what your feelings are telling you, and take meaningful action that allows you to walk forward into marriage with joy and confidence.
I also encourage you to listen to our episode of the “Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast” on this topic. It’s a conversation between myself and Growing Self premarital counselor Brenda F., a marriage and family therapist and the teacher of our “Lifetime of Love” premarital counseling class.
Brenda has seen many cases of pre-wedding jitters, and she’s helped countless couples address their cold feet and lay the foundation for a happy future together. I hope our conversation helps you, too. You can find the episode in the player on this page, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen.
Our authentic relationship experts know how to help you learn, grow, and move forward into a bright new chapter.
Why Do You Have Cold Feet Before Your Wedding?
People experience anxiety before getting married for a handful of reasons. Getting clear about the cause of your cold feet can help you find the solution.
First, your cold feet may be about the wedding itself, and the logistics of bringing two families together and throwing a large, expensive party. It’s a big event that requires a ton of planning and comes with sky-high cultural expectations attached. It would be weird if you weren’t feeling a little anxious about it.
Other times, cold feet before your wedding can be about things that have happened in your past. If you’re the child of divorce, you may worry that relationships can’t really be safe and sustainable, having watched your parents’ marriage fall apart. If this isn’t the first time you’re getting married, it’s understandable to be worried about your new marriage not working out, especially if you’re dealing with the stress of blending your families. If you experienced a traumatic betrayal in a past relationship, you may find getting married a little scary because of lingering trust issues, no matter how loving and reliable your fiance has been.
The final possibility is a little bit scary — sometimes, anxious feelings in the lead-up to your wedding day mean that there are parts of your relationship that you’re not so sure about.
This is actually a positive thing, not a cause for alarm. Every couple has work to do, and the ways your relationship changes after getting engaged has a way of shining a light on that work. When you face your fears about getting married and confront the problems that are worrying you, you crack open the door to a deeper understanding of yourself, your partner, and your relationship.
That’s how premarital counseling works — it gives engaged couples the space to explore their relationships, address their issues, and develop the skills to resolve problems that will inevitably arise between them in the future. This process not only makes relationships stronger and healthier, it increases your confidence in your own ability to create a lifetime of love. After a session or two of good premarital counseling, many anxious couples find that their cold feet are warming up.
How can you know which of these root causes applies to your case of cold feet? By tuning into your feelings and asking yourself some important questions. Such as, are these feelings familiar? Maybe you always tend to be a little anxious before a big event. Or, maybe you’ve felt this way at other times when you were scared about being hurt. If so, your cold feet might not have much to do with your current relationship at all.
But, if your anxiety is focused on particular problems in your relationship and what they could mean for your marriage, it’s time to get clear about what those problems are and take proactive steps to address them. That’s what happy, successful couples do — they don’t ignore their problems, they treat them as opportunities to nurture their relationships with intention and care.
Uncovering Your ‘Solvable Problems’
Here’s a little secret that every marriage counselor knows: All relationships have perpetual problems that can never be fully resolved. Knowing the difference between solvable problems and unsolvable problems will help you get clarity about the root cause of your cold feet and the path forward.
Fundamental differences in personality, desires, needs, or values are unlikely to change over the course of your relationship, no matter how many times you discuss them (or shout about them). These differences will arise again and again in various forms, and that is actually okay — differences in a relationship can be a source of incredible strength, even if they sometimes cause conflict.
What matters is that you recognize the parts of your relationship that are likely here to stay, including who your partner fundamentally is. As obvious as that might sound, people often expect a selfish, or untrustworthy, or narcissistic partner to become a different person once they get married or have a baby. Unfortunately, these people are bound for disappointment and, very often, divorce.
If the “unsolvable problems” in your relationship are things you can accept and even appreciate about your partner, then you’re left with solvable relationship problems. Things like communication issues, trouble managing finances together, trouble dividing housework and other responsibilities, periods of disconnection, and even periods of arguing all the time.
These common relationship issues can all be improved if both parties are committed to working on them together. If you’re not sure where to begin, your premarital counselor can give you a road map. They’ll help you have important conversations before commitment, uncover the things that you or your partner are worried about, and get clear about what actions you can take to keep your relationship strong for years to come.
Working through solvable problems not only helps you feel better about getting married, it’s an investment in your future — continuing to grow together to become the best partners you can be is the secret to creating a strong, close, satisfying marriage.
Exploring Your Expectations
There’s another common culprit that can give engaged couples cold feet: Their expectations for their relationship, partner, wedding, or marriage.
Some people expect that, if they’re in a happy, loving relationship, they should never fight with their partner. Or they should never feel disappointed by them. Or they should never feel lonely in their relationship. Or that they should have the best wedding day ever and feel nothing but joy when they think about it.
Even if you consciously reject these expectations, there may be a part of your mind that buys into them. Healthy relationships do involve loving, happy feelings, but they also involve a lot of other feelings. A wedding is indeed exciting and joyous, but also overwhelming and stressful and kind of scary. Life is a mixed bag, and if a part of you believes that it’s not supposed to be that way, then you’re bound to feel like something is wrong when you’re having an experience that couldn’t be more normal. Challenging unrealistic expectations will help you feel more calm and confident about getting married.
Getting Help for Cold Feet Before Your Wedding
If you are having cold feet before your wedding, premarital counseling can help. Not with platitudes about how lovely weddings are, but with expert guidance and real tools that will help you lay the foundation for a strong marriage. Premarital counseling is valuable, meaningful, and also a lot of fun. It will warm up your cold feet, and it will bring you and your partner closer together.
If you’re interested in working with an experienced premarital counselor on our team for private premarital counseling, I invite you to schedule a free consultation, or enroll in the next premarital counseling class with Brenda.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
P.S. — You can find more articles and podcast episodes on this topic in our premarital collection.
Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast
Cold Feet Before the Wedding? Here’s How to Deal
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Free, Expert Advice — For You.
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Music in this episode is by Low Island with their song “Into the Blue.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: lowislandmusic.bandcamp.com/. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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