Wedding Jitters vs. Wedding Terror

It’s wedding season, and a lot of guys are getting ready to move down the aisle. They’ll either walk, or they’ll slink, or, quite possibly, they may kick and scream and need to be pulled down it. Does one of these styles describe you? Or, a better question might be, would your better-half-to-be describe you in one of these ways?

Wedding jitters are quite normal. They reflect a certain anxiety on a number of different levels. First, we come to the acceptance that this is the woman that we will spend our lives with: living with, having sex with, sharing the rest of the moments of our human existence with. Wow. It’s a powerful experience either way. It’s totally normal to feel scared, and worry that you’ll replicate your parents’ marriage, for better or for worse.

Wedding terror is a whole other thing. It’s different from normal jitters. Wedding terror is paralyzing in a way that prevents forward growth toward getting married. Wedding terror is when men shrink behind fear and freeze. Forward momentum slows down to a standstill. The bride-to-be is often confused, angry and lashes out over and over again at her guy, who continues to backtrack and avoid the conflict.

Some couples I know operate under this m.o. One partner is hell bent on marrying, and the other (many times the guy, but not always) shrinks behind the fear. Their whole relationship survives on the “I Do” proposition, and lives in the future more than it does in the present.

There are real fears associated with wedding terror – fear that the marriage will be as distasterous as his parents’ was, fear that he’ll make a poor partner and that he’ll let her down, fear of growing bored in 20 years, fear that, and this is a big one, he’ll lose his independence and his bachelorness.

It’s hard to stay in the “fear place” and communicate what is hard to communicate. For guys, it’s not easy to speak from their fear, and thus we end up shrinking behind all of the above examples. Sometimes, the work is deeper, and requires counseling to identify and gain awareness about old tapes, messages and faulty beliefs we have about marriage and our role in it. Sometimes, we are programmed with these messages, and they run us so unconsciously that’s it’s really hard even knowing that they’re there.

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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