The biggest life milestones include graduating high school and college, getting married, and having children. It’s really no wonder that when marriage is on the horizon, it can cause some form of anxiety! Big life milestones = tons of changes = anxiety. Keep on reading to explore the different types of marriage anxiety, their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
What is Marriage Anxiety?
First off, what even IS marriage anxiety? Well, marriage anxiety is a psychological state that can arise due to the stress and pressure of being in a legally committed relationship. It can occur before or after marriage and can be triggered by various things, such as financial problems, communication issues, infidelity, conflict, and more.
It’s really important to know the different types of marriage anxiety to address them in the correct manner and prevent them from affecting your mental health and your relationship!
Different Types of Marriage Anxiety
Marriage anxiety is not a one-size-fits-all situation. There are different types of marriage anxiety, and knowing which one applies to you is important in knowing how to address it.
Pre-wedding jitters, also known as engagement anxiety, are feelings of nervousness, worry, and apprehension before the wedding day. It’s normal to experience some level of pre-wedding jitters due to the significant life change that’s about to happen. However, when the pre-wedding jitters turn into excessive anxiety that causes sleep disturbances, physical symptoms, and irrational thoughts, and in turn, affects your ability to enjoy life, you may want to seek professional help.
On the other end of the spectrum are the post-wedding blues (a.k.a., a wedding hangover), and is a common experience that many newlyweds deal with after the wedding. It’s a period of emotional letdown, sadness, and feeling overwhelmed after the excitement and anticipation of the wedding has passed. Post-wedding blues can be triggered by the pressure of marital expectations, unrealistic fantasies, and even unresolved family issues.
Another major point of contention for marriages is the anxiety of infidelity. Research shows that around 20-25% of married men cheat, and 10-15% of married women cheat. It’s no wonder infidelity anxiety is a common type of marriage anxiety! It can also be triggered by past experiences, insecurity, and trust issues. Infidelity anxiety can cause a person to become paranoid, possessive, and controlling, which can damage the relationship.
Conflict anxiety is the fear of disagreements and arguments in a marriage. Maybe it stems from watching your parents fight through their marriage or maybe you just know that you have poor communication skills. Regardless, conflict anxiety can cause a person to suppress their emotions and distance themselves from their partner, which can lead to resentment and disconnection, and ultimately a failed marriage.
Then there is just the general anxiety around committing to a lifelong relationship. Why? Well, some people are triggered by their own past relationships or parents’ relationships, but some people are also simply afraid of losing themselves to the relationship. Commitment anxiety can cause a person to avoid getting married all together, sabotage the relationship, and/or struggle with intimacy and vulnerability in general. This can lead to a breakdown of the marriage if not handled.
Causes of Marriage Anxiety
So, where does marriage anxiety come from? Well, it usually is difficult to say without having a professional speak with you and analyze your specific situation, but here are some common sources of anxiety:
Whether you’re aware or not, you might have expectations for marriage that are embedded deep into your subconscious. This could be from the media, Hollywood, or your own experiences/desires. If you’re expecting a white picket fence but end up with something a little more realistic, it may cause some stress and anxiety. (Am I doing this right? Why isn’t this X?)
Money tends to be a large source of conflict for marriage anxiety. Maybe it’s the cost of the wedding, putting a combined down payment on your first marital home, or the idea of paying for children in the near future.
If you and/or your future spouse aren’t quite conversationalists, you may be worried about how you two will effectively communicate pre-and post-wedding. Communication is key to a successful marriage, after all.
Worrying about infidelity is a real thing. I mean, 20-25% of men and 10-15% of women end up cheating in their marriages. That is not an insignificant number by any stretch of the imagination!
If you grew up in a chaotic home with parents that screamed and yelled at each other all the livelong day, you might be stressing and worrying over potential conflict.
Any past trauma that you’ve experienced may boil up in other ways in your life and could potentially affect your marriage if not addressed.
Fear of change
Maybe you’re a creature of habit, and you simply despise any type of major life change, especially one as big as a marriage.
Fear of commitment
Some folks are just plain old, scared to commit. It’s the age-old tale of the person who can’t settle down and free themselves of their “single” ways. It could stem from past experiences (parents perhaps), or they may just have a phobia of committing to something for life.
Cultural and societal pressure
The expectations placed on us by culture and society can feel really heavy sometimes. To have the perfect marriage, to be the perfect spouse, to have children, to buy a large house, to never fight or argue, to have a perfectly clean home, to cook dinner every night. The list goes on and on!
Symptoms of Marriage Anxiety
Now that you’re well-informed on marriage anxiety, let’s talk about how marriage anxiety can manifest as physical or mental symptoms:
- Panic attacks
- Sleep disturbances
- Irrational thoughts
- Obsessive behavior
- Avoidance behavior
- Physical symptoms (headaches, stomachaches, etc.)
These symptoms are often true for any type of anxiety, not just marriage anxiety. If you are feeling any of these things, and they begin to hinder your daily life, you should consider seeking treatment.
Treatment Options for Marriage Anxiety
Treating marriage anxiety depends on the specific type and severity of the symptoms. Some treatment options include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): One type of therapy that helps individuals identify and combat negative thoughts and behaviors that contribute to anxiety through different exercises and techniques.
- Talk therapy: Discussing and navigating through your stresses, anxieties, and worries with a licensed therapist can be a great option.
- Mindfulness meditation: A tool that involves helping you focus on the present moment and accepting your thoughts and emotions without judging yourself.
- Medication: Sometimes, medication may be prescribed to alleviate anxiety or OCD symptoms.
- Couples therapy: A type of therapy that you attend with your significant other that focuses on improving communication and conflict resolution skills in the relationship.
- Lifestyle changes: Making lifestyle changes, such as adding exercise, healthy eating, and stress management into your daily routine, can sometimes help reduce anxiety symptoms.
It’s important to seek help if marriage anxiety is impacting one’s daily life and relationship to a negative level. Professional support can provide valuable tools and strategies to manage anxiety and improve one’s overall well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about marriage anxiety
Q: Is it normal to have pre-wedding jitters?
A: Yes, it’s normal to have some level of pre-wedding jitters due to the significant life change that’s about to happen. However, excessive anxiety can impact one’s ability to enjoy the engagement period, and if that’s happening to you, you should consider seeking treatment.
Q: How can I manage conflict anxiety in my marriage?
A: Managing conflict anxiety in a marriage may include improving communication and conflict resolution skills through individual therapy, couples therapy, practicing mindfulness, and more.
Q: Can marriage anxiety be treated?
A: Yes, marriage anxiety can be treated through various approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, talk therapy, medication, couples therapy, and lifestyle changes.
Q: How do I know if I have commitment anxiety?
A: Commitment anxiety can manifest in various ways, such as avoiding getting married, sabotaging the relationship, struggling with intimacy, and finding it hard to be vulnerable. Seeking professional help can oftentimes help you work through your commitment anxiety.
Q: Can marriage anxiety impact my overall well-being?
A: Yes, marriage anxiety can impact one’s mental and emotional well-being, as well as their relationship with their partner. Seeking help can provide valuable tools and strategies to manage anxiety and improve one’s overall well-being.
You’re not alone. Marriage anxiety (whether before or during) is quite common. It can be subtle or extremely difficult to manage. When it starts affecting your daily life, you should consider seeking professional help.
Recognizing the different types of marriage anxiety and their causes and symptoms is essential to address them appropriately and prevent them from affecting one’s relationship.
David F Khalili is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, board-certified sexologist, author of Mental Health Workbook for Men, founder of Rouse Relational Wellness, a boutique sex and relationship therapy center serving San Francisco and all of California, and recently started Rouse Academy, an online learning platform to address sex and anxiety. You can learn more about David’s practice at rousetherapy.com.