Rhode Island Wedding Guide

Wedding Planning

Private Lives of Engaged Couples

by Allison Moir-Smith, MA, of Emotionally Engaged

Photo by
Captivation Photo Studio

The Question
This spring, I posted this question on my website:
Since your engagement, your relationship with your fiance has:

A. Flourished. We feel more connected and in love every day. Wedding planning is a breeze, and this is one of the happiest times of my life.

B. Had its ups and downs. I've been surprised how different being engaged is, but we're dealing with it pretty well.

C. Been really challenging. We're feeling less connected, having less sex, consumed with planning, and there's much more tension than I expected there to be. The state of our relationship upsets us both.

The Answers
How would you answer? How has your relationship been since you got engaged? Blissfully in love? Wracked by fear, anger, stress, and conflict? Somewhere in between?

Do you feel like you have to "hide" the reality of what's going on in your relationship, so people will think you're still "the perfect couple"? Do you both feel you should be happier than you are? If so, you'll be relieved to learn that you're not alone...

23% Said Their Relationships Have "Flourished"
"We are definitely feeling more connected," one bride elaborated. "Becoming engaged has grounded us and helped us in our relationship. Before, little things might bother us. Now we know we're here to stay and that we will work it out, no matter what."

"Initially, our relationship did not flourish," answered another bride. The first month, her fiance was laid off, and they thought they might have to move away immediately. Her reaction was fear and anger, she said, "and I sent most of it his way because I couldn't let anyone else know I wasn't the 'happy bride's, right?" They survived this, as well as some conflicts with family members, "and now that those external things are leveling out, we are making a space for 'us.'...We're growing closer in ways far beyond the physical. It's a mental deepening into something more than infatuation/love. So right now, I would say our relationship is flourishing."

23% Said It's Been "Up-and-Down"
"I wanted to check 'flourished' because our relationship has definitely strengthened since we've gotten engaged," wrote one bride. "We have so much fun talking about being married and living together. We're both so excited about this." Wedding planning, she reports, is fun and exciting, but much more stressful than she ever imagined.

For this bride, the main reason it's been "up-and-down" is not the relationship. It's the psychological transition she's making from daughter to wife that's challenging. "I'm feeling a little more sad about leaving my parents than I had expected to," she explains. "I think about it a lot and talk to my Mom about it. I will definitely talk to my Dad about it before the wedding, but I'm not ready for that yet. I'm a Daddy's Girl, so it's going to be hard." Reading The Conscious Bride has helped her understand what's happening ("and the Emotionally Engaged workshop was a huge help, too," she adds). "Overall, I've found that just accepting ALL the feelings that have surfaced since becoming engaged -- even the ones that I never expected (sad at times, and even lonely) -- have made me much better at handling this whole process."

46% Said It's "Been Really Challenging"
Nearly half of all brides who answered said it's tough being engaged.

"There have been many ups and downs, and it's been difficult to keep things stable, emotionally," said one bride. "We have too many emotions going on at once, individually and together. It's just been really stressful."

"My fiance was listening to me read the choices," reported another. "For 'flourished,' he said very sarcastically, 'Yeah, right.' For 'ups-and-downs' he said, 'Sort of.' For 'been really challenging,' he said, "Exactly.' We're soooo stressed. He's stressed because I'm stressed. He's so excited to get married; I'm so scared."

8% Said "Other"
And commented that their relationships had flourished, had ups and downs, and been really challenging, all at once.

This, I believe, is perfectly normal. Why?

Engagement Is All About Change
Engagement is a transition -- a change in self-identity from single woman to married woman, and a change in family relationship from daughter in your parent's family to wife with the new family you're creating. Your fiance is going through a similar change -- from single guy to married man, from son to husband.

These are profound changes in identity and in family relationships. So profound that many brides and grooms are overwhelmed by stress, sadness, anxiety, anger, and fear. As one bride above says, "we have too many emotions going on at once, individually and together."

Staying Connected Is Hard
Staying connected and feeling close to each other when all this emotion is going on can seem nearly impossible. You're changing, he's changing, and you're changing as a couple. The volume and intensity of emotions you're feeling right now would overwhelm even a couple married 30 years.

Especially since men are more easily "flooded" by emotion than women, according to John Gottman, Ph.D., author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. In times of high emotional stress, men get flooded and shut down, and women still try to connect, to no avail. The result: both men and women are alone and left hanging. And that only adds to the stress and bad feeling.

What You Can Do
Your work is to learn how to feel these feelings, separately and together. To feel the sadness about leaving your single life. To feel the fear about leaving your family. To feel the anxiety about making a lifelong commitment. To come to know the feelings -- rather than repress them into stress.

If you would like guidance, this is what we'll do in the Engaged Couples' workshop. We'll help you and your fiance understand the changes that are happening in your relationship and teach you how to deal with the family stresses that always arise. Get a psychological perspective on your engagement! For more information: www.emotionallyengaged.com or call today for a free 30-minute phone consultation, 617-739-5353

About the Author Allison Moir-Smith, MA is a psychotherapist, bridal counselor and author of Emotionally Engaged: A Bride's Guide to Surviving the "Happiest" Time of Her Life. She's been featured on Today and Good Morning America and in Cosmopolitan and Elle. She offers individual bridal counseling and supportive group workshops. For more info: www.emotionallyengaged.com