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Severe anxiety regarding engagement
I am after some relationship and life advice. I’m 27 and have been with my girlfriend since we were 21. The pressure is really on me to propose at the moment and I’m feeling severe anxiety because of it which is making me question everything.
About 2 years ago I had a real bout of anxiety where I was questioning if the relationship was right for me. I discussed this with her at the time and it put a lot of pressure on our relationship as you can imagine, but we pushed through. This manifested insecurities within her with regards to my commitment to her (which I totally understand) and as such she’s put a deadline on us being engaged by the end of this year or calling it off. I understand this, she can’t wait forever, but at the same I have so much anxiety that it totally clouds my mind. I spend hours thinking back and forth “Yes she’s right for me” and then “No I don’t know if this is right”.
I believe some of this stems from the fact that my parents divorced when I was young which was a terrible thing to experience. At the same time I just feel so unsure sometimes. She’s a great girl and most of the time things are good, but I get so anxious when I consider marriage with her that I just think something must be wrong? Maybe my brain is trying to tell me something?
She talks about wanting to buy a house and get married next year, then having kids no long after. When I imagine doing this my heart is constantly changing from excitement to anxiety and fear. The anxiety has been so bad this last week I’m hardly eating, I have pains in my chest and I feel nauseous. I wake up at 3am and can’t sleep because I’m just so stressed. It causes me to think that I’d rather just break up with her to relieve the pressure anymore, as much as I love her and I don’t want to be without her.
In the end I feel like I’m going crazy and I don’t know what to do. Any advice at all would be great.
Do you mind if I ask, you can pinpoint the time that you started having doubts, did something happen to cause it?
I think cold feet is normal. It doesn't make you a bad person. And you are not crazy. You just want to make the right decision. I went through the same thing before I got married at 24. I had never been with anyone else before, so I wasn't sure if I was making the right decision. I actually ended up calling off our wedding because of my doubts. Then it occurred to me one day, I swear it was out of the blue. I can undo this (marriage). It's not permanent. I don't know if that thought process will help you. Marriage is a huge commitment and should be taken seriously, absolutely. But just know that you can change things, should the marriage not work out. Getting married isn't the end of something. On a personal note, mine has failed after 6 years for various reasons. Looking back, I don't regret getting married, not for one second. I do regret that we waited so long to do it, though. I
Do you both live together? Do you honestly think that much will change after you get married?
Honestly, some people may not agree with this, but I found that nothing changed when we got married. Everything stayed the same. As a female, I understand your girlfriends timeline, but have you talked to her about how anxious you feel by so much change in such a short time?
I also like to create lists. I'm a visual person. Sometimes keeping your thoughts in your head can become confusing and hard to sort through. I don't mean to reduce getting married to a trivial thing, by making a pro's and con's list, but perhaps that may help you to visually see a path. Organise your thoughts.
I don't know if you will find this useful, but what helps me when I'm having a bout of anxiety - it sounds trite, but breathe. From your stomach, not your chest. At least 5 long, deep breathes, from the tummy. In through your nose, hold it for 2 seconds, breathe out of your mouth. It will all be ok.
I hope you check back in to let us know how you're doing.
Thank you so much for the reply Livinia.
I can't recall a single event that caused doubt, I guess I was never totally sure. Like you, this is my first relationship so I had nothing to compare it to.
That thought process does help,thank you. Yes we are both living together but the lease has just run out to add some more stress to the mix!
I don't think anything will change once we're married but that's almost a bad thing because that might mean I'm still questioning it.
I tried the pros and cons list too but it didn't really clear much up unfortunately.
I've tried that breathing trick but unfortunately the anxiety hangs around for hours or sometimes days.
If I had to sum up my fears it would be that
1. I'm worried that I am unhappy in the relationship and that's why I'm unsure. I mean I love her and would do anything for her but I just feel like you're meant to know for certain when someone is the one.
2. I'm worried that by continuing on with the relationship I'm just wasting both of our time. What if I never fully come around and then we're 30 and single...
Sorry if I seem super negative, I am just really scared that I'm going to ruin 2 people's lives. The feeling of guilt and anxiety is intense.
I know it is, it's a horrible feeling that probably strikes at random and won't go away when you want it too. It can be suffocating. A lot of people experience this.
It sounds like there is a lot of external pressure on you right now, and it's exacerbating your internal conflict. One step at a time, perhaps. Focus on your lease running out. Shelter is important.
There is no need to apologise! This is an understanding community, with all of us experiencing this in some form or another. You're not being negative. There is something not quite right, and that's ok to feel that way. I always say it's fine to experience down times, just don't pack up and live there 🙂
Point one - that's a lot of pressure you're putting on yourself there. Society sends that type of message a lot. We're just instinctively meant to know what we want to do with the rest of our lives, work wise, partner wise. I think it's garbage. Life is for learning, you figure it out as you go. There's no handbook. Are you concerned that your uncertainty means that you're unhappy with her? Without taking your hesitation into consideration, are you happy with her? Can you imagine your life without her? It sounds like from your initial post that your feelings about this may be about the institution of marriage itself, not the person. Have you talked to a professional about this?
Point 2 - I was worried about the same thing earlier this year. I really didn't want to be 'starting again' at 31. I felt it was a huge step back in life, but this is what life is. It's hard and it's messy, but it's also incredible and worth it.
Life is long. It's the longest thing you'll ever do. And you are still quite young.
It sounds like you're putting both yours and her happiness all on your shoulders. Just remember, you're not holding her captive. She's free to leave at any time, if she wants to, so it's not all on you.
Have you tried to talk to her about this again? Let her know exactly what your fears are? I know it's a vulnerable thing to do, to be so exposed. But she would know something is wrong and without all the facts, the mind will fill in the blanks, draw conclusions, and could just make things worse.
I hope you're ok
Part of what has brought this on is the lease ending. I keep thinking if we're going to end it now would be the time before we sign up to a year in another house.
To answer your question I am happy with her, but sometimes I'm not. In the same way sometimes I can't imagine being without her and other times I can't wait to leave. I don't think any of my answers are very helpful, but this is what goes on in my head non-stop, this yes no yes no dance.
I did speak to a professional but they weren't very helpful. I think I'd be fine with the institution of marriage if I had more confidence in the relationship.
That's a good point that she's free to leave. That definitely takes some pressure off!
I have spoken to her about all of this last week and understandably it's put us in this limbo of "What should we do?". I feel so damn guilty... how can she be so sure about us when I'm not.
Thanks again for your response, your replies are really calming.
I don't think there's ever really a good time to end a relationship. Mine ended at Christmas and I thought "what a terrible time to do this", but truly any time would have hurt just as much. I think focus on one step at a time, get through that one thing, then move on to the next. I've lived with an anxiety disorder for as long as I can remember and it I find it makes me look at everything as this insurmountable task, but if you break it down, step by step - conquer that one thing you'll feel accomplished and clear headed. Being on a time limit too would be adding to your anxiety and pressure. With your lease, if you do sign on for another year and your relationship doesn't work out, you can always fix the living situation. There is always a way out; a work around. It's amazing what you can achieve when you have to.
With the relationship hesitations, these questions helped me: does the good outweigh the bad? Are you more happy with her than when you're not? And are the things that make you unhappy easy to overcome?
Have you ever spent any time apart, like go on separate holidays for a couple of days?
It's a hard thing growing up, but to do that alongside another person in a relationship is even harder. All relationships take work, but I think it's worth thinking about 'do the benefits outweigh the struggles?'
Don't feel guilty, I know that's easier said than done, but that feeling is like a rocking chair - it will give you something to do, but it won't get you any where 🙂 Just because she is more 'sure' than you are, doesn't mean you don't love her equally. I don't think this is what it's about, it sounds like you're more worried about letting her down and ruining her chance at happiness on your account. That is selfless. People think differently, that's all. Just because your thought process is different, doesn't mean your feelings are.
I personally, used to focus on what my life would be like without him, then really reflected on those feelings. I realised I couldn't live without him, then I had too and it's been hell, haha -_-
I will say, though that a lot of people go through this. You're not the only one, I know it feels that way, but you're not crazy.
Thank you for checking back in 🙂
It would seem that you are head over heals in love with her, and are scared of the "what if's".
All those "what if's" are bridges that you will cross as a couple; together. To me, proposing is an exaltation that you feel as though you could love only her for the rest of your life. And, marriage is that you both are ready to be a permanent part of each others lives. So my advice is that you go ahead a propose.
After she says yes, and before you go telling family and friends, you need to have a sitdown heart-to-heart talk about what this means to both of you. You may want to discuss what concerns are, that need to be addressed, before you set a wedding date. Also, I have friends that were engaged for 6 years before they finally wed; so there is no time limit on the engagement.
Like Liv says, marriage is a HUGE commitment. And even though mine fizzled out 25 years down the road, it is still the best thing I ever did. Conversely, my brother was engaged for three years before things changed for them; and he too thinks that proposing what the best decision he ever made (he never married anyone).
Take a big step, and see how it feels.
And, later, when you are certain, take that giant leap.
It is better to have loved and lived, than to have not loved and merely survived.