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Dating Advice #124 - Engagement Panic
Dating Advice 124

Dating Advice #124 - Engagement Panic

She's engaged and enduring daily anxiety attacks. Is there a way to get to the chuppah without totally losing her mind?


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I recently became engaged to a terrific guy. The last few weeks of dating were pure torture, I so much wanted to get engaged to him. So we went to meet my family, then his family. Then he proposed and I said yes!

Within three days of getting engaged, I found myself having major panic attacks. It's fairly consistent -- a few times a day.

I think my fiance is an amazing man. Indeed, I can actually say that I do love him. I've read your book, "In the Beginning," and can check the list off with no problem. Indeed, the only time I am not panicking is when I am with him.

I don't know what is wrong with me. I have spent the last six years dating with the singular goal of getting married, and now that it's here I find I am terribly afraid of getting married. My friends (married) all say this is normal, but I have the feeling most people freak out once or twice, not twice every day!

Let me add two important facts: I had a broken engagement around two years ago. Most people have forgotten, but it definitely scarred me. Also, my father died last year, and my fiance and I are making this wedding on our own (financially).

We have scheduled our engagement party and I haven't publicized it to my friends yet, because I keep having this ugly premonition that we won't make it that far.

I want to marry this man, but the next few months until the wedding will be torture if these panic attacks keep happening every day.

Any thoughts or advice is most appreciated.


Dear Rachel,

First and foremost, Mazel Tov on your engagement! Your fiance sounds wonderful, and from what you write it appears that he is the right person for you to spend your life with.

We are glad that you wrote for help with your anxiety, and we hope our suggestions will help you manage it until the wedding. In our experience, these panic attacks will not completely disappear until you are married -- but once you arrive at that point, you won't believe how calm you will be!

You should think of these high levels of anxiety like a bad case of the flu: You feel awful while you are sick, but you know that once the illness runs its course you're back to normal.

A flu sufferer can do a number of things to minimize the symptoms and discomfort, just as you can adopt a number of strategies to help minimize your frequency and degree of anxiety. Before we get to that, however, we'd like you to adopt a "mantra" to repeat to yourself over the course of your engagement. That shouldn't be hard to do, since you already realize that you've got a great guy, and you are insightful enough to understand that your anxiety is completely unrelated to what the two of you have together.

In fact, your insight has helped you realize that your prior broken engagement and your father's recent death play a big role in the discomfort you are now feeling. In all likelihood, the fact that you have mixed feelings about getting married in his absence is the biggest factor here. Yes, the financial pressures play a big role, too. You need to keep this in mind, and reassure yourself. Here's the mantra:

"I know these feelings will pass once our wedding takes place. I also know that my fiance and I are right for each other and will have a great life together."

(By the way, you are definitely not the only person who has several panic attacks a day. We've seen this phenomenon in a number of people who, like you, were engaged to very well-suited people and were anxious because of issues that were not at all related to the quality of their courtship. We are pleased to report that each of them was fine immediately after the wedding ceremony, and is now very happily married.)

Now let's talk about alleviating some of your anxiety. If you haven't found one or two close, married friends or relatives to serve as your hand-holder/sounding board/cheering section, please do so now. (If you are afraid they won't understand what you are experiencing, ask them to read this letter.) Simply having an understanding friend who will allow you to vent, and who will reassure you that everything will be fine, will help you a great deal.

We also strongly recommend that you begin a daily exercise program and follow it every day, or at a minimum five times a week. It will be easier if you make it part of your routine -- aim for a half-hour each day. You can do different activities each day -- brisk walking to music a few times a week, an aerobics tape a couple more, swimming, Israeli dancing (good practice for your wedding), or another sport. Exercise releases endorphins, and they help elevate mood and relieve anxiety. This alone will help minimize the severity of the symptoms you feel.

Another important suggestion is that you need to follow a daily schedule. When you are feeling anxious or stressed, it is very helpful to have a set routine for work, recreation, spiritual matters, and wedding preparations. If you are the type of person who feels calmer if you have a schedule to follow, then make a weekly schedule of the things you need to do to prepare for your wedding, and check off finished tasks as you go.

And speaking of wedding preparations, we have two must-dos that will probably seem like life-savers to you after the fact. The first is to make your engagement period as short as possible. The longer your engagement, the longer your "flu symptoms" will last. Think of a short engagement as the medication Tami-Flu. It will shorten the period of your anxiety.

The next must-do is to delegate the wedding preparations (as much as possible) to friends and family, including your fiance and his family. Cut some corners in the interest of sanity -- for example, have a friend set up a mail merge for your wedding guest list and ask her to print up the envelopes on your computer, instead of doing them by hand. Ask other people to help with things like centerpieces, keeping track of who is coming, getting recommendations for wedding halls, photographers and music, choosing a menu, etc.

Also, instead of worrying about having an apartment perfectly set up before the wedding, just focus on getting a few basics taken care of now. After your wedding, you and your husband can enjoy shopping for furniture and accessories for your home together, and you will feel a lot less pressured because you won't need to have everything in place by a specific date.

All of this advice will definitely help you make your engagement more survivable. Just remember the mantra: "After the engagement period is over, me and my fiance will have a wonderful life to look forward to."

Now go call your friends and invite them to your engagement party!

Best wishes for a great future,

Rosie & Sherry

April 5, 2003

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Viv, October 11, 2012 12:33 PM

Going through the same

I am too going through the same thing. I got engaged 5 months ago an have been enjoying the engagement until we decided to get civilly married this week for health insurance reasons and we plan on having our religious ceremony in April of next year. Once we told the family, some of them have made comments that have created a pressure feeling. I love my soon to be husband but I keep feeling very anxious with a million thoughts going through my mind. This only happens when I think about the marriage but just being with him makes me happy. Any suggestions or thoughts for me?

(5) Tania, August 2, 2010 12:02 AM

Simillar Situation

Thanks for the wonderful letter. I feel much better knowing I'm not alone! I'm in a somewhat similar situation. But I have suffered with anxiety/panic for 15 years. I lost my job a year ago and not having a routine drives me nuts! My fiance is wonderful and we have been together for almost 5 yrs. We are getting married end of July 2011! I go thru some mild hi/low while planning the wedding, and sometimes i worry I'm not doing the right thing! No panic attacks, but def I feel a bit uneasy at times. I exercise regularly and try to maintain a routine as best as I can. I just wanted to thank you for the uplifting letter!

(4) hadassah, November 29, 2007 11:34 AM

I turned here for advice before my big day

It was not too long ago I was reading this before my wedding, looking for chizuk. I was 20 when I got married, with no previous serious relationships, and I still had terrible nervousness and anxiety. My parents are divorced, and I kept mulling over whether we'd end up the same way. I'd be happy about our relationship one day, and then somone would so much as say the word "divorce" in my presence and I'd run to room and freak out. I'd spend some days floating, in shock, petrified. The only thing that helped ease my fear when we weren't together was the above list from Rosie and Sherrie. I KNEW we were perfect for each other, but I would mull over every single one of his faults and worry they'd become huge problems. Even the day of my wedding, we got to the hall and I was crying. I didn't want to face everybody, I wasn't in the mood for a big production. Nope, I didn't want to get married today. Anyway, I calmed down and did it, and by the time the yichud room came i was having the time of my life. WEll, we've been married for a while now, and everyday I love my husband more and more. Some of us are just prone to anxiety, and that's something we have to work through. Heck, I get nervous over tests and public speaking...WHY wouldn't I get nervous over GETTING MARRIED?! That's pretty huge! Just remind yourself why you're marrying this man, how you feel when you're with him, and think good thoughts. If it makes you happy to be with him, that happiness will come back triple-fold once you're married and the stress of seeing and other on and off, and wondering and worrying and planning a wedding are GONE. And remember, you're feelings are normal. By the way, after all I described about my engagement, no one would believe it because I looked so calm and happy most of the time. And I was too terrified to tell anybody how I felt-even my own mother, who I'm super close with- lest they tell me to rethink my decision to marry him. I couldn't hurt my man like that, and I knew in my heart of hearts I wanted to be with him. People say now I was a beaming kallah, and sometimes I was, but other times, I was going through torture. By the way, NEVER ask your single friends for advice on this matter. People who've never been engaged tend to think nervousness is always a sign something is truly wrong. I made the mistake of telling my friend- who was the shadchan- and she said "Well, my sister wasn't nervous when she married Ploni." I was thinking, right, like she would've told her little sister if she was nervous. Turn to experienced older people who've been around and that you trust. That's what I did, and they reaussured me. That really helped. I love my husband dearly and there's nothing better than growing with him and getting to know him more and more over time. Marriage is wonderful! I'll tell you what my mentor told me: "Its not an aveirah to be happy!" Take a deep breath. It will be OK.

(3) Anonymous, May 19, 2003 12:00 AM

good suggestions but more

My oldest daughter got married in 2 1/2 months. Any longer would have been hard on them. Make the wedding SIMPLE-SKIP-centerpieces-focus on the JOY. It will make the day special

(2) Leah, April 7, 2003 12:00 AM

So True!

Please read and heed this advice! I too was panicked by remarriage -- my first husband walked out on me and our baby, and in retrospect, I was dealing with some serious abandonment issues. However, I knew I was finally matched with my beshert, and my friends propped me up by repeatedly saying, "This one will never leave you!" I tried not to share my panic with my fiance for it would have hurt his feelings, and my worries really had nothing to do with him. Rosie and Sherry are correct -- the day of the wedding I felt so extraordinarily calm that everyone remarked upon it. And now -- bliss!Hang in there!

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