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The engagement trap
Many of you are probably familiar with the classic warning signs that say you may be making the mistake of your life if you follow through on your plans to marry. These can include but are not limited to:
* Bridezilla/Groomzilla traits
* Frequent moodiness/anger
* Frequent conflict around wedding planning, dealing with bridal party, family, etc.
* You discover that they have been cheating on you
* You learn damaging new information about their background that they had not disclosed
* Parents have already put down the deposit so you can't cancel
* All your family/friends LOVE him/her and would be upset
* You've invested too much already in the relationship to call it quits
* Breaking up would be too hard/costly to lifestyle
Some of these scream out at you and are easier to both identify and act on then more subtle ones. After all, your friends and family will not only understand, but will be very supportive if they are told you are breaking off your engagement because your intended has been sleeping around, is abusive, or deceitful. They will rally and offer to help you put a quick end on this (almost) very costly mistake.
But what about those subtle and hard to articulate reasons--you know, the ones that would leave you explaining and defending yourself to everyone? Should you assume they are mostly due to cold feet, generalized fears about making such a major commitment, or something else that reflects mostly on your issues and not your intended's rightness or wrongness for you? If you do, you could be making a mistake that I hear about far too often in my work with couples, a mistake that leads to divorce almost as often as the glaring, in your face ones.
A more inclusive list of what you should take note of and give some time to truly think over includes:
* A "something is off" feeling in your gut
* Rationalizing to yourself and others about why this person is so right for you
* Rationalizing away traits that bother you but you think will improve after marriage
* Your intended or you are experiencing cold feet throughout the engagement
* You or your intended are sometimes thinking about other people/possibilities
* You aren't excited as your look beyond the wedding day
In my experience, people marry for many different reasons that are often about being practical, logical, and place a high value on convenience and maintaining the status quo. While these are not all wrong, they are all wrong if they are expected to be good enough for the long haul. One question I always ask folks who see me for premarital counseling to ask of themselves is--"Can I imagine a life without this person?" In other words, the focus needs to shift to what we really want from a future partner and if this person feels like the one who offers that right now. If engaged individuals ask themselves that question and come up with answers that say that yes, they could see themselves with someone else, or they think this person best meets what they are looking for and they probably won't find anyone better, or the classic, everything will be great when we finally get married, they should pause and spend some time on premarital counseling in order to know if they have chose to marry for love or something else. Otherwise, they will be coming into counseling soon afterwards- and it will be a lot more costly that way.
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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