Dear Therapist:

I know this is more of a shidduch question, but I would love to hear the perspectives of mental health professionals on this. BH I am getting engaged and I am excited. I am so grateful that I got everything I wanted (and much more). At the same time as so much excitement, I am also really nervous, it's such a huge decision and even though I spoke it over with my parents and mentors, I still just feel how huge it is. I feel like when my friends were engaged, they were completely on cloud nine and nothing else. Does this make sense that I am having such mixed emotions?



You sound like a bright and introspective person. At first blush, what you describe sounds perfectly normal to me. We all have mixed thoughts and mixed emotions about many things. This may not be as obvious, however, when the stakes are not so high. When we have mixed emotions about which ice cream flavor to choose, it doesn’t feel as “mixed” as when we are choosing which high school to attend.

Feeling great about getting all that you wanted (and much more!) makes perfect sense. Being excited about a new beginning is natural. Feeling nervous about the very same thing is normal as well. Marriage is a big step, and feelings of nervousness are to be expected.

Of course, as with most things, it comes down to degree. How nervous are you? How often do you feel nervous? Is the nervousness increasing in intensity and frequency, or is it decreasing? Can any increase be explained by how close you are to your wedding or other outside factors?

Instead of asking yourself these questions, you may be focusing on how you compare your friends. But it’s not about your friends; it’s about you. What if I told you that none of your friends felt even the slightest tinge of anxiety before getting married? Would you feel worse? Perhaps. But would you think that was appropriate or normal? More importantly, would it really matter?

It’s possible that your friends felt little anxiety while they were engaged. They may be less introspective than you. They may be less sensitive. They may have been in denial, or used other defense mechanisms to repress their nervousness. Or they may have been far more nervous than you believe.

It’s easy to assume when it comes to others that what we see is what we get. Are you telling your friends how nervous you are? Even if you are, isn’t it possible that they didn’t feel comfortable discussing similar feelings with you? Just as we assume that others feel the way that they present themselves, we often assume that others can sense how we feel. Of course, this is not any truer for us than for others. Just as we cannot divine the thoughts and feelings of others, they cannot divine ours.

We often feel like an open book to others. They must know what I’m thinking or feeling, so I’m embarrassed or ashamed or concerned. As humans we are egocentric by nature. The world seems to revolve around us, so it seems that others are constantly judging us as we stand under the spotlight. What we need to remind ourselves is that the others about whom we are concerned feel like they are in the spotlight as well.

-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW

  psychotherapist in private practice

  Woodmere, NY

  adjunct professor at Touro College

  Graduate School of Social Work

  author of Self-Esteem: A Primer / 516-218-4200


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