I will soon be getting married to my partner of six years and all of a sudden I feel really nervous and insecure about it. I love him but we started dating when we were very young and although our thoughts and ideas lined up nicely as we grew up together I still wonder if I could be better paired with someone else. I feel bad for having these thoughts because I know I don’t. I know he will be a great husband and that we can have a great life together, but I miss the passion of the early stages of a relationship.
A new colleague started at my workplace and we had some flirtatious moments. It was good to be seen that way by someone else, but I wouldn’t dare go any further. But I get along very well with him and I want to talk to him all the time. I wonder if having conflicting thoughts like these is a bad sign. Shouldn’t I be completely satisfied with my engagement and delighted to marry someone I love?
Eleanor says: While “I love him, but” is never quite what you mean about your fiancé, I think your question harbors a subtle distinction. Does this dissatisfaction lie in the relationship itself or in what the commitment represents? Is there something wrong with your timeliness – or are you just grieving the loss of possibility?
This second type of dissatisfaction, the loss of possibility, often envelops us as we approach major commitments. Once we settle on the big move, the career decision, the relationship milestone, a deflating sense of anticlimax can creep in. I think it’s because these moments signify our view of how things strength be is starting to have a sharper resolution – we are starting to see how things will be to be, and therefore, at the same time, what they will not be. For every big choice we make, we decline an alternative future. We tell ourselves that these doors are closed and that the versions of life behind them will remain silent and inanimate.
It can be difficult to digest. Especially for the choices that make us pass from the things of youth to the things of adults, from freedom to responsibility; they can make us feel like we lack opportunities. This is sometimes why flirtations have such kerosene power in life’s transitional moments – before a wedding, in the middle of life. It’s not so much that we’re transfixed by that particular other person, but that we’re transfixed by seeing ourselves, briefly, as them – as a stranger, as someone crackling with possibilities.
It would be strange if you didn’t feel anything like this as your wedding day approaches. The point of marriage is that your life changes accordingly. You promise to take another person’s well-being as seriously as your own. It’s a big decision about what your future looks like (and what it doesn’t).
But, if you really love someone, what on the surface looks like “loss of possibility” should actually look like the exact opposite. Granted, monogamous marriage means you deny the possibility of a new relationship or the thrill of chemistry with a stranger, but what you get instead is the vast future that opens up between people who want make a life together.
When you truly love yourself, it feels expansive, not constricting. It makes you feel that there is more of you, and more of the world – more future; more possibility; more freedom – not less. This is one of the great mysteries of love and commitment – how we might, by taking responsibility for each other, come to feel more like ourselves.
If the changes that marriage demands of you already seem unwelcome and constraining, that’s where I’d like to stop. Your partner won’t want a spouse who sees your union as a sacrifice – as something that robs you of the openness you yearn for.
You asked if you should feel completely satisfied, and while the answer to that question is almost always no, it’s important to distinguish between types of dissatisfaction. Losing any kind of possibility can leave a trail of melancholy. But if you don’t see the burst of different and exciting possibilities in your new commitment, now might be the time to ask yourself.
Ask us a question
Do you have a conflict, crossroads or dilemma that you need help with? Eleanor Gordon-Smith will help you think through life’s questions and puzzles, big and small. Questions can be anonymous.