Friday, September 15, 2006

A Spicy Latin Dish versus Chicken Soup

Dear Andrew,

I am three weeks away from my wedding. Yes, three weeks! I have been with my fiance for over a year and a half. He travels for work, though, so our time together hasn't been consistent.

My cold feet are so severe it is causing panic attacks and physical illness. I have had an affair, I have tried to leave him and somehow he always finds a way to convince me to stay. He isn't abusive, he is kind and loving and sensitive. He expresses his love in every way he knows how and is consistent in his devotion. We don't have a very passionate relationship but basically the same core ideals (except the cheating). He is sitting here now, letting me search the Internet for answers without interrupting or being angry.

Why do I have these intense urges to walk out on someone who is so amazingly good to me? Maybe it's fear of commitment, I am only 25 years old but he is one of a kind. I have never been so loved by such a good honest man, yet I can't get the thought out of my head that there is some amazing relationship, more exciting and thrilling out there.

I made contact with my previous boyfriend and it was shocking how much I saw in him that was probably unattractive but sounded so much more of what I want. My attractions in the past were to guys with a little fire, a sarcastic wit and a sense of adventure. Maybe a spicy Latin dish, my fiance is like chicken soup. So I'm afraid I might be a little destructive and am creating situations for myself that are sure to end in pain. The relationship I am in now is safe and comfortable, but I fear boredom more than death.

Please tell me if there is anyway to know what I really want for sure. How do I soul search productively?

Signed, Confused and Scared Bride-To-Be

Dear Confused,

I wish there were a sure-fire way to always know what we want in life. You've probably heard the cliches like "listen to your heart," but what if your heart is sending out conflicting messages?

I have dealt with this issue before, though the previous letter writers were not just about to be married. The Ghost of the First Love is about a 21 year old woman with a "wonderful" boyfriend, but she is afraid she will cheat on him or otherwise blow it. She finds "bad boys" all too tempting. Sound familiar? In response to that story, another young woman wrote to say she also has a "nice" boyfriend but she is Still Chasing that Excitement, which is missing in her relationship. Finally (and you might find this story the most interesting) a third young woman wrote about how she is Living the Story. She broke up with her "nice" boyfriend when he asked her to move in and her heart rebelled. Two years later she met someone else and knew immediately he was the one. Her message: "When something's wrong you feel it" and you should listen to that feeling.

As you read those three articles, pay attention not only to my advice but also to the comments readers left in response to those posts. My readers are an astute bunch and often offer up plenty of "been there, done that" advice. This should provide some insight into why you have urges to walk out.

Neither I nor any of the other readers, however, can decide whether you should get married in just over two weeks. Only you can make that judgment call. Let me suggest a soul searching test that might help.

What if you could back out of the wedding with absolutely no negative consequences? Maybe you find a magic wand that can make everyone (including him) forget you were ever engaged. You could undo all the wedding arrangements, get back all the money, choose to be single again or back to simply dating this guy. Would you do it?

If so, ask yourself if any of these factors are playing a part in your decision to go ahead with the wedding. Is it because you would be embarrassed to admit to everyone that you changed your mind? Would some people be upset with you? Are you worried about the money you've put into it? Do you think this might be your only chance to be happy? (It isn't, as "Living the Story" should illustrate.)

I urge you to ignore all those factors. None of them amount to a hill of beans compared with the impact of marrying the wrong person, especially if children enter the picture before you figure that out. The only reason to go ahead with the wedding is if you want to spend the rest of your life with him. If you would rather wait, then wait. It's too important to let other factors influence you.

What if it is "just" a fear of commitment? (This previous post discusses commitment phobia in women.) If so, how would this impact your relationship if you get married while in that state? Many people fool themselves into thinking they will magically feel differently about various issues after the ceremony. "Oh, I'll be more comfortable with sex once we're married." Or maybe, "I'll stop worrying about whether he's the right guy once we're wearing the rings." Sorry, it doesn't work that way. You will be the same people with all the same issues. If you're having trouble committing to this guy, you might want to take the time needed to lay that issue to rest one way or the other before making the ultimate commitment.

A little touch of cold feet or nervousness is normal. Panic attacks, physical illness, affairs, boredom and being tempted by former boyfriends are not. You have issues you need to resolve before tying the knot. Hopefully the ideas discussed above will give you a framework for doing that.

All the best,

Thanks to everyone who has already answered this week's Ask the Faithful Readers question about the relationship skills of the Game Boy generation. If you haven't done so, today is your last chance. I will post my favorite response tomorrow with a link to the winner's site.


  1. It sounds to me like going ahead with the wedding would do both you and your fiancee a great disservice. You both deserve to enter into this union with the love, trust and excitement that a good marriage bring.

    I think most women go through a "Bad Boy" stage (I know I did) but once you outgrow that you'll find that you're actually craving the comfort and stability of chicken soup (which is VERY tasty when you add a dash of Hot Sauce ;))...

    I probably would have felt the same way you're feeling if I'd met my husband in my early 20s. Fortunately, since I feel a good relationship is about 10% attraction, 50% shared interests and goals and 40% good timing.. we managed to get it right and I can honestly say that my wedding day was one of the nicest days of my life. I never got cold feet and I've never even come close to regretting my decision.

    Maybe the guy you have now IS the one.. but waiting until you're ready won't change that. Of course if he isn't.. then waiting is the very best thing you can do for both of you.


  2. I agree with julie julie. There is no way, at this point, to know for sure if this is the man for you. He may very well be. Waiting to be sure is never a bad thing.

    Your insecure feelings are creating far to unstable an environment for anyone to get married in. If the guy is as sweet as you say he is, he will be willing to wait for you to feel good about it. Time is always your friend. If a man were to tell me, "it's now or never," I would certainly choose never.

    No one should ever feel pressured to tie the knot. Never ever. Not by anyone or anything.

  3. Here is MY advice for this gal. It is really simple. Do not get married right now. It doesn't mean he is being rejected, or that he is not wonderful, or that she is not wonderful too... it is obvious that she is not ready for marriage. 25 years old? C'mon...she has a LOT of living to do, and apparently, her insides know it and are screaming for validation!
    Why wouldn't she trust her own mind and heart? Her own body is rejecting the idea...not the man, but the idea of marrying him. The reasons may become more clear over time, but why gamble with your future, or his? Divorce is ugly business, and that is my prediction for them if they go through with it. Did she think about this; If he is such a good man, doesn't he deserve someone who will enthusiastically embrace the idea of marrying him, rather than being dragged, vomiting, down the aisle clinging to some impossible vision of spicy male perfection?

    BTW: sarcasm gets really old after a while...

  4. Footnote regarding bad boys:

    My boyfriend is a spicy soup bad boy. But he's also the sweetest man in the world.

    Now THAT is a nice mix!

  5. Anonymous12:04 PM

    I agree that waiting is never a bad thing. I have been married for 15 years and I have never looked back - it is awesome when it's right but if you have doubts - wait! Do not feel pressured. If he is the right one - he will wait.

  6. well - it is your decision to make

    but if you want my advice - i would say wait

    unless you can put you whole heart and soul into something - then don't do it

    i'm a mom and a grandmom - and i can tell you -- if you're afraid of disappointing your parents or friends or other family members -- they will get over it...i would be upset if my daughter came to me last minute and told me the wedding was off - after all the money i spent

    but i would still love her

    and telling your family is the adult thing to do - being afraid of them is acting like the child you 'were' to them...not the adult person you are now

  7. Even-handed, as always. My view? Don't do it! But, heck, my wife is watching me type these words (and astoundingly it turns out we agree on this, she just informed me). Wow, you're great Dr. Andrew. You just saved our marriage!!!

  8. hey, gang, why am I the only man commenting? what's the deal?

  9. I weigh in on the side that says to wait. It's far easier to stop the wedding before it's happened than to undo it afterward. And one should never have to contemplate a future which they think might be unhappy because they're making the wrong choice. Wait and figure out what the right thing is to do.

  10. If you don't feel ready for this, wait. If only for his sake. I'm sure he wants to marry someone he knows for sure loves him with her whole heart. Especially if you've cheated in the past and he's forgiven you, and even accepts the fact that you are having cold feet, I'm sure he can wait until you are sure.
    Once you've tied the knot, there is no going back- well, divorce certainly is always worse than a breakup.

  11. Marriage is based on what is best for two people. What I heard in this letter was I, I, I,! How about give the "chicken soup guy" a break and don't marry him? I think he deserves better than you are offering him --- it might hurt him for a few days, but not for a whole lifetime, while you are dreaming about the "chili pepper dude" who is out there somewhere.

  12. No. No marriage, PLEASE! If you start out with such serious doubts, you're not ready.

    Honestly, it feels to me like despite how wonderful this man is, he's pressuring you. Maybe a touch of passive-aggressive behavior? He "convinces" you to stay with him. Is it because he loves you or because he's afraid to be alone?

    Have a good heart-to-heart with him. Tell him it does neither of you any good to go forward when such serious doubts hang over you. Then cool your jets for a while. There's no law saying you must marry right now, or ever. He's not the right one for you, and vice versa!