Does the Idea of Being With One Person Forever Freak You Out?
You're happy, you're engaged! So why are you looking over at your partner, suddenly wondering if monogamy is really for you? Deep breaths. Honestly, you're not alone. It's an anxiety that a lot of couples experience -- especially the ones facing the idea of a lifetime together. We found three very smart, very cool sex and relationship experts and authors and asked them for the low-down on why it happens and what you can do to calm yourself down and get back to being excited to marry the person you love.
Why the Freak Out Happens
You're Worried Nothing Will Be Sexy Anymore
This idea that the height of sexiness is a different one night stand every night is pervasive, says Kerner, and you can see it everywhere -- from TV shows and movies to gossipy conversations between friends. But sometimes, a bit of healthy anxiety is a good thing. "A little trepidation is really helpful. Starry-eyed people are not usually prepared for the expected pitfalls and stresses that every couple is bound to face," says Dr. Randi Gunther, PhD and author of Heroic Love.
You're Terrified of Feeling Trapped
And then there's the tired phrase, "That old ball and chain" that your curmudgeonly uncle might throw out there from time to time. "Putting on handcuffs is a panicking thought," says Ian Kerner, couples therapist and author of She Comes First. Dismiss the myth. Monogamy isn't a prison sentence that involves locking you up with a person for years and years until you die.
There Actually Is Something Wrong
It wouldn't be responsible if we failed to mention that there are several very good reasons for "cold feet" that you should take seriously. "It's often hard to tell whether the 'cold feet' feeling comes from something present in the relationship that needs to be looked at and when it's because of fears, worries or other concerns that are more about one person (like drugs, alcohol and abuse of any kind)," says Charlie Glickman, PhD, sex and relationship coach. "Fortunately, wherever that feeling is coming from, the first step is going to be the same: Talk with each other about it. Whether on your own or with a therapist or coach. Getting it out into the open is the best place it start. If your partner is dismissive of your concerns, or tells you that they aren't important or aren't serious, that's a red flag. That's why it's helpful to get some support."
How to Deal With a Freak Out
Shift Your Perspective
It's important that you recognize a few factors: "No long-term relationship can compete with new lust, but no new relationship can hold a candle to the couple who has it all," says Gunther. If you're going to commit to one person, you need to get a new definition of what's sexy to you two. Yes, taking home a stranger can seem new and exciting, but exploring new fantasies and engaging in pillow talk with your partner can be just as much of a turn-on. Similarly, says Kerner, most of us aspire to find the kind of connection to another person that married people have. You're certainly not going to find that from a person you don't know as well as your fiance.
Look Forward to the Future
Being with one person isn't the end of your life; it's a new beginning with plenty of benefits. "Long-term partners who are committed to continual discovery and innovation personally and inter-personally, have both the joy of history, memories, healings, shared-heartbreaks, long-term friendships and the mutual experience of different stages of life that sequential relationships cannot create," says Gunther, who's been an invested partner in her own successful marriage for 61 years. In other words, when you decide to commit to a long-term relationship, you're allowing yourselves the privilege to create a new life together. We're talking a new family, a bigger and stronger friend network, and the safety and security that comes along with all those things. "That's deeper than anything a fling can give you," says Kerner.
Know that Sex Isn't Everything
Lust is a big deal when a relationship is just beginning. As time goes on, it should become less important, says Gunther. Hear that? It should become less important. It's not weird if the desire-factor isn't the same or as strong. "Sexual lust doesn't need much of a relationship to support it," says Gunther. "Great relationships make sex a little less central and more likely to emerge out of what is already good." That's not to say that you'll be having less sex -- just that sex won't be (and shouldn't be) the end-all, be-all of your relationship.
What You Shouldn't Do If You're Feeling Cold Feet
Allow Yourself to Feel Bored
"Boredom is one of the biggest enemies of love," says Gunther. In other words, if you stop taking an interest in new hobbies, reading great books and sharing them or just generally having a life outside of your relationship with your fiance, you risk losing too much of your individuality. It's your different point of views that makes it so much fun to get together at the end of the day and talk. "If people have stopped learning, exploring, discovering and challenging themselves personally, how can they continue to interest someone who can, God forbid, finish their sentences from prior repetition?" Gunther adds. "[Long-term couples] continue to dream, to play, to fight productively, to share vulnerabilities and to nourish the child in each other."
Close Yourself Off to Experimenting or Even Talking About Sex With Your Fiance
We're not talking about going full-fledged Fifty Shades of Grey, but being open to at least talking about and trying your partner's desires and fantasies sexually is a big part of learning and growing together. Bringing up your own ideas is a good thing too. "Expansion is the fuel of a successful relationship," says Kerner. "Most couples don't communicate about sex, but positive, constructive comments about turn-ons engage creativity and keep couples connected."
Hold a Grudge -- Big or Small
Don't let a small problem become an even bigger one by not communicating openly about it. Small issues (like spending too much on a night out with the guys or on a pair of new heels) that go unspoken can become seriously damaging road blocks -- both physically and emotionally. That goes for the big topics too. Not talking about moving to another city or giving up a career opportunity can foster resentment and create big problems later on. It can feel like all of a sudden, you and your spouse are enemies, says Glickman. Learning to give and truly accept apologies and openly communicate about problems goes a long way in having a successful relationship.
Why There's Really Nothing to Freak Out About
You're Marrying a Quality Person
Simply put: You know the person you love and you wouldn't be committing to them unless you had confidence in the type of person that they are. "Quality people are quality people and they make great, long-term relationships everywhere," says Gunther.
You're Committing to Security and Stability
Sexiness comes in all forms, and settling down can be a turn-on too. A feeling of stability and security that comes with commitment should make you feel more confident in yourself and more willing to explore new things. "While people usually talk about the thrill of novelty or a new partner, there's something valuable that comes from the depth of a long-term relationship." says Glickman. "I think that making that work requires the ability to learn together -- making it possible to keep seeing new things about each other."
You'll Get to Grow Together -- Physically and Emotionally
You're going to change and your fiance is too. The cool part about that is that when you do it together, you only get stronger. "Strong couples are made up of strong individuals," says Kerner. If you continue to learn and grow as an individual, learning and growing as a couple will follow and you'll have experiences together that will bring you to a deeper, closer relationship than you've ever had, forging a bond between the two of you that many people aspire to have. "I've had the joy of being married to about 12 different men -- it just so happens that they're all the same one," says Gunther.