Worried You Have Engagement Anxiety? Here's How to Handle It

You aren't alone if you feel more anxious than elated over getting engaged.
woman anxiously holding engagement ring
Photo: Grace Cary | Getty Images
Heather Bien - The Knot Contributor.
Heather Bien
Heather Bien - The Knot Contributor.
Heather Bien
The Knot Contributor
  • Heather contributes wedding, honeymoon, travel and relationship content for The Knot and WeddingWire.
  • Heather also writes for publications including Apartment Therapy, StyleBlueprint, MyDomaine, HelloGiggles and The Everygirl.
  • She holds a degree in Art History and Architectural History from the University of Virginia.
Updated Sep 19, 2023

You're engaged! This should be a time for celebration, right? But whether you and your partner openly discussed getting married for years or the big question came as a surprise, it's not unusual to experience engagement anxiety creeping its way in before or during your engagement.

Sara Miller, MS, LCPC, Relationship Therapist at Confluent Relationship Therapy, explains, "Taking the next steps with a partner to becoming engaged is a huge life decision, and any life decision almost always comes with worry about making the right choice. I see engagement anxiety present with clients more often than not." She points out that this can occur at any stage of engagement, including starting before the engagement even happens.

Engagement anxiety could feel like a mild case of the butterflies, or it could be enough to make you question whether you should move forward with planning the wedding. Either way, these feelings can be unsettling when they arise. However, don't be alarmed. Here's how three therapists and relationship experts recommend navigating engagement anxiety so you can feel confident in your next big life chapter.

In this article:

What Is Engagement Anxiety?

Engagement anxiety is the nerves and worry that show up prior to getting engaged or in the days, weeks, and months following the engagement. It's a nagging feeling that perhaps you're making the wrong decision or aren't ready to commit to one person for a lifetime. This can be compounded by all of the emotions and decisions that come with the early days of planning a wedding.

"The engagement anxiety I see with clients often relates to worry that they've chosen the right partner, and what the future relationship dynamics will look like," says Miller. This looks similar to cold feet, but it often occurs earlier in the process than cold feet, which can pop up in the immediate weeks and months before the wedding.

She explains that couples that have been in a happy, healthy relationship will perceive flaws in their partner that they fear will be the demise of their relationship in the future. These could be flaws that have existed for years, but the pressure of the engagement intensifies the worry that these are deal breakers. "I've seen these worries even with clients that have been with their partner for many years before the engagement, so they have had plenty of time to get to know the person," says Miller. She notes that typically these aren't relationship-ending frustrations, but they could seem that way once the pressure of a lifetime is present.

Engagement anxiety can also pop up due to life experiences, whether it's the couple's own relationships, parents' marriages, or dysfunctional family patterns. "Many do not want to repeat the cycles of their predecessors," says Miller.

Alison McKleroy, M.A., LMFT, Founder of Center for Spark, adds that there's sometimes sadness or grief in addition to anxiety over getting engaged. "There is a natural loss that comes with change and big life transitions, even if the engagement feels like the right step. You might be grieving what you could be giving up or you could be sad that the proposal is over," says McKleroy.

And you may not be in the clear just because you didn't initially experience engagement anxiety. "Clients filled with initial bliss about engagement may have delayed anxiety due to suppressing their worries early on," warns Miller.

Is Engagement Anxiety Normal?

"Having some anxiety, nervousness, ambivalence, or fear is very normal and common both before getting engaged, during the engagement, and even before getting married," says Dr. Avigail Lev PsyD, Founder and Director at Bay Area CBT Center.

Lev explains that it actually might be more concerning not to feel a little bit anxious about such a significant life decision. "If you don't feel any anxiety, you might be a bit delusional or perhaps have some unrealistic, magical thinking," says Lev. However, she notes that if the anxiety is interfering with an ability to commit, then it may run deeper than normal nerves.

How To Handle Engagement Anxiety

The first step to addressing engagement anxiety and finding a path forward is to remember that this is all part of being intentional about the next step. McKleroy says that she first assures those experiencing engagement anxiety that it's human to feel this way and it shows how much they care about making thoughtful life choices.

Here are five ways to approach engagement anxiety and figure out why it's rearing its head.

Be Compassionate with Yourself

Don't feel bad because you're experiencing engagement anxiety. "Instead of being self-critical about feeling anxious, you can talk to yourself with the warmth and understanding you would offer a dear friend," says McKleroy. She notes that it's important to remind yourself that this is normal and that you're facing a new and big life change. This will take a period of adjustment, and that's okay.

Write Down Your Thoughts

"Write down your thoughts, doubts, and fears in a journal. Journaling helps release thoughts and emotions, bring awareness to what's causing your anxiety, and expand your perspective," says McKleroy. It can help you gain clarity around why you're experiencing nervousness and worry.

Identify What's Causing the Feelings

Miller explains that her first step in working with clients is identifying where their feelings are coming from. "What is causing the fear? I evaluate their relationship dynamic with comprehensive assessments to identify if it has the core pillars of a healthy union," says Miller. But she adds that even if the anxiety is ruined in actual areas of dysfunction, that doesn't mean the relationship is doomed. It just needs work.

Tap Into Outside Support

Experiencing engagement anxiety can be lonely. When people ask how wedding planning is going, you put on a smile, but, deep down, you're still worried. That's when it's time to bring in a support team. "Talking to trusted friends or family, or getting support from a professional, can empower you with insights and tools to handle this transition with more ease," recommends McKleroy.

Use Meditation and Breathing to Reduce Acute Anxiety

While doing the work on why you're experiencing engagement anxiety is critical, sometimes you need a coping tool to help in the moment. "Deep breathing is a quick technique to reduce anxiety on the spot. When you take a few deep breaths, this lowers your heart rate and releases endorphins," says McKleroy. When you feel anxious feelings taking over, take a few deep breaths and feel the calm wash over you.

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