When it comes to taking the leap into matrimony, go with your gut.
Or, better yet, go with your feet.
“Cold feet” is a term often used to describe the feelings of nervousness, restlessness or even fear that can grip a bride- or groom-to-be before the big day. And although it’s fairly common, cold feet can sometimes be an indicator or warning sign of problems within the relationship.
Bess, now 39, got engaged at age 19 to the only boyfriend she had ever had.
“We both came from a very religious culture where dating wasn’t encouraged except for the purpose of marriage, so there was a lot of pressure to date just the one person, only, ever,” Bess says. “I began dating him when I was 17 and he was 26. It was a huge age gap that meant a lot more as our relationship progressed and we discovered we were in completely different life phases.”
Bess experienced many doubts and cold feet in the weeks and months before her wedding, but went through with it all the same.
“The fact that we were not a rich family and my parents had spent a lot of money on the wedding was definitely an influence, as was the social pressures of our religious system,” she says. “By the time the day itself came, I’d convinced myself I was doing the right thing and that by obeying God and my husband, it would all work out just fine.”
Their marriage lasted nine years.
“In the end, the woman I became bore almost no resemblance to the teenaged girl he’d asked to marry him.”
Lots of people chalk cold feet up to just pre-wedding jitters or nervousness about the day itself. But could cold feet be our subconscious brain trying to tell us that something is very wrong here?
Couples counsellor Bernie Golden says that cold feet can mean different things at different times to different people.
“If somebody says they have cold feet, they might be saying, ‘I don’t know if I want to marry this person,'” he says. “Somebody else might say they’ve got cold feet, and they’re simply nervous and it’s really got nothing to do with the relationship.”
Golden says that individuals and couples with cold feet should take a big step back and assess the relationship.
“Ask yourself – ‘Is this going to work?'”
Renee, 37, ended her engagement to her English fiancé when a bout of cold feet made her realize that marriage was not at all what she wanted.
“I do believe I made the right decision and have never regretted it,” she says. “I was able to reconnect with my life and myself after having been away for so long. I was able to fully integrate all the things I learned about myself in that time without being part of a couple.”
What is her advice to those suffering from pre-wedding anxiety and doubts?
“Think long and hard about why you want to be married and what exactly is giving you cold feet. Personally, I would rather be a runaway bride than divorced a few years later.”