With this ring…

Life is a journey.

Along this journey, we may meet the person that we dare not to travel this life without. To  live without this person, would be like trying to breathe without air.  Okay, maybe that’s extreme.  You must admit it; it is joyous to meet the person that you feel you could spend your life waking up to.

Photo Courtesy of PracticeWedding.Com

Lori Fradkin and Amy Odell (2015), described the 20 Signs You’re with a Man You Should Marry (Hey, if it’s a woman you love, then this still applies):  

1. He always brags about you. 
2. He makes sacrifices for you — and you’re happy to do the same for him. 
3. He shares the same values as you. 
4. Even after years together he still does little chivalrous things for you. 
5. He doesn’t try to change you. 
6. When you think about marrying him, the best part isn’t the wedding, it’s the idea of spending your lives together. 
7. You survived a long-distance relationship. 
8. “I miss you” isn’t just a sweet thing you say. It’s a reality. 
9. You don’t like having a roommate and love having your own space, but you’d still prefer to live with him. 
10. He’s your go-to person whenever you have a story to share, about work, about friends, about anything.
11. You feel comfortable planning things six months — or a year — into the future. 
12. You can cry in front of him without feeling embarrassed. 
13. When your friends complain about their significant others or the guys they’ve gone out with, you get kind of quiet because you don’t have much to contribute. 
14. He’s close with your family, and he’s made sure you’ve gotten to know his. 
15. He cares about your friends. 
16. He lets you vent. 
17. He tells you, out of the blue, that you look hot. 
18. You can do things like travel together without fighting all the time. 
19. He plans activities that he knows you’ll enjoy. 
20. He works hard at his job, but you’re his priority. 

It makes your heart flutter with the possibility of meeting your soul mate.  So, you hold out through the dating process to anticipate that spark.  Not a perfect person, but that spark! And then…..you come across Time Magazine’s online article “Math Says This Is the Perfect Age to Get Married”.  You read with anticipation that your 35+ your-old self falls within this range.  You read on to discover that the researcher has concluded, the best time to marry is between the ages of 28 and 32,  if you “don’t want to get divorced, at least in the first five years”.  So, you might be asking yourself, “What is the relevance of mentioning this article?” 

Marriage Anxiety

Chasing The Groom

Well…if you are an unmarried woman over the age of 32 and desire to have children and/or marriage, “Perfect Age” articles or discussions might evoke tons of anxiety that lead to rushing into marriage.  When anxiety increases, those thoughts says, “Forget the dating and signs; I’m ready right now!”  Of course, those sentiments are not shared by every unmarried women over the age of 32, but it occurs.  Believe me, I am not exempt. Over the past 10 years, I have witnessed a few of my girlfriends and even, a few clients, rush into marriage for the sake of feeling like time was running out (or like the journey was ending soon).

The rush to marriage can be described as an anxiety.  To fully understand the anxiety, we must exam the thinking errors or anxious thoughts associated with the anxiety.  Thinking errors, or also known as cognitive distortions are ways irrational ways that we interpret situations. Irrational thinking patterns have been linked to depression and anxiety.   In most cases involving the urgency of marriage, some common thinking errors are:

Catastrophizing

This is a common distortion when it comes to anxiety. This is a type of thinking error that evolves worry that snowballs into an awful situation in your own mind. For example, “If I don’t get married now, I will never be able to have children, I will grow old alone and then die.” 

Jumping to Conclusions

This type of thinking error involves assuming others are judging you. You become your own worst critic and do not take into account that you don’t actually know what others are thinking about you.  For example, you attend a gathering with your married friends and began to say to yourself, “They are looking at me and wondering why I am not married and have children by now”.  

“Should” Statements

This is another common thinking error associated with anxiety and depression.  This is a distortion by which you hold yourself to standards that you “should” have accomplished by an arbitrary deadline.  For example, “I should have been married by now” or  “I should have become a mother by now”.

These thinking errors are distressing and can lead to shame, uncertainty and sadness, which can send a false signal that you are in race against time–rushing into marriage.  

Slow Down and Enjoy the Journey

Smelling the Roses

If you find yourself feeling “the rush”, here are a couple things you can practice to minimize your anxiety:

Adopt positive affirmations, or  personal mantras that really resonate with you. Try writing them in personal journal, vision board, pinning on Pinterest, or repeating them during a relaxing activity.  These affirmations are healthy reminders that nothing in life is permanent, including your anxiety regarding marriage.  Here are some examples:

  • I open my heart to love and I trust that true love will follow.
  • I am lovable and worthy of receiving love.
  • All is well. I am loved. There is NO rush.
  • I have nothing that I “should” do, except enjoy the journey of life as it unfolds.
  • I am so much more than my anxiety and I have control over it.
  • I am in the right place at the right time to meet who has been designed for me.

Challenge your thinking errors, or negative thoughts.  Would you not challenge a person who tries to belittle you? Well, negative thoughts are just that! It belittles you, so challenge it.  Stop your cycle of negative thinking by working through these steps:

  • Describe a triggering event: (Ex: Attending a friend’s wedding)
  • Imagine you are faced with the anxiety-provoking situation (triggering event).
    • Worst Outcome: (Ex: Someone asks when am I getting married and I burst into tears.)
    • Best Outcome: (Ex: Friend’s enjoy my company and no one makes this about me.)
    • Likely Outcome: (Ex: I have good time, maybe someone I hadn’t seen for a while asks about marriage plans.)
  • Okay, the worst outcome come true! Ask yourself, if it still matters:
    • 1 week from now: (Ex: Slightly, it might be still fresh for me.)
    • 1 month from now: (Ex: Unlikely, I will probably forget and them, too.)
    • 1 year from now: (No, it’s doubtful that someone will remember that moment from such celebration).
  • Here’s the thing…negative thoughts usually focus on the worst possible outcomes, without the rationale for the best possible outcome.
  • Reframe that negative thought to a rational counter-thought. For example, reframe  Someone might ask me about my marriage plans, but it’s okay for me to say ,”I’m waiting for the right one”, and everyone will go on enjoying their time and will be topic of the past”.
  • I know you like giving advice to your girlfriend (or if you’re younger, BFF). So, why not practice being your on girlfriend/BFF?
    • What might you tell your  girlfriend/BFF if they were in this situation? It’s likely that you would comfort and support them with words of encouragement (and your award-winning advice). Hey, turn that love and support inward! You deserve that support, girlfriend!

Body Scans help you become aware of what is happening inside your body, rather than your mind.  Our bodies tells us when it is time to chill out.  Practice feeling the sensations throughout your body at any moment.  Ask yourself, “How are my shoulders felling?”, “Is my heart beating fast?”, etc.  Scanning your body keeps you in tune with the best times for a little relaxation.

Add breathing exercises in your daily routine. This helps increase oxygen flow and slow your heart rate down naturally, creating a calmness. 

Take a walk.  Take time to get outdoors and breathe in some fresh air.  Practice being in the present moment rather allowing your mind run down the aisle. Be mindful of in the sights, sounds, and smells. Stop and look at the beauty of a pond, listen to the birds chirp, or  smell the roses.  Mindfulness teaches us to live and accept the beauty of life as it is here-and-now.

Join a women’s support group for single women.  These groups can be through single’s ministry or facilitated by licensed professional.  Navigating through singlehood can feel isolated.  Speaking with other women can help minimize the marriage anxiety and help you learn healthy, encouraging ways to practice patience.

Practice managing (marriage) anxiety, so that you can enjoy life and when the time is right you will hear….”With this ring… “

Life is a journey, so keep traveling until you arrive.

 

Dealing with singlehood when you desire more can be quite challenging and sometimes, you might need professional support.  If you desire a safe space to help you navigate this part of your life,  schedule a personal session with me today.