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Parallax - Advice

January 21, 2002

Til Death Do Us Part?

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Mae West observed, 'Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready for an institution.' And George Bernard Shaw described marriage as the time 'when two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions.' This week we meet a couple of passionate, engaging guys who are cracking under the strain of their upcoming weddings. Will our gurus of guidance suggest they walk down the aisle or take a hike?

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Marriage means commitment

Dear Conversely,

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I'm engaged to be married in about six months and I'm having more than just wedding jitters. Even before I proposed I was having constant stress/tension headaches. They subsided for a little while, but since the engagement I've been ill with either colds or respiratory problems. I can't help but think this is relationship-related. I also have been having very odd and disturbing (sometimes violent) dreams for a long while now. Not being able to sleep comfortably for an extended length of time becomes pretty draining on one's life. I love my fiancée very much but I know what's happening is somehow related to us. Maybe this means I'm not fully ready to make the step I'm about to make...but what are my options? Break it off and lose the woman I love? Or continue on and hope for the best?

Her view:

Dear Sleepless,

This is really quite silly. If you want to get married, do it. If you don't want to get married, break it off. By the way, you might want to visit your doctor before booting your fiancée - you have developed a food allergy or some such thing. It would be a pity to dismiss the woman you love because you are allergic to dairy products. And while you're at it, perhaps a visit to a counselor - maybe he/she can unlock your concerns.

I think that if you let this woman go you will be quite upset - it sounds like you love her. Marriage is one of the most stressful events a person can go through, even though it is a happy time. It takes an enormous emotional toll and everything in your life will be transformed.

You need to act in tandem with another person, everything is different, and you have to share. It is a difficult adjustment, but it is worth it if you are in love and believe you are doing the right thing. My guess is that once you settle into a pattern that works for you, your body will calm down. In the meantime don't be too shy to see a doctor.

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His view:

Dear Sleepless,

There's a difference between stress and second thoughts. One must reserve the privilege of becoming nervous prior to the wedding. But are you also having doubts…or just irrational fears of long-term commitment?

Becoming sick and not being able to sleep are probably symptoms that deserve further analysis. While they may very well be relationship-related, it is also possible that the stress of the wedding is combining with work stress, war stress, and other unknown stresses (such as watching too many Charles Bronson movies) to lead to your current, pathologically, stressed-out disposition.

You don't mention any explicit concerns about your bride-to-be, and you must have had plenty of time to think about any issues during all those sleepless nights. To me, it appears you are either not quite ready for commitment, or you are a big wimp.

I say, continue on, but none of this 'hope for the best' inanity. Face up to whatever is bugging you and make up your mind: Are you ready or not?

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