By Matthew Hutson, published on February 26, 2007 - last reviewed on September 7, 2014
"Before my marriage I really identified with being a sexy young single girl running around New York," says psychotherapist Allison Moir-Smith. "I was terrified when my husband proposed, but it had nothing to do with him—I'd found the right man. My struggle was, 'How can I be me and also be a wife?' It was a slow process."
In fact, Moir-Smith and her husband found that they were both uneasy for much of their engagement, even though, as therapists, they thought they'd be able to handle it. And she discovered that they were not alone. Cold feet are a near-ubiquitous but downplayed part of engagement. It's the dirty secret that brides and grooms hate to talk about. But soon after her wedding, Moir-Smith focused her practice solely on brides-to-be and wrote the book Emotionally Engaged: A Bride's Guide to Surviving the "Happiest" Time of Her Life—clients came out of nowhere.
What should be a time of bliss can also feel like a time of loss, and that's healthy. Only by grieving the end of single life can you fully embrace your new married life. "It's a long slow trudge through some pretty dark places," Moir-Smith says. Not everyone gets cold feet, but an identity shift will happen. If you don't allow it to happen before the wedding, it will catch up with you later. Here are a few ways to help you deal with your anxieties:
What if your future spouse isn't the right match? Or what if you're just not ready for marriage? Rachel Safier, author of There Goes the Bride, called off her wedding two weeks before the big day. Since then, she's talked to a lot of runaway brides and says that none regrets canceling her wedding. Their only regret is not stepping up sooner. "People know what they need, but finding the truth is not as hard as accepting it."
Don't be scared to head for the hills if it feels like the right thing to do. Embarrassment and wasted expenses—common excuses for ignoring frosty tootsies—are a small price to pay when avoiding a breakup down the road. But if you know you're on the right path, work through your anxieties and you can enjoy your day in the sun.