Hax: When brides and grooms have doubts

The Washington PostFebruary 20, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: You’ve run a number of columns on people having cold feet and the relationship (later) failing. Common knowledge says the first variable automatically means the second variable occurs. But what about having cold feet and the marriage works out?

I ask because my mother and other ladies in her generation scoff at cold feet. She told me that my dad had it, and she just “let him” freak out. He got his act together after a few days, and she married him. They’ve been together 50-plus years. My aunts tell me that a couple of my uncles did the same, and these women just brushed it off! It all worked out for them, too.

During my bridesmaid days, I remember a friend or two completely freaking out — the “What am I doing? Why am I marrying him? I don’t want to do this. This is a bad idea!” sentiment. Those worked out too.

I’ve seen accounts where people claim they had cold feet after the relationship collapses. But that’s so easy to say in the afterthought!

What do you say for those who have cold feet but end up happily married decades later?

COLD FEET

I don’t like the term “cold feet.” It’s vague and can mean something different to every person who feels it (them?), which opens up someone with legitimate doubts to false assurances of, “Oh, everyone feels that, and then stays happily married for 95 years.”

Not only are the seeds of doubt highly individual, but so also is one’s definition of “it all worked out.” Does that mean they were genuinely happy — or does that just mean they didn’t divorce? Some pretty miserable unions manage to go the distance, and I don’t see that as something to celebrate.

I also don’t like agendas when it comes to marriage. A generation doesn’t have to wake up day after day in any given marriage; only the two people in it do.

I think “cold feet” sufferers of all kinds, even the ones who just are nervous about the significance of the commitment, should read here or hear from someone they love: It’s OK to face your doubts, whether the episode lasts an hour or two or pre-empts the wedding itself.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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