Without question, long engagements can be incredibly anxiety-provoking and frustrating. Everyone you know will ask, “Why haven’t you set a date?” It’s always interesting to me that people ask others incredibly personal questions on the spot, as if you’re supposed to tell that random guy from work or an acquaintance you see on the street the most personal details of your life. If you are suffering from a case of the long engagement blues, there are a few things you can do to regain a sense of control and distract yourself from wedding anxiety.
A quick note: My use of the male form of the word “fiancé” in this article suggests I’m saying that men are always the ones who drag their feet en route to the altar. My experience counseling couples has shown that men are usually the ones who delay in setting a wedding date, but I also realize that there are many relationships out there in which the woman is the one who avoids setting the big date.
What can you do if your fiancé is avoiding making it official? Check out my tips below.
Draw boundaries with people who ask questions that are too personal.
Just because someone has the gall to ask you a very personal question doesn’t mean you have to answer. I also think it’s a good educational experience for the other person if you say something to point out that they may be overstepping a bit by getting so personal. Try saying any of the following things when someone pushes you on the wedding date issue, and remember that humor is always helpful when drawing boundaries so no one feels criticized or attacked: “I’m not sure yet when the date will be, and I’m trying to do my best with everyone asking me;” “I’m thinking that we will let everyone know when the time comes. Does that sound okay to you?” “I don’t know but if you hear first, will you let me know!?” The point is to draw a boundary so that people stop asking with such urgency, which only adds to your anxiety.
Have a sit-down dinner with your fiancé – with a calendar in hand.
When you are making a big decision, you don’t need to have constant conversations about it. You simply set a time to have one big planning discussion about the date of the wedding, and once you’ve made your decision, you live with that. Have a calendar in hand when you have this discussion, and make it your clear goal to have a wedding date by the end of that conversation. If your fiancé says that there are still too many unknowns to come up with a date – say, whether that higher paying job will come through, and so forth – do not relent. Say, “I want to have the wedding by [insert month and year]. If the reason you want to wait is financial, I would like to suggest that we then change the wedding plans to make it on a smaller scale so that we can do it within a timeframe that works for both of us.” Next, make your final point: “What I’m saying is that I want the wedding to happen by [reiterate the month and year], and I am willing to be flexible and make certain changes in order for the wedding to happen by that date.”
You’re also going to need a notebook.
If your fiancé gives you a list of reasons why the two of you should wait, pull out your notebook. Say, “I’m just going to make a list of the different issues. Let’s do one more dinner on this issue four weeks from now, and see where we are then. I’m willing to be flexible, but I need you to be flexible, too.” If your fiancé suggests that you’re acting like an attorney and making the situation worse by recording things in a notebook, say, “No, I’m sorry, that’s not what I mean to do; I just know that I think more clearly when I write things down, especially when it comes to planning an event as big as this.”
If you try and try, but still your fiancé won’t agree on a date…
Having helped clients with all kinds of issues over more than fifteen years, I know this to be true: Sometimes there needs to be consequences in order for things to change. If your fiancé drags his feet and won’t come up with a wedding date, it is worth considering having a discussion about calling off the engagement if you can’t agree on a reasonable time frame. I’ve worked with couples who have been engaged for four or five years, and one member of the couple inevitably feels frustrated, angry, and resentful. In short, this is no way to live. Weddings are already stressful enough. If you’re getting married, you need your fiancé to prove to you before the wedding day that he can be reliable and follow through on his promises!
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve