When we hear that someone has “cold feet” about getting married, we usually assume it’s the groom. But why? It’s not like brides never have second thoughts. The runaway bride is a staple of sitcoms and romantic comedies–Julia Roberts made a whole movie about it–so it must be a common enough problem.
We have plenty of advice on what to do when you’re the one with cold feet, but what about when she’s the one thinking of bolting out the door? We decided we needed to ask some women to chime in, so we went to the experts to find out what’s what.
Brides Have Second Thoughts Too
The stereotype about brides is that they are all, universally, eager to be married. Not so. Plenty of brides have second thoughts, even if the overall numbers are skewed towards grooms.
“Typically, I do see more anxiety on the groom’s side, maybe by a 75% to 25% split. But there definitely are times when brides have last minute anxieties and cold feet,” says Meredith Silversmith, a licensed marriage and family therapy who runs her own practice in Garden City, N.Y.
Grooms Gotta Listen
Learning that the woman you love may be having second thoughts can be a shock. It’s hard to know what to do. Here’s a suggestion: shut the fuck up.
“I think the most important thing is for the groom to just listen,” says Katrina Michelle, a holistic psychotherapist who works in New York City. “You really want to make an effort to make the woman allow herself to be heard, to show that you’re being supportive and really hearing her concerns. Don’t respond with fear or panic or anger or any emotion that’s going to catapult her into more anxiety.”
Listening will not only help you avoid looking like the world’s biggest jerk but it also gives an opportunity to learn why she’s having these uncertain feelings.
“I think a lot of people’s first response would be to try and talk them out of it or dismiss those concerns,” Silversmith says. “Make sure you’re being supportive. Try to be open and understand what those concerns are. Ask open ended questions like ‘Tell me more about that’ and ‘Where are you coming from?’ Just get a better picture of what’s going on with them.”
The last thing any groom should do is try and convince a bride that she’s making a big mistake. You’ll only end up making a bigger mistake.
“Validate their feelings, even if they are something you don’t agree with or doesn’t make any sense,” Silversmith says. “Just tell them, ‘You’re very stressed. I can understand you feel that way. I hear you’ and not ‘What the hell’s wrong with you? That’s ridiculous.’”
Try to see things from your bride’s point of view. Weddings by their very nature can add a great deal of unnecessary stress to a relationship and having cold feet could just be a symptom of that process.
Don’t Try and Fix It
“The way we handle weddings in this country adds so much more pressure than anything to do with the relationship,” Michelle says. “Most of the bride’s attention is spent on party planning and negotiating family dynamics related to the wedding and bridesmaids’ outings. It’s possible it won’t even hit her until it’s late in the process that she’ll realize the major life transition she’s about to enter into. What I think she would really need in that moments is for her guy to hear her out and know that she feels heard and not trying to swoop in and fix it.”
Patience Is A Virtue
Even if she ultimately decides to call off the wedding or put things on hold, being understanding and patient can win a groom more points than in the long run.
“A big piece of emotional intimacy in a relationship is being understood by her partner,” Silversmith says. “If she doesn’t feel that way, it’s going to make things worse and make her feel disconnected.