Marriage is no joke!
Marriage ... the very word can strike fear into the hearts of even the most confident person.
This isn't to say people aren't still coupling up, buying homes, and having children. They're just not getting married.
It looks like marriage as "the institution" — the binding, legal agreement — is what people truly fear. And you know what? That fear isn't baseless ... but it is possible to overcome it. So, let's stare this fear of marriage in the face and try to unravel it.
Here are 5 marriage fears couples struggle with:
1. Fear of repeating mistakes (yours or your divorced parents').
Your first familiarity with adult relationships came from your parents. You experienced second-hand what marriage is like. If you didn't have a good marriage model at home, where else were you going to find one? You also learned a lot of behaviors by watching your parents, and, if you're honest, you've probably repeated some of those behaviors, even if you swore you never would.
Also, if you're like many children of divorce, you see only two options regarding marriage — you will never get married or you will never get divorced. Like any "either/or choice," you never explore the other possibilities in between. Just because your parents couldn't make it work doesn't automatically mean you won't. There's great information available on how to have successful relationships ... if you look. And most people don't swear off being in serious romantic relationships, therefore you're not really avoiding the potential challenges anyway.
2. Fear of losing yourself.
There's another misconception at play here, the one where you must either remain completely independent or become completely dependent. A good marriage only requires that you become interdependent. To do that, you each must maintain separate identities, but you also choose being a part of something greater than either of you alone. That's one of the greatest benefits of marriage — someone is in the foxhole with you — sharing the same experiences.
3. Fear of being hurt.
The idea that you can go through life and not experience any pain is unrealistic. Joining your life with someone else's, without getting married, doesn't protect the relationship from failing. If it ends, you'll feel just as hurt as if you had actually tied the knot (you're just spared some legal frustrating in the parting, perhaps).
But in sparing yourself that, you thereby miss out on legal protections that come with marriage. When you own property and have children together, breaking up is often more challenging if you aren't married. If you honor your marital commitments, the legal arrangement can actually help keep you together through the challenges that all long-term relationships experience.
4. Fear over money.
Issues around money are often the reason couples hesitate to get married. Simply because money isn't about dollars and cents but about what money means to each of you. It's very personal. That's why so many couples struggle over the topic. How you handle money says a lot about you as a person, and it's hard to let others see that part of you.
It's easier to keep that piece of your life separate. You can do that — if you're not married. Not to mention, it's scary to think about giving someone else access to your money or taking on their debt. Overcoming these fears requires a tremendous amount of honesty.
But marriage is actually a wealth generator. This is why the marriage rates are higher the further up the socio-economic ladder you climb. Instead of believing you can't afford to get married (which usually means you can't afford a big wedding), you might want to really consider that you can't afford not to.
5. Fear of outdated gender roles.
Years ago a salesperson came to my door looking for the "little wifey." My husband sent her around to the backyard, where I was. He followed to witness what she would experience if she actually called me that to my face. If you want a traditional relationship with traditional gender roles, that's fine. But that is completely up to you and your partner.
Despite the findings that some women who make more money than their husbands take on traditional roles to seem less "threatening" to their men, most of them don't need this kind of coddling. A good marriage is a true partnership, with both of you pitching in to do what needs doing — with no regard to gender.
No relationship is without its challenges, and marriage is no different.
But, it isn't something to fear either. In fact, it offers more security in an uncertain world, than just living together. This is because it's both an emotional obligation and a legal contract. It requires a conscious choice and ongoing, intentional actions. Making a commitment to connect in a deep way with another person for a lifetime takes vision and courage. I had some of these fears from my parent's divorce and personal failed romantic relationships. But having celebrated my 29th wedding anniversary, I couldn't imagine my life any other way.
If marriage scares the hell out of you, you’re not alone. Break out of this fear so you can decide if getting married is the right step for you and your partner. Spend a free hour with me and let’s explore what’s really holding you back.