Is marriage something you’re hoping for but afraid of at the same time? How could a institution based on love and commitment be so scary? Most people with marriage phobia have had experiences in life that tell them to be afraid. Let’s look at five of the top contenders.
1. Marriage means control.
If you’ve grown up in a home where “over-control” was the way in which your parents raised you, chances are you will be a bit hesitant about “tying a knot” you’ll figure will start feeling like “you’re tied up” after long. Over-control can easily lead to expectations that love relationships in adulthood will be traps where you lose freedom rather than gain it.
An old friend of mine used to say, getting married sets you free. When I asked him why, he said, because you don’t have to look for love any more.
2. Marriage means hurt.
If you’ve been hurt in love relationships of any kind, and your heart is not healed, it makes perfect sense you won’t be rushing into committed love relationships so easily. The heart, unlike the head, is a lot harder to convince of safety. it’s just the way we’re built.
Unresolved hurt, like too much control, can make you believe that marriage is an arrangement that causes more pain and hurt. Taking the time to heal old hurts before moving on to new love is usually the solution for this kind of thing.
3. Marriage means abandonment.
If you’ve been abandoned by someone who was supposed to love you, chances are you’ll expect abandonment. Expecting abandonment and getting married, as you might imagine, are pretty incompatible. Most people with this kind of hurt are mistrusting for good reason. The problem is, this kind of expectation can keep a person single for life. Exploring the loss of love needed in a safe and reliable therapy relationship can provide a context within which to cure this fear.
The hardest part is accepting the vulnerability involved in expecting someone to stay put and not letting that vulnerability make you defensive. Ultimately, if you’ve thought it through, made your observations, checked out his or her history, and convinced yourself he or she is the one, if he or she turns out not to be, by leaving he or she has done you a favor. If as a consequence you can learn more about how to spot and weed out the people with commitment problems, the risks will be worth the trouble.
4. Marriage means cheating.
If you grew up in a home where someone who was supposed to be loyal was a “cheater” instead, where problems in a marital relationship were addressed with infidelity, chances are you’ve learned some thing about dishonesty and disloyalty. You could have learned lessons about unhealthy love through observation, having had a personal experience of dishonesty in family relationships yourself, or if you got a little direct instruction from someone in authority who gave you a verbal lesson about cheating (example: being told as a child or adolescent to beware, all men and women cheat, or that it’s OK to cheat).
If you are convinced that a marriage will involve cheating in one form or another, that’s certainly a good enough reason to stay away from it. Understanding what you’ve learned about cheating, exposed to a cheating environment growing up, will provide you an opportunity to start questioning the inevitability of this kind of expectation.
5. Marriage means dependency.
When marriage means dependency, either as the dependent one or as the life-long caretaker of a dependent spouse, expect to be pretty resistant to getting married. Either way, marriages don’t stay healthy for very long when dependency is dominating the relationship.
This kind of thing usually has something to do with trying to get the love that was lost in childhood and/or adolescence. For starters, none of us get to make up for what we didn’t get earlier in life now in adult love relationships. In other words, we all get one shot at childhood.
What we can get is a chance to understand and take care of healthy adult love. If that sounds more doable to you, you would have to weed out dependent lovers, and accept the disappointments of early life in an honest and open way. What you get for your trouble is a chance at a more mature, balanced love relationship in adulthood, when one comes along.
Comments? Welcome. Dr. T. Jordan