My parents did not have a great relationship and I have a fear of marriage. What can I do?
A fear of marriage is not uncommon, says our elder. Try giving of yourself and see how it feels.
As I have just finished up my first semester of college, I am thinking about my future. A large factor that keeps crossing my mind is marriage and unfortunately, it is not positive. While I know I am young and no one is forcing me to get married, I am currently dating someone I see a possible future with and they are for marriage and having a large family. If we are to continue dating further (we just had our two year anniversary yesterday!), I need to overcome this fear. When I think of marriage I think of losing love over time, mid-life crisis cheating (I don’t know why it comes up but it does!), regretting marriage, etc.
I grew up with parents who were continuously on and off with their relationship and to be honest, I did not see love. They never really laughed together, showed PDA to one another, or anything like me and my boyfriend do now. I am afraid if I become married to him (or anyone) that I will lose love, I will want to cheat, and I will want to get out. I am not saying that people who get a divorce are terrible. In many cases, it is for the better (like my parents). However, I do not want to be part of that statistic. Even if losing love is a factor of life, how can I get over that fear that it won’t happen or one of us cheats over time? I know not all couples are like my parents yet, I still have this fear embedded in my brain. Any advice on how to cope?
Actually fear of marriage is not all that uncommon. There is actually a word that describes a syndrome for those who seriously suffer from this, but I do not believe we need to go there, as I think we just need to deal with a few issues of anxiety on your part and some misunderstandings about love and the preconception of a guarantee to the “happily ever after” life.
We can be fairly certain that your parent’s unstable relationship has planted a negative image of marriage deep into your psyche, making you fearful that any relationship you might think of committing yourself to would no doubt end up to be very similar, so why put yourself out there for such a disastrous ending.
In the early stages of a relationship, you experience a rush of love and call this “being in love,”, but it’s really more of an adolescent state of infatuation. This ‘love-drug’ may last two months to maybe two years, but eventually it will wear off. At this point, the task of learning about real love begins. Unfortunately cultural conditioning has brainwashed us to assume that because the love feeling has dissipated, we don’t love our partner any longer and leave to find ourselves in the same boat with partner after partner.
All of this is because we believe love is something you get from another person, a feeling, an experience, aliveness, and joy. In other words, if you find the right person, your pain will disappear and you will live happily ever after.
As Sheryl Paul wrote in Conscious Transitions, “Our culture encourages you to be love-addicted. We may have waged a war on drugs but we haven’t even begun to dismantle the rampant addiction to love that seeps into every crack of mainstream culture.”
The remedy? Learn to become the source of your own happiness and commit to taking 100 percent responsibility for your pain and joy.
“What my marriage taught me is that real love is only what you give. That’s all.
Love is not “out there”, waiting for you. It is in you. In your own heart, in what you are willing to give of it. We are all capable of love, but few of us have the courage to do it properly. You can take a person’s love and waste it. But you are the fool. When you give love, it grows and flowers inside you like a carefully pruned rose. Love is joy. Those who love, no matter what indignities, what burdens they carry, are always full of joy.” (Recipes for a Perfect Marriage, p. 281)
So, since this is the time of giving, I will ask you to give. Give to yourself first. Sit down and simply accept and embrace yourself, take care of your grief, loneliness, anxieties, fears, heartaches, joys, and excitements that are flowing through you.
Next, find someone who desperately needs your undivided attention (a child, an elderly person, someone ill, etc.) and trust that you have everything it takes to fill them up, in fact, that you are the only one who can fill them up. Give from the fullness of your heart, without strings attached, just for the pure pleasure of giving. Give even when fear is telling you to run. See what it feels like to make the choice to open the doors of your heart as wide as they can without restriction, fear, or judgement and let love pour out and into the one who has been waiting, steady and with patience to receive you.
I hope this will help you understand and feel the depth of what true love feels like and will help you stop fearing love. Once you do, you will no longer remain afraid of marriage, because you will have learned how to love.
I do hope I have helped you. If I took you in a direction you feel did not completely satisfy your question, please feel free to write back and we can discuss this in more detail and I can answer more questions you may have.
All my best.
Letter #: 452152