How to Overcome the Fear of Marriage

Four Parts:Figuring Out Why You Fear MarriageWorking Through a Fear of CommitmentSoothing Anxiety About the FutureMoving Forward With Your Partner

Despite radical social upheaval and shifts in values, marriage has survived as an institution in the West. The fact that people keep getting married despite pre-wedding jitters may be a testament to its value. It is normal to fear marriage – it is an important decision that will affect the rest of your life. Thinking through the decision will help you make sure it is the right time, person, and place. Rationalizing your prospective marriage will also help you come to terms with it. If you are unable to find the origin of you fear, tactics for overcoming phobias might be helpful.

Part 1
Figuring Out Why You Fear Marriage

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    Re-evaluate your failed relationships. How or where did they go wrong? Consider if you did something to hurt them, or the other way around. It is possible that you were not willing to make enough compromise or sacrifice.[1] Try to make adjustments in your current relationship to be a more loving partner, but also weigh what you must sacrifice to make it work.
    • For example, if you lost a loved one because you were emotionally vacant, try to spend less time in the office and more time at home.
    • Or, for example, the fact that your current partner does not do something that made you end a previous relationship should be comforting.
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    Consider whether your partner is truly the "one." Deciding if the person is "right" has much to do with how high of esteem you hold them in. Do some serious thinking if you will retain your respect for them during inevitable life changes. Their aspirations may be a good way to determine this.
    • What kinds of things might cause you to lose respect for your partner? Drinking habits, money management, treatment of friends? Are these areas where you already have issues with your partner?
    • Think about the history of your relationship with your partner. How has your partner dealt with conflict or other issues thus far? Can your partner's behavior give you clues about past, current, and future respect, flexibility, and compromise?
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    Think about your long-term commitments. Are you in a career track that will develop over the next several years or decades? Are you making car payments over the course of years? Do you have a house or rent an apartment by the month, or is it a multi-year lease? Nervousness over adding long-term commitments is a common aspect of fearing marriage. If you want to get married, you should make other long-term commitments, such as those named above, to acclimate yourself to the idea.
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    Look at your current level of commitment. There are two kinds of commitment: dedication and constraint.[2] A commitment based on personal dedication means you imagine growing old with your partner, you work together with your partner (like a team), and you can't see yourself with anyone else.[3] A commitment based on constrains means you feel forced to stay in the relationship due to internal or external pressures (children, sharing of possessions, family, a feeling of obligation), you think about leaving your relationship but it feels too difficult or like you have gone "too far" to end it, that starting over sounds too difficult.[4]
    • Note that all relationships acquire constraints over time. Think about whether the constraints outweigh your personal dedication to the relationship.[5]
    • If you feel your constraints have increased but your personal dedication has decreased, consider if there are ways to reduce your feelings of constraint and increase your personal dedication.[6]
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    Learn to increase commitment. Even if you feel fully committed to the relationship, you may be wondering how to maintain that dedication or worry about it slipping away. Or maybe you feel that it already has begun to decrease. There are actions you can take to increase your commitment to your partner:[7]
    • Invest in your relationship. Remember that difficult periods are temporary. Put in the work to struggle through the hard times with your partner (inevitably there will be some) to emerge a stronger couple. Good times will return.[8]
    • Avoid scorekeeping.You may feel that you are doing more in your relationship; this is because you don't know everything your partner does throughout the day, you only know all the things you have done. Instead of keeping score to determine who loves whom more, focus on the good things your partner does and think about what you can do to make your partner happy.[9]
    • Don't "hedge your bets." Don't hold back from your partner because you're afraid things won't work out. Trying to protect yourself in this way may hurt your relationship, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Assume that things are going to work out and be open and honest with your partner and work hard to strengthen your relationship.[10]
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    Think about other fears. Your fear may be more specific than these. It may also prevent you from wanting to talk with your partner. You need to open up those channels of communication, however.
    • If you are scared of losing your individuality or changing, remind yourself that everyone is changing, constantly. Staying unmarried will not keep the earth from spinning. Also, it's not like you lose all agency when you get married.[11]
    • If you are afraid of getting divorced eventually, think about the stigma attached to divorce. Is it warranted? Even if you still think so, remember that your future is not determined by marriage or divorce statistics, and you can hold on to a marriage if you put work into it.

Part 2
Working Through a Fear of Commitment

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    Know where commitment-phobia originates. Commitment-phobia isn't a phobia like a fear of snakes or clowns — it is most often a fear based on a lack of trust, which may come from a previous violation of trust.[12]
    • If you have experienced a betrayal by someone you loved or trusted, you may not have healed.[13]
    • This betrayal could have come in the form of abuse, an affair, or another devastating violation of your trust, which may have been traumatic.[14]
    • In addition, you may be afraid of being responsible for another person, or of losing your independence, or afraid of losing the other person, which may all relate to feeling unable to trust.[15]
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    Think about what you gain from holding back from your partner. You may feel that you are protecting yourself by not opening up to your partner. But consider your reasons, and whether or not they outweigh the chance to have a rich, fulfilling relationship with someone who loves you.[16]
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    Learn to build trust with your partner. Make sure you and your partner know each other — the good and the bad. It is common to ignore the less positive qualities of a partner, aspects like anger, jealousy, or selfishness, or a need to feel free or powerful.[17] But these aspects are part of who you and/or your partner are, and they may surface from time to time. Make a conscious effort to explore, discuss, and be open to learning about the "shadow" side of you and your partner.[18]
    • As you learn about these qualities, you and your partner will build trust not on the idea that you will never hurt each other (because, unfortunately, that will happen), but on the understanding of who you and your partner truly are.[19]
    • Instead of promising to keep your "shadow" side always at bay, promise that you will be aware of and express when you are hurt. Promise to work together to address the situation and use it to strengthen your relationship.[20]
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    Speak with a mental health professional about your fear. If your inability to build trust stems from a trauma, then you should seek the assistance of a mental health professional to address it.[21] A counselor, group therapy, or a program designed to treat trauma can help you work through your experience.[22]

Part 3
Soothing Anxiety About the Future

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    Practice relaxation techniques. If your fear of marriage causes you stress, find a way to unwind. This may help you come to terms with it. When you find yourself worrying about marriage, try some methods for dealing with anxieties that apply in other parts of life.[23]
    • Try yoga or meditation. These exercises are designed to help you stop dwelling on your anxieties.
    • Drink less coffee and alcohol. These are drugs that can affect your mood as well as your brain chemistry. If you are feeling high-strung because of marriage anxiety, decrease your consumption of coffee and alcohol.
    • Get enough sleep and exercise. These are essential to your physical and emotional health, and help you reduce your fears and anxieties.
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    Journal your thoughts. The act of putting your anxieties down on paper forces you to pinpoint what it is that scares you about marriage. It is also therapeutic. As you write about your fears, try to come up with solutions to them. Write about why you want to get married, and how your partner can help you achieve your goals.
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    Remind yourself about who your partner is. Write down the stable, unchanging qualities you see in your partner. Think about struggles and conflicts you have faced in the past and how you overcame them. Don't let your anxiety or fear make you forget how amazing your partner is and all the reasons you want to be with him or her.

Part 4
Moving Forward With Your Partner

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    Talk about your fears with your partner. This is the perfect opportunity to exercise the communication skills that are essential for any healthy relationship to last. For many people, important life goals come to fruition as a part of marriage. Though everyone changes their mind on issues throughout life, not everyone sees themselves in the same place down the road. Talk about kids, careers, money, and "deal breakers."[24] Everything is a little less scary when said out loud, so let it out.
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    Recognize life’s imperfection. You, your partner, and everyone on this earth are imperfect. There will be rocky periods in your life whether you’re married or not. Periods of unhappiness or struggle are inevitable. Think about whether you will be more able to overcome unhappy moments with a life partner.
    • Work on building a relationship with your partner that helps you handle sources of stress and angst. In doing so you also create a built-in defense mechanism in your marriage.
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    Talk with your partner about sexual exclusivity. In the west, successful marriages have typically depended on monogamy. Before you proceed with marriage, you need to establish that you will remain faithful to each other. It is an uncomfortable but necessary conversation, and it may even bring you closer together.
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    Picture yourself in 10-20 years. Your plans will change, but in general, do you see yourself married? Although everyone’s ideal time frames change throughout life, having an idea of what you want to achieve puts a positive spin on future planning. Not wanting your life to drastically change is OK, just make sure your partner has the same aspirations.
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    Try living together. Not everyone's culture allows this, but it has worked for many as a way to determine if they would live well with their partner. Use it as a way to explore each others living habits before the vows. Make sure you approach this experiment with acceptance as a goal. They will have little quirks that you notice for the first time, but so do you — you just haven't perhaps identified them.
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    Talk to your parents. If your parents are still married, they will almost certainly be able to tell you that they weren't always sure about the idea. They should also have tips for overcoming fear of marriage that they have realized over the years. It will also give you a real-life example of people for whom marriage has worked.
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    Consider pre-marriage counseling. Though it may feel uncomfortable to seek professional advice before there is a problem, it may help you come to terms with marriage. They will also be able to help you identify warning signs for future conflicts.[25]
    • Ask friends, family, or a doctor for a referral to a licensed marriage and family therapist, or search online. Your place of worship may also offer (or require) premarital counseling or courses.[26]

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