Getting over the fear of marriage
It sometimes happens that a marriage proposal is met with less enthusiasm than might be hoped for. A mitigated, hesitant or even negative response can hide a fear of commitment or even fears of being “imprisoned”.
“When I talk about marriage, I can really feel him scowling;” Lucy comments. “Since I proposed on bended knee,” I’ve felt her becoming more distant,’ worries Romain.
The ring on the finger, white dress and romantic honeymoon happen only once in a lifetime (if all goes to plan!). While romanticism has remained in tact for women, the number of those actually walking down the aisle is dwindling. In 1940, the number of marriages registered in England and Wales peaked at 426,100 – which has gradually slipped down to only 143,400 in 2007.
Much of the reduction in marriages can be linked to changing social mores, which now accept cohabitation outside of marriage and increasing divorce rates.
But those who do still believe in the institution of marriage, and yet are recalcitrant to actually get married themselves have their reasons and it’s worth understanding those, if you want to give “happily ever after” a chance.
The reasons behind a fear of marriage
“Every marriage proposal is unique, and you need to differentiate between one that is motivated by a deep intention of moving forward together and one that is shaped more by the fear of losing the other,” advises psychotherapist Sarah Seriévic.
The first type can awaken a fear of commitment in the other, and the second immediately pushes the other into feelings of imprisonment and of losing the freedom that was gained after leaving the parental home. Others who are reticent may of course belong to the “happily divorced” category, swearing that they will not be had twice.
Each one of these is therefore a “good reason" for responding to even the most romantic proposal with hesitation, awkwardness, grumbling or sometimes even by escape. Luckily, love overcomes obstacles and by taking them into account you’ll be able to better give past them…
Marriage and long-term commitment
The fear of commitment is understandable but kind of difficult to own up to. For some, the delight of waiting and constantly repeating the same question in order to know if they are loved or not can be exciting. The emotional reassurance on which marriage is based on goes against desire and will actually put the brakes on a relationship. Others will not admit to themselves that they are afraid, even if they give the impression of wanting to enter speedily into wedded bliss.
Most of the time, a resistance to commitment hides wobbly self-confidence. Sarah Sériévic pinpoints the problem; “It’s all to do with the fear of not being all the other could wish for and living up to an ideal.”
A marriage proposal brings a person up against the question: “Will I be affectionate, attentive and loving enough, faced with the constraints of daily life and that for the rest of our lives?”
To get the wheels turning, Sarah Sériévic suggests a different way of looking at things: What if getting married is a chance to commit, offering the opportunity to reassure yourself of your own value? The other has chosen you as ‘the one’ after all…
Marriage with strings attached!
When the proposal is motivated by the desire to be permanently attached to the other, or the fear of losing them, this can certainly lead to resistance linked to the idea of being imprisoned.
Visions of a beautiful white veil, incredible tiered wedding cake, a prince charming and beautiful princess all fly out of the window and only the image of a ball and chain is left, with the feeling of being held down all the time.
This is often the case in exclusive relationships. “Laying the weight of all your happiness exclusively on the shoulders of your partner can be oppressing,” says the psychotherapist. Some types of very possessive love can be imprisoning as a result.
This type of over-the-top possessiveness can be recognised by signs of excessive jealousy or emotional dependence. Here, a simple evening passed without the other’s company can generate anxiety and if this is the case, your partner’s fear of marriage is completely justified.
Ask yourselves again what your motivations are, and try to think first about the notion of “being free together”: an idea which is based on more confidence in the other and in yourself than possession. It is about a relationship being built around a desire for personal development with a view to sharing your life with someone. Only you can decide to commit for the right reasons, and your partner too!
The clan of the “happily divorced”
Our modern era is complex for relationships and has seen a huge revolution in the way men and women live together, including de-facto cohabitation outside of the bounds of marriage, and of course divorce. The generalisation of divorce is one of the most notable phenomena of the last half-century, across all ages and sectors of society.
The number of divorces in the UK rose from 33,000 in 1950 to 155,000 in 2000. Over the last couple of years, the trend has decreased a little, but this may well be in direct relation to the decreasing number of marriages – there’s no need to get divorced if you aren’t married! That being said, the number of splits in de-facto relationships has inched above the number of divorces…
And in a new relationship, it’s often the case of once bitten twice shy; with those once divorced naturally more reluctant to walk down the aisle a second time over, particularly where children are involved… This particular reason for aversion to marriage is a hard one to get over, so if you are dead-set on marrying your already divorced partner, you could be in for disappointment.
Marriage as a ritual part of your evolution
And if the underlying fear is of things not being normal anymore? After all, when these choices over the dress and the caterer etc. are out of the way, getting married means saying a resounding “yes” to the huge adventure of being a couple, and facing all the challenges it may bring.
Loving and committing someone for the long-term is without doubt the most immediate way of finding out what your own limitations are. An exercise we are not all always ready to launch ourselves into. Only if you take it for what it really is, can you know what an amazing opportunity marriage is for personal evolution.
Catherine Maillard, Jane Banham