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Save this Marriage

Are You Afraid of Marriage?

Are You Afraid of Marriage?

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Most singles say that they want very much to get married. At the same time, they may harbor secret fears which prevent them from doing so. By identifying what it is that you fear, you may be able to change the beliefs which are sabotaging the decision-making process:

1. "I'M SCARED THAT I'LL BE SEEN AS INFERIOR." Children who are constantly criticized, either by parents, older siblings, teachers or peers, learn to believe, "Only those who are brilliant, ebullient and beautiful are deserving of love and honor. Since I'm not, I am unlovable. No one normal would want me." Though they dream of meeting someone who will love them as they are, they also think, "Anyone who could love someone as defective as me would have to be an idiot, and why would I want such a person?" People who develop a belief in their inferiority, even if they seem totally normal and successful on the outside, are terrified that they won't be able to keep up the pretence after marriage and that eventually their partner will find out how incompetent they are and will then abandon them. It seems far safer to be alone and keep others from discovering the awful truth.

2. "I'M SCARED OF THE UNKNOWN." There is much more openness about mental illness in the magazines and newspapers. Even teenagers talk openly about bi-polar, autism and OCD. Almost 25% of the American population is on some form of psychiatric medication. The imagination runs wild in young people with various "what if" scenarios, as in, "What if s/he is violent, addicted, withdrawn, hostile, demanding, domineering, anxiety-ridden, irresponsible or dysfunctional?"

3. "I'M SCARED TO MARRY SOMEONE WHO IS LESS THAN I." Some children are brought up to think, "I am so spectacular that no one is good enough for me." These types think of themselves as part of a royal elite and search obsessively for a true prince/princess." They may go out on hundreds of dates, and after two minutes, already decide, "This person is beneath me." They feel they are retaining their sense of self-worth by holding out for the fantasy.

4. "I FEAR MARRYING SOMEONE WHO IS IMPERFECT." Physical perfectionists want someone who is flawless in terms of appearance, cleanliness and organization. The spouse must possess just the "right" features and have impeccable manners and dress at all times. Emotional perfectionists want someone who can provide perfect understanding and will always say the "right" words. Spiritual perfectionists want a perfectly righteous individual. No one can pass the test of a perfectionist, since every person has physical, emotional and spiritual flaws. It seems safer to stay "married" to the fantasy of perfection than to live with a real human being.

5. "I'M SCARED OF REPEATING MY PARENTS' MARRIAGE." Children who witness strife or mental illness in their homes are terrified of repeating these patterns.

A powerful phenomenon known as "repetition compulsion" is what compels many people to repeat unhealthy childhood patterns even if they know that these behaviors are harmful. For example, a man with a domineering mother may have an extremely hostile reaction to even the most innocent of requests by his wife, fearing that he will again be under the tyrannical rule of a woman. A woman who had a neglectful father may fear that she will be abandoned. Both may react to conflict by withdrawing or attacking, because they never learned how to respect differences or work out mutually acceptable solutions. If you are single, then you do not have to face being hurt.

6. "I'M SCARED OF LOSING MY IDENTITY." Women seem more frightened of identity loss than men. Before marriage, a girl has a degree of freedom as to what to wear, what to study and how to spend her time. After marriage, her identity is often submerged in that of her husband. She takes his last name, follows his customs and adjusts to the needs and demands of her children. After the initial excitement of marriage has faded, some women become depressed and resentful, feeling they have lost all sense of individuality. This may be why the Rambam advises that husbands and wives each have their own individual realms in which they make decisions. The freedom to make one's own decisions strengthens self-esteem.

7. "I'M SCARED OF LOSING MY FREEDOM." A person is a bochur (bachelor) or bachurah (single woman) until marriage. This word is related to the Hebrew verb "to choose." Once people marry, there is a loss of freedom. They can no longer make a purchase, meet with friends or make plans without consulting the other. This loss of choice is very hard to bear for some people. For example, those who like to hang out with friends or pursue a particular career fear, "I have no freedom to do what I want. I must submit to my spouse's demands; if not, I'll be attacked for being uncaring and irresponsible." The loss of freedom makes them feel stifled and imprisoned.

8. "I'M SCARED THAT SOMEONE BETTER WILL COME ALONG." Many people fear that after they marry, they will, at some point, see Mr/Ms Perfect and feel, 'Now I'm stuck forever with the wrong person and will always feel disappointed, deprived and heartbroken."

9. "I'M SCARED THAT I WON'T BE ABLE TO BEAR THE DISCOMFORTS." Again, there are many "What ifs": "What if he leaves his dirty socks under the bed, gets sick, snores or eats noisily, has bad moods, leaves things strewn about, chatters incessantly, withdraws into hostile silences or has other irritating habits? How will I cope?" These fears are especially strong in people who were traumatized in early life by abusive parents or siblings. They find it difficult to bear being in close proximity with other people for more than a short time. It is now known that the brain structure and hormonal chemistry of people who were abused or neglected in early childhood is different from people who grew up in a loving atmosphere. When they come near a person, instead of building trust, their old fears are triggered.

Each of these fears requires that a person adopt a new set of beliefs. This is not simple or quick. They touch on our most primal anxiety of being rejected, hurt and abandoned. Hopefully, I will be able to shed more light on the subject in the future.


Dr. Miriam Adahan is a psychologist, therapist, prolific author and founder of EMETT (“Emotional Maturity Established Through Torah”)—a network of self-help groups dedicated to personal growth. Click here to visit her website.
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Anonymous May 11, 2013

The most common source of problems in marriages is that the couple misinterpreted their mutual feelings of attraction as love. This normally results in the couple trying to keep up appearances after about 5 years, and wondering where the love went.

It is important to know that attraction is an emotional feeling that may fade, while love is a promise that has little to do with attraction. Reply

Anonymous conyers, ga August 25, 2012

The biggest fear...taking on another responsibility. I work just as hard as my SO. He comes home from work and does nothing. I come home and I have to make dinner, help my child with homework, do laundry, and straighten up. And its just two of us. If I marry him, will he help me or will I just end up taking care of him too? Also, the fear of financials is a big one. I work hard. I don't want my SO to spend money freely and we end up with nothing. I have been engaged three times, proposed to four times, and I married once for six years. I am scared. Plain and simple. Reply

JW Cleveland March 20, 2012

I'm so afraid of getting married, after so many months of longing to be married. Now that its close, I'm wondering if he is the guy I want to be with. Which is weird because when I think o f calling things off, I'm also terrified to be without him. I was up this morning at 6 something in morning, looking for something or someone who felt the same, or was talking about what I feel. Your article is exactly what I needed to put what I'm feeling in perspective. thank you, I believe God led me to your article. Although I feel like I'm afraid for a little bit of all of these reasons, number 8 may be the biggest. God bless you, and please expound more!! Reply

Anonymous Chicago, IL March 4, 2012

I was quite calm and reflective with the reasons, until I got to reason number 5, "scared of repeating my parents' marriage". I immediately broke out in tears. I never could articulate it, even today when my mother asked why I didn't want to be married. I am currently seeing an honorable man who understands this about me and he still cares enough to stay with me in a romantic relationship until I get over my fears. Thank you. Reply

british pakistani UK, england January 19, 2012

I am 22 years old female and I am terrified of getting married. I am scared of the unknown, what if I marry the wrong person. And because my parents had the worst relationship ever. Reply

Anonymous aurora, illinois January 2, 2012

Problem number 1 description nails my phobia on the head! No matter what positive things have been said about my appearance, profession, personality, ect. I still feel inferior and it is evident in my long term relationships. I am afraid that if I stay with someone to long, they will realize the ugly truth behind the mask. Reply

Anonymous India April 26, 2011

I especially think the rejection part is very true.ALso, I would like to add that it is not just rejection by parents and/or siblings but also by SO in past relationships. Reply

Anonymous Sydney November 30, 2010

Points 4 and 8 are my problems. I am almost engaged to this gal but I still think that, she doesn't look perfect / can get a better looking girl. The reason being...I never met this girl before, saw her once, spoke with her for 90 seconds and that's it. My parents want me to marry the girl. All I could do was judge the person by her face. I mean how can one decide wheather or not to "marry" the person just by "looking". I am not in love with her to ignore her physical imperfections. I don't feel romantic about her when I imagine her (even if I try). I am so confused.......So do you think consulting a Psycologist will solve my problem? Reply

Marcia Naomi Berger, LCSW San Rafael, CA November 23, 2010

I like this article very much! Actually I've thought about writing an article with the same theme, but now I'll just link this one to my blog with an additional suggestion:

Psychotherapy with an empathic, skilled professional is the best way for many people to talk about, accept, and overcome their fears to the point where they can progress toward a successful marriage. Reply

S Brooklyn November 23, 2010

I wonder why you didn't mention financial worries. Was that unintentional, or did you mean to imply that financial worries are just a cover for a different fear?

Great article. A lot, if not all, of it applies to me.. Reply

Anonymous Denver November 22, 2010

This is a great article! I appreciate the advice. I am scared to get married to my boyfriend and I am looking at the reasons why. You have done a great job outlining the causes. Reply

Virender Kumar new delhi, india April 30, 2010

hi there during past few months i m having the first fear in my mind. maybe because i think too much or because even at 25 i m single. but u r right changing ideology can change everything, any suggestions that can give me a positive thinking ability. Reply

Anonymous charleston, sc January 26, 2010

I would never be married to a female who refuses to take my name. Thats a sign that you dont believe youll be with that [person forever. and that she doesnt love me with all her heart.

If he made you buy the engagement ring he would be a pig for not doing his "job" as to you taking his name.
(my aunt, and an old neighbors didnt take there hisbands names and said its because they didnt know if it would last.)

Also another fear with marriage is the wife or husband cheating. Alot of marriages I have seen the wife or husband cheated. I didnt carry on the bad news because usually the messenger gets the blunt end. But that would be my only worry Reply

Monique July 21, 2008

Very simple: women are not legally obligated to change their name anymore.
They just do it by peer pressure.
I did not changed my name when I got married. And this doesn't change the fact that my husband is still my husband! Reply

Anonymous via tulanechabad.org July 12, 2008

You nailed it! Those descriptions were really insightful. I look forward to hearing more insights from you on this subject. Reply

ROXANNE ESTRADA BALDWIN PARK, CA July 10, 2008

Is it possible work with this fears and go through marriage?
I am currently engaged and I am afraid that this fear will not allow me to be happy. Reply

Anonymous July 9, 2008

Thank you Mrs. Adahan for your great analysis of fears of marriage. I have read that people's brains can form new neurons, when that was previously thought to be impossible. Have you seen evidence of people's brains changing, such as the people who have been traumatized? Have you seen people's brains repatterning? I would think it would be a combination of therapies, emotional, physical, spiritual, to help people change, or is that possible, in your experience? Reply

Mindy Friedlander Brooklyn, NY June 17, 2008

For the conscise and applicable explanationsof why we fear marriage. This was very helpful and informative. Reply

george June 17, 2008

there is something that isnt mentioned yet: to be afraid to build up trust, build up life together and being left from one day to another...people change and sometimes take their own decisions. thats life and nothing is staying immobile. but not very easy to bear sometimes. darkness and light are one, right? Reply

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Miriam AdahanDr. Miriam Adahan is a psychologist, therapist, prolific author and founder of EMETT ("Emotional Maturity Established Through Torah") ­- a network of self-help groups dedicated to personal growth. She lives in Jerusalem, and has recently written on the struggles of life in the terror-beset land. Click here to visit her website.
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