Whether you call it marriage doubts or pre-wedding jitters – or you’re scared to get married even though you’re not even engaged yet – here are a few things to think about.
The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Timothy Keller and Kathy Keller will help you square with mistaken beliefs of modern culture. For instance, it’s a myth that everyone has a soul mate, that romance is the most important part of a successful marriage, that your spouse is there to help you realize your potential, and that starting over after a divorce is the best solution to marriage problems.
If you’re a woman who is struggling with marriage doubts, do not dismiss them! I hear from hundreds of women who are unhappily married, who wonder if they should leave their husbands. They ignored the red flags. They assumed their marriage doubts would go away, they thought their love was strong enough to overpower their concerns and fears about getting married.
The sad truth is that relationship problems don’t go away after you get married. They get worse.
How to Deal With Marriage Doubts
My thoughts on what to do when you’re scared to get married are for single men and women, engaged couples, and even teenagers who have never been involved in a romantic relationship.
Look at your past objectively. I was scared to get married because I grew up in and out of foster homes, with a single mom who has schizophrenia. I didn’t meet my dad until I was 29 years old, when I went to Jerusalem, Israel and knocked on his door. The reason I was scared to marry was because I had no idea what marriage was all about, and I had no exposure to men or boys at all – other than a few foster dads. Why are you scared to get married? Maybe you grew up with an alcoholic or promiscuous mother. Maybe your dad was never around, or pushed you too hard to be someone you’re not. Maybe you lost one or both of your parents, and you haven’t processed your grief.
Talk to a counselor. What helped me get over my fear of marriage (which was wrapped up in my fear of intimacy) was a year of counseling. I really wanted to be emotionally healthy, and I was blessed with employment as a teacher at a school that offered free counseling to staff. Counseling isn’t fun (if your therapist is good), but it can be the most important thing you do in your life. It can help you find freedom from emotional pressure and unprocessed pain.
Learn the difference between healthy marriage doubts and “real” fear of getting married. Before my year of counseling, I was scared to get married. After my counseling and after my husband proposed to me, I had those normal marriage doubts or pre-wedding jitters. I knew deep in my heart that marrying Bruce was a good idea, but I was scared of marriage – for good reason! I had no idea what I was getting into, and I didn’t have any positive role models. What about you – are you struggling with healthy marriage doubts, or a real fear of getting married?
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While you’re at it, take time to learn the difference between being having married doubts and being scared of falling in love because you’ll get hurt.
Consider the idea that perhaps you’re meant to be single. Marriage isn’t for everyone, even though it seems like everyone is married and all the movies and TV shows focus on marriage, romantic relationships, and dating. It takes a great deal of courage to choose to be single in our North American society. Is it possible you’re not scared to get married – you just prefer to be single?
Honestly assess whether you’re with the right partner. “You know yourself, your partner and your relationship better than anybody else does; if you’re feeling nervous about it, pay attention to that,” said Justin Lavner, a UCLA doctoral candidate in psychology in University of California – Los Angeles. “It’s worth exploring what you’re nervous about.” Take time to explore why you’re scared of getting married, and where your marriage doubts are coming from.
Take a moment to consider what research about marriage doubts tell us. In Lavner’s research study, women were less likely than men to have doubts about getting married, but their doubts were more meaningful in predicting trouble after the wedding. Among women, 19 percent of those who reported pre-wedding doubts were divorced four years later, compared with 8 percent of those who did not report having doubts. Fourteen percent of men who reported marriage doubts were divorced four years later, compared with 9 percent who did not report having doubts.
Whether you’re having marriage doubts because your wedding day is coming soon or you’re simply scared to get married some day in the future, take time to work through your feelings. Don’t ignore your intuition or gut instincts.
My prayer for you as you struggle with doubts and fears about marriage is that you find peace. May you connect with your Creator, and find the source of emotional strength and positive energy. May you know in your heart what you’re meant to do with your future and your relationships, and may God guide you as you make decisions about your future. Above all, may peace be yours.
What are your thoughts on marriage doubts and fears of getting married? I welcome your comments below.