The marriage rate is at a record low in this country, and a new study from Cornell University might have found the reason why. According to the study, two-thirds of cohabitating couples report that they fear divorce and the financial, legal, and emotional ramifications of a failed marriage. Fears such as these might prevent couples from tying the knot, particularly for younger generations who might have experienced the pain of divorce firsthand within their own childhood homes.
Operating out of fear is never a good way to make a decision. While marriage should never be entered into lightly, an overwhelming fear of divorce can actually impede your happiness or serve to block your commitment to your partner — especially if your partner wants to take your relationship to the next level. If you are bogged down in divorce phobia, consider the following:
Examine your past. As mentioned above, many children who witnessed their parents’ painful divorces might later become hesitant about marriage. A front-row seat to the deterioration of a relationship can be very traumatic, even more so if the situation involved infidelity, abuse, screaming, arguments, and the like. Overcoming this kind of a background can be very difficult, especially if you never worked through those emotions or addressed your lack of trust and fear of love.
In cases such as these, therapy can be a useful tool, as can plenty of communication with your partner. If, though, your partner brings up the subject of marriage and you feel dazed and thrown for a loop, you might say, “I know this is my own baggage talking, but I am feeling really overwhelmed and anxious right now. Can I have some time to take a walk and collect my thoughts?” By pressing pause on the conversation and taking the time to clear your head, you will have the opportunity to figure out what your heart is trying to tell you. When you come back to the conversation, you will have a firmer grasp on what you want to say, and you won’t be acting on adrenaline.
Create your own happy ending. Maybe you don’t want to get married because you fear you and your partner will transform into a warped version of your parents, or maybe you fear that you will leave behind your identity and freedom as you walk down the aisle. You shouldn’t let fears such as these color your decisions or turn you into a cynic: It’s important to remember that you and your partner aren’t your parents — you have the right and the ability to create your own version of connubial bliss, whatever that means to you. And perhaps your version of that will not involve a marriage certificate at all.
Marriage certainly isn’t always happy and fulfilling or even long-term, and it’s not for everyone. However, if your resistance to marriage is fear-based, you have to wake up to the fact that those nagging fears and “what if’s” can ruin your chance at happiness. Until you are willing to open your heart to all possibilities and trust that you will always be okay, you will never live your fullest life or enjoy the love and intimacy you deserve.