By Lady Marmalade, April 23 2019 —
Whether you can admit it or not, commitment in a relationship is a scary thing. Taking a big step in any relationship — whether it’s a new label, having sex, moving in together, meeting parents or even getting married — is often a scary time. If you’re prone to anxiety like me, then you know this better than anyone.
Being scared of commitment makes sense. It can stem from a fear of failure, a fear of getting hurt down the road or the dread of uncertainty and vulnerability. In my case, my fear of commitment stems from my parents’ dramatic and painful divorce. It solidified in my mind just how hard it is to make a relationship work and no matter how hard you try, you can end up alone and devastated.
Being in a long-term relationship, I sometimes struggle with voices in my head telling me to run. At first, I thought this meant that I had chosen the wrong person, especially because there was a period of time where we had broken up. My trust was bruised and my anxiety had ample fuel. After going to couples counselling and working to solidify our already-strong foundation, I felt certain that I was in a secure and loving relationship. I had endless evidence of making the right choice in a partner — our physical compatibility, our mutual respect, the way we challenge each other and work hard towards goals, and our similar sense of humour. I can see this person being my life partner and the father of my hypothetical children.
So why, when the topic of marriage came up, did I fall into a pit of fear and uncertainty?
After even more therapy and soul searching, I began to understand that I have a real fear of commitment. Even after dedicating four years of my life to this person, taking the next step is still nerve-wracking. This is rooted in watching the traumatic demise of my parents’ relationship and in the constant reminder society offers that “marriage is hard” and “over half of all marriages end in divorce.”
‘Engagement sadness’ is a very real thing many people experience after getting engaged, which is supposedly the time in your life when you are meant to celebrate your relationship the most. This sadness comes from many aspects of a new step in your relationship — mourning of the past, the realization that you are now a real adult and are putting yourself at risk for future heartache and the pressure to be a picture-perfect image of marriage. Not surprisingly, this is taboo when the idea of engagement is brought up. I was convinced that feeling uncertain must have meant I was making the wrong decision.
After I mustered up the courage to speak to my partner about how I was feeling, a weight lifted off my chest. Feeling this way doesn’t mean you aren’t committed, it just means you are human. When taking a big life step and making a commitment, it makes sense to feel unsure and even skeptical. There is good reason to feel this way. Being in university makes it even trickier, as making big commitments at a young age is often criticized. Giving advice on this topic is difficult, because the only thing that has helped me is communication and time. I have let anxiety and fear hold me back from many things in my life, but each day I feel like I am more confident and comfortable with my commitments. Don’t let the pressure of feeling a certain way make you question your feelings, and just take things at your own pace. I know that getting married is something I want, which is not the case for everyone, but it is also something I work on.
When I agreed to marry my partner at midnight on our anniversary, it felt right. We were both in our underwear, half asleep and surrounded by candles, but I knew I wasn’t taking a leap of faith by myself. Relationships are about teamwork and reminding yourself that you don’t have to take on things on your own. If you feel fear, know you are not alone. Keep talking about the future and checking in and respect the process. Utilize counselling on your own or for your relationship. Never stop making each other laugh. The rest will come.
As my mother’s favourite talk show radio host, Dr. Laura, says, “Choose wisely. Treat kindly.”