I’ve been dating the same guy for four years and I’m just not ready to make a commitment. We have a good time together but I’m not sure if “he’s the one.” It’s so hard to withstand the pressure to get married since I’m 33 and most of my friends are engaged or married. To add to this, Jackson has proposed twice and says he won’t do so again unless I give him a sign that I’ll say yes.
I admit that I’m afraid to be alone and worried that if I don’t say yes to Jackson, this will be my last chance at happiness and I will be alone forever. Please help me because I am seriously confused.
Your situation is all too common, especially in the last decade when people are delaying marriage and there is more concern about making a commitment, the necessity of marriage, and a steady high rate of divorce in The United States. I want to assure you that while your decision is an important one, it’s best not to rush into marriage when you are uncertain and vulnerable to societal pressures to wed.
A groundbreaking study by Stephanie S. Spielman demonstrates that fear of being single is a meaningful predictor of settling for less in relationships and staying with a partner who is wrong for you. The first step in facing your fear of being alone is being comfortable strugging with any stigma attached to being single.
In her Huffington Post article How to Be Alone (And Not Be Unhappy) Poorna Bell writes, “There is a problem, a serious cultural problem, about solitude. Being alone in our present society raises an important question about identity and well-being.” Bell posits that there is a contradiction in US culture since we value individualism and autonomy, yet we both fear and dread being alone.
Growing up, you probably weren’t given good examples of how to be alone. Everything you see in the media promotes how to find the right partner, and make it work. There’s nothing wrong with seeking love, because it’s beautiful and can bring about some of the most treasured moments in our lives. But very few people know how to be alone and do it well. They aren’t happy to be alone. They fear it and seek love wherever they go. Too often the pleasure they find with falling in love is the sweet release of no longer being by themselves in the world.
Often single women may be especially reluctant to acknowledge the challenges of being alone for fear of being seen as desperate or needy. Perhaps we need new norms for understanding single women in our culture because in times past they were seen as lonely spinsters, quietly languishing in their studio apartments.
In The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, Maria Shriver is striving to educate young women about the value of being independent while seeking equal intimate relationships. She says, “I’m trying to teach my daughters that they have to think of themselves as providers and not being provided for. I want to talk to them about being smart about relationships and about money and their futures. I’m trying to teach them not to look at boys as the enemy but to look at them as somebody who will be a partner in whatever they do.”According to author Whitney Caudill, “Feeling loneliness or fear from time to time as a single person is normal. In fact, it is normal for everyone.” The key is to recognize this and realize that these are just feelings. Staying in a relationship that is going nowhere to avoid loneliness rarely produces good results.
6 Reasons not to rush into marriage:
- You are in a relationship that causes you anxiety on a regular basis or you are often dissatisfied with it. Ask yourself: Does my significant other inspire me to do my best? Perhaps he or she is overly critical or too focused on his or her needs to be supportive of you.
- You feel you have to change yourself – your values, goals, appearance, or dreams for your partner to accept you. Since your partner is unwilling to compromise – you morph into someone else to accommodate their needs and subsequently lose vital parts of your identity.
- You don’t want to let family, friends, and societal pressures to wed influence you. Rather, you want to take your time to pick a partner who shares similar values and interests – this will enhance your chances of staying together.
- You have concerns about your biological clock or relationship clock. People over 30 who are not married and/or don’t have children sometimes get a double dose of scrutiny if they’re still single.
- You’re content being single and don’t have a compelling reason to tie the knot. In spite of societal pressure to marry, you don’t feel a strong urge.
There are real pressures and judgments in our culture associated with being single that can weigh heavily on people. Pat yourself on the back for your decision to withstand the social pressures and expectations from family and friends to tie the knot. Embrace some of the pleasures of being single or being part of a couple without the formality of marriage. In doing so, your need for other’s approval will fade away and you’ll feel more self-confident in your lifestyle choice and radiate this self-assurance to others.
Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry