After a divorce, I don’t think it is uncommon to be afraid of commitment. After all, getting divorced is traumatic. It can be gut-wrenchingly hurtful, and the thought of trusting someone again can be extremely scary. This guest post, written by therapist, coach, blogger and author, Terry Gaspard address fear of commitment and offers tips for overcoming your fears and moving on.
Take a Chance on Love and Make a Commitment by Terry Gaspard
If you are afraid of commitment, you might want to consider the following: Know that no relationship is conflict free, but you are worthy of having a relationship that makes you happy. If you aren’t there yet, consider where you are now. What is it that holds you back from achieving a satisfying relationship? And once you have it, what will you do when you get there?
A recent survey found that 84% of women and 82% of men crave commitment and report that being married someday is “very” or “somewhat” important to them. That being said, many people seek lasting commitment, often in the form of marriage. This can be a healthy desire if we bring realistic expectations to it. But many adults don’t have a healthy template of marriage to follow when it comes to nurturing and sustaining a committed relationship, making it difficult to know where to start. Perhaps the first step is reevaluating your view of relationships and adjusting your expectations.
Most observers agree that marriage in the US has been changing. Over the last fifty years, there has been a quiet shift in the landscape of family life in America. Approximately 50 percent of adults over age eighteen marry; this number is compared to 72% in 1960, according to The Pew Research Center. The medium age at first marriage has never been higher for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7years) according to this report.
Some think this decline is because the progression of individualism has made it more difficult for couples to achieve satisfying and stable relationships. Others believe that changes, such as increasing acceptance of singlehood and cohabitation have made our lives richer because we have more opportunities for personal growth.
However, it appears that ambiguity in romantic relationships is on the increase in the past decade and options range from friends with benefits to indecision about permanent commitment. According to Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, “Ambiguity is now the norm as opposed to clarity.” Author Jessica Massa, who interviewed hundreds of singles and couples for her book, “The Gaggle: How to Find Love in the Post-Dating World” informs us that many couples claim exclusivity but won’t call it a relationship.
Multiple factors have merged together to create a generation of ambiguity. However, one the most compelling reasons is cultural since the first generation of children to grow up witnessing mass divorce are now making their own decisions about love and commitment.
In fact, fear of relationship failure plagues many of us who grew up in a culture of divorce, even if our parents stayed together. It makes sense that people in their 20’s and 30’s might hedge their bets and see relationships as risky if they watched their parents’ marriage fail or even relatives and friends parents’ marriage collapse.
Fear of failure can hold us back and prevent us from being our best self. It limits us by causing anxiety and fostering a pessimistic attitude about the future. Divorce expert Paul Amato posits that many adult children of divorce (ACODS) fear relationship failure. They fear that when they open themselves up to other people, they will get hurt, and will lose out on love.
There are no guarantees in any relationship. Some work out and some don’t, but approaching relationships with fear or doubt almost guarantees a negative outcome. It’s key to embrace the notion that a lifetime commitment has to be made when there is some degree of uncertainty. If you wait to make a commitment when you are free of doubts, it will never happen.
7 Tips to Overcoming Your Fear of Commitment:
- Accept that risks are a part of life and there are no guarantees with love. If you wait for the perfect partner or a soul mate you may never find love. This doesn’t mean that you should settle for less than you deserve.
- Face your fear of commitment and gain self-awareness about your past. If you still have baggage that is unresolved do your best to seek counseling and/or attend a support group.
- Don’t let your “What Ifs” get in your way. This might range from “What if I get hurt” to “What if this relationship ends in divorce.” Challenge your thinking and don’t give in to self-sabotaging thoughts.
- Remember that life can be more rewarding when you take risks and make a commitment to a partner who seems to be a good match for you and is trustworthy. Strive for a partnership with someone who you have good chemistry with and compatibility.
- Take your time dating someone and make sure you’ve known them for at least two years to reduce your chance of divorce.
- Make sure that you have common values with individuals who you date. If you marry someone with drastically different values, you will face complex issues that could put you more at risk for divorce.
- Learn to trust your judgment and be consistent with your commitment. Commitment to someone you love and consider your best friend and partner is not an on-again, off-again proposition.
Let’s end on the wise words of author David Riccho: “Everyone is afraid. Sometimes fear is inappropriate and unnecessary. At other times we have good reason to be afraid. But in every case fear reduces our ability to be ourselves. It convinces us we shouldn’t take chances or risks.”
Terry Gaspard is a therapist, coach, and speaker who specializes in divorce, children and relationships. She is also the author of her blog, MovingPastDivorce.com and he new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.” Learn more and/or order Terri’s book: MovingPastDivorce.com