I am a 33-year-old female Guidance Counselor with a Master's Degree. I am engaged to be married in a few months. I have avoided marriage for a long time; it never seemed to have too much to offer. I am happy with my life, I like my job and coworkers, I have plenty of fun things to do. I live with my sister and enjoy doing so. I am worried that marriage is a force unto itself. I am afraid of losing my identity. My fiance is fabulous. It is not him that I question but, the institution of marriage. On the other hand living together doesn't seem right either, my friends who have done that all seem to end up in tragic situations.
Are married women happier than single women?
Frankly, I don't think you're ready for marriage. And you don't seem to want it anyway. So what's the problem? Unless you somehow think you ought to get married, or there's something wrong with you for not wanting to. Or you believe you might be missing out on something if you don't get married.
You've made it very clear that you don't NEED to get married; that your life is good already. That sounds good. Because people who NEED to get married to make life OK, set themselves up for an unhealthy dependence and probable resentment. So what's in it for you? What's the payoff? And finally, are there any pitfalls to it?
Here are some of my beliefs about the institution of marriage based on my own experience and what I've gathered from the many couples I've counseled. I'm putting the positives and the negatives in no particular order, because that's how they actually show up.
Marriage IS a force unto itself in that it makes available a unique arena of commitment that can totally quicken and deepen the couple's personal growth. Two rough stones placed in a gem tumbler get smoothed and polished faster than one. Even though their crude edges collide. What a wonderful mystery! Which is not to say that it automatically induces the "happily ever after" effect. It takes lots of effort, patience, and tolerance. Some people are definitely not happier from this realization and this added responsibility.
Marriage can help two people discover a synergy of aliveness that equals much more than the sum of the parts. Just as when we grow up, we must lose our identity as the person we used to be, marriage can help accelerate this positive process of identity loss. Marriage can become an on-going reminder that you're more than you ever thought.
On the downside, marriage can be used as a place where individuals hideout to avoid the bigger issues of aloneness, separateness, and free choice in life. This is the negative aspect of the identity-loss fear you expressed. You've probably accurately assessed your potential for this, so getting married for you would probably require a new kind of vigilance to keep your boundaries and your very sense of self intact. Hey, that's not all bad.
But if you perceive getting married as somehow having to struggle to stay yourself, then that very mind-set tells me you're not ready for it, and it wouldn't be good for you. Let your relationship with your fiance mature until the call for upping the commitment comes more naturally. And even though most couples experience some anxiety about "taking the plunge", at least there's some sense of reward that helps them do it. Till you get that sense, don't do it.
This question was answered by Andy Bernay-Roman, RN, MS, LMHC, NCC, LMT. He is a nationally certified counselor in private psychotherapy practice in South Florida working with individuals, couples, and families with a deep-feeling therapy approach. Andy's medical background as an ICU nurse contributes to his success with clients with difficult medical diagnoses and/or chronic physical conditions. He also serves as head of the Psychological Support Department of West Palm Beach's Hippocrates Health Institute.
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