Getting Married: Settling Down Or Settling?
It’s the wedding season. If you’re of a certain age, your Facebook timeline is probably flooded right now with glamorous shots of destination weddings and designer outfits as all your friends are taking the plunge and getting hitched. Your parents may be bringing home photos of eligible options, and billboards across the country are screaming out offers on jewellery and new homes. Under all that pressure, it’s only natural to start to buckle. So what if they are not quite right for you, marriage is about compromise right? So what if there’s something about her that makes you uncomfortable all the time, you’ll learn to love your partner, right?
A thorough expert analysis of relevant research on the factors that influence the choice to marry suggests that the fear of being single and the pressure to marry for the sake of safety can often push you into a decision you’re not ready for. Let’s take a closer look at the myths surrounding marriage.
'You have to tie the knot by 30 or you’ll be alone forever'
There are several misguided beliefs around age and singlehood. “Single women lead lonely, depressing and incomplete lives. Their unhappiness increases exponentially with each passing birthday, because past a certain age a woman is “used up”. All women are desperate to marry or remarry because marriage is their only real chance for security and happiness.”
According to a study by Anderson and Stewart, the fear of being single is so strong that it consistently caused people to show a romantic interest in partners who were less responsive and less attractive than what they would have otherwise pursued. These dangerous myths are just as much in force in today’s modern world as they were 20 years ago.
'A woman suffers when single, and remains incomplete until she is in a relationship'
While this myth is sometimes also applied to men, it’s far more heavily applied to women. The concept of a woman being unfulfilled and incomplete when single is passed down from generation to generation. It doesn’t help that Western Society, that’s dominating global culture today, “maintains an ideology that romantic relationships are the most important of all social relationships”
Thanks to these beliefs, we place more value in simply being in a long-term relationship or marriage with just about anyone rather than seeking out the ideal life partner. Sometimes, if we are already in an unfulfilling relationship, we may allow ourselves to be taken advantage of rather than leave the ‘security’ of the relationship.
'You should always go with your heart'
Should we go only by what the heart wants? As we deconstruct the fear of being single, we see to what extent it affects our choices and decision making capabilities. The choice to start, maintain or end a romantic relationship involves complex decision making. This process is usual influenced by heuristics and emotions, so we’ve got to take care to examine these emotions thoroughly. It’s important to balance our feelings with reasoning . Really think about what you want and whether you would want to continue to live with this person after the initial passion fades away.
'Constant compromise is the key to a healthy relationship'
To an extent, it definitely is. You have to try to listen to and understand your partner’s point of view before making any decisions that affect you both. But you should also know how much of this need to compromise comes from a genuine desire to be together and how much comes from being desperate to make the relationship work because you’re afraid of being alone. “To the extent that one fears being single, daily relationship decisions may be driven by a desire to have or maintain relationships over other factors that typically predict commitment and romantic stability, such as high satisfaction or relationship quality.” It’s this attitude of prioritizing relationship status over relationship quality that can trap someone in an abusive or simply unsatisfying relationship for years.
'FOMO isn’t real'
FOMO, or the ‘Fear of Missing Out’ is a very real phenomenon. Exacerbated by the age of social media we live in, it refers to the anxiety and pressure we feel to be socially active. Linked to this is Facebook envy, the need to keep up with what you see your friends doing on Facebook. Users whose friends are constantly posting new achievements or relationship milestones may end up “judging themselves more harshly and feeling that they have failed to accomplish enough in life.”
In fact, FOMO can cause high levels of depression and anxiety with one in two teens and one in four adults among users reporting social distress.
So where does that leave the singles? Now that you can identify the sources of pressure in your life, you can distance yourself from them or keep them from affecting you. When making important life decisions, keep in mind that there are many other forces at play, and you will be in a much better place to take the right call.
If you, or someone you know is experiencing issues in their marriage, an InnerHour therapist can help you.
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