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Can Fear of Marriage Be Cured?

He’s ready, but fear of marriage is giving her cold feet


Senior couple enjoying coffee together in cafe
Allison Michael Orenstein/Taxi/Getty Images
Q: I am a 65 year-old widower, married for 37 years until my wife died seven years ago. My partner, 62, has been single for the past 17 years after two bad marriages. We talked about getting married, but now she’s getting cold feet. Is there anything I (or we) can do to get past her fear of marriage?


Why People Fear Marriage
Marriage fears are common, and are often based on past experiences.

  • Perhaps fear of marriage is really a fear of being rushed. People who have been single for years may not be in a hurry to marry again, especially if the earlier experience was difficult.

    If this is the case, suggesting that you postpone the marriage discussion for awhile will give your partner the freedom to work through any fear of marriage issues.

    If you both agree to postpone the discussion, it's important for your partner to actively work through the issues and come to a decision; it's not fair to keep you waiting indefinitely.

    Being able to talk candidly about marriage fears or questions that you both have will keep commuication open. And it's good practice for working through future problems or fears that we inevitabley face in our lives.

  • If timing isn’t the issue, perhaps your partner's fear of marriage is based on a fear of failing again, or losing you to another divorce.

    If your partner fears marriage because she thinks, based on her track record, that she’s not capable of creating a successful marriage, take a look--together--at how she is doing in your relationship.

    It might help your partner to talk about what’s going right this time—and how things are different than in past relationships.

    If she can recognize what you both are doing well--communication, trust, intimacy--along with your mutual commitment to do your best, perhaps her marriage fear will lessen a bit.

  • Is your partner a child of divorce, drug or alcohol abuse, or domestic violence? What children see their parents doing helps to shape how they view marriage. For example, many people who engage in domestic violence also experienced domestic violence between their parents, or one parent and his or her partner.

    If your partner's fear of marriage comes from the examples set by her parents, recognizing those experiences and working to let them go is key to her own successful marriage. If your partner was traumatized by childhood experiences, a counselor can help her recognize that she doesn't need to follow the same path; as an adult she can choose how she wants to live her life.

How to Cope When Your Partner Fears Marriage
Wanting to marry someone who has a fear of marriage can be hard on your self-esteem. Try to remember that your partner's issues have nothing to do with you, and try not to let those issues affect how you feel about yourself, or your worth as a potential spouse.

Keep communication open between you and your partner, and encourage her to tell you how she’s feeling.

If it’s just fear of marriage, you can work through it, together or with help from a counselor. If she changed her mind and no longer wants to marry you, that's something you need to know.

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