One of the most common and debilitating fears among my female engaged clients and e-course members is that marriage means the death of their freedom and independence. While marriage certainly requires a death of the single identity and lifestyle in order for the transition from non-married to married to occur on a healthy foundation, this very foundation can then provide the springboard from which women can more securely explore new areas of passion and possibilities.
In other words, it's the support of a loving partner that allows newly married women to launch into areas of their career and interests that they would not have felt confident enough to explore otherwise. While during their engagement they fretted that marriage would mean the end of their life, most women are invariably and pleasantly surprised to learn that the exact opposite is true.
This truth has been corroborated recently in the research shared in the bestselling book Attached by Amir Levine, M.D., and Rachel S.F. Heller, M.A.:
It seems that our partners powerfully affect our ability to thrive in the world. There is no way around that. Not only do they influence how we feel about ourselves but also the degree to which we believe in ourselves and whether we will attempt to achieve our hopes and dreams. Having a partner who fulfills our intrinsic attachment needs and feels comfortable acting as a secure base and safe haven can help us remain emotionally and physically healthier and live longer.
Why, then, do women fear that marriage means the end of freedom? It's not hard to understand. For most of history, until very recently, marriage did mean the end of exploration and independent learning. Once married, women were tied to their husbands and children and were explicitly discouraged to cultivate a life outside the home. While it's been several generations since women have been expected to fold themselves into that archaic and submissive mold, we still seem to carry the inherited and cellular memory of our thousands of years of oppression.
Furthermore, many women with whom I work witnessed mothers who sacrificed their dreams and careers to be wife and mother. Some of these mothers relished their role at home with the kids, but many others harbored resentments that they had signed on to the unwritten agreement that said that once a baby entered the picture, her work life would come to an end. When a young girl witnesses her mother's resentment, she naturally equates marriage with a certain kind of soul-death and believes that she'll fall into the same footsteps. It requires activation of the left brain - the rational part that can reality test - to say, "That was your mother's marriage but it's not your relationship at all." For the highly intelligent, career-oriented, creative women who find me, they're inevitably in relationships where their partner completely supports their ambition and there's no reason to think that, after married, the expectations would suddenly change.
The work of a conscious engagement includes bringing these fears and unconscious expectations to consciousness. A conscious engagement, one that truly prepares you for marriage, requires stepping away from the magnetic pull of the planning vortex so you can have some real, honest conversations, first with yourself and then with your partner. "What am I afraid of?" you may ask yourself in a journal entry. From there, you can ask your partner, "After we marry, are you going to expect me to start darning your socks and making your dinner every night like your mother did for your father?" It might sound outlandish and ridiculous - and it is - but it's when you can bring your unconscious blueprint to light that the fear can release and you can begin your marriage on a healthy foundation.
On the other side of the wedding is the rest of your life as a married couple. Far from being a death sentence, a healthy marriage with a secure, loving partner will give you both wings to fly, holding your partner's hand as you support each other to dream, vision, adventure, and live the lives you're meant to live... together.
Sheryl Paul, M.A., has counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, her e-courses and her website. She has appeared several times on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," as well as on "Good Morning America" and other top media shows and publications around the globe. To sign up for her free 78-page eBook, "Conscious Transitions: The 7 Most Common (and Traumatic) Life Changes," visit her website at http://conscious-transitions.com. And if you're suffering from relationship anxiety - whether single, dating, engaged, or married - give yourself the gift of her popular E-Course.