So, it happened. You were hanging out with friends when somebody mentioned marriage. Normally, you wouldn’t mind. But inside your brain, a smaller you is screaming, because this time it came right after the words: “It seems like you’re getting pretty serious.” (Cue the fear of commitment.)
You wish they’d mind their own business, but let’s face it. People seldom mind their own business when it comes to marriage. I’m smirking as I write this part, but I know your pain. I’ve always wanted to get married, but I’ve had moments of wondering if it’s worth the risk.
What’s behind your fear of commitment?
A few months after going through a broken engagement, I decided I’d had enough. I stopped thinking about the possibility of dating again, and I even went on a hiatus from watching romantic comedies.
I tried to be perfect to avoid further rejection; I dressed up every day, worked hard, and faked a smile. Sadly, I assumed if people really knew me, imperfections and all, they wouldn’t want me. So I didn’t let anyone get too close.
This has been an ongoing struggle for me. Some days, I still get panicky when a loved one glimpses the ugly underneath my striving.
Does your fear of commitment stem from a painful place too? Maybe it was your last relationship, wounds from your family of origin, or the divorce of someone you care about. If you’re a numbers person, you might just be looking at divorce statistics and shaking your head.
When you consider the state of the family today, it’s no wonder fewer people are getting married. We’re watching friends or relatives go through painful divorces, sometimes left to raise kids on their own. These heart-wrenching realities require acknowledgment.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to avoid the complications of marriage and potential divorce altogether?
Let me point out there’s a difference between avoiding marriage because of fear or pain and embracing singleness as a gift from God. If you sense God may be calling you to singleness, I encourage you to check out this resource on long-term singleness instead.
But if you’re experiencing a fear of commitment, I hope this can help you in your journey to work through your reservations and pain points with God and trusted people.
Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. It’s important to find people you can process with, like a pastor, a counselor, or trusted friends.
Is marriage worth the risk?
As I worked through my own fear of commitment, I needed to remember why marriage was worth the risk of getting hurt. I had grown cynical enough to believe it was better to have no connection and commitment at all.
It’s true, you can’t get hurt if you don’t get close to people. But it also means you can’t build the kind of love you were made for—a rich, committed love that celebrates your greatest victories and grieves with you in your deepest sorrows.
C.S. Lewis put it this way in The Four Loves: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.”
Post-breakup, I faulted love for the nightmare I was experiencing. Yet my pain was actually what happens when the love between two people is broken. I don’t think I was afraid of commitment so much as seeing commitment broken again. Sadly, no marriage is immune to brokenness. I wish I could guarantee you’d never get hurt again. If I could, I’d make it certain for myself too.
According to 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, love is the best thing we have to give. Our legacy is not found in the good things we do but in the love we give and receive. And this goes for all our relationships: our family of origin, our friends, and our potential spouse.
Processing your fear of commitment
Perhaps the hardest, most rewarding work you’ll do here is processing alone with the Lord. Note: If you have trauma or particularly deep pain associated with this, you may want to start by processing with a counselor.
As you sit with the Lord, take time to pray and journal about your fears and pain points.
Ask God to show you where He is redeeming your story. If you’re currently in a relationship, pray for direction and the wisdom to discern past pain from present concerns.
Here are a few reflection questions for you to consider:
- What fears do I have about marriage?
- Do I have any specific concerns about my current relationship? If so, do these concerns point to significant values differences?
- Are there areas where I’d like to grow/heal before sharing my life with someone else? If so, what steps can I take toward growth?
- What parts of my story can I ask God to redeem? What might it mean to be open-handed with how God wants to use my story?
- Are there ways in which I feel resistant toward closeness in general? If yes, how can I take a step closer to the important people in my life? If not, how can I place more trust in God’s hands when it comes to my future spouse?
Dare to commit
Please don’t think I’m asking you to rush your commitment to someone. I don’t want you overlooking any concerns in a potential spouse because you believe your fears aren’t valid or that God wants you to simply “make it work.” I’d much rather you take the time you need to heal and grow.
Here are three ways I’d love for you to press forward:
First, if you don’t know Jesus, thanks for hanging with me this long. Will you think about getting to know Him and His good plan for your life? And if you already know Jesus, will you commit to trusting His plan for your life?
Second, will you dare to commit to pursuing the love you were made for? Friend, I don’t want you to trade closeness and connection for a false sense of security. I want you to experience deep, authentic relationships with kind people who share your values. I want you to experience healing from any past wounds and freedom from your fears.
Third, I want you to dare to hope that you can have a committed marriage, full of love, respect, and a healthy dose of silliness. Because I’m hoping with you.
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Alex McMurray is a content writer for FamilyLife at Cru headquarters in Orlando. She graduated from Cedarville University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a concentration in child and family studies. She grew up in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania with her parents and older brother. In her free time, she enjoys having deep conversations over coffee, playing board games, and adventuring outdoors.