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Managing Six Kinds of Dating Anxiety

A good marriage offers lifelong companionship, plus emotional and spiritual fulfillment like nothing else can give. Yet large numbers of women of all ages are proclaiming disinterest in marrying.

Many tell me privately that they yearn for marriage but fear failing at it.

How Women Can Deal with Fear of Marriage

The first step for a marriage-shy woman is to identify her fear. Here’s what anxiety looks like in general categories. Different women are released from being stuck and are now in good marriages (or could be) after taking confidence-building actions:

Parents divorced during childhood.

Personally, I delayed marrying, fearing it would end in heartbreak for me, as happened to my mother after she and my father divorced. My journey toward readiness to marry led me to seek psychotherapy, pick up tips from married people, and talk to religious and spiritual advisors whose faith in my ability to succeed strengthened my own. Consequently, I’ve been happily married for 27 years.

Parents related destructively yet stayed married.

Eva grew up with a physically abusive father and witnessed her parents’ screaming fights. She married her college boyfriend, who hit her often. After divorcing him, for decades she dated noncommittal men. Now 70, she says she’s no longer interested in a relationship.

Eva remained stuck in her fear of failing. Had she chosen, with professional help, to gain self-awareness and confidence, I believe she could have married again, successfully.

Divorced or widowed, fears another devastating loss.

Belinda’s husband died over five years ago. She had to leave her comfort zone to begin dating. She said, “I don’t want to be rejected” and “I don’t want anyone else to die on me.” She shared her desire to marry again, and also her fears, with a supportive, happily married friend who encouraged her.

Recently engaged to a man she met over a year ago, Belinda says about her married friend who had been so encouraging, “If it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t even have started dating.”

Friends are divorced and cynical.

Jennifer is a twice-divorced, willowy blonde with two teenage children. “My friends and I are all divorced and cynical about marriage,” she says. Jennifer had too little in common with her ex-husbands for either union to last. Instead of recognizing her unwise choices, she disparages marriage and has a series of boyfriends.

Like Eva, Jennifer could benefit from professional help to gain self-awareness, including about what she really needs in a marriage partner. That goes way beyond being sexually attracted to someone initially. I’d also recommend that she acquire friends who believe in marriage.

Fears loss of freedom, money, or identity.

Dina, in her late 20s, thought getting married meant eating all meals together and sharing a bed. She feared losing her identity.

After learning that many spouses eat some meals separately and about a third of them sleep in separate beds, Dina realized she could negotiate to meet her needs and became ready to date constructively, which she did. She’s now happily married to a man who responds to her expressed concerns with kindness and sensitivity.

Jodi’s concern was money. She wanted to marry Ben, but feared losing control of her financial assets, including those she desired her children from a prior marriage to inherit. A prenuptial agreement sounded unromantic, but when she discussed her fears with Ben, they decided to draw one up.

Long after their wedding, Jodi continued to appreciate Ben for having understood and met her need for financial security, which she required before she could allow herself to marry.

Feels unworthy.

Annie was born with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, which required frequent medical care. Self-conscious and introverted while growing up, she sensed that her parents viewed her as a failure. Annie, now in her 60s, is kind, accomplished, and strikingly beautiful. She acknowledges wanting marriage but shuns men who do. She gets into long-term hookup-type relationships with men and complains to friends that they treat her too casually.

Annie would need to feel worthy of a good marriage before she would feel safe relating to a potential husband. Psychotherapy could help her gain self-esteem and optimism in her ability to succeed in marriage.

How to Gain Confidence

Do any of these scenarios feel familiar? All of these women, and certainly you, can succeed. By learning what it takes to thrive in marriage (1), you can expect to date wisely and create the relationship you’ve always wanted — a lifelong one that fulfills both of you in all the important ways.

(1) Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted, includes seven key communication skills for keeping a relationship flourishing while dating and after marrying.

Image by Sascha Kohlmann on Flickr Creative Commons.

Managing Six Kinds of Dating Anxiety

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Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted (New World Library, 2014, audiobook, 2020), has a private psychotherapy practice in San Rafael, California. She offers and workshops for couples and singles, and continuing education classes for therapists at NASW conferences and online. She has taught also at the UCSF School of Medicine, UC Berkeley Extension, and Alliant International University. A former executive director of a family service agency, she earlier held senior level positions in child welfare, alcoholism treatment, and psychiatry.

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APA Reference
Berger, M. (2018). Managing Six Kinds of Dating Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 23 Jun 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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