AdviceHey, Bonita!

In Love With Marriage Anxiety

Hey Bonita, 

I’m not sure if this counts as a fear of commitment, but I have serious marriage anxiety. I’ve been with my partner for six years, our lives are very intertwined, and we basically act/function like a married couple already. Everything has been fine as is, but I think my partner is ready for the next step… and when I seriously think about getting engaged or married, I’m actually overcome with absolute dread. Like stomach hurts, head swims. It’s at the point where if we’re in a situation I think they might try to pop the question, I’ll start acting strange and do anything to get out of the situation. I love this person; I want to be with them. Just “marriage” totally freaks me out. I don’t think marriage really means anything to me, but that doesn’t explain why I’d have such negative feelings. I figured I just wouldn’t care either way. I don’t want to ruin my relationships because of this, and I don’t know how to move forward in my life.


Hey Anon,

If you’re so concerned about this that it causes physical symptoms of anxiety and makes you act weird towards your loved one, then I’d say that it’s time for a conversation about the issue with your partner. Wait until you’re feeling calm and have your thoughts collected about the topic, and then kindly ask your boo if they want to chat about your perspectives on it. Definitely don’t blurt it all out in a moment of tension—we would hate to see a nervous outburst snowball into a blowout. I think that a couple must have very similar, if not the same, values and perspectives about life-changing things like marriage and children and buying a home if they truly have a future together, and you may already have an idea whether or not your partner is down to rent forever or be a parent. The marriage conversation can be tricky because some folks react strongly to the idea, for better or worse. I think that you need to get clear on what your partner’s plans are for the future so you’ll stop getting shifty during intimate moments.

I would hope that you two have already had this conversation after six years of going steady, but it sounds like you haven’t if you’re worried that they would propose to you out of nowhere. I know a few people who have been ambushed in this way, and I can see that we share the perspective that surprise proposals are intimidating, intense and ultimately rather inappropriate.  It can feel manipulative if a person suddenly pops the question in front of others, and I think that’s a pretty bad way to get a marriage started. Most surprise proposals that we see on the internet happen between couples that have already discussed marriage and knew it was in the cards for them, and the actual moment of question-popping is the only surprise involved. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of a single engaged couple that I know currently where getting married wasn’t a mutual decision borne of regular conversations. Honestly, I just don’t think that surprise proposals are as cute or romantic as pop culture would want us to believe, and I hope your boo has at least picked up on their partner’s aversion to this kind of romcom behavior.

Marriage is a legal agreement that will get you a couple of tax breaks but also cause you to take on your partner’s debt. Personally, I don’t see it as an essential part of a long-term relationship, and I’m not alone in that at all. It sounds to me like you’re happy and very much in love with your partner, and that you’re not interested in changing your long-established relationship dynamic.  You don’t need to be able to call it a marriage to be fulfilled, and I think you’ll rest a lot easier once you find out whether your partner feels the same. There’s nothing wrong with being happy with how things are and not wanting to change them. Isn’t that what we’re all striving for anyway?

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