Monday, December 3, 2012

The Fears of Marriage by Amma Twum-Baah

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It used to be that men were the ones who feared losing their independence to marriage. Today, a rising number of women are beginning to experience this fear as well. Blame it on women having more freedom and control over their own lives, but this fear is real as I found out in the many email responses I received when I posted the question on my Facebook page. While the reasons for this fear are common, they are also varied in terms of experiences and the perceived end results.

But despite this fear, many women still say they won’t think twice about making that proverbial trip down the aisle. Others are so scared that they have ruled out the idea of marriage altogether. Here are some of the reasons women gave for being afraid of marriage (in a follow up piece, I’ll tackle the relationship between these fears and the general misconceptions that exist about marriage):

I’m Afraid of Losing My Freedom: Ah, FREEDOM! Who doesn’t cherish freedom? Personally, I left home when I was 19 and moved to the United States to live the independent life. I lived with a family friend for about two years before branching out on my own. I’ve been on my own since. I’ve learned how to survive on my own and how to create and fix my own problems (I did a lot of that too – creating messes).

I have made choices of where to live, where to go to school, and what time to come home at night, or whether I wanted to come home at all, what time to wake up in the morning on weekends, whether to cook or eat out. And I’m known to put together a trip at a moment’s notice and where I go is no one’s business unless I wish to keep people informed. I must add that I’ve done quite well for myself. All that will change with marriage.

I’m Afraid of Losing My Identity: One responder, Emily had this to say: “I have witnessed many smart and capable single women deteriorate into something unrecognizable right after marriage. They become absorbed and cease to exist. Every conversation now becomes coated with “as for my husband this,” “as for my husband that.” Or, “my child this,” “my child that”. You can’t even have an intelligent conversation with them anymore.

Mind you these are smart, educated, and professional women who once had identities and could hold great discussions about politics, social issues and more. Now all they care about is talking about people other than themselves. Some of my friends can’t even post pictures online because they’re ashamed of how much marriage and motherhood has changed their physical appearance.”

I’m Afraid My Life Will Change: Dorcas, who wrote in from Belgium, had this to say: “The fact is my life could actually use a change. Just not the kind of radical change I’m afraid marriage will bring. I mean am I ready for all that? Just two weeks ago, I thought of what a great idea it would be to call up my friend Dora, who lives about a four-hour drive away from me, and ask her if she was free for that particular weekend so I could plan a trip over there for a little relaxation.

Just as quickly as that thought crossed my mind while I lay lazing on the couch on a Saturday morning – without a care in the world that there was dust gathering on my center table – I panicked at the thought that marriage would prevent me from doing the things I now take for granted – such random and spontaneous things like planning a last minute trip unhindered, because, a) I deserve it, and b) I can, will no longer be part of the plan. But I still want to get married though. It gets lonely sometimes and I could surely use the company.”

I’m Afraid of Losing Control: Akosua didn’t have much to say, but it was interesting enough to share: “As my life is now, the only person I have to submit to is the organization I work for – and that’s only because they’re the ones pulling my purse strings. Marriage will change that. Frankly, the thought of marriage scares me if for nothing at all but that. I don’t think I can do it. I’m too bossy and in control to let someone else come in and have the last word.” Wow! That’s all I said.

I’m Afraid of Failing at it (my biggest fear): This was probably the most introspective response of them all. Stella said: “I once asked a guy friend what would make him cheat on his wife. His answer: “if he was unhappy in the marriage.” That statement has left an imprint in my mind because it voiced out the general notion that the onus of one’s happiness depends on another. I don’t think I’m the kind of person who can feel eternally responsible for another person’s happiness.

I’m generally not a people pleaser and I don’t go out of my way to make sure everyone around me is happy. I feel like I’m one of those few exceptions to the general rule. I don’t think marriage is for me. Heck, I can barely keep the few friends I have what makes a man think I want to be completely responsible for his overall happiness?”

All these fears notwithstanding: Dorcas and Emily are certain they’ll love being married because it’s what they eventually want. Emily says “Fear has never stopped me from doing anything I’ve wanted to do. But, I’m also not oblivious to the fact that marriage is a completely different kind of want. It is a want that cannot be taken lightly and is one that will only end if one of us ends up dead – which could take a very long time depending on our individual health and how prone we are to accidents.” I had to laugh when I read this.

Dorcas, in a follow up to my question on whether her fear stops her from wanting to be married, said: “Knowing this, I cannot just discount my fears as something minor without first looking into why I’m afraid. And I’m glad I can admit that I’m afraid in the first place because it causes me to question why I still want to get married despite my fear.

Some fears exist so we can question our motives and give second thought to decisions that we wouldn’t otherwise give. All in all, I do know one thing. I want to get married because I believe marriage will enhance the beautiful life I already have, not take away from it. I also know that this will only be the case if I marry the man with whom I’m most compatible.” Deep!

Well, there you have it. Obviously, the road trip for many women today is no longer a trip from their father’s house to husband’s house. There are many stops and detours along the way. And with the detours come exposure, experience, and the sweet taste of independence and solo decision-making. It is understandable that women are becoming fearful of marriage these days. The high divorce rates and rise in infidelity don’t help much either. However, it is important to note that the fear is geared more towards the things we fear to lose, and not towards the things we stand to gain – a partner for life.

Well, the women have spoken. What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or just have another take on this issue? I’d love to know your thoughts below.

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- Amma Twum-Baah, the editor of Afrikan Goddess Magazine, put together and published this piece based on real women's feedback. I decided to share it here because of the related reader email I posted recently - Dear Myne - I think I have Commitment Issues. So let's discuss.




17 comments:

  1. Some of these fears expressed are founded, while some are unfounded. However, I believe the underlying fact why people are afraid of marriage is because most people want to eat their cake and have it back.
    You can't say you want to be married, yet want to live like a singal babe. That's failure waiting to happen.

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    1. You might have a point here - about people wanting to have their cake and eat it too. If only there was a way to be both, right? I guess the fear of sacrifice is much bigger here.

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  2. I do not think marriage does all these negative things. When you marry your friend, you do not loose your freedom or your identity, instead you get to explore things in a different point of view. You will still have control over things that you do not get to share with him and he will be eager to share control over others. Most of all, marriage takes two, failure is not an option when both parties agree that they want the marriage to work especially when they are friends.

    Moral? marry your friend.

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    1. I totally agree with you "Marry your friend" couldn't have said it better!

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    2. I agree. Unfortunately, it doesn't always turn out that way. And even friends can become enemies after marriage so it's never a guarantee.

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  3. Very very relevant article cos exempting myself (who 'used to be' the biggest culprit - my salvation is still in the works lol) I know a lot of people very opposed to the idea of marriage and for most it's just the uber traditional appearance it seems to have. Some fears are unfounded, like anon said and also true is that most ladies want to eat their cake and have it. But some fears are founded.

    I know women who have said to me "I am igbo and realistically speaking I will end up with an igbo man. Not to be stereotypical but Igbo men are controlling. You wind up as their wife and certain things are expected of you. I want to achieve this much in life and marriage will hold me back"

    So you have a situation where people have to prioritize between achieving their dreams when they want to and risking a late marriage or marrying and risking never actually accomplishing their dreams. Yes, this is not the case for all but it is the case for some

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    1. I love your response NR. Thanks for sharing!

      It's this fear of having to pick and choose that leaves many women (and men) fearful. The interesting fact is that not even this fear of having to choose is discouraging many women from marriage. They still want it, so that's a good thing I guess.

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  4. I had the same fears. Then I got married & found out there fears were nothing. Nothing as in the restraints marriage had on me aren't on those things I assumed it would. Itz not marriage in itself dat holds u back, itz d responsibility you feel towards making a success of d marriage dat shapes ur decisions. Of cos, when u have kids, it'd be incredibly selfish to think of yourself first every time.

    Ugo Chime

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  5. There are risks involved in any major decision we take, even minor ones and anything that comes with any amount of risk comes with fear. I have fears as well. Many of which have been expressed in this post but I also have needs as well and these needs and fears wrestle with each other from time to time. The winner of each round of fight depends on how I feel at that time :)

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  6. I don't subscribe to this fear excuse. The life itself is about change and if marriage would mean a form of change why all the fears? It only requires that each woman understand what she wants in her new identity.

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  7. I have never seen it in this way before although I assume some people are afraid of marriage due to various decisions and reasons.....

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  8. I didn't know a lot of women felt this way. I wonder if it's a particular age group of women that feel this way. Those who have been independent for quite some time. I see myself as an independent soul and I have been independent for quite some time but I’m only 23 and I'm looking forward to being married. It doesn't frighten me at all. I don't see it as something that will stop me from achieving my dreams. This could be because I have incorporated marriage and having children in my dreams. A friend of mine once said she was a little worried about getting married because she feels it will stop her from achieving her dream of travelling the world. Call me deluded or out of touch with reality but I don't understand how that dream can't be achieved if she marries someone with similar dreams as her. Even if the guy she marries doesn't want to travel the world can she not travel the world over a longer period of time on her own or with a friend, obviously taking into consideration that she is a married woman. I see marriage as a partnership and not a prison.

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  9. That's an interesting piece -thanks for sharing.

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  10. Fantastic one. Really informative for the topic of discussion.vivaah Have learn much more from that.

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  11. "It's this fear of having to pick and choose that leaves many women (and men) fearful."
    That na y i neva marry ohhhhhh. D fear can kill biko

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  12. Great post. I agree that fear of failure cripples people from taking the leap. But like anything else, if you never try, you'll never find out what you're missing. Or not. :)

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  13. Hmmm...good and sincere opinions...well, my biggest fear about marriage is ending up with someone I am not compatible with, cos I really cannot tolerate a troublesome wife. loll. Above all, I believe marriage is for the matured mind and it requires a great deal of sacrifice.

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