Why a Healthy Marriage can Give you Wings to Fly - HuffPost

IMG_2944One of the most common and debilitating fears among my female 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.  – p. 33

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.

18 comments to Why a Healthy Marriage Can Give You Wings to Fly

  • Tina

    After a disastrous first marriage followed by 10 years of being single, it was hard to let myself love and marry again. It took me almost 10 more years to let myself gradually believe my husband’s opinion of me, that I am capable and worthy, and that he wants to help me realize my dreams. I know 100% that I would not be who I am now without him. And I give him the same thing in return. He really is what/who I am most grateful for in life. Thank you, Sheryl for this post.

  • Stephanie

    Sheryl, somehow you always seem to deliver the message that I need at the exact moment I need it–thank you for that, and for continuing to advance the discussion around the sensitive (and so often misunderstood) topic of relationship/marriage anxiety!

    I’ve run smack into this issue in the past few weeks, and it’s left me feeling unsure, vulnerable and in a heightened state of anxiety. During a recent conversation, my boyfriend let me know that he too is having some anxiety about the prospect of us getting married. For both of us, the issue is NOT with one another; he is a wonderful man who is nothing but affirming and supportive of me (and I of him). We are very compatiable and have a loving relationship. I definitely want to marry him, and we both want to move forward together, but there is a wall of fear that we both have to face around our past experiences with relationships.

    I associate marriage with all the bad things I saw in my parents’ relationship, including infidelity, lack of communucation, lack of support, financial issues and long-term emotional abuse. I heard the same message over and over again growing up: DON’T GET MARRIED, IT WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE.

    My boyfriend’s challenge is that he’s had two marriages end in divorce (the most recent was final @ two years ago), and is afraid that even though things are great between us now, it will change after marriage. This is apparently what happened in his second marriage, and it has left some deep psychic scars.

    A few months ago, we talked about looking for a house together, but given how we’re both feeling, I’m starting to think we should table any discussion about a shared home/marriage for awhile. We’ve only been together a little over a year, and while I had been secretly hoping for a proposal, it’s becoming more clear that we both need to work through some of our fears before we’ll be ready for marriage. The optimistic side of me says that we CAN overcome our issues together, but the dark, overbearing, fatalisic part of me is sending strong messages that, ultimately, I’ll never be able to make a relationship work because I’m too scared/too damaged, and that I should resign myself to a life spent alone.

    As I’m struggling with fear and self-doubt, I would love to hear from anyone who has walked this path. I’ve waited my whole life for a loving, supportive partner, and he’s very in my life. The question now is: How do I/we live with this anxiety while also moving toward building the future we both want and deserve? Thanks in advance for sharing thoughts and perspectives…Happy New Year to all!

    • M

      Hey Stephanie!

      I am in a somewhat similar boat. I too watched my parents have a difficult marriage and so I never really wanted that for myself until recently. With the help of Sheryl’s blog I’ve worked past some of my committment issues and now I’m very happy in a relationship. We’ve been together for a little over a year and I am pretty sure he is the one. He is freaking out though, just a little bit. He is scared of repeating past mistakes too. I was freaked when he told me but I’ve decided to trust him and the process of getting to know eachother better. What else can I do but trust? I know also that even if it eventually means the end of us I’ve learned so much so far trusting and loving him and I’ll be okay. I’ve learned to let another person in and that is just great. In short, I don’t think your bf’s fears should make you doubt yourself. They aren’t about you, you sound like you have many great things to give to a relationship. I would say keep moving forward with a different kind of trust than before.

  • Marissa

    I loved reading this post, as it reminds me how far I have come since I got married about 16 months ago. Like many of the women who find their way to your work, I was riddled with anxiety in the year leading up to my wedding, despite being 100% certaing of my love and desire to be with my husband, forever! In the months following the wedding the anxiety slowly subsided, and now I feel so safe and nurtured and AMAZING in my mind and heart, and by extension, my marriage.

    Your work was instrumental in helping me move past some very deep fears and past issues – that while sometimes resurface with minimal impact – do not send me into panic. Marriage is as deep a commitment to oneself as it is to your partner. In stepping forward into our future together, my husband’s support, love and loyalty to me and us makes me feel more confident and secure than I have ever felt in my whole life. I am so grateful that I had your books to work through and your blog to help me along. So while I am no longer struggling with commitment issues, I still appreciate how you and other people are articulating the struggles to finding peace and wholeness.

    Thank you, Sheryl.

  • Teri Walker

    It’s a shame that women still think (mostly by women’s lib) that having a “career” (job) is the end all, be all of life! Instead of being content with a loving husband that provides a home and takes responsibility for all the financial worries.

  • Jared

    Thanks for this article Sheryl. I’m glad you addressed this issue. It’s a question myself and many of my guy friends often ask ourselves – “What does marriage gain us?”. The fear leading up to marriage makes one think again & again about the losses they will suffer, but not enough thought is spent thinking on what is gained.

  • Leslie

    I bought your e-course over a year ago when I had just broken up with my boyfriend of four years, and here I am, a year and a half later, happily married to that wonderful guy and coming up on the 8 month marriage mark. Your e-course saved me. Marriage is truly a blessing, and when the anxiety comes, I now know how to handle it and it only lasts perhaps a few hours instead of weeks at a time.

    Thank you. 🙂

  • Me myself and I

    This is all so true. I am realizing more and more how much my fears are rooted in the issues of my parents marriage. I am working hard to strip myself of the false notions I developed and am learning to check in with myself more which helps as far as lessening the anxiety.

    • Stephanie

      Me, Myself and I: thanks for your post. I completely relate to the fears you mentioned that relate to your parents’ marriage, since I face the same set of fears based on what I witnessed in my own household. I keep reminding myself that I (and my boyfriend) are NOT my parents, and that our relationship is not destined for that same fate. Knowing something intellectually, however, is a total different ballgame from knowing something emotionally, so that’s an ongoing challenge. Here’s hoping those fears subside for both of us!!

  • Glo

    Great post! One of my biggest fears is being controlled by my partner and by the relationship. I have been wondering these things, and even though i’m not engaged, i’ve asked my partner whether we’ll have space for each other, whether we can do our own thing, or what other expectations he has etc. i guess this must mean i’m in a place to start working on my fears?

  • Angela

    Another great blog!! How we all can relate on here with our parents unhappy marriages, I guess the only way I can justify my unhealthy upbringing was that both my parents had strict parents themselves and they taught us what they learnt in their baby boom generation.Discipline was a huge and important issue back in those days.. I personally think they went overboard with it all. I’m sure when I have kids of my own soon .. I will learn how tough it is to be a good parent and sympathise with them.

    • Yes, Angela, and it’s not about vilifying our parents; they did the best they could. It’s just about seeing the situation as it is or was so we can learn from it.

  • Victoria

    Stephanie, Your story as a young woman moved me to respond with my story as a much older woman (58) and several marriages under my belt. My current and final husband was married for 21 years and brought all his baggage with him into our first meeting eachother. I was divorced for over 10 years and spent all that time healing and reading and grounding my faith and belief system into what it looked like for me and felt right for me. He on the other hand did little work as I have discovered most men care to do and it took many years of silence and understanding on my part to let him discover himself as I supported his growth and development. We women are a lot stronger and wiser intuitively than our counterparts. I had enough faith to know that my decisions were solid and true to myself and nothing comes back void.

    • Stephanie

      Thanks for sharing your story, Victoria–the emotional baggage we all carry can be very difficult to handle in a relationship, particularly when they are much different sizes (carry-on versus a steamer trunk!) Thankfully, my boyfriend is a good communicator, although I need to learn what you pointed out about the value of silence. Since I wrote my earlier post, I’m feeling much better and more relaxed about the state of my relationship–as my therapist put it, “Not every tremor you experience means that an earthquake is coming.” I need to have faith in the loving and trusting foundation my boyfriend and I have built, and trust that we can live, love and grow together through ups and downs. Thanks for your wisdom, and for taking the time to share!