If you’re a woman who’s been telling yourself for a very long time that you want to get married, but for one reason or another it hasn’t happened, chances are that part of you wants to get married and part of you is resisting the idea.
When Carolyn, a dear friend and coworker of Shari’s told her decades ago that she, Shari, was ambivalent about marrying, she didn’t believe her. How could she have thought that? Shari wondered. Wasn’t she the one who kept meeting men? Shari believed that it was purely by chance that her relationships hadn’t worked out; she just hadn’t met the right guy.
It took Michael to convince her, at least temporarily, that it wasn’t simply bad luck that had been keeping her single despite all her efforts to find a husband. Michael was married to Shari’s best friend from childhood. Shari saw them only occasionally because they lived across the country.
Over the years Michael had been hearing that Shari was excited about one man after another, followed by her frustration and grief when it became clear that they didn’t want a serious relationship. Around the fifth time in as many years, when Michael overheard her telling her friend about the latest guy, he anticipated Shari’s next statement, intoning:
“I like him a lot but he doesn’t want to get serious.”
Ouch! Shari felt a tinge of embarrassment, which often happens when confronted with an uncomfortable truth about one’s self.
But she quickly squished the awareness of her relationship pattern. For a few more years, she continued to be attracted to men who wanted a noncommittal, casual relationship.
Finally, at age forty, Shari snapped out of denying her role in sabotaging her search for a husband. She realized that she had involved for a long time with noncommittal men and rejecting marriage-minded ones.
Realizing she would need professional help to reverse her self-defeating pattern, Shari began a course of psychotherapy, which helped her gain an understanding of her ambivalence about marrying. Her doubts stemmed from the fact that her parents had divorced when she was young. She grew up hearing her mother bemoan, “I gave him the best years of my life. Then he left me for another woman.”
Shari grew up without seeing a good marriage on a daily basis. Like her, her two closest friends said they wanted marriage yet dated noncommittal men and rejected those who wanted a serious relationship. And like Shari, her friends did not recognize their own ambivalence about marriage.
Neither of these friends was willing to commit to psychotherapy because they didn’t believe that their difficulty came from within themselves. A few decades later, both are still single.
Long after Michael had metaphorically hit Shari over the head with her self-defeating relationship pattern, she continued to see her therapist every week–through courtship, marriage, and motherhood.
Shari’s example is informative. People who are strongly ambivalent about marriage and who invest in receiving good psychotherapy, are likely to face their fears, resolve their ambivalence, and eventually marry.
What could be a better investment?
[Marcia Naomi Berger]
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), has a private psychotherapy practice in San Rafael, California. She offers and workshops for couples and singles, continuing education classes for therapists at National Association for Social Workers (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 has held senior level positions in child welfare, alcoholism treatment, and psychiatry. Marcia Naomi Berger lives in San Rafael, California with her husband of 26 years.