In a previous post, “Emotional Infidelity: Fact or Fiction” I covered the definition of emotional infidelity, ways to fall into it and ways to prevent it. Not surprisingly, this has been my most viewed post. I began to wonder about it’s popularity and have asked myself: Is it because we are mystified by relationships? Living in a technological world where secrets have taken on a new life? Or are we simply living in fear?
Two elements stand out in my mind when thinking about relationships in 2013: social networks and divorce rates. Social networks, like Facebook, increase third-party threats, which according to some studies encourage jealousy and surveillance behaviors. Meanwhile, we are constantly being reminded of climbing divorce statistics, whether it’s yet another celebrity breakup or a research study reporting today’s marriages in despair. Oh and don’t forget all this is being delivered side-by-side Hollywood’s oh-so- realistic portrayals of romance. What are we to make of relationships in 2013?
Today’s relationships are living in an era consumed with deep questioning of trust and increased caution. While each of these is valuable (and maybe for some couples should be taken more seriously), it would appear as though there is a growing sense of fear when it comes to being in a relationship, let alone committing to one.
It is no wonder that couples are opting to cohabitate before making the leap. A recent article in the New York Times points to a nationwide survey by the National Marriage Project, where about two-thirds of 20-somethings said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce. The article goes on to talk about “the cohabitation effect,” which is that couples who cohabit prior to marriage (especially engagement or other clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with marriage and are more likely to divorce than couples who do not.
Our world is ripe with experiences and messages that instill fear about relationships, which I would argue contribute to couples’ unwillingness to commit to one another. Here are a few examples of common fears from both my clinical work and personal life:
- Fear of infidelity (emotional/physical)
- Fear of feeling trapped
- Fear of choosing the wrong person
- Fear of losing your partner
- Fear of losing identity
- Fear of losing excitement
- Fear of becoming a statistic
- Fear of repeating family history
For some, these fears may be valid and possibly vital to evaluating one’s relationship. However, it seems as if relationships in 2012 are being saturated by obstacles to delay and avoid committing to something that is essential in our lives, love.
Are we truly committed to taking the necessary steps to achieve healthy relationships, marriages and families? Or, have we been so scared off by statistics and third-party threats that caution has turned to fear. So I ask you, when it comes down to our relationships, do we have a fear of commitment or are we committed to fear?