Afraid to commit?
Do the words 'long relationship' have you running for the nearest plane? Get it right and commitment doesn't have to mean you're signing your life away.
When some people think of commitment they think of an all-conquering love, growing and improving with age. To people like me it conjures images of standing in the rain, weighed down by shopping bags, a bad perm and the five clinically obese thugs I will doubtlessly spawn for children. My every day spent in drudgery.
Traditionally it was the male of the species who clung onto bachelorhood, but not anymore. The days when a girl thought swapping herself for a box of oranges and a donkey-plough was a shrewd business move and a ticket to freedom have passed. Now we have as many lifestyle choices as we have the imagination for. But still there's a hankering for a life set to the theme of Hovis ads with all the family wearing identical side partings to signify their harmonic oneness.
The wedding ceremony had its heyday in 1970. Spurred by the post-war baby boom there were 390,000 marriages in England and Wales in that year alone. By the end of 2001 the number of 18-49 year old married women had dropped from around 75% in 1979 to around 50%.
But the opinion continues to reverberate - if you're not in a pair then something is wrong. Obsessive magazines will advise you how to tell if your partner is psycho by looking at their socks and that's just the lad mags. Peruse the women's glossies and it takes an even more sinister turn: How To Make Him Commit; Get Him Down The Aisle; Make Him Love You Forever - YES FOREVER!
As more of my mates announce they are buying/ moving/ getting engaged, I can't help but congratulate them through gritted teeth. "Aren't you worried about such a commitment?" I ask tentatively and they scream back "But we love each other!" as if they were the first people ever to do so.
What if it all goes wrong?
Consider that one in three marriages ends in divorce. And then think those break up statistics only cover those who bother getting hitched. Surely we should tread into partnership with trepidation? But I suppose we all think our relationship is different. I just hope if it all ends in counselling sessions they don't come crawling back to me, moaning endlessly about what went wrong, with their mental health as limp as an over-cooked noodle.
Of course, you never have to pick up another person's socks unless you want to. But what if one of you dreams of wedding photos on the mantelpiece and co-ordinating toothbrushes in the bathroom, while the other breaks out in hives whenever the C word is mentioned?
Christine Northam of Relate explains: "If a person has grown up in a happy environment that was part of a successful committed relationship, most will want to repeat the experience for themselves. Alternatively, there are all sorts of reasons why a person might be apprehensive about the same thing.
"At Relate, if a person is afraid of commitment we tend to look towards the childhood experiences of that person. Perhaps they experienced divorce or the loss of one parent and fear going through that again?The problem occurs when a couple find they can't talk through the issues by themselves, then they can contact a counsellor for help."
Written by Clare Riley
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