Last year, I sent out an email and asked the women in my Single Over 30 community to share their greatest fears about being single with me.
I received many answers such as:
I fear never being loved for who I really am.
I fear being alone in my old age.
I fear I will never find anyone.
I empathize. I felt these same fears before I married at 46—and I know first-hand they can be difficult to handle.
However, of all the responses I received, the #1 fear was the fear of making a poor choice in a marriage partner.
If you can relate, I want to validate you. Even if your fear isn’t telling you the truth, your fear makes sense.
After all, you may have seen others make poor choices in marriage partners.
You’ve watched those close to you—perhaps even your parents—languish in relational disaster.
And, maybe you feel you made a few poor relationship choices in the past, too.
Maybe you chose a man to marry who wasn’t good to you or for you.
Or you dated a man—or men—who treated you poorly.
Now, you’re looking back, wondering, “How in the world did I miss the signs?” And, as a result, you naturally fear making a poor choice in a man to marry.
I made plenty of relational mistakes before I (finally!) happily married for the first time at 46. I feared I would choose poorly. I didn’t trust myself to make a good decision. I was often plagued with the fear of making a bad choice.
In fact, I had some awful dreams where I was walking the aisle marrying a man I didn’t want to, but I felt I had to. In retrospect, these dreams were unfounded, but the fear of making a bad choice is something many women grapple with—and I get it.
I once spoke with a woman who shared, like so many of the women that I coach, that she is afraid she can’t make a good relationship choice.
She is afraid messing things up and blowing it, so she’ll never find love. She is afraid she’ll pick a man she shouldn’t, or that she’ll drive away the good men who could be a good match for her.
If you doubt your ability to make a good decision, unfortunately, this means you might leave the decision making up to others—maybe a man in your life—or your family or friends. This definitely isn’t a good thing, because even people who love us most don’t always know what is best for us.
Granted, listening to those who know us well and love us is a wise thing. But only listening to them and ignoring your own intuition or gut checks isn’t a wise idea.
If you doubt your ability to make a good decision it may also mean you allow a man to move your boundaries when deep down you know they shouldn’t be moved.
It may mean that you give into something that you know deep down in your gut isn’t right.
It may mean you allow a man to rush you into a relationship or it may mean that you stay in a bad relationship longer than you should.
It may mean you go fast when you know you should go slow.
Or, it may mean you overlook red flags when you shouldn’t.
Ironically, doubting your ability to make choices won’t protect you like you want it to. Instead, it can lead you to make poor relationship decisions.
But understanding that you can make good choices will lead you to be proactive to take the power back in your relationship and love life.
When I was in my 20s, I had a mentor named Cheryl.
After a very bad breakup which caused me to doubt myself, she never told me what to do. But she encouraged me to find the answers for myself. And she always said, “Shana, you can make good decisions, just like everyone else.”
She was right. I could. Unfortunately, it took me allowing another man to make my decisions for me before I realized I am capable. You are capable too.
But when you doubt yourself, it can lead to what you don’t want. . .making poor relationship decisions. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are some things you can do to improve your confidence to find love.
Some women, because they fear making a bad relationship decision, and because they feel bad when they say no, they may allow guilt to make their decisions for them.
They don’t want to say no, or set boundaries because they are afraid of hurting a man’s feelings or discouraging him.
Listen up friend: When you allow false guilt to make your decisions for you, it can lead you into a whole lot of non-productive dating that can hurt.
One day as I coached *Sarah, she said she had a rule never to talk to any men she hadn’t come to know through a trusted friend or family member. (This was a problem because I imagine that she was ruling out lots of great men.) The thought of having even small conversations with men who were strangers terrified her.
As we dug a little deeper into this fear, we were able to pinpoint one painful incident that happened to her when she was a young woman. To protect herself, lest she experience something similar again, she decided she wouldn’t ever talk to men that a family member or friend hadn’t introduced her to.
After we identified the root of her fear, I asked her if she is any different now than she was when her unfortunate experience happened.
“Yes, I am,” she said.
“Do you have more wisdom than you did back then?” I asked.
“Yes, I do” she said.
“Have you grown? Are you a different person?”
“Yes,” she said.
“If something were to happen like what happened before, do you believe you have tools in your relational toolbox now to help you, tools that you didn’t have before?”
“Yes, I do” she said.
Then she laughed a little delighted laugh.
She realized she had grown. She realized she can a better relational choice.
Here’s truth: You may fear making a poor choice in a mate. But just like Sarah, you are not who you were in the past.
Your past doesn’t have to define your future.
You are wiser—and you are not who you are going to be. You can be wiser still which leads me to the next way you can improve your confidence about making a good relational choice.
One of the biggest things that any woman can do for herself is to recognize that finding a good relationship isn’t all about magic and feeling like someone is “the one.”
When you start to recognize this—good news! You take your relational future into your hands instead of thinking that it’s something that you have no power over at all.
It’s also about recognizing that there are traits that make for good relationships--and you can learn how to recognize those traits.
And, there are ways to conduct yourself in relationships. And one of those ways is to slow down and take your time to get to know a man. Taking time will give you greater confidence to make a good choice. Time reveals a lot.
If a basketball player can learn to shoot baskets, a swimmer can learn to swim, and a woman can learn to cook, you can learn better relational skills.
If you tell yourself things like, “My picker is broken” “I always end up with non-committal men” or “The men I am interested in aren’t interested in me,” and these things are patterns, ask yourself why. And, if you aren’t sure why, get some coaching or counseling to figure it out. The more you understand about what is internally motivating you, the more you’ll be able to make a good decision.
As I always say, “What happens on the inside of you happens on the outside.”
There are men who will make good husbands and men who won’t. It’s important to be able to tell the difference. My Single Over 30 podcasts as well as the free advice on SingleOver30.net can help you do that.
When you feel pressured to make a relational choice that you aren’t sure about, slow down or press pause. This may mean asking for space from the man you are seeing. It may mean you don’t see him three times a week like he’d like you to, but you give yourself room in-between your dates to be honest and process how you think and feel.
If you’re always caught up in the rush of a relationship or if a man is putting pressure on you, even if it’s pressure that feels good because you feel desired, you may not have time to really assess what is going on in the relationship and you can miss red flags.
When you slow down, it will help you to intentionally move through the relationship stages. Time will reveal what rushing will conceal.
Don’t make a decision to get married until you feel comfortable.
I’m not saying that you won’t experience any fear about commitment. If you are an Anxious or Avoidant type, you might especially grapple with fear. I did. But you can still be comfortable with the type of man you are choosing, knowing he is your good friend, that you have shared values, that you respect one another, trust each other and just enjoy being together.
You don’t have to fear choosing Mr. Wrong so you sabotage your own chances at love.
You can make good relational decisions.
You can learn what characteristics to look for in a safe, marriage-minded man. You can become equipped so you can choose well.
My goal is to help you do that very thing. I want you to find a marriage-minded man you can trust. Stick with me and I’ll help you learn to recognize—and attract—that awesome kind of guy.
I experienced love. You can too!
If you haven't checked out my Safe to Love Worksheet which will help you overcome the fear of being vulnerable and loving, get it here.
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