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Scared of Marriage and Intimacy, What to Do?

14 August, 2022
Q Recently my family has been looking for a husband for me but I'm not sure I want to get married. All the marriages I have seen around me are very toxic and just overall feel very suffocating. All I see is women being infinitely patient and sacrificing everything they have just to stay in that marriage. I don't want that for myself. My impression of men is not very good.

I feel like I'm a sinful person for feeling like that. I don't want to be ungrateful. But I feel no desire for men, whenever the talks of my marriage are brought up, I start feeling anxious and the anxiety continues for days until somehow the arrangement doesn't work out and then I go back to normal. It's probably not a good thing but whenever a suitable proposal comes along, I ask Allah to make the right decision for me but I also keep wishing that it wouldn't work out.

I feel like I won't be able to fulfill my responsibilities as a wife because I'm afraid of men. For some reason, they all look like depraved monsters that can't control themselves. And I know that might be a generalization but I don't know how to stop feeling that way. I know after marriage I will probably end up like every other woman around me, I will have to become a slave to a man and his family. I don't want that.

I want a marriage that is based on mutual respect. Where I can find comfort in my partner but I don't think men have it in them to respect women. All these horrendous "what-ifs" keep popping up in my head and most of them are not far off from what I have seen women go through around me. Is it bad that I think life will be more peaceful without a man. Is it wrong for me to want to keep myself safe?

I keep hearing Hadiths about how women who refuse their husbands will go to hell. I don't want to go to hell. I'm so scared that life after marriage will be very miserable. I don't know if a man can be understanding. I don't even want love, I just want to be respected and seen as a human being. I feel like random non-muslim strangers are treated better than a wife.

I'm also very scared of having a child. I feel like it's a trap. There's already stigma around divorced women, but having children on top of that makes things a hundred times worse. There is always some talk going around about how a woman chose to stay in an abusive marriage just for the kids. Doesn't it feel like a trap? No one waits even a year or two to have kids, and by the time a man's true colors are showing it's already too late.

I'm getting my education so I can be independent, even though being provided for is our right as a woman, I feel like I will be a burden on anyone I marry because I have seen a lot men expressing resentment for having to provide for their wives and children, and these are the same men who will not let their wives work. So, I don't really get why I have to put up with a man who will do nothing but make me feel the absolute worst for existing. I don't think I will ever be ready to marry, so is it inevitable that I will have the exact miserable life I'm fearing so much? Will I just have to suck it up because I'm a woman?

Is there something wrong with me? I have never even had a crush, and I read that it's normal for women to feel desire after hitting puberty. I only interact with men if I absolutely have to in college or outside. Whenever a man is shown to me as a potential romantic partner, my first thoughts are how to run away and how much I don't want to be caged and disrespected. I know if anything goes wrong in my marriage I will be blamed and no one will help me so doesn't it make sense to not put myself through that? I know I will have to live my life as if the man did me a favor by marrying me. Of all the couples I know, It's only two couples who are actually respectful and loving towards each other but that's not convincing enough, I don't want to take the risk of marriage.

I want to act on the Sunnah by getting married but I have no desire to be intimate with anyone. You know how men are motivated to do good deeds because in Jannah they will get hur, I even tried thinking like that of how if I just got married for the pleasure of Allah and no matter what my husband turned out like, Allah will provide me with a partner that is to my liking in Jannah, but it's not having the same effect. I feel like I will be perfectly content without one. What is wrong with me? I'm scared of intimacy, so wouldn't I be refusing my husband’s rights by being scared? That's a sin, isn't it. Just tell me how I can turn this fear off so I can marry and avoid hell for intentionally refusing marriage.

Answer

Salam alaikom dear sister,

Thank you for writing to us and sharing your concern.

You wrote that you are feeling scared of marriage because you do not have a good impression of men. I understand that, on one hand, you would like to act on the Sunnah and get married. On the other hand, your experiences and negative impressions block and scare you.

You stated that you are afraid of men and that they “all look like depraved monsters that can’t control themselves.”

Your Father

Sister, when I was reading your letter, I was wondering about the inevitable question: How was your relationship with your father? Was he around you when you were growing up? And, beside him, what about the other male members of your family, your brothers, for example?

You also said that “you see ‘women being infinitely patient and sacrificing everything for marriage’ and that “I don’t think men have it in them to respect women.”

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Do you remember the earliest experience that led you to this conclusion?

You stated, “I know that might be a generalization but I don’t know how to stop feeling that way”.

Sister, you are right, it is probably a generalization. I think that behind these notions must be some real-life experiences. 

Probably, as a result of some particular experiences, you have formed these ideas about men and women in general. And now, as a young adult woman, you’re having trouble trusting not one particular man but men in general. Furthermore, you “choose” to notice situations around you that reinforce this belief.

Early Attachment and Its Impact

Psychological literature confirms the importance of father-daughter relationships—and parent-child attachment —in the wellbeing of the child and the ability to form healthy relationships later on.

The father’s role is also significant, “plays the role of a trusted companion in fulfilling the child’s exciting need to explore the world and oneself”.

This study about daughter – father relationship based on a sample of Pakistani families mentions that

„a woman’s fear of intimacy is greatly affected by the role her father played in her life. The level of fatherly approval affects the sexuality of his daughter and her propensity to become intimate with other people later in life.”

Your Impression About Men

So, try to reflect on your impression about male figures, especially about your father in your early years. Were they scary, disrespectful of women, and unable to control themselves? Or were they absent (physically and / or emotionally) and you had hard times forming a positive image about men?

If yes, I kindly suggest you start working on these notions with a counselor because unfortunately they could cause you problems in your future relationships.

Furthermore, if these ideas are rooted in any form of abuse or trauma you suffered by a man, it would be even more important to start healing in an ongoing therapeutic setting.

Influence of Our Perceptions

However, it is also possible that without actually witnessing first-hand unjust or threatening situations, you have come to this conclusion. The thing is that these ideas are basically based on how we PERCEIVE and interpret certain events and situations around us

This means that even if the primary male figures you encountered as a child were not “depraved monsters who could not control themselves,” you could still perceive them as such, having a long-lasting negative impact on your life.

This is a complex issue, and there are many influencing factors.

For example, you might grow up with a physically or emotionally absent father, and form your ideas based on the attitude of female family members towards men. Or, besides the love you receive from your father, you can still perceive him as someone scary or untrustworthy.

These are just some possible scenarios, as I do not know your exact situation.

Sister, I think it is a very good sign that you can articulate the root of your fears regarding marriage and intimacy. Alhamdulillah, it seems that you have some kind of awareness of this problem and of your rejection of being intimate and dependent on a male. This is the first step towards overcoming your fears.

Healing First

So, again, I kindly suggest you get counseling because you can change these negative perceptions and get married once the time arrives.

And yes, this work should be prior to marriage, as you can inevitably enter into future conflicts if you are unable to fulfill your obligations as a wife due to these underlying issues

Sister, it seems to me that these early experiences contributed to the development of some core beliefs that might not reflect reality.

Challenge Core Beliefs

You stated that “Whenever a man is shown to me as a potential romantic partner, my first thoughts are how to run away and how much I don’t want to be caged and disrespected.”

These automatic thoughts about how you do not want to be caged and disrespected, unfortunately, could be linked to these negative core beliefs about how a romantic partner will behave.

My dear sister, I would like to reassure you that a romantic relationship does not (and should not) be about being caged and disrespected, but the contrary.

I know that, sadly, there are relationships where women feel this way, but this is certainly not the right way or the only way to exist in a relationship.

There are happy, successful relationships where the spouses get along well and they do respect each other. It requires work and constant effort, but it is possible to be married and have a good and loving relationship with your spouse.

There are husbands who do respect their wives, love their kids, and do not abuse their family. Even if you see around you “toxic and suffocating” marriages, this is certainly not the only way.

What Can You Do?

Seek Counseling

Sister, as I suggested before, please seek counseling where you can explore the root of these beliefs and you can work on creating a healthier image of intimacy, about marriage and family life, and about men in general.

There are some self-help techniques as well, but honestly, I believe that you would need some professional support on this journey as your fears seem to be deeply rooted.

Focus On the Deen

I also advise you to move your focus towards marriages that are working. Take the example of those who can manage their relationships better.

Ask them, how do they do it? What makes it work? You can also learn these practices and equip yourself with techniques that help you cope in times of conflict.

Besides this, try to learn the Islamic recommendations about marriage and relationships and about the deen. You can do this by participating in an online Islamic premarital course or reading books about marriage and intimacy in Islam. Check out this list for books and this one for premarital courses, for example.

Focus on yourself, try to be prepared, and put your expectations into the right perspective. I am telling you this because the more you grow by knowing yourself better, and by getting closer to Allah, the easier it will be to find a just and righteous person.

Learn to Trust

Sister, you need to learn to trust men. There are very honest and truthful men out there. You also have to believe that not all of them are disrespectful and have bad intentions.

Besides the two couples you mention, there are more marriages that might not be perfect but are working very well. Yours can be one of these in sha Allah.

You can also strengthen your trust in a spiritual level by elevating your faith in Allah. Focus on your heart and let fill it with the love and trust of Him. He is the Most Loving and the Most Merciful, and He loves you more than anybody else.

Seek His protection, you will find it, just as this hadith says:

Be mindful of Allah and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you shall find Him with you. When you ask (for anything), ask it from Allah, and if you seek help, seek help from Allah.” Bulugh Al-Maram, Book 16, Hadith 36

May Allah help you sister.

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About Orsolya Ilham O.
Orsolya Ilhaam Oszter holds a BA degree in Communication and Manager in Public Relations, with a specialization in Andragogy. She completed her studies in the BSc Psychology department of International Open University, where she also studied Islamic sciences. She obtained certificates in Islamic Counseling and Islamic Marriage Counseling. Previously she worked in a client-centered atmosphere; currently, as a translator, counselor, and content creator related to Islam, counseling, and psychology. She is a mother of 2 and lives in Spain.