Say it isn’t true about America’s heartland: Kansans are afraid of love. And Missourians fear commitment.
That’s the finding of an offbeat analysis of what people nationwide ask Google about their deepest fears.
In mountainous Montana, they ask about a fear of heights, according to market researchers YourLocalSecurity.com, a home-security site curious about such things. In traffic-heavy New Jersey, the fear of driving tops all others.
“Fear of people” and “fear of spiders” were most searched in 11 states each during the one-year research period.
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Kansas, for reasons unclear, is the only state in the nation suffering most from philophobia, a fear of falling in love. Or so it appears when it comes to Google users doing searches that begin with: “Why am I afraid of...” or “Why am I afraid to....”
Missouri wasn’t quite so exclusive in its fear of commitment (see gamophobia: a fear of long-term obligation or marriage). That phobia also surfaced in Google searches for Kentucky and Nevada, says YourLocalSecurity.com, a marketing arm of security giant ADT that tapped Google Trends for its data.
The comparisons don’t advance an explanation on why Kansans and Missourians seem so uneasy about love and marriage, but one can theorize: Some Midwestern inclination to keep to ourselves? A generalized caution instilled by unpredictable weather?
Or could it be a desire to avoid the mistake of friends who, as small-town youth often do, married their high-school sweethearts the summer after graduating?
Maybe none of the above.
“The general trend all across the United States is that a lot of that loss of personal intimacy has to do with social media” and the demise of face-to-face contact, said YourLocalSecurity.com spokesman Alec Sears.
“Maybe in Kansas, where communities are so spread out, the best option for many is to meet people online.” Sears said that kind of relationship could stir anxiety over falling in love — or at least a reason to ask Google about it.
In Missouri, the Rev. Natalie Remington has seen up-close the nerves, the momentary fear of getting wed.
“Sometimes the grooms are crying, they’re so scared,” said Remington, owner and officiant at Your Magical Day weddings, a walk-in marriage chapel at 4321 NE Vivion Road. She said that tons of guys will come in having had at least a few belts of booze to numb their jitters.
“I just kind of take them to a separate room where I talk them down off the roof. ‘Gonna be OK,’” Remington said. “They just go through with it.”
Because the brides and grooms went to the trouble to get a valid marriage license, she knows that they must have given it some thought prior to walking into her business.
“They have to come in with a marriage license,” Remington said, “so at some point they consented to this in a sober manner. Because the Recorder of Deeds — if they’re totally out of it — they’re not going to issue the marriage license.”
Her belief, in fact, is that “marriage is stronger than ever.”
She added: “As far as fear of commitment, a phobia, we’ve had a lot of couples come. We’ve never had it actually happen where they didn’t go through with it.”
Statistics support that while certain types of commitments are on the wane, other are not.
State by state, the rate of marriages in the U.S. have been in decline for decades. Although fewer people are marrying, those who choose to marry are staying married. The rate of divorce also has been dropping nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These numbers say nothing about the ever-increasing number of couples who choose to commit in a different way — living together in unwedded bliss, which U.S. Census numbers show is skyrocketing, increasing by 30 percent since 2007.
But let’s assume many Kansans are afraid of love. That might say something about growing up in small communities, said University of Kansas psychologist Omri Gillath.
Research into “distributions of attachment style” has found that, in matters of romance, anxiety and avoidance can be strongest in countries that most value the collective qualities of family, community and shared traditions. In societies where individualism is valued, such as on the U.S. coasts, people tend to feel more secure in their love relations, Gillath said.
“There may be some science here” when it comes to Kansans, he said. “In more collective societies, there’s more emphasis on others and you might have more anxiety connected with how others view you. You don’t want to be seen as a burden.”
Now if Missourians are afraid of commitment, well, that would be news to Jeff and Amy Burnett. They went on their first date on June 4, and got married on Saturday.
“He proposed to me on August 11th,” Amy said. “He wanted to get married really soon. I was a little apprehensive. It wasn’t anything about fear of commitment, it was just really soon for me. But I knew he was the right one.”
For Amy, of Adrian, Mo., located about an hour south of Kansas City, it was her third marriage. She had been married early out of high school. That marriage barely lasted a year. Her second lasted 17 years. The divorce came after her daughter, 18 and headed soon to join the AmeriCorps volunteer program, graduated high school.
She said she and Jeff, age 41, met on the dating site farmersonly.com.
“He actually sold his farm and moved over here,” she said.
That’s a commitment.