By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW
Many people fear relationship failure. Real love makes us feel vulnerable and we tend to have fear of the unknown. Putting trust in someone can make us feel exposed. Some people even believe that the more they care about someone, the more at risk they are for being hurt.
Recently, I met with Claire, a bright twenty-eight year-old teacher who reflected “The thought of forever terrifies me, I just can’t see myself with Jake forever but I’m madly in love with him.”
Claire is an attractive professional who has been dating Jake for over a year and continues to question whether their relationship will work out. When Jake talks about their future together, Claire usually changes the topic or suggests that they discuss it on another occasion.
You don’t have to be a commitment-phobe to be afraid of losing someone you love. You can be walking on air and madly in love and yet fear that when you open yourself up to another person, they will hurt you and you will lose out on love.
Are you foolish to fear losing love? I don’t believe so and I’ve actually interviewed hundreds of women who share your fears. It can be strange wondering if intense love can lead to dwindling passion and even possibly divorce.
Although you might currently in a satisfying relationship, do you ask yourself: what will my relationship look like in five, ten, or fifteen years? What if I get everything I’ve always dreamed of? Would I even know what it felt like to be happy and have no reservations, doubts, or fears?
Do you have fears about spending forever with someone even if you love that person? No matter how much you love someone, you may have misgivings some days and this is completely normal.
However, fear of relationship failure can hold you back and prevent you from being your best self. It can limit you by causing anxiety and fostering a pessimistic attitude about the future. Many times, even in the most blissful moments, there might be a lingering thought in the back of your head that your relationship may not work out, and that it will all come crashing down around you.
If you can relate to fearing relationship success, I ask you to consider the following: Know that no relationship is conflict free, but you are worthy of having a relationship that makes you happy. If you aren’t there yet, embrace where you are now.
It would feel uncomfortable to have a “perfect” relationship. Of course, no such thing exists, but how strange would it feel to be at peace and perfectly content in a relationship? To have complete faith that my partner has my best interests at heart? Wouldn’t it be a little unnerving?
Since we all grew up in a culture where divorce has been widespread, it’s understandable to question whether our intimate relationships will last. For many people, especially daughters of divorce, pain is what we know. Conflict is what’s comfortable. Dealing with an unavailable partner is in our wheelhouse. A partner who wants nothing more than to be with us and make our happiness his/her top priority is alien.
What is it that holds you back from achieving a satisfying relationship? And once you have it, what will you do when you get there?
6 Tips to help you deal effectively with uncertainty in relationships:
- Accept that love is a risk. There are no guarantees in love. Accepting this will ease your sense of panic and help you to live in the moment.
- Survey your friends about love. If they are completely honest, most of them will admit that they fear – or have feared losing a loved one at some point in their life.
- Keep in mind that new love or commitment stirs up past hurts. When you fall in love it might trigger feelings of past hurt, loss, or rejection because we’re all impacted by our history.
- Challenge your thoughts that you aren’t good enough. Loving someone may make you question how lovable you are. You might ask yourself: am I good enough for this person who I love, admire, and appreciate so much? Switch these negative thoughts to positive ones such as: “The past has no hold over me and I am worthy of love.”
- Deal with fears head-on. Admitting you have fears is the first step to working through them. Talk to someone you trust, write in a journal, shed these feelings in a safe way.
- Practice being vulnerable in small steps and talk to a therapist or close friend about your growth. Don’t let your fear of rejection or past hurt stop you from achieving the love and intimacy you deserve.
Trust and vulnerability are essential aspects of achieving intimacy in relationships. According to Dr. Brené Brown, disengagement is the most dangerous factor that erodes trust in a relationship. The only way to avoid this is to risk being vulnerable with your partner by asking for help, standing up for yourself, sharing unpopular opinions, and having faith in yourself and your partner.
The ultimate risk is allowing yourself to fall in love – which requires letting go of control and fear of being hurt or abandoned. Opening up to your partner can make you feel vulnerable but is the most crucial ingredient in a loving, trusting, intimate relationship.
Intimacy can be an important source of comfort and provide predictability in an uncertain world. The truth is that all relationships end, through breakup, death, or divorce. Why waste time being preoccupied with fear of your relationship ending? It is possible to be vulnerable and close to others without losing parts of yourself. By doing this, you’ll be able to restore your faith in love, trust, and intimacy.
Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter and Facebook. She is pleased to announce the publication of Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-lasting Relationship (Sourcebooks).
This article first appeared on HuffingtonPostDivorce.com