Relationship can brings up fears, often hidden as background noise. These fears often interact with the fears of our loved one and set up dynamics between us that create repeating tensions and patterns of behaviour that can be rather baffling and not at all enjoyable.
One of these dynamics is the interplay between fear of losing the relationship and fear of losing ourselves in the relationship.
Losing the Relationship
Do you worry your partner might leave you?
I think this is a common fear coming from all those needs we meet by being in a relationship. These needs are different for us all and could be all or any of the needs for care, support, being seen, to matter, security, acceptance or love. Imagining our relationship might end means being faced with the prospect of having to meet these needs in other ways. Ways that might not be so enjoyable, easy to find or obvious. It could also be that my sense of who I am becomes enmeshed with the relationship – I have given up being myself.
When this happens we tend to want to reduce the boundaries and space between us so as not to get too far apart. When we see relationship as the only way to meet certain needs then we might hold on to our partner very tightly. This might come out in some of the following examples:
- feeling threatened whenever they choose to spend time with someone else or doing something else
- insisting on doing everything together
- saying yes to what they want and putting your own wishes to one side
- struggling to cope when you are on your own
- avoiding certain topics of conversation where you think your partner might disagree
- silently putting up with some things your partner does you don’t like
- taking more care of your partner than of yourself.
Do you recognise any of these? Or variations?
Losing Yourself in the Relationship
Do you worry you might stop being yourself within the relationship?
This is another common fear coming from needs of freedom, autonomy, choosing our dreams, following our path in life, self-respect and integrity. Putting too much into the relationship might feel like a sacrifice of who we are.
When this happens we tend to want to keep boundaries clear and maintain space between us. Not get too close. When we see the relationship as threatening important individual needs then we might keep our partner at a distance. This can come out in some of the following:
- not opening up or showing vulnerability to your partner
- insisting on doing things you want to do and doing them your way
- looking for the things that you don’t enjoy in your relationship and bringing them up
- seeking ways to be on your own or doing your own thing
- refusing even when you really want to agree
- taking more care of yourself than your partner.
Putting these two together can make for a varied and interesting dynamic – at least for an outside observer.
I know one couple who oscillate between these two fears. When they get too close one of them overreacts to something small and pushes the other away to the extreme of ending the relationship. Then, connecting with the fear of losing the relationship, they make up and get closer and closer … until the pattern repeats.
I know another couple who, on the face of it, hardly seem to spend any time together and live with a lot of distance between them. And yet they are happy and fulfilled doing their own thing and passing each other from time to time.
And there are surely many variations of such relationships.
‘Awareness is Curative’
Seeing the dynamic is the first step to changing how your relationship is working.
From there my suggestion is to look at your relationship and individual needs as a ‘both’ rather than ‘either/or’. A well rounded relationship creates both a strong bond and mutual commitment plus space for the two in the relationship to be individuals. In other words, you start from the assumption that it is possible to build a committed, loving relationship where all your important relationship needs can be met and there is enough space for you both to meet your individual needs.
Talk about this in your couple.
Each share what are the relationship needs you want to meet bybeing together. Also share what are your important individual needs that mean you need your own space. What can you change in how you are together to take care of ALL these needs?
Once you step into this way of thinking and start to prove it is possible, then the fear should melt away. Maybe not all at once, but step by step.