Relationship doubt is normal. How can you tell if yours is healthy or a sign of bigger, more serious, and perhaps dangerous issues?
You’ve met someone new and things are progressing well. Good for you. You feel like a grown up, you’re doing all the “right” things and suddenly, you feel that pit in your stomach. It’s doubt. Doubt in relationships is a common, normal, often sudden fear or uncertainty about the person you are with. It is inevitable and is not necessarily a bad sign.
But everything was going so well! Why now? Do we have to break up? Is she wrong for me? Am I not ready? Is he a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Am I destined to be alone? Why does she have so many cats? Why doesn’t he own a vacuum cleaner? Why am I asking so many questions? Am I freaking out? It seems like I am.
Doubts can be scary when they first surface. And, doubts typically raise their heads right when the high of falling in love meets the truth that you and your partner may not exactly be made for each other, you know, like two peas in a pod. You are actually two separate and different people.
But doubt can also mean that your relationship is moving to another stage of commitment where differences are worked on and growth happens. Unless you let doubt get the better of you. So, why do we doubt the ones we love?
Doubt is a normal response to change. Just as we doubt what a new job or moving might do to our lives, doubts arise in relationships when things progress. Doubt is common when relationship talk graduates to moving in together or marriage. Simply talking about these changes with your partner can relieve the stress; you may find he or she feels the same.
Some doubts are a stress response. They can be our way of preparing for new challenges. These doubts sound like: What if I’m still attracted to other people, is that a bad sign? But I don’t like his or her friends all that much. Are they really my ‘One’? Are we really a match sexually? I am not sure about the way he or she manages their finances. These are perspectives rather than things set in stone. They are issues that can change over time, or are often only one side of the story.
On the other hand, are your doubts really about your partner’s actions and behaviors towards you? In some cases, doubts are your issues in disguise and are not healthy for you or the relationship. But you can still grow from your doubts, and so can your relationship, as long as you face and recognize them.
Doubt can hide fear. Often doubt comes up when there is a fear of intimacy. If every step towards greater commitment has your doubts rising significantly, you might want to think about what you are scared of. Even a few counseling sessions, talks with your partner or a self-help book might be of some guidance.
Doubts can be sabotage. If you do fear intimacy, doubts might be your subconscious pushing your loved one away. This doesn’t mean they’ll leave. If they love you, and you love them and want to work on your issues, who is to say you can’t get past this? No one. It’s all about awareness and honesty.
Doubts can be left over from past experiences. Sometimes we think we doubt our current partner when we are really assuming certain things based on past experience. You might doubt your partner truly loves you if in the past you dated someone who was emotionally unavailable. Or, you may have trust issues if your previous partner cheated. If you truly want to move on, you have to get past these issues, but a loving partner will be there for and with you. But remember, he or she is not your past, and you are loved now.
At the end of it all, doubt is rarely the real problem in a relationship. It’s a lack of communication that tends to be the true issue. If you have doubts that you feel you can’t talk over with your partner, the question might be why you can’t communicate them. Do you fear upsetting them? Why? Do you know how to navigate conflict, or do you not trust each other enough to be vulnerable around each other? These are issues worth looking at, alone, or with a couples counselor.
Steer clear of talking over your doubts too much with the wrong people. Doubts are often just garden variety fears and anxieties. Talk about them too much with, say, your friend who is jealous of your relationship, or your mother who never likes anyone you date, and they may help your turn those doubts into real issues. Try sorting out your doubts for yourself first, then talk to someone you truly trust, or even to a relationship coach.
Balance your doubts with an equal focus on what is working. Many of us have brains that are trained to focus on the negative. Try spending time each day thinking about five things that are going right with your relationship. Or keep a list you can review and add to about all the ways the relationship works and how your partner is just what you need.
But what if your doubts are more serious in nature? And this is where toxicity comes in.
It’s important to know the difference between garden variety relationship doubts and red flag doubts. Big questions about how you are being treated can be more serious. They can be a sign you are in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship.
Red flag doubts sound like this:
He refuses to tell me where he goes at night
She didn’t tell me she was seeing other men
She pushed me last night and it was the second time
He won’t let me see my friends
She makes negative comments about me that make me feel awful
When I tell him I don’t want him to come over he shows up anyway
He grabs my arm so hard it hurts
If these doubts sound familiar, talk to someone you trust, a good friend, call a support hotline, or to talk to a counselor or coach who can help you understand what you are dealing with and what you need to do to be safe. These are red flag doubts that indicate a potentially abusive situation and are about the other persons actions and behaviors. They are signs of betrayal, control, disrespect, and overstepping personal boundaries.
Healthy relationship doubts are assumptions about the relationship itself. Whether it’s working, whether it’s the right one for you, whether you both want the same future. Using the above article, you can look at your relationship and decide what your doubts might mean for your relationship and how to address them. And trust your partner with your doubts. Chance are, he or she has doubts too. You can work through them together. What better way to assuage your doubts and grow closer? Trust and communication. Works every time.