Fear can be such a powerful motivator. Fear of rejection…Fear of embarrassment…Fear of being excluded…Fear of failure…Fear of loss…Fear of intimacy.
When fear takes over, it becomes an organizing principle. In other words, actions and reactions are chosen based on avoiding the consequences of what we are afraid of. When this happens, what we need or desire takes a back seat.
Fear of rejection can crop up in most relationships over time. All it takes is for one person to express interest or desire and the other to say no just a few times before the person expressing the desire becomes wary.
When this happens, it is common for the pursuer to pull back and stop asking for what she wants in order to protect herself from further rejection.
In protecting herself from rejection by withdrawing, the pursuer plants seeds of resentment, distance, isolation and a breakdown of communication.
This dynamic can destroy a couple’s relationship. The icing on the cake is the ring of shame that surrounds it all. You look around and think every couple is happy, but you, and you feel defective. The longer this vicious cycle continues, the harder it becomes to change it. More time passing feeds the beast of fear and shame. More time passing leads to resignation.
If this is resonating for you, you are not alone. The ring of shame keeps people from talking about it. There are many couples that struggle with a breakdown of communication and intimacy that can be traced back to multiple injuries that were internalized as rejections.
What can you do if this has happened in your relationship?
- Don’t assume it will naturally or magically go away. That’s wishful thinking. It’s avoidance mentality.
- Blaming your partner, especially if you are the one that feels rejected, might give you the self-righteous indignation you need to claim your role as victim supreme, but it won’t make your relationship any better. Blaming is a dead-end street.
- Seek help from a couple’s therapist. Finding a safe place to help you talk about what is going on with a third party that has both of your interests at heart is huge. It can be scary and exposing and vulnerable making as well, but a good couple’s therapist will support you through this.
- Get a book like Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson. It’s available as an audiobook as well that you and your partner can listen to together. It can help you identify and break free from cyclical patterns that are keeping you stuck.
- I also offer a free mini-course on breaking bad habits in relationships. You can check it out here. I’ll be releasing a companion eBook shortly as well. I also offer a more comprehensive online course that you can check out here.
You can start by reading a book, seeing if your partner is willing to read it as well, trying an online course, or reaching out to a professional.
You’ve got choices. Not doing anything is a choice as well, but it’s not a choice that I would recommend if you value your relationship.
David B. Younger, Ph.D is the creator of Love After Kids, for couples that have grown apart since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couples therapist with a web-based private practice, and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 12-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.
Originally published at www.loveafterkids.com