Whether or not you are aware of it, fear is most likely impacting at least one aspect of your relationship. The likelihood is that you don’t even know it’s happening.
Fear of Rejection
A big one that impacts a lot of people is fear of rejection. This is especially common when it comes to intimacy and sex. All it takes are a handful of instances when one person advances and the other declines for the fear of rejection to set in.
There are many ways this can play out. If it’s not talked about, the pursuer will likely develop his own theories. Maybe he’ll withdraw, or maybe the hurt will manifest elsewhere as anger. If it remains unaddressed, resentment is an inevitable symptom.
One reason it is so hard to talk about is that rejection is so often bound up with shame. It can lead you to feel like you are not attractive, or desired by your partner.
Fear of conflict
Another common fear in relationships is the fear of getting into an argument. Countless times, I have heard couples say that they avoided talking about an issue because they didn’t want to get into a fight or upset the other person.
Again, as with the first example, when things don’t get talked about, assumptions fill in the blank spaces. You end up assuming how the other is feeling and how they will react instead of giving them the chance to have their own reactions. Nothing sucks the life out of relationships like assumptions.
Fear of separateness
A third common example is the fear of individuation. It can feel threatening to have separate interests and pursuits as individuals within a relationship. It can trigger feelings such as jealousy and abandonment. Some couples deal with this by implicitly agreeing not to do things separately.
The common thread with these three examples is avoidance. It is an understandable way to protect oneself from experiencing what one fears. Avoidance implies not communicating. Not communicating means you are forced to make assumptions. This is why it is so dangerous to allow your fears to take control.
Facing your fears
Awareness, owning your own feelings and behaviors, understanding your triggers, not blaming each other, and talking about things are all antidotes to the symptoms of fear. Seeking help when you’re stuck is crucial. The longer you wait, the more the fear sets in and remains in control. The more time goes by, the more resistance there will be to upsetting the status quo even if the status quo means you’re unhappy with your relationship.
Fear is a bully or the bogeyman. The more you avoid it, the more powerful it becomes. There’s no time like the present to stand up and face it!
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, 13-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.
Originally published at www.loveafterkids.com