Where there are strong emotions, there is fear. It's just natural. But there's a big difference between the healthy, common worries that all people face, and the type of fear that stems from abuse. No matter what your personality type or communication style, there are just some things you can't be afraid to do in your relationship.
During my time as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I spoke to many couples regarding their secret fears. Most of the couples spoke of universal issues, such as fear of loss. Some expressed some fears that were clearly red flags, such as being afraid to leave the relationship itself.
The majority of the couples I spoke with were somewhere in the middle, fearing that something from their past would change their partner's perception of them or that hanging out with new friends would lead to infidelity.
If you're serious about your relationship, it's important to identify your fears and talk to your partner. If you're not safe to talk about your fears, you need to face that you could be in an unhealthy relationship or working through some emotional issues from your past. The following list of common worries represents some of the things you should never be afraid to do in your relationship, but above all, you should never be afraid to be happy.
1. Go Deep
Some couples live by a mantra "the past is the past," but if you're truly in love and committed to making a life with someone, you have to be willing and able to share parts of yourself that you're not proud of. You don't have to go into details that would make your partner uncomfortable, but you have to be able to let someone truly see you, know you, and accept you. You also have to share positive things, like your hopes and dreams and goals. Sharing your feelings isn't just about sharing love. You can't be afraid to share all of yourself.
2. Get Ugly
That means letting your partner see everything from your ugly cry face to your snotty flu face to those random mustache hairs that are the bane of your existence. It's cool to want to put your best face forward, but it's not realistic to always have your best face on. Plus, at the heart of this issue is trust and vulnerability. You have to be able to get vulnerable and trust that your partner will not reject you. And if you'll allow me to get on my high horse for a second, you're gorgeous no matter what, and any partner who doesn't see the beauty in your naked-face, sweatpants look doesn't deserve you in your full makeup, killer heels look.
Disagreements are awesome, and this is coming from me, the full-time conflict avoider. But I am newly converted because what I'm learning about healthy relationships is that disagreements get the blood pumping, get suppressed issues out in the open, make your voice heard, and show the world your backbone. What they don't usually mean is that either of you is wrong or bad. Disagreements in a healthy relationship don't mean the relationship is in trouble or over. It means you're both able to tackle tough topics, and that you trust each other enough to share your true feelings, even when it's difficult. Disagreements that devolve into disrespect, blaming, or violence, on the other hand, are never good.
4. Take Charge In The Bedroom
Even if it's not your thing to take charge in the bedroom, you shouldn't be afraid to do it. Taking charge doesn't necessarily mean that you dominate or get on top or call the shots. It can be as subtle as changing positions or instructing your partner to try something new. The heart of the issue that you deserve sexual pleasure and you have to be trusting and comfortable enough in your relationship to express those needs. If your partner doesn't meet your needs, and doesn't want to meet your needs, that's a problem. But if your partner doesn't meet your needs and doesn't know it, that's a whole different ballgame. Communication is key.
Monogamy isn't for everyone. A lot of people have successful open relationships or strings of hookups without any deeper issues going on. But sometimes not committing is less than a lifestyle choice and more of an excuse. You need to decide if you're just not ready to commit, or if there's a larger issue. If you're afraid to commit to your partner, either something's going on in the relationship or something's going on with you, and you need to address those problems. If you know you're not going to commit to someone and you don't communicate that, you're leading that person on. Not cool.
6. Have Sexy Friends
Jealousy is cute for about two seconds. After that, it's not only not cute, it's a total red flag that you're in an unhealthy relationship. If your partner doesn't want you to hang out with that one certain friend, maybe you just need to have a frank conversation about each other's feelings, doubts, and fears. If your partner doesn't want you to hang out with any of your friends, that's controlling behavior. Controlling behavior often leads to violence. Even if it doesn't, it's certainly not healthy. You have to have trust in a relationship, and you have to retain your freedom and individuality.
7. Do You
I can see how, in the beginning, you'd want any potential partner to think you were a somewhat normal person. But if you're going to be spending a lot of time (and potentially the rest of your lives) together, you're better off being yourself right from the jump. That means bad jokes, weird habits, terrible dance moves, and unicorn stuffed animal collections are all fair game. If you can't be yourself in a relationship, you need to find another relationship. Plus, can you really imagine spending the rest of your life with someone who has absolutely zero appreciation for your dance moves? I'd rather be single because these hips don't lie.
8. Have Needs
Nurturers and nice people in general have a bad habit of putting others needs before their own. And not in a kind, selfless way, but in an almost pathological way. All you're going to get if you do that is a pile of resentments, a life where nobody notices your needs (because you've made it that way) and a lot of mental and emotional exhaustion. On a similar note, you don't have to keep it all together or hide bad things from your partner. You should both be working together to make sure both of your needs are met. Bottom line. People pleasing is for spa employees, and only when they're on the clock.
9. Let Your Partner Fail
You can't protect your partner from all the bad things in the world, and you shouldn't. We all have to grow and change, and failure is part of that process. Failure is also an important part in the success process. Unfortunately, that means that sometimes your partner is going to have some bad days that you can't fix. You're not helpless, though. Your support, kind words, and spoiling can do more than you think to sooth those wounds. Sometimes just being there to lean on makes all the difference.
And if any of these fears have lead to you realize you're not in an ideal situation, you certainly can't be afraid to leave.
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