How to Figure Out If Your Relationship Fears Are Rational Or Irrational
I wish I could tell you the secret to always staying calm, cool, and collected in your relationship. But the reality is, no matter how confident you are, fear has a way of creeping in and screwing everything up. While relationship fears are normal, there is a difference between rational relationship fears and irrational ones. "The good news and bad news is that human beings are built for relationships. It's in our DNA," licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Paul Hokemeyer tells Bustle. "This is why we are pulled towards them like bits of metal to a magnet. It's also why they terrify us so. In being compulsively pulled, we open ourselves up to pain and suffering. "
I mean, it makes sense, right? When you completely put your heart into someone, you have a lot to lose. According to Hokemeyer, our fears directly stem from past relationships. "Relationships are emotionally charged. They cause our brains to fire in patterns. This is why it's so important for us to go back and get clarity around our past to keep it from infecting our future."
It's important to note that past relationships don't necessarily have to be ones you've been in firsthand. It can be relationships you've observed closely like your parents, siblings, friends, etc. Figuring out whether your fears are rational or irrational isn't easy. So here are some ways to help you out:
1. Take Away The Word "Confused" And Just State The Facts
"Too often we editorialize our fears," April Masini, New York–based relationship expert and author tells Bustle. "I hear from a lot of readers who write me for advice because they’re confused. But when I help them look at the facts, it turns out that they’re not confused. They’re disappointed. And the reason they’re disappointed is that the behavior or the relationship dynamic between them and another person, isn’t what they want."
If you take away your feelings and just list out the facts (i.e. My partner constantly flakes on plans with me), you'll be able to make better decisions. "Don’t let yourself be confused," Masini says. "Just look at the facts and you’ll be a lot more able to decide if your feelings are rational, based on facts, or irrational, based on derivative feelings that we use to distance ourselves from painful truths."
2. Ask A Third Party To Help You Figure It All Out
If you can't sort through all the facts alone, go to a trusted friend or family member. "A good friend will help you sift out your feelings and look at behaviors to make a decision about your rational or irrational fears," Masini says.
3. Stop Comparing Your Relationship To Other Relationships
Nothing good comes out of comparing your individual situation to the rest of the world. As Samantha Daniels, Relationship Expert and Founder of The Dating Lounge dating app tells Bustle, many times your fears may surface after talking to your friends about their drama, comparing your relationship to the happiest couples you see, or even ones you see in pop culture. "Just because your friends have problems in their love lives does not mean that you do too," Daniels says. "Just because your current girlfriend does one thing the same way as your ex did, does not mean that she is the same person. If your favorite TV bad boy cheats on his girlfriend after a wild night out, do not imagine that your boyfriend will follow suit."
So if you start feeling anxiety over your relationship because of outside sources, just know, that tends to fall under the irrational category.
4. Dig Into Your Insecurities
"Most relationship fears stem from insecurity," Kali Rogers, CEO and Founder of Blush Online Life Coaching tells Bustle. "The relationship we have with ourself dictates the relationship we have with others. Insecurity is a virus that will infect every relationship you create if you don't work on yourself consistently!"
The easiest way to tell if your relationship fears are irrational or rational is to reflect on whether this is a fear you've experienced before, Rogers says. If being suspicious of others has always been something that's controlled your relationship, then it sounds more like a fear stemming from insecurity rather than rational reasons. On the other hand, if you're introduced to a new fear that you haven't experienced before in other serious relationships, then that fear could be rational.
"The only way to tell is by exploring your own insecurities and possibly attending therapy," Rogers says. "If you can work on yourself first, irrational fears will melt away, and rational fears will remain."
5. Know Your Attachment Style
Knowing your attachment style can be helpful in determining whether or not your fears are irrational. "An attachment pattern is established in early childhood and continues to function as a model for relationships in adulthood," Carly DeCotiis, licensed professional counselor specializing in attachment issues, tells Bustle.
To give you a brief overview, these are the four types of attachment styles:
- Secure: You're able to create meaningful relationships, you're empathetic, and can create appropriate boundaries.
- Avoidance: You avoid closeness and emotional connection. You're distance, critical, rigid and intolerant. You want closeness while pushing others away.
- Anxious/Ambivalent: You're anxious, insecure, controlling, blaming, erratic, and unpredictable at times. You can be charming, but you never stop questioning your partner's love.
- Disorganized: You're chaotic, insensitive, explosive, abusive, and untrusting while craving security.
"If a person is aware of their attachment style, they have a better understanding of how they think, feel and behave," DeCotiis says. "Most relational behaviors such as infidelity, jealousy, trust etc is influenced by ones attachment style. Knowing their attachment style will help a person realize whether their fears about their relationship are rational or irrational."
6. Discover The Source Of Your Fear
"If we spend some time thinking and analyzing why we have a particular fear we can determine it’s origin and whether it’s a rational fear," Sarah E. Clark, licensed therapist, relationship expert, and co-founder of the relationship building app Idealationship, tells Bustle. You can start by thinking it through or even writing down why you're afraid and when that fear started. For instance, did your partner do something that initiated this fear, or is this a fear you have in all relationships? Can you trace it back to a particular moment when it started, or do you remember it being with you for as long as you remember?
"If you can determine that the fear started at a particular time during your current relationship, and that it's only present under certain circumstances, the chances are that it is a rational fear," Clark says. "But if you determine that your fear has been present throughout most of your life and is not related to a particular situation or partner, then chances are that you are dealing with unhealthy thoughts creating your fear."
7. Don't Worry About It, Just Find A Way To Deal With It
"It doesn't really matter if your fears are rational or irrational because either way if they are interfering with your life they need to be addressed," Steve McGough, DHS, associate professor of Clinical Sexology at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality tells Bustle. "Most things are relative and what may seem rational or irrational to one person might be different for another person coming from a different view point. Putting a label of my fear is irrational can sometimes help us justify or accept it but it's still a very real fear. The more important question is how do you deal with it?"
The number one thing you need to do is know yourself, McGough, says. "Most people completely overlook one of the most important relationships in their lives. This person will be with you from the day you're born to your last breath, it's you."
So do you accept yourself? Do you know what your real needs are and are you comfortable expressing them? Do you know what you want in life? Does that "inner voice" give you good advice or is it constantly critical saying you're never good enough? "Some might say this is self-centered, but in the long run, how can you support and take care of others if you can't take care of yourself first?" he says.
Overall, relationship fears are different for everyone. While getting advice or talking to someone is great to get a different perspective, remember, it always comes back to you. No matter what, your fears are important to address because they're affecting you. Don't let anyone make you feel like your fears are stupid and don't be afraid to address them. Once you do, you can find the proper steps necessary to help you overcome them.