Are you ready for some more relationship tips? Well, here is one that I find extremely handy: Talk About Your Fears (not your complains!)
Have you ever wondered if, or how, does fear impact your marriage and your relationship? Most of us don’t think about feeling scared in a relationship unless there are some obvious signs that threaten our physical safety, such as violence.
Here at Vibrant Couples and Family Counseling, I see couples who, more often than not, feel physically safe with one another, BUT yet, they still feel an immense amount of fear. So what type of fear are we talking about?
- Fear of opening up to each other
- Fear of trusting each other
- Fear of being shot down
- Fear of being yelled at
- Fear of being criticized
- Fear of hurting the other one’s feelings
- Fear of how the other partner might respond
When one (or a few) of these fears are activated, partners tend to do whatever they can do to avoid that fear, so …
- Those who are afraid of opening up may TURN TO SOMEONE ELSE to share
- Those afraid of trusting START MONITORING or checking up on the other partner
- Those who get afraid of being shot down or criticized STOP PARTICIPATING or SPEAKING UP in a relationship
- Finally, those who get afraid of hurting the other one’s feelings START COMPROMISING
Regardless of what you are afraid of and how the fear comes up, it is often accompanied by frustration, irritability, and anger.
Consequences of partners acting from their “fear place” can be devastating to the relationship. Eventually, those fears only “show up” in the relationship in the form of MONITORING, WITHDRAWING, GETTNG ANGRY, or COMPROMISING, and they become a part of a rigid pattern that can make couples literally stuck.
The more stuck partners feel, the more disconnected they can get from one another, and the more hopeless they can become about their relationship and their future together.
The good news is that therapy can help you learn the type of pattern you are caught up in. It can also help you talk about your fears in a way that will PULL YOUR PARTNER CLOSER to you, instead of PUSHING HIM/HER AWAY.
Magical things can happen in your relationship when you can talk about your fears or concerns and your partner, instead of hearing these concerns as criticism or complains can hear them as your way of trying to come closer and improve your connection.
Since FEAR IS AN ORGANIZING EMOTION, and since only talking about fear can be scary and vulnerable, I like to remind my clients that talking about your fear itself is a sign of courage and your love towards your partner.
Just imagine how great it would be to have the confidence that if you were to turn to your partner with your deepest and darkest fears, he/she will simply RESPOND instead of criticizing, explaining, labeling, judging, excusing, getting upset, or shooting you down.
Are you ready to practice?
- Think about what is it that is very difficult to tell your partner. Start by telling your partner that whatever you want to say to him/her is hard to discuss because you are afraid of his/her reaction or response.
- Then say that you really want to talk to him/her about this issue/fear/concern because it is important to you, and when you cannot share with him/her, that makes you feel disconnected from him/her. When you feel disconnected, maybe not safe to bring things up, you might start: criticizing; getting angry; withdrawing; or compromising. And you don’t want that.
Notice HOW that conversation goes. It might flow a little easier since you “set up a stage for it.” If it flows easier, great! Keep talking! If it doesn’t, don’t get discouraged. You might need some help with that, and that is okay. Give me a call to see if I am the right therapist to help you with that.
Good luck, and, as always, let me know how it went.
I wasn’t sure if I was approaching this matter the correct way. Thank you! I am encouraged
Ethan Hansen says
I found it interesting how you mentioned how fear is an organizing emotion. Back when my wife and I had a few issues, the complete fear of losing her made me straighten my act. Thank you for putting this fact into words.
L H says
I brought up talking about my fears. My spouse said “you’re just listening to your inner demons” and does not want to hear what the fears are.
My spouse says that it would bring her down and she would be depressed.
I was surprised by this because I’ve told them that I don’t share these with them because I don’t want to be in a “who had a worse day” or “who has it harder” battle. They told me then that sharing my issues would help them because they wanted to help.