New relationships are daunting if not downright terrifying when you’re worried that it’s all going to belly-up, not because you have any reason to back up that concern but more because you’ve already lived out the entire relationship in your head and been broken up with a thousand times. Thinking about how it might not work out is a way of protecting you so that you don’t allow you to get too comfy. Of course, the side effect of this is that you end up stressed out to the max and using worry to essentially pray for what you don’t want.
Worry distorts perspective and doesn’t leave room for love.
It’s all too easy to forget once you jump on the worry train of thoughts that everyone has a past that includes a relationship not working out or unrequited love, or pain from painful experiences. Instead, you decide that because you’ve had a past that it’s going to follow you into your present and future. You might go a step further and decide that because your partner has previous relationships that it spells doom for you. Sure, this is understandable when they’ve been a shady partner but then your problem, in this case, isn’t about whether you’re going to get dumped from a height. If anything, what you need to explore is Why am I hoping that this person will make me the exception to their rule of behaviour and all while ignoring code amber and code red warnings that something’s up in funky town?
But judging a partner based purely on the fact that they have a past (He-llo, even babies do! It’s called time ticking by!) or on their past relationships not working out is a tad unfair.
When you’re scared in a new relationship and struggling to relax because you don’t know the middle and end of the plot, you want Mystic Meg to come along and say, “Yes it’s going to work out” or “No it’s not”. Or, you want the end date so that you can privately accept failure from the outset and feel safe in knowing that your fears and the story that you tell yourself are true. That’s not how new relationships work, though, and unfortunately, if you already have one foot out of the relationship and are imagining the end and in fact, living it time and again while making predictions, you are not present in your relationship and are showing lack of commitment.
If you’re not truly in this relationship, that’s a problem that needs to be cleaned up, especially if your reasons for not being committed are not on the merits of this relationship. It’s a sign that your avoidance of intimacy and commitment are about unresolved feelings about previous relationships and experiences.
When you don’t trust yourself, it makes you unable to trust in your partner or the relationship.
You will need to give this relationship 100% because relationships are 100:100, not 50:50, so you need to manage your feelings and behaviour and let him/her manage theirs. You have to work with them as part of the team of your relationship. It’s tricky to be a team player though if you are secretly carving an escape route out of your relationship boat or have your eye on the dinghies so that you can jump into the waters and say, “HA! I bloody knew that I was right not to get too invested in this relationship! They all end the same way.”
It’s OK to have wobbles but if you are feeling rocky about being in a new relationship, take it as a code amber alert to get grounded.
So many people say to me, “Natalie, I’m worried that my partner’s going to decide that we’re not a good fit?” Who are these partners? Relationship royalty? The Grand Poobah? You have a say too!
It’s not about you finding out if you’re the “right” one for them; you need to show up and decide if this relationship and person are right for you. You’re not being ‘picked’ because that puts you in a rather passive role. What you need to be asking is, Do I believe that this relationship is a good fit? If I were to find that it isn’t, would I do the right thing and call it?
This is a two-person relationship, not an audition process where this person holds the key to your happiness. If that’s the way it feels, take a parachute and jump.
It’s also time to ask, Am I being myself in this relationship? Let’s imagine what it’s like when you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop (something I did in the early months of my relationship with my now-husband). You look for problems, you don’t look for evidence of positivity. You’re on edge, watching yourself all the time in case you ‘mess up’ and reading into things as if it’s the past. You are not yourself because everything becomes about whether you are saying and doing the wrong thing. There’s this sense, this pervasive fear that it could all slip away. Waiting for the other shoe to drop is a fast track to self-sabotage.
If this relationship isn’t going to work out, it’s not going to work out.
Now, it can either not work out and you spend the whole time worrying (praying for what you don’t want to happen), anticipating doom, feeling ill at ease, etc., or you can step up and be present in your relationship. When you do the latter, whatever the outcome, you know that you gave it your all, that you enjoyed yourself. You know you didn’t spend the entire relationship looking over your shoulder for Freddy Kreuger the relationship killer.
There’s no magic bullet for trust and relaxing. You have to choose the thoughts, choose the words, and choose the actions each day. It means having to recommit over and over again. You talk back to your inner critic and don’t denigrate your relationship by throwing it under a bus when you decide that you’re not in the mood or there’s a disagreement.
Granted, there are big code red issues that spell the end of a relationship, but conflict, criticism, getting to know each other, are all part of a relationship. It’s not fair to your partner or you that you’re ready to throw in the towel each time a thought passes by, or they do something that you think could spell doom because you’re looking for evidence to support an underlying decision that you’ve already made about you failing or them being just like the past.
Dating is a discovery phase. Do your due diligence.
- Is this partner similar to previous partners?
- Are you thinking, feeling or behaving similarly with this partner as you have with previous partners? If so, what is it that you’re thinking, etc., and why? What can you learn from the similarities that will help you to recognise how you can take care of you?
- Are you an equal partner in this relationship? If not, why?
- Are you being yourself? If not, why?
- Are you personally secure, including knowledgeable about your values, boundaries, etc? If not, now is the time to put extra effort into working on these areas. A partner can’t do this for you, and without self-knowledge, you can’t make decisions from a secure place.
- If you were in a code red situation whether it is with this partner or anybody else, would you step up?
- Do you trust you? If not, why? How do you intend to resolve this? Try a Feelings Diary and Unsent Letters.
You can only make a decision about this relationship with the best of the knowledge that you have at the time.
You don’t need to make a perfect decision. What you need is to be conscious, aware and present so that you know whether you’re an actual good fit. It’s not about just evaluating him/her but also getting a sense of your own happiness and contentment within this relationship.
Use Unsent Letters to work out the overhanging feelings about past experiences and change the story. Get clear on what was really behind the end of previous relationships. Locate the blessing in disguise in them not working out, because you know what? If you want to give it a shot with your current partner, it’s right that those past relationships didn’t progress. You cannot be available for this relationship if you’re still on some level working off of the belief that you ‘should’ be in your old relationship.
You do not need to be perfect. Breathe. Your whole life does not hang in the balance on this person. Dating isn’t life support! You will be OK. Trust in you.
Also, check out episode one of the Baggage Reclaim Sessions podcast. I talk about knowing when you’re ready to date again.
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