A friend said to me a little while ago “I just want an Adult to Adult relationship.”
My friend’s words chimed with me because as a psychotherapist and an eyes wide open human, I’m conscious that he craves what many of us desire, and at the same time, seem to struggle with; the feeling of mutuality within a relationship. So what’s the problem and why do couples fall into relationships where, after that initial glorious honeymoon period, they don’t feel OK with what they’ve gotten into? In fact why is it some individuals experience a marked imbalance within their relationships and a disproportionate amount of insecurity, jealousy and fear?
If I’ve described how you feel in your intimate relationships ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you go from one serious relationship to the next?
- Are your relationships intense, rocky and tempestuous?
- When you’re in a relationship are you pre-occupied by an over shadowing fear of it ending?
- Do you long to be in a long term relationship, even though you find them stressful on a grand scale?
- Do you find yourself attempting to control the other but feel you have no control within the relationship?
- Do you worry constantly that your partner doesn’t want to be with you?
- Do you crave reassurance from others to settle fears that your relationship isn’t heading for a meltdown?
If you answered yes to more than two of the above questions then you’re not alone. More people than ever before are seeking relationship counselling and here are a few of the reasons why:
- The pressure of balancing a personal and professional life.
- Little or no experience of being in an intimate relationship.
- A fear of getting close to another.
- Mistreatment in past relationships.
- “Me, me, me!” We live in an age of self interest and this can cause conflicts.
- Witnessing the dysfunctional relationships of parents or carers as a child.
People who feel the fear in relationships often adopt the characteristics of a much younger version of themselves. This is a defensive process and one which gets utilized again and again because historically it’s helped them cope with the uncertainty of a significant relationship. People with this internal working model may feel like they take on the roles of a scared infant, dramatic child and sulky monosyllabic teenager. At times behaviours of learned helplessness may emerge as an unconscious attempt to elicit care and this can be pervasively draining for a lover or spouse. Unfortunately when these dysfunctional relationship patterns become engrained the relationship can begin take on a Parent/Child dynamic causing both parties to feel stuck in the relationship. If you feel the fear and want to approach your relationship differently follow these guidelines…
- Make a decision to change.
- Begin to make regular dates to do something independently from your partner this will increase your confidence and re-enforce the notion that you’re a fully functioning and able adult.
- Keep a diary so when you default back to creating high drama (even if the high drama is an internal fear) you can reflect on what you can do differently should a smiler situation arise again.
- Learn to self soothe. Pay attention to making yourself comfortable when you feel scared about the relationship: have a relaxing bath, look at pictures of loved ones, listen to a relaxation app. or download.
- Write down the pros and cons of your current behaviour and list all the reasons why you want to change.
- Learn from the past, live in the present and plan for the future (this is your new motto).
- Most relationship problems are co-created so don’t start playing the blame game.
- Speak to a therapist who can help you explore your fears around relationships and work with you to reach a place that’s more settled.
If you’re reading this and recognise yourself as the other person in the relationship An Equal Relationship: The Fear and the Fatigue part 2 will have some useful advice for you.