It might sound strange, but it happens in more relationships than you think: one partner finds themselves frequently worried about the other’s mood, commitment to the relationship, or anticipated reaction to things ranging from news that you’ve bounced a check to a proposed social engagement.
To be clear, we’re not talking about abusive relationships here—a serious topic that deserves to be addressed in a different forum (and if you ever find yourself in that situation, by all means, seek help immediately from a counselor or other advocate). But there are other relationships in which one partner simply can’t seem to get over certain insecurities about themselves, their partner’s feelings about them or the relationship itself, and it can cloud every aspect of their lives together.
If you realize you’re regularly walking on eggshells around your partner, here are a couple of warning signs to look for:
- You have a tendency to hide things from your partner rather than risk having uncomfortable discussions This could be anything from making purchases you think he/she won’t approve of to spending social (if innocuous) time with persons of the opposite sex, knowing your partner might feel threatened if they knew.
Aside from a lack of honesty—an emotional-intimacy killer if there ever was one—this puts you in the position of always worrying about being caught. As hard as it might be, you need to learn that’s it better to be up front about what you plan to buy, with whom you plan to have lunch, etc. than to create the feeling that you’re always sneaking around.
- It’s possible that your concerns about your spouse’s reactions to things is needlessly overblown. Maybe you had an overbearing parent who was guilty of frequent, unpredictable outbursts, and you’ve now projected your fear of that onto your current partner. Or maybe you have a naturally nervous personality. Whatever the reason, try a “fake it until you make it” approach: Start treating them—and yourself—as equal partners until you learn to believe it. Stop expecting him or her to be furious that you paid the power bill late, or that you invited his less-than-favorite friends to dinner, or even that you bought an extravagant pair of shoes that really weren’t in the budget this month. (Worse comes to worse, you could always take them back—or maybe he’ll surprise you by admitting they look so sexy on you that they’re well worth the price.)
Try thinking of it this way: You know the old cliché about being nervous in front of an audience—“Just picture them all naked”? Well, it can work one-on-one, too. I don’t mean you should picture your partner in a hot, sexy, foreplay kind of naked, but more like getting-dressed-for-the-day naked while rushing around looking for socks kind of naked. The point is, sometimes it serves you both better if you take him (or her) less seriously for a change—as a regular old human, warts and all.
You deserve to be treated as an equal, and that begins by seeing yourself as one. So remember: always be honest so you have nothing to hide; your partner is not the temperamental, fly-off-the-handle parent you might have grown up with; and your partner puts his or her pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. The simple act of relaxing around your partner can be a real life- and relationship-changer if you make a habit of it.
If you need assistance with your relationship, contact one of our trained professionals at the Relationship Center of Orange County. Schedule your appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.