Doubting Your Relationship Is Normal — But Never Ignore These Experiences

“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” ~William S. Burroughs

No relationship is perfect, and you aren’t going to always love 100 percent of the person you’re with. But some apprehensions in a relationship hold more weight than others. These feelings are much more common than you may think.

Think of the happiest couple you know or even the main characters of your favorite rom-com. Close your eyes tight and imagine them for a second. Got a clear picture in your head? OK, great. Now, I’m going to ask you to accept one simple, universal truth: even that couple most likely doubts their relationship from time to time. And that’s perfectly fine.

“Doubt is normal,” says Emmalee Bierly, LMFT. “Most of us feel it sometimes, even people who have been married for many years have a feeling of, was this the right thing for me to do?” 

 “I love my boyfriend. I laugh harder with him than I do with everyone else, and I’ve never felt safer or genuinely happier in a relationship,” she says. “But sometimes I doubt if he’s the one. I know that concept itself is problematic, but I can’t help but think that way and question whether it’s wrong that I’m not thinking of him [that way].” – 26-year-old Chantal

Doubting your feelings for your partner — especially when your relationship is mostly happy — can feel almost treasonous, but Amy Morin, LCSW, psychotherapist and author of “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” believes it can actually be healthy. “It’s not enough to base your decision [to be in a relationship with somebody] on your emotions,” says Morin. “You might have chemistry with someone, but that doesn’t mean you’re compatible. So taking an occasional step back and assessing things logically is wise. And when you do that, it’s normal for a bit of doubt to creep in and you to question your choices.”

There are some doubts about your relationship you should never ignore, as they could indicate trouble for the future. Some conflicts can be worked out naturally over time, but other relationship red flags require some serious contemplation on your end.

“Your instincts are very important to listen to because they often clue you in to what you really feel about a situation, instead of what you think is socially appropriate to say or do,” couples therapist Laurel Steinberg, PhD, said. “Regarding relationships, when we don’t behave in ways that are truly authentic to who we are, the whisper presents itself. If not attended to, this can result in anxiety and/or depression and possibly committing to be with the wrong person.”

Rather than ignoring the issues that are gnawing at you, it’s important you face them head on and figure out how they affect your relationship, both in the present and potentially in the future.

That being said, it’s also important to identify when the doubt stops being normal and starts being problematic.

Firstly, What’s Normal?

1. I feel attracted to someone else

So, you’re out at bar with your friends, and you find yourself in conversation with a rando cutie. And then hours later, you start to panic that your interest in someone else means you should jump ship.

Hold on there. As long as you don’t send out signals that you’re actually available, harmlessly flirting isn’t a thing, says Emily Brown, a Connecticut-based social worker who helps couples navigate sticky relational issues.

“At some point, especially in long-term relationships, you’re going to be attracted to other people,” she says. Keep this in mind as well if you learn that your partner was seen flirting with another person.

On the other hand, if you get another person’s number and text innuendos back and forth, not saying a thing about it to your partner, that’s not OK. Once you veer into secrecy, you’ve crossed a line, Brown says.

2. I’m not always satisfied in bed

Maybe your partner isn’t exactly up to snuff between the sheets (it happens). Sexual compatibility — including the specifics of your desires as well as how often you want to get it on — is a huge factor in couples’ happiness.

But just because someone isn’t constantly blowing your mind in the bedroom doesn’t mean you should ditch them ASAP, says marriage and family therapist Lisa Bahar. “If your partner isn’t doing what you like, teach them,” she says.

Remember, it’s up to you to communicate what you want. Often, asking and instructing — while keeping it playful and reserving judgment — is all it takes to get your S.O. up to speed, Bahar explains.

If they really don’t improve over time or you feel like they aren’t respecting your needs or limits, that’s when it may just be a case of sexual mismatch, she adds. If it’s really not working in the bedroom, chances are it’s also not working out so well in the rest of the house (or outside of it).

“Sex is a type of communication, and it tends to parallel the dynamic between partners in non-sexual realms,” Batshaw says. Translation: If your mate constantly chatters on about their life during everyday conversation, they’re apt to be equally selfish once the heavy petting begins.

3. I don’t really get along with their family

While research in this area is limited, one older study did show that having positive feelings toward your in-laws bodes well for relationships. It leads to better accord and stronger ties in your partnership in the long run.Trusted Source

However, if your potential kin aren’t exactly warm and fuzzy toward you, it’s totally normal. “A certain level of doubt about whether you fit into your partner’s family is to be expected,” Bahar says.

Just make sure your partner is willing to work with you to create some ground rules. For example, defending you from a family member’s criticism or negotiating how much time is spent with parents and siblings.

It may also mean respecting your disinterest in religious traditions that conflict with your internal values. Then this inevitable discomfort might not be a reason to flee, Bahar says.

4. I’m worried I’m settling

Wondering if you’re staying in a relationship that’s less than ideal because it’s all you’ve ever known is a not only common — the fear is especially prevalent when partners are on the verge of a more serious commitment (think: moving in, engagement, or a multi-year anniversary).

Often these hesitations are mere flare-ups of anticipation anxiety, or what Bahar calls the “grass-is-always-greener” phenomenon.

The false belief that there’s a perfect soul mate out there can also inflame fears of commitment, Bahar explains. If this happens, talk these feelings out with your mate, continue to explore where the both of you meet in terms of values, and try not to compare yourself to other couples.

However, if you have a consistent sense of discomfort around your partner, like you find them unwilling to communicate or accommodate your needs, or you’re just genuinely disinterested in them, that’s not settling — those are legit concerns that could warrant a breakup, Bahar says.

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Are you ready for a relationship? 35 signs you are and 10 signs you aren’t

Some things take time.

Recovering from heartbreak can be a trying time, especially if you are trying to get back in the saddle and start dating again.

While you might be keen to find a new relationship to throw yourself into, there are some things you should consider before venturing out to find new love.

The first and most important relationship you’ll ever have throughout life is your relationship with yourself. How you feel about and care for your own mind, body, and spirit sets the stage for all relationships outside yourself — with your partner, family, friends, and co-workers.

When speaking about relationships, we often discuss what would make someone a good man or what would make them a good woman in terms of being a partner. I think what often goes overlooked, is the introspective aspect of building a solid foundation with someone, and what it really means to be “ready” for a relationship.

It doesn’t matter if you find the man or woman of your dreams if you’re not ready to have them in your life. It also brings about the possibility of the harsh truth that they may not be interested in you in return, if you’re not in the right place emotionally.

From psychological, spiritual and practical perspectives, it’s pretty clear that if you don’t love yourself, it’s harder to give and receive love. So, when you’re wondering “Am I ready for a relationship?” there are certain things to look out for.

First, make sure that your last relationship is fully over and done with – there’s no point in starting a new relationship if you are secretly hoping your ex-partner will take you back some day.

Second, make sure that you are not going to just use this new relationship as a way to get back at your ex.

Enough people have already been hurt as a result of your previous relationship; there’s no need to bring anyone else into the mix.

And third, you need to ask yourself if this is what you really want. You are heartbroken, after all. A little time on your own might be just what the doctor ordered to help you feel better.

Here are some signs you’re ready for a relationship and you can be 100% sure you are fully ready to take on the responsibilities and rewards of a new partner.

1. You attract a like-minded partner.

When you’re in the energy of self-love and acceptance, it’s easy to magnetically attract a like-minded partner who not only loves himself/herself but is available, interested, and ready for healthy, happy, whole love.

2. You have a handle on your story.

Breakups come with a lot of baggage. Before you can start dating someone new, you need to make sure that you have your wits about you and what happened.

If you are still reeling from being jilted at the altar or being left suddenly by your ex-partner and you are still blaming them for your unhappiness, you are not ready to move on.

3. You complete yourself.

You know you’re ready for a relationship when you don’t need a relationship to feel happy and worthy, when you want a relationship to share your love rather than to get love, when loving yourself and sharing your love is more important to you than having control over getting love. When you want a relationship to deepen your growth rather than to fill your emptiness, you are ready.’

4. You know what you want for yourself.

In order to move on and find new love, you need to first figure out what you want from this life. Having a partner is not going to make you happy by itself.

You need to figure out what goals and aspirations you want for yourself and then set out to find someone who shares similar views and values.

5. You won’t settle for conditional love.

Men and women are ready for love when they realize they deserve to receive unconditional love from a partner.

6. There’s nothing “wrong” with you.

The only person who can complete you is… you. The way to do that is to realize that there is nothing wrong with you; you are not broken, you don’t need to be fixed. The truth of love is found in self-acceptance, and in shining the light of love on those dark places inside of us.

7. You can show up consistently for yourself and someone else.

It’s important to remember that there are two people in every relationship.

If you are not yet ready to make time for someone else or if you can’t show up for them in a way that makes them feel loved and needed, it’s not a good time to get involved with someone new.

8. You are willing to be open and honest and engage in intimate communication.

Every relationship has problems, but it’s important to work on yourself following the end of a relationship so that you don’t continue to experience those problems over and over again.

You need to be honest with yourself and your new partner about what you need and want.

9. You can accept people for who they are.

Being in a relationship means considering the needs and desires of someone else.

If you aren’t yet in a place where you can put someone else’s needs above your own, it’s not yet time to get into another relationship. Successful relationships are about give and take.

10. You don’t seek constant distraction.

You’re not afraid to be alone — and in silence, even. You like spending time alone and don’t need the television to be on or the phone to be glued to your head. You can be with just yourself.

11. You’re not waiting for someone else to “save” you.

One is ready to manifest healthy, lasting love when they truly abandon the wish that another can “save” or “heal” them. Self-acceptance and self-love are markers that one is fully ready for intimacy.

This state of being allows one to be open to both giving and receiving love in a pure, authentic way — unburdened by notions of healing wounds from the past.

12. You don’t need someone to make life more interesting.

Before you get into another relationship, remember that adding someone to the mix is not going to make you happy.

If anything, it may cause more drama and upset in your life. Once you are happy being on your own, you’ll be ready to take someone into your life again.

13. You aren’t depending on someone to make you happy.

It’s nobody’s fault how you feel right now, whether that is good or bad.

Until you realize that your partner is not responsible for your happiness and it is not their job to make you happy, despite what you might have been previously told and choose to believe, it’s not.

Find ways to make yourself happy first and then a relationship will be the icing on the cake.

14. You honor your bigger “self.”

When you understand who you are — as a human, in relation to God or your spirituality — and when you are able to consider the “other” without compromising or obsessing about “me,” you are setting yourself up to live a healthy, beautiful relationship.

15. You’ve tossed your list.

People are ready for love when they don’t have a rigid set of expectations and a laundry list of must-haves and deal breakers. They simply want to find someone wonderful to love and share their life with.

16. You’re OK being single.

If you can say “I am OK without a relationship,” then you’re ready for one! You’re OK being single — not in a resigned or defeated way. It’s more about one have a deep knowing of who you are, your purpose and that while you desire love, you won’t allow yourself to be miserable while you’re single.

17. You’ve called off the search.

The old adage is true: the person who is most ready for love is she who has stopped actively pursuing it. Instead, she has been concentrating on developing her own skills, passions, and happiness. A confident, grounded and interesting person is extremely appealing.

18. You like your life the way it is right now.

There’s nothing better than meeting someone who has their act together. It’s hard to imagine taking on a new relationship when you don’t have your life the way you want it.

Work on yourself for a while before you bring someone else into the picture. It just makes it harder for you to focus on what you need.

19. A relationship is a want, not a need.

Someone is ready for love when they want it but don’t need it. That’s the absolute best place to be: wanting a relationship, believing it would be great, but not needing it for your happiness. Being truly happy without it is often the fastest way to bring it about.

20. You smile a lot.

Notice the next time you see your reflection. No matter what you might be wearing or if it is a good hair day or not, is the reflection you catch a glimpse of is one that makes you smile?

When you catch yourself smiling more than making comments, excuses, or judgment, then you know you accept yourself unconditionally — and are ready to do the same for another, too.

21. You own your energy.

You know that you’re a vibrational match for your real-deal Beloved when you move through your day with access to your own orgasmic energy, whether or not you have a partner. You are sourcing it from within.

Yes, the Beloved will be irresistibly attracted to your beauty, fragrance, and nectar but you are the magnificent blossom.

22. You’re over your last relationship.

Look for signs that anger and resentment are gone and that they have forgiven not only their ex-partner, but themselves. To be angry at yourself is a clear sign that you are not ready to move forward.

If you cannot accept where you are and who you are right now, then it’s time to make a change. You will know that you are ready to go out there and date again when you have given up your “story” and can think about your ex with neutrality, compassion, and understanding.

23. You’re willing to take a risk.

A person who is ready for true intimacy is aware of the risks and uncertainty that comes with falling in love. She knows that the relationship will grow and evolve to something wonderful — or it won’t.

Either way, this person understands she will be better for it since the love and support she has for herself will always be there.

24. You have empathy.

One quality I work hard to promote in patients looking to find and/or sustain a loving relationship is empathy. Once a person can see beyond her desires and needs to what it will take to make her partner happy, she is well on her way to going from “me” to “we.”

25. You’re self-confident.

Self-confidence is the key to knowing that you’re ready for love (it’s also the most powerful aphrodisiac). When you take pride in yourself and you are clear about your own worth — that is when you’ll be able to attract someone who honors you and himself in a healthy relationship.

26. You feel whole.

If you are looking for your partner to fill an emptiness within yourself, you will always remain unsatisfied. True love is all about accepting both your partner and yourself wholeheartedly. Dating is about finding your complimentary match, not your other half.

27. You’re open-minded.

You know you’re ready when you can go off your dating script and discovering a romantic interest as though you were visiting an exotic country for the first time. Throw away your checklist, let yourself be in the moment and open up to the joys and challenges a relationship brings.

28. Fear doesn’t own you.

One sign that tells me you are ready for love is when you show courage. When you are open to taking emotional risk, including accepting personal responsibility, love is in your future.

29. You build memories, not walls.

I know someone is ready for love when they incorporate their match into their life after a few dates, rather than compartmentalizing dating activities. Building memories, not walls, shows long-term potential.

30. You are not a puppet.

The one sign that tells me a person is ready for a healthy relationship is when he or she takes a stand for what she wants in a relationship — without being attached to the other person’s response.

31. You accept change and are ready to grow.

You are “ready” for love when you accept yourself for who you are, right now, today, but are still committed to exploring the yet undiscovered growth of yourself individually and in a relationship.

32. You know your turn-ons.

When you know what turns you on, what brings you pleasure and you aren’t afraid to go after it, it’s a good sign you’re ready to share love with someone else. The key to this is honoring that you are deserving of pleasure whether you are with someone or not and recognizing that all types of sensual pleasure — the foods you eat, the smells around you, a cool shower on a hot day — keep you vibrant and alive.

33. You’re comfortable in your own skin.

Embracing yourself inside and out is a sign you’re reading to fully embrace another.

34. You aren’t bringing any baggage to the relationship.

Before you commit to another relationship, make sure you are not going to blame this person for your previous missteps in other relationships.

Whether it was your fault or not that your last relationship ended, your new partner shouldn’t have to pay the price related to any of that.

35. You are ready to blend your life into someone else’s.

While a relationship cannot be your entire life, it does permeate its entirety. You become connected with their friends, families, hobbies, pets, living situations… and they become connected with yours.

Sure, some privacy is important, but your willingness to fully accept someone into your life and routines is what will let the other person know you truly care and are ready to make a commitment to them. They will become your teammate in taking on life together. You will be building bridges between your lives rather than walls.

More important than some sort of “checklist” though, is something nobody else can ever tell you — how you feel inside. I believe when we reach the right phase in life or come across the right person, we will know we are ready to leave the single life behind and build a life alongside them.

But, until that person comes along, it’s important to work on ourselves and define our own happiness which we can then share with them.

Follow these rules and you’ll find that getting into a new relationship is not only exciting and fulfilling, but comes with a lot less drama than any relationship you’ve ever had before.

When you are ready, you will know. Continue reading….

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