“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.”
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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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Deal Breakers You Don’t Have To Deal With
While it can be normal and healthy to question things in the course of a relationship, some situations are simply not OK.
Here are eight relationship doubts you should never ignore if you want a successful, long-term partnership, according to experts.
1. Chronic Dishonesty
If your partner is constantly lying to you, that’s something you shouldn’t take lightly. “Along with communication, honesty is a cornerstone to any relationship,” relationship therapist Dana Koonce, MA, LMFT tells Officialdivinea. “Having doubts about your partner’s ability to be open and honest is a relationship flag that should not be ignored.”
When someone is chronically dishonest and it is affecting a relationship, it’s important to address it. “Talk about the problem externally, addressing the behavior rather than the person, and talk about how it affects you and the relationship,” psychotherapist and relationship expert Kelly Bos, tells Officialdivinea.
2. Level Of Attraction
Feeling doubts or insecurities over your level of attraction to your partner or whether they are attracted to you is another important relationship doubt that shouldn’t be ignored. “Once the initial ‘honeymoon period’ wears off, we often see people in a different light,” Koonce says. “Doubts about your physical compatibility may not necessarily be written off as just ‘minor blips.'”
Feelings can be flighty and easily influenced, but if you are noticing an issue with your partner around attraction and you value this relationship and want to make it work, talk about it. “Try not to attach them to the problem but talk about the problem as it’s own external issue and have ideas at hand on how you can work on it as a couple,” Bos says. “Often we get stressed that the attraction won’t come back and we start living as if this is our future. Try to stay in the moment and enjoy the moment at hand without worrying about the future or next steps.”
3. Incompatible Future Goals
It’s important that your future goals align with your partner’s. “When talking about future plans and goals, do you and your partner find that your visions do not align with one another at all?” Koonce asks. “Having doubts about whether your future fits in with someone else’s vision of their future should not necessarily be ignored or explained away.”
It is important to discuss with your partner the meaning of the issue and whether you are actually on a different page or if it is just perceived that way. “Communication can always help, but it is also reasonable to end things when goals are incompatible,” Koonce says. “Too often we compromise and in the end still realize that the relationship was not heading in the same direction.”
4. Different Core Values
“Everyone has their own specific set of personal core values, and these often dictate the way a person approaches their life,” Koonce says. “Partners with core values that are entirely opposing one another — for example, one partner places a high value on working hard in life, while the other partner ranks this extremely low on their list of core values — would benefit from evaluating whether this is a doubt that can be managed or if it is something that could potentially be a road block to growth in the future.”
To evaluate whether or not your core values will pose a long-term problem, Bos suggests looking at level of importance, how it affects your other relationships, and how it affects your feelings of satisfaction in this relationship.
5. Feeling Small
You shouldn’t let it slide if your partner as always diminishing you or making you feel beneath them. “When we are in a toxic relationship, often subtle digs and devaluing comments can leave us feeling small or unimportant,” psychologist Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., CSAT-S, tells Officialdivinea. “This may follow on the heels of big declarations of love or commitment or may be in reaction to real or perceive rejection or criticism. We may be quick to explain away these almost imperceptible remarks and give a partner the benefit of the doubt, while all the while feeling insignificant.”
Making you feel this way can be a precursor to emotional abuse, and if this continues, you should consider seeking help from loved ones or a therapist to exit the relationship.
6. Questioning Their Loyalty
You should never be left wondering if you are the only one. “If you and your partner have declared exclusivity (or defined the parameters for an open relationship), notice if you start doubting your partner’s adherence to these boundaries,” Dr. Balestrieri says. “Often our gut knows when something is off, and if we doubt our partner’s fidelity, that is a huge alarm to investigate.”
If you’ve taken a good look at your thoughts, suspicions, and doubts, check in with a trusted other to process your fears and feelings. “Then it is best to be direct and non-accusing when asking your partner about your concerns. If they get angry or try to turn it around on you (i.e., gaslight you), it is usually an indication that you have caught them and they are trying to throw you off the scent,” Dr. Balestrieri says.
7. Questioning Your Loyalty
Some minor fantasies are completely harmless, but if you can’t stop thinking about the idea of being with someone else, it’s time to give your relationship some thought. “If you find yourself really wanting to date or wanting to have sex with other people, don’t commit to be in a monogamous relationship with the person you’re with,” Dr. Steinberg says. Take time to evaluate your feelings and be upfront with your partner regarding them.
8. Public Humiliation
“If your find your partner humiliates you in public by being socially inappropriate on a regular basis, don’t ignore this,” Dr. Steinberg says. “Not everyone is great at everything. By alerting the offender to specific subjects or ways of engaging that are off-putting, the person can change their approach. If the offenses are so big that others end their relationships with you or refuse to see you with your partner, this can become a dealbreaker.”
Relationship doubts are something to seriously consider, and these are some you should never leave ignored. Take the time to consider the parts of your relationship that don’t feel secure, and discuss them with your significant other, a therapist, or another trusted loved one.
Doubt is a perfectly normal part of any relationship. It becomes problematic, though, when we avoid resolving it. You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: Pretty much everything in a relationship boils down to communication.
It’s important to keep our partners informed about what we’re thinking so they know how to adapt — and vice versa. You’re just as responsible for listening and adjusting your behavior accordingly when your partner lets you know you’ve crossed a line.
Breaking up with someone because they said the wrong thing once or fell short of your expectations is a bit naïve, as is being disappointed when your partner disagrees with you.
You may need to examine your defensiveness if you find yourself inclined to quit a relationship simply because a partner respectfully offers a perspective that clashes with your own.
Unless you’re in a dangerous situation, knowing whether you should stay with your mate requires observing how they act toward you over time and monitoring how you consistently feel as their partner, especially after you voice concerns or feelings of hurt.
A relationship in which one partner repeatedly fails to accommodate the other’s needs and boundaries is not likely to last.
As long as couples can talk through tough issues, keep one another feeling safe and satisfied, and continue to share good times, they’re probably doing just fine.
Wishing you much love and success!
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