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“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.