Your partner has given you no real reason doubt their love for you, but still, you feel insecure and constantly worried about them losing interest or walking away. You even know that your concerns are somehow sabotaging your relationship. But you don’t know how to stop yourself from being afraid or how to feel more confident. Though your situation is a difficult one, learning to gain perspective offers hope.
Your fears are related to how you understand yourself, your partner, and the interactions between the two of you. So, learning to consider alternative perspectives opens the possibility of experiencing your situation differently. For example, rather than interpreting your partner’s desire to meet friends out as a lack of interest in you, you might consider the possibility that he is a social person who likes having many friends in addition to having you as his girlfriend. Such a change in thinking could enable you to feel better about yourself, your partner, and your relationship.
To help change your perspective and how you react in your relationship, practice the following exercise:
Think of a particular situation when you got upset. There may be many examples, but it is important to focus on one situation at a time.
For example, Ann and Stephen are in a committed, loving relationship. Though Stephen is a kind and trustworthy partner, Ann felt unimportant to Stephen when he did not call or text her all day.
Identify your thoughts and feelings about the situation. Make note of your various thoughts. Also, acknowledge and label your different feelings. You might find it helpful to journal your observations.
Ann noted that she kept thinking about how Stephen was probably bored with her and ready to move on. She was also aware of feeling totally rejected, hurt, and angry (with herself and him).
Explore your distress and possible overreaction. Consider whether you think your reaction was appropriate or out of proportion to the situation. Keep in mind that just because what you think feels real, that does not mean it’s true. You may also want to get some feedback from a trusted friend. Since they know you well, and are not emotionally invested in the situation, they may be able to help you gauge your reaction.
If you recognize your reaction as out of proportion, look more closely at what was behind your reaction. For instance, think about your personal history, self-perceptions, and short and long-term stressors. When you are able to empathize with your experience at the time, you will find that your reaction makes sense.
Ann realized that she did not really need to be as upset as she was. Stephen had always been attentive and affectionate, and she knew he had been exceptionally busy at work. She also knew that she had a tendency to be insecure with boyfriends, so her worries were probably more related to her own fears than to Stephen.
Consider alternative perspectives. Once you can empathize with your overreaction, think about other possible ways of understanding and reacting. You might do this by noticing evidence that contradicts your assessment – this may be something you are inclined to overlook or minimize because it detracts from what feels like the truth. You might also think about how a friend, coworker, or even a fictional character might react differently. The idea is to consider alternative explanations even though you might not believe them.
Ann thought about how her friend, Jill, would react to her situation. She could almost hear Jill saying how it’s clear that Stephen loves her, and she should believe what he said about being super busy this week. Though Ann still felt anxious about her relationship, she also realized that the insecurity made sense more as a struggle within herself than as a real problem with Stephen – and this reassured her.
The better you are at identifying when your emotions are triggered and how they affect your thinking, the better you will be at calming your fears. With time and practice, you can reduce your anxieties, and trust more in your here-and-now relationship.
Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.