Relationship Tips

Doubt May Well Be a Relationship Downer—but It Doesn’t Have to Be a Ruiner

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Photo: Stocksy/ Lauren Naefe
We’ve all been there at one point or another—totally happy with a significant other when even just the hint of uncertainty clouds up all the sunniness that previously existed in the relationship. In fact, it's too often the case that a new relationship is going along bump-free for a few months, or even longer, only to be disrupted by doubt. Sometimes it's overwhelming doubt. And an unanswered text or a seemingly harmless comment from your partner can hold the power to send us into an overwhelming spiral of it.

If you’ve ever experienced this but emerged from the doubt roller coaster with your relationship in tact, you likely know that for the most part, the whole thing lives in your head: The problem of origin, the doubt itself, the power to overcome it. Still, those spirals can really put a damper on a relationship that’s going well otherwise, which isn’t fun for anyone. Luckily there are ways to identify it and stop it in its tracks.

Need to know how to overcome doubt in a relationship? First, look at why it happens in the first place.

How to overcome doubt in a relationship
Photo: Getty/ izusek

1. Fear

Ah, fear. Although it can serve us well every once in a while—like by pushing us to reach our healthy fitness goals—for the most part, it simply stops us from living our lives to the fullest. And this is definitely true when it comes to relationships: “There’s so much fear surrounding relationships,” says relationship expert and life coach Jillian Turecki. “Fear of getting too close, fear of being rejected, fear of being left, fear of losing yourself, fear of losing the other person.”

2. Trauma from past relationships

If you’ve ever been dumped by a fling or even a full-blown significant other after merely not hearing from them for a weekend (hey, it happens), it only makes sense that an unanswered text would cause a stream of doubt in any subsequent relationship. “All our insecurities and old wounds and past relationship traumas get stirred up when we start to fall for someone,” says Turecki.

“Doubt can be a fear-triggered protective response to getting close to someone.” —Jillian Turecki, relationship expert

So, if you're prone to keeping someone at arm's length simply because you're not sure if they feel as into things as you are—and you don't want to get the rug pulled out from under you via out-of-the-blue rejection again—know that you're not alone. “Doubt can be a fear-triggered protective response to getting close to someone.”

3. Not knowing if someone is right for you

Anytime a person is fixated on finding their soul mate, certain behaviors exhibited by the object of their desire can lead to feelings of doubt. But Turecki says this usually has less to do with the other person and more to do with not knowing what you actually want out of a long-term partnership. After all, no one is absolutely perfect—but knowing what your priorities are in your S.O. will help you stay open and set reasonable expectations for the other person and for yourself.

4. Not knowing if you and your partner share the same goals

Say things are going fine—great, in fact—until suddenly, your partner casually mentions your future hypothetical children. And maybe that would be fine if you two had talked about having future hypothetical children, but you hadn't. In fact, you never thought you’d have kids, and the comment has made you realize that you and your partner may not be on the same page on some of the most important basic issues of life.

The result? Doubt—and lots of it.

So, what can be done about doubt when it strikes? A lot, as it turns out.

1. Clarify what you actually want—to yourself

As Turecki notes, a lot of relationship-themed doubt has less to do with the other person and more to do with you—and not knowing what you want. So, take some time to get clear about your wants and needs in a relationship—whether that’s through journaling, meditation, therapy, or anything else that helps you access your innermost thoughts.

2. Acknowledge whether doubt is a pattern

Is doubt something you’ve felt in every single one of your relationships? If so, Turecki says you'd be best to prioriitze getting to the root of why that is. “If doubt is indeed a pattern, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to the bottom of what you’re fearing,” says Turecki.

Often doubt manifests as the effect of a completely different commitment problem. “Being lost, being controlled, being left, being judged, being rejected, the list goes on. If there’s a commitment issue there, it’s worth exploring that,” she says.

3. Have an honest, clear conversation with your partner

If doubt isn’t a pattern for you, then your gut may actually be trying to tell you something by raising an internal red flag. If this is the case, being open and honest with your partner is key. “Maybe your doubt is based on insecurity, and you need reassurance,” says Turecki. “Or perhaps your partner is having similar doubts.”

The aim here is to have a mature conversation that opens lines of communication and helps to clarify things for both of you. “Get clear on your vision for the future as a couple, and get honest with one another about whether or not you are both in alignment about what it is you want, value, and envision your lives to be like together,” Turecki says.

Just remember, a little doubt doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship: An unreturned text might well have a worthy, totally explanation behind it, and a flippant comment about future kids might not mean your partner is set on a huge family. Talk with each other, often and about everything. Because once you get clear on exactly why doubt is taking up so much of your headspace, you can move on from it and go back to living your best life. Hopefully with your partner by your side.

If you just want to leave the legwork of dating to the stars, use your zodiac compatibility as a guide. And, if you do find someone who seems too good to be true, do yourself a favor, and don't assume the worst.

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