We tend to think relationships are about positive feelings such as connection, love, and excitement. While these are important feelings to experience in any relationship, we often find ourselves proportionately scared about experiencing negative emotions. Because falsely, we think these negative emotions, such as jealousy, guilt, and insecurity, will break our relationship apart. What they actually indicate are areas that might need healing or explaining; additional communication is probably needed. Talking to your partner about a fear is providing him/her/them with an opportunity to help you and support you. There might be things that your partner has no idea about that could be easily fixed if you sat down to work them out.
We’d like to put a little spin on some Halloween 2022 date ideas so that you can embrace the scary emotions in your relationship just as much as the happy ones. And no, we’re not talking about spending an evening clinging to each other for moral support while making your way through the mazes at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, though it’s not a bad idea if you enjoy an evening of scares. (If you don’t, there are bound to be some hayrides and pumpkin patches that are a little more adrenaline-friendly.) We’re talking about dealing with relationship fears and making the best of them. This is definitely the season to embrace the scares, whether you’re lining up for a haunted house or summoning your courage to open up about your fears in your relationship.
3 Ways to Talk About Fears in Relationships
1. Make time to talk, and be intentional about it:
Recognize how sharing your fears and learning more about your partner’s hidden emotions, such as insecurity, can bring you closer. Many of us struggle to accept our fears, so we pretend we don’t have them. We suppress and ignore them, and the idea of confessing what we were thinking is mortifying. This doesn’t help us work through them, and the burden of carrying them on our own can be isolating and cause us to withdraw from our partner.
Set aside time to discuss your fears and invite your partner to do the same. You can begin by saying you’d like to talk and give your partner a few days to decide what a good time might be for that conversation, or you can notice a space in both your schedules and ask for that time to be reserved for the two of you. It’s always best to make a specific space for any conversation that has the potential to become emotional; launching into the conversation because you feel triggered or inspired isn’t going to help you to communicate what you actually want to. There is a much higher chance that you’ll lose focus of what you want to say and struggle to maintain your goal of being productive if you launch into the conversation in a heightened emotional state. That’s not to say that these fears you’re talking about won’t call to mind specific and deep emotions. Of course, you are allowed to connect with your emotions and advocate for yourself. It is just best and easiest to begin in a relatively calm state, where both of you knew the conversation was coming and have agreed to talk from a place of problem-solving and mutual respect.
Take the time to make sure you are able to name your fears: fears of rejection, fear of being criticized, fear of abandonment, fear of trusting each other or committing to the relationship, and fear of failure. You may have an idea of where these fears began for you; past relationships, your childhood, or miscommunications early on in your current relationship. When you are gathering your thoughts, remember to make these issues about your perception, as opposed to any statements that assume the other person’s intentions. Statements like, “You always…” or “You never…” tend to spark defensiveness in the other person. A more neutral, “When I see this behavior, it scares me because I feel…” allows you to explain what is bothering you without attaching a moral failing to your partner’s behavior. Is your partner perfect? No. None of us are. But I have to assume that this is a person you believe has your best intentions at heart, or else why would you be committed to him/her/them?
As you talk about your fears, holding space for them non-judgmentally is the key. Fear is a fear. Our fears can come from all kinds of places and don’t necessarily represent a failure or defect when we have them. One of the ways to do that is to show empathy and validation. Normalizing those fears can allow each one of you to voice them more often. This conversation will have made space for your partner to share fears as well, so you can both be comforted by one another.
Creating this time to talk may include making it as pleasant as you can. Order in your favorite takeaway food. Light candles, get cozy and make the energy in your home relaxing. Make it a date night! Make it an evening of exploration and learning instead of an obligation or chore. Or set aside a time to talk, then go out to a museum or show afterward to celebrate your commitment to supporting one another. You may also find that making a routine of setting aside time to talk helps to ward off fears before they become an issue.
2. Learn about your triggers:
While knowing what you are afraid of is a good start, you also need to understand what triggers your fears and anxieties. Is it a specific event, like when your partner cancels a date or is it a look they may give during an intimate moment? Is it a series of behaviors over time? Are you more susceptible to your fears under certain circumstances?
For instance, if you had a previous partner who never communicated with you, you might begin to feel worried if your current partner seems quiet. “What are you thinking?” you might wonder. “Are you upset about something I did?” Identifying that too much quiet unsettles you is the first step you need to take in order to try to change that situation. You can’t tell your partner what you need or what’s worrying you if you haven’t figured out what it is. Identifying a trigger doesn’t mean telling your partner to stop a behavior or that it becomes the other person’s problem to solve. Understanding your triggers also enables you to avoid them. If you are triggered by your partner canceling a date, then both yourself and your partner can use that knowledge to set aside times for dates that are highly likely to work out. There will always be emergencies and last-minute issues that can’t be prevented, but those are not typical. If setting a date requires a certain amount of routine, then so be it.
Consistency and dependability are great ways to build and maintain trust and intimacy.
It can feel tricky sometimes to explain our triggers without feeling like we’re assigning blame or demanding a certain set of behaviors. This is where strong communication skills will come into play. There is a fine balance to strike between doing the work yourself, communicating your needs, and expecting someone else to be able to meet them.
There is compromise and give-and-take in every relationship. If you are triggered by a person with green eyes, there is nothing a green-eyed partner can do to help you with that. But if you are triggered by a raised voice, that is definitely something a partner can work on. It is also not an unreasonable request. You have the right to communicate your wants and needs; it is not unreasonable to know what those are. Your partner also has the right to set boundaries about what changes or modifications are reasonable to make and vice versa.
If your triggers aren’t easily avoided, you may want to attend therapy as an individual or as a couple to discuss them. There is in-person and online couples therapy and individual therapy offered at our therapy practice in Woodland Hills. Being able to do sessions online can make scheduling appointments for two people simpler! Coming into sessions in-person may help to keep the discussion space neutral for a couple. It’s all about what works for you.
3. Share and communicate about your coping skills:
When feeling anxious or fearful, what are your go-to coping skills? What about your partner; what do they utilize? Would you like to share them with each other? Would you like to engage in them together?
Sharing your coping skills not only gives you an idea of what you might do in order to get through the tough times, such as date night ideas but also allows you each the opportunity to recognize when the other is struggling. You see, if you know what your partner does to cope, and then you see those behaviors, it’s a cue for you to be curious about why your partner needs some extra support right now. The same goes for you: if your partner sees you taking lots of time to journal or doing more meditation or exercise classes, they might want to ask you how you’re doing. This knowledge isn’t meant to take the place of being direct in your communication; the goal is always to be able to say, “I’m having a hard time right now.” But sometimes, it can feel impossible to speak up for ourselves when we are having a hard time. Sometimes, even though we don’t necessarily realize how much we’re struggling, someone might be able to notice these clues from the outside.
Knowing how you cope also means that you and your partner can set up help for one another. Running a bath, cooking a meal, planning a walk after dinner, and more are acts of service either of you could do for the other if you notice some triggers or are aware that some relationship worries have come up. You just have to know what those tools are to use them! Allowing your partner to know how you cope and why it works for you also gives them further insight into how you think, what your priorities are, what motivates you, etc.
Seeking therapy is a great coping skill to access, either on your own or as a couple. Relationship therapy is a very useful tool for analyzing and understanding the ins and outs and ups and downs of your relationship. This can be marriage counseling or couples therapy for a boyfriend and girlfriend, girlfriend and girlfriend, and so on. No level of “commitment” is too high or low to seek support in your relationship.
Discussing your existing coping skills can also be a great time to plan how the two of you will cope as a team. For example, you can make a backlog of fun date ideas for when one or both of you are feeling too stressed out to connect with your partner. The fear is that your partner will give up on you or turn away. Instead, if you set aside some time to do an activity together (maybe even one that challenges you a little), you can reconnect over a shared experience. There are many cute date ideas for those more mellow times, too. A picnic, a rooftop movie (or a Cinespia night, if you want to stay on-brand this season for some spooky fun), a day at the flower market, or even just making a blanket fort and binge-watching your favorite television series. Knowing how each other copes and finding ways to share some of these activities as a bonding exercise, or to come together afterward to reset, gives you a framework and reassurance.
Overcoming and working through our fears can help us to feel closer to the people in our lives. That being said, I don’t recommend manufacturing a fear or issue in order to bring you closer to a partner; there are more than enough real issues that can come up and need to be dealt with. Taking on these fears can unsettle us, exhaust us, and stress us out. I will say, however, that a strong relationship takes work, but the work feels worth it. Talking about your fears may not be the most pleasant thing you’ve ever heard of, but with the right person, it doesn’t have to be as scary as you might think. A relationship built on mutual trust and respect enables us to find comfort in our partners. Making a conscious effort to be open and honest about what scares you is a great way to ensure that you and your partner understand one another. And sure, at this time of year, there is great fun to be had in being a little scared. But when it comes to relationships, the less we have to fear, the better.
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Here at Embracing You Therapy Group, we invite you to explore with us how life would be different if you had more control over your thoughts and emotions. We invite you to consider that it is possible to accept things just as they are, embracing imperfections to create a gentler place for calm in your life.
Our mental health practice in Woodland Hills, CA, offers individual and couple’s therapy. In couples therapy, also called marriage counseling, you will work with a couples therapist to break the cycle of attack and isolation. We’ll work on restoring love, connection, and intimacy. Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Client Care Coordinator.