There’s something scary a lot of women do, whether we’re in a new relationship or we’ve been married for years: We imagine how it will all end. Maybe it’s how he’ll die tragically in an accident, or maybe he’s going to cheat on you, you’re sure of it. But we carry around these fears and we let them torture us.
Can you relate? Do you do that, too?
Going there every once in a while isn’t such a big deal. Everyone does it. But for some of us, these dark fantasies become obsessions, and they can lead us to some irrational, undermining actions. Our fears can end up ruining our relationships.
There are five main fears women have that tend to undermine their relationships, says psychologist Michelle Skeen, author of Love Me Don’t Leave Me: Overcoming Fear of Abandonment & Building Lasting, Loving Relationships. And just as you’d expect, these anxieties usually come straight from our childhood and other past experiences.
Recognizing your fears, Skeen says, is the key to building the healthy, loving relationships you need.
- Fear of abandonment: This is the biggie, Skeen says. Women with this fear tend to think, People who love me will leave me or die, or No one has ever been there for me. They’re unpredictable and in the end I will be alone.
This worry can come from a single experience or from people repeatedly moving in and out of your life. “Those experiences,” Skeen says, “can make you feel like people aren’t always going to be there. And they can get triggered by something as simple as someone not getting back to a text message quickly enough for you.”
- Fear of abuse: People with this fear tend to think, “I always get hurt by people close to me,” Skeen says, or “People will take advantage of me if I don’t protect myself.” Unfortunately, she adds, “Sometimes a woman’s fear of abandonment will make them tolerate abuse in order to keep their partner from leaving them.”
- Fear of not getting your emotional needs met: This is a feeling of loneliness, Skeen says. “It’s about not getting anyone in your life who loves you and not feeling emotionally connected to anyone.” Women with this fear tell themselves, People close to me won’t take the time to understand my emotions.
- Fear of your flaws: If people really knew me, they’d reject me, says the voice inside your head. “As you get closer to someone and develop a relationship, you may worry about being seen as a whole person with flaws,” Skeen says. “Then you worry that when your partner sees who you really are, he’ll leave. You feel ashamed of your faults and try to present a false self.”
- Fear of failure: “This is not feeling as successful as your peers, not feeling as smart, not feeling like you measure up,” Skeen says. You’ve failed at everything else. Why shouldn’t you expect your relationship to fail as well?
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to try to repress these fears. “Our minds are like a popcorn machine with thoughts popping up all the time,” Skeen says. “We can’t change our thoughts, but we can accept them without judging ourselves for having them. Stay in the present and stop trying to predict the future according to the past.”
And while you can’t control your feelings or the people in your life, “you can control how you respond to them,” Skeen adds. That’s how you keep your fears from completely destroying perfectly good relationships.
Do any of these sound familiar? What relationship fears do you have?