The Consequence of Fear to Ourselves and Our Relationships

In my last article I examined how you can know if you want to be with a particular person or just be in a relationship (  I introduced the possibility that many of our relationships are driven by a fear of being alone.  Today, I would like to take a more in-depth view of this fear and how it hurts us as individuals as well as making healthy, successful relationships unlikely.

Who decides what’s right?

When Samantha first came to see me she was upset about her difficult relationship with her daughter and her ex-husband.  She extolled the virtues of her current significant other Ron as being incredibly supportive and understanding.  In subsequent sessions Samantha revealed details about her relationship that made me question her Pollyanna view of things.  She said that even though she had a car, Ron drove her everywhere, including to our appointments.  Even though the money used to purchase their condominium was from her divorce settlement, the condo was in Ron’s name.  He would get upset with her if she wanted to do something other than what he wanted but tell her she shouldn’t be upset with him.  At our last session Samantha told me she cancelled a doctor’s appointment it took her three months to get because Ron wanted her to go with him to walk the dog and she wouldn’t get back in time to make the appointment.  When I asked her why she would do that, and why he would let her, Samantha stated it was because she was supposed to do whatever it took to make the relationship work.  She seemed to accept completely that Ron’s view of how things should be was correct and she was “wrong” if she wanted something different.  It never occurred to Samantha that her view of how the relationship should be was just as “right” as Ron’s.

Samantha’s fear of being alone overrode her ability to require her partners to treat her with dignity and respect.  As a result, she was always willing to adjust her schedule, activities, and thoughts to match those of whomever she was with at the time.  (This pattern of not standing up for herself also affected her relationship with her daughter.)  The more she allowed it to happen, the more she believed everyone else was right about what she should do and that she was wrong.  Not surprising, this affected her ability to trust her own judgments and feelings.  Once her belief in her own capabilities was compromised, so was her self-esteem.  This led her into a vicious cycle of depending more on the views of others and less on herself, which resulted in even lower self-esteem.  Instead of evaluating someone else’s viewpoint as opinion, Samantha accepted it as fact and adjusted her behavior accordingly.  The end result was an even lower opinion of her by her partner and the relationship becoming increasingly unhealthy.

Not right or wrong, just different

Like Samantha, many people accept their partner’s position as fact and not the opinion it actually is.  Instead of recognizing a difference in equally valid viewpoints, we believe our partners when they say they are right.  The problem with this is that if one person is always wrong, the power balance of the relationship is tipped in the other’s favor.  The “wrong” partner will spend considerable time and energy trying to make it up to the “right” partner but will never be successful.  The premise of “right” and “wrong” must be summarily rejected at the outset.  One person’s perceptions, feelings, and needs are not right or wrong.  They just are.  It shouldn’t become a contest if that person’s partner has different feelings and needs.  One sign a relationship is healthy is that couples can accept the differences in perception or viewpoint and not feel compelled to eliminate them.  Next time, I will identify ways couples can embrace their differences and create a loving, supportive relationship.

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© 2008 Cary Home Times

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