There's a better way to handle this.
There's no doubt that scary stuff happens all of the time — especially lately. The recent terrorist attacks around the globe may have you feeling vulnerable and the world seems like an unpredictable and hostile place. It's enough to make a person want to run and hide!
Scary stuff may also be happening (or on the verge of it) in your own home or relationship. It's estimated that more than 10 million women and men in the U.S. are physically abused by an intimate partner each year. We urge anyone who is being abused in any way to get to a safe space to heal and make decisions about what truly is in their best interests.
EVERYONE deserves to be treated with respect and kindness!
Even if you're lucky enough to be in a relationship that's free from violence and abuse, everyday tensions can contribute to anxiety, nervousness, and worry. You may not literally fear for your life, but intense emotions can cause you to shut down and pull away from your partner.
The fear you feel in your relationship may not make logical sense to you (or to your partner), but the sensation is there and your reaction to it is very real.
The difficulty with fear is that we humans are biologically wired to react to it, often dramatically. Many of us automatically flip into a fight or flight mode when we feel somehow threatened, sometimes without even realizing what we're doing.
A fear-induced reaction can look or sound like:
- sarcasm/cutting "humor"
- nagging/anger over something "little"
- the "silent treatment"
- numbing out with alcohol, drugs, or overeating
- withdrawing into work, electronic devices, or otherwise keeping busy
These reactions aren't always or necessarily an indication that you (or your partner) are afraid, but many times they are. When reactions like these become the status quo in your relationship, it's nearly impossible to nurture the kind of love and connection you want to enjoy.
What's important is to get curious and recognize that you're pulling away from your partner and from your own self.
If anxiety or fear is compelling you to react, use these steps to find the bravery hidden inside:
1. Acknowledge your fears.
Admit that you feel whatever you are feeling - regardless of how uncomfortable or even embarrassed you are to do so. The very first step to a courageous and brave response to any situation is to own up to any anxiety you've got going on. It's not going to magically go away. Acknowledge your fears without growing them.
2. Realize that you can be brave.
Believe it or not, an essential piece of acknowledging your fears without growing them is to create space to ALSO recognize that you have the capacity for bravery. Think about times in your life when you stood strong in the face of a challenge. Maybe you spoke your truth when it was difficult to do so or you took an action even though it was not easy to do.
3. Question everything.
When you're in a calmer and clearer mental space, you can begin to ask questions. Start out by asking yourself what you actually know is true. Too often, we make up stories that come directly from our fears and that aren't based in fact.
Gently question what you think you know and you may be surprised that a scary situation is actually far less scary. As you ask gentle questions to get to facts, be sure to really listen.
This includes questions you ask of yourself like, "What is most important to me about this?" or "Why does this upset me so much?" Listen without being critical or judgmental and use what you learn to make a self — and relationship — supporting decision.
Remember, bravery doesn’t come from squashing the needs or wants of others. It's about advocating for yourself in a respectful and loving way. It's also about creating space for cooperation and solutions where everyone feels heard.
Have you noticed? When you say things to your partner in certain ways, they bristle or shrink and pull away from you and when you say things in other ways, they move closer to you!
Find out what to say (and what not to say) for a trust-filled and happy relationship in this free communication video.