In the past I’ve written about relationship doubt and some of the things that can cause it. Broken trust, anxiety issues, a belief that there may be someone out there who is *better* for you; all of these things can cause doubts.
Doubt is understandable but it’s also very dangerous, as belief is tied to effort. At both a conscious or an unconscious level, the more someone doubts the less they put INTO the relationship. As a result, if doubt is not dealt with it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, destroying the relationships.
In this post I want to look not only at the person having doubts, but also how it impacts the other person in the relationship.
If someone is having doubts about whether or not they really want their relationship or if it is the right one for them, there are a few things to think about.
First is the nature of the relationship. It’s one thing to have doubts if you are casually dating, as those doubts are part of determining if it’s a relationship you actually want to commit to. Once you have committed, things change a bit; and if you are living together, married, and/or have kids together then the complexity of the situation increases significantly.
Even in complex situations it is important to remember that a relationship involves two people.
If you are having doubts, you owe it to your partner to be honest with them. Any problem or doubts you have affect them too – they NEED to know about it and they need to have an opportunity to be part of any solution.
I can understand the idea that sometimes we want to keep our thoughts to ourselves, especially when periods of doubt can be times when we don’t even really know what’s going on in our own heads.
However it’s pretty common to hear stories where one person thought that things were going pretty well, until one day they find out their partner has decided they want a divorce and they have already made up their mind.
To me, that should never, EVER happen. Relationships are based on communication. No one should ever be blindsided by these types of things. If there is a problem, they have a right to know about it, and to at least have an opportunity to try and work on things; instead of being faced with a position where by the time they know it’s too late.
When someone doesn’t share their doubts, those doubts tend to grow and deepen. And when that happens a distance will form, as the person with the doubts will naturally tend to withdraw and detach themselves from the relationship.
Some people may claim that their partner knew there were issues. They had to, because they obviously saw the changes in behavior.
Well yeah, maybe. I’m sure they did know something was up. But unless it was communicated to them they had no way of understanding the severity of the doubt. Relationships go through ups and downs all the time, frequently someone thinks they are just going through a down time – and then one day they wake up to find they are facing a divorce they never saw coming.
Time to Figure Things Out
Relationships change, things happen, and sometimes people question whether the life they have is really the one they want. When it happens it sucks for everyone involved, but it’s part of life.
And when this happens, the person with doubts often wants some time and space to “figure things out”. I get that. It’s understandable that they can’t be fully engaged in a relationship if they aren’t sure they want it anymore. And depending on the source of those doubts, I think most people’s partners will try to be understanding and give them a bit of time.
Here’s the problem though – a (committed) relationship isn’t a part time gig. It’s not the sort of thing where you can just take a sabbatical, and come back when/if you decide that yeah, you are actually committed to it.
There has to be some empathy and understanding on both sides, but people need to find a way to continue the relationship even during this time.
If they can’t? If they really need to “take a break”?
In my mind, that is what separation is for.
It is completely unfair and selfish for someone to expect to be able to “stay” in the relationship that they aren’t committed to it anymore. People can’t just pick and choose the parts they feel like dealing with (usually the security of home, and family) while checking out on the parts they don’t want to deal with (usually emotional and physical intimacy).
To the best of their ability they need to find a way to do both.
In these situations the person with the doubts often wants time to figure things out in their own way, at their own pace. They want their partner to give them time and space with no pressure. To wait for them.
In a way there is something romantic about the notion of waiting for someone.
It brings to mind stories of WWII, where soldiers would go off to war and their girlfriends would promise to wait for them. And the joy they would have when they were finally reunited.
This is different though.
In those cases the relationship was separated by circumstance; and the person waiting believed they would be coming back.
In the case of someone having doubts, why should the other person wait? They are essentially being told that the person they love is “no longer sure if they want to be with them”.
Think about that for a moment.
No longer sure.
So they love someone and have committed to them, but that person isn’t sure they want things anymore. Instead of being committed to getting through anything together, the person they love sees them as simply an option – not a priority.
Yet they are expected to just put their life on hold and wait, in the hopes that maybe their partner will continue to choose them.
And if they don’t?
Then that time spent waiting was time wasted. Time of their life they will never get back.
You Can Never Go Home Again
Doubts happen, and as noted there can be all sorts of reasons that aren’t even directly related to the relationship. Identity issues, depression, anxiety – all of these can cause doubt. And sometimes those doubts will never go away.
But you need to identify the real cause of the doubt and actively fight back against it. Because when someone checks out of a relationship because of those doubts they fundamentally alter the relationship forever.
Once you have been made to feel like an option, things are never the same again. They can still be good, or even great. But that magic of knowing that you will always be there for each other no matter what life throws at you?
Once that has been broken it’s gone forever.
I recently read a blog written by someone who’s partner had checked out on the relationship, and he wasn’t sure what to do. One of the commenters told him that he should use this time to show his wife how much he loves her, because (in her words) “women like to be chased”.
Sorry, I can’t disagree with this more.
Maybe he had been taking his partner for granted and that was contributing to her doubts. If so, and those doubts made him realize he had been taking them her for granted (sadly something that is natural in relationships), that’s one thing. Then he should use this as a wake up call, and adjust his behavior appropriately.
We all want to feel valued, and appreciated (that applies to women and men). But “chasing” accomplishes nothing. Someone has to be there because they want to be there – not because they like the thrill of being chased.
It’s like an addict chasing the next high. If someone is only there when they are being chased, how long will it be until they check out and are gone again?
No, if someone needs that thrill and that rush, then I would say let them go.
All sorts of things can cause doubt, and at times they can be crushing. But if you are in a relationship the worst thing you can do is keep it to yourself.
It may seem like a deeply personal thing but it doesn’t just affect one person, so both people have to be involved. The doubts may originate with one person, but both people need to be part of the solution.
Doubt can destroy relationships but it doesn’t have to. In fact love can be strongest when it can accept those doubts and continue to thrive in spite of them.