How to Deal with Doubt in a Relationship
Whether you’ve been dating for five weeks or going steady for five years, doubt within a relationship (and life in general) is normal. There are a number of different reasons as to why you’re feeling doubtful.
Sometimes it’s absolutely called for, and other times it may just be completely irrational. There’s a fine line between the two, and figuring out the root of your doubt is the first step in overcoming this dreaded feeling.
So firstly, we’ll take a look at the reasons why you may be experiencing doubt, whether your doubts within your relationship are normal or if they’re actually toxic, and then we’ll look at possible solutions to overcome your doubt.
Don’t let your stress, anxiety, and doubt get you down when there are actionable steps you can take to process and work through it.
Why Are you Experiencing Doubt?
Doubt doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. In fact, you could be experiencing this simply because your relationship is moving into a new phase.
Together, you and your partner are growing, changing, and discovering that you may have more differences than you had originally thought… and that’s okay!
When change arises, so does doubt. Change is scary for so many people. And if you’ve ever taken on a new and challenging job, moved cities or countries, or even experienced a big breakup, for example, you’ll surely be able to agree that it had the capacity to give you a lot of stress.
So, just like taking on that new career challenge, moving homes, or starting a single life, being in a relationship that is continuously growing and changing can be scary.
When stress arises, so does doubt. As mentioned, stressful situations are definitely a cause for doubt. And when things are getting more serious, or you and your partner are going through a massive hurdle or change, like discussing the future or moving in together, this could prompt you to ask yourself a series of questions.
You may be asking yourself: “Is it normal that I still find other people attractive if my partner is truly ‘the one’?”, or “Are our differences so big, that we may not have a successful future together?”
A fear of intimacy can lead to doubt. As your relationship progresses, you may start an internal monologue that questions whether you can actually commit. In this way, you may be pushing your partner away subconsciously, which you need to recognise as self-sabotaging behaviour.
Your past could provoke doubt. Different experiences have the capacity to make or break you. And if you’ve gone through some form of trauma in the past, this could directly influence your doubt today.
For example, if you have a history of dating people who cheat, you may be transferring those doubts onto your new partner. If that’s the case, it’s about looking at those situations objectively and in isolation, asking yourself if that is the root of your doubt and what you can do to change it.
Perhaps you have a tendency to choose bad partners, or maybe it’s just a question of trust.
Tools You Can Use to Deal With Your Feelings of Doubts
Firstly, it’s important to realise that the doubt itself is rarely the actual problem. Having doubts and not communicating them to your partner is what allows the doubt to grow and fester.
To overcome your doubt, communicate
If you’ve got a partner who is reliable, nurturing and kind, talking to them about your fears and doubts should prove to be a constructive and positive experience. This, in turn, will strengthen your relationship while helping those pesky doubts to subside.
If you’re feeling nervous or apprehensive about talking to your partner, then the bigger question is, why? Is your partner open to communicating? Or are you afraid and unsure of how to deal with conflict and fear being vulnerable?
If it’s the latter, then the issue is not within the relationship, but rather an internal war.
To overcome your doubt, be mindful of other people’s influences
If you’re a person who is easily influenced by people’s opinions and thoughts, try to actively avoid engaging in conversation about your doubts with people who are negative.
Oftentimes, talking to the wrong person about personal issues can make the situation appear worse, and can increase your feelings of doubt.
This is not to say that you should not be talking to anyone about your feelings, but finding a suitable friend or family member to talk to who’ll help you see things both positive and negative can be a refreshing perspective for you.
Alternatively, seeking help from a counselor will provide you with objective thoughts, opinions, and advice. An outsider’s perspective is always a great idea.
Are Your Relationship Doubts Valid or Are They Simply Toxic?
To be able to identify whether your doubts are valid or toxic, you’ll first have to be able to tell the difference.
For example: if you catch your partner looking at another person, or they say that they’ll text you at lunch time but don’t, doubt is a normal response. It can however be considered toxic when the doubt and anxiety starts to interfere with your daily life.
And this is where the terms, ‘attachment anxiety’ and ‘double relationship-vulnerability’, come in.
Attachment anxiety is when people tend to assume the worst in their relationship. This leads them to live in constant fear that they’ve done or said something wrong or that they’ll be dumped, and in response they become overly needy or clingy.
Double relationship-vulnerability is when someone relies solely on their partner to define their self-worth. In this way, they’re constantly worrying over the smallest of things, which leads them into a frenzy of doubt.
Interestingly, a study was undergone by Guy Doron, a psychologist, and his team to test the correlation between those who continuously and obsessively questioned their relationship and the amount of doubt and anxiety they experienced.
The study found that the two were highly linked, and thus the amount of doubt and anxiety were higher in test subjects who had irrational worries about their relationship.
How can you deal with toxic doubt? You can start by trying to recognise when doubt is irrational. What are some of the triggers that cause your doubt (such as not hearing from your partner for a day, or something your partner said).
Once you’re able to recognize these toxic thoughts, you can start working to change them. Slowly try to hinder reacting to your doubt.
This could be actively stopping yourself from calling your partner obsessively because they did not answer their phone the first time, or trying to hack into their email or Facebook account in hopes of ‘catching them out’.
If your partner refuses to tell you where they’re going, doesn’t allow you to see your friends, or abuses you physically, mentally, or emotionally… these are all red flags.
This kind of doubt is 100 percent valid, and actually has nothing to do with you. This is a question of your partner’s lack of respect, need for control, and betrayal, and should be addressed – never ignored.
If you, or someone you know, are experiencing physical, mental, or emotional turmoil, it’s important to realise that it is not your fault, and that this kind of abuse is never okay.
How can you deal with valid doubt? Oftentimes people don’t realise that they’re being mentally or emotionally manipulated or abused. This kind of abuse is easy to push under the rug, and shrug off because it may not appear to be ‘that bad’.
In actuality however, mental and emotional manipulation can instill feelings of doubt, shame, and guilt within the receiver, and can heavily affect their self-esteem, self-worth, self-respect, and dignity.
This kind of abuse can take shape in the form of name calling, or communicating in such a way that it makes one believe that they’re a bad person – for example: “You’re always getting this wrong!”
It can also be in the form of yelling, swearing, embarrassing others in public about their shortcomings, using threats, monitoring movements, taking financial control, and or commenting negatively on someone’s appearance in a detrimental fashion.
If you are experiencing these kinds of abuse from your partner, and or physical abuse, you should either:
- Consult a professional: Whether it is a help line, a therapist, or even a couples counselor, seeking professional help is the healthiest way in which to change the destructiveness in your relationship.
- Practice self-care: When someone makes you feel bad about yourself, you often forget to take care of yourself. You may start to believe that you’re not worthy, but this is anything but true. Try a few self-care routines like going for a walk, eating healthily, or listening to calming or happy music that makes you smile.
- Rely on friends and family: It is during the difficult moments that you will truly learn who ‘your people’ are. And once you’ve found them, love them hard, because they’ll be there for you when you need it.
- Remove yourself from the toxic environment: As difficult as it may be, no one deserves to be in this kind of toxicity. Begin to talk to a professional or your support system about how you can start removing yourself from the situation in order to rebuild your life again where you are able to flourish as you should.
Have you been able to identify your reasons for doubt in your relationship? This is the first step in taking action, creating better relationships, improving your self-worth, and enjoying a happier and more fulfilling life.
Helena is a sex-positive freelance copywriter in her early 30’s from Cape Town, South Africa. She’s travelled and lived in various countries in Asia and Europe for almost a decade, and continues to live her dream — traveling the world independently as a copywriter. Having written for various companies and magazines within the industry, she has extensive knowledge in the field of sexual health, the escort industry, and sex toy marketing.