I think we have all experienced some type of fear in our relationships—especially romantic relationships.
I am not referring to the type of fear where you are scared of the other person, rather I am referring to fear of loss and the toxic beast that that can be.
This type of fear typically does not show up as something that we see very easily, especially in a healthier dynamic, it can creep up slowly and linger just under the surface of the relationship. It may not be apparent on any sort of obvious level, but it still has the power to pull even the strongest of people under—but only if we allow it to do so.
I recently had conversations with two different people who were each experiencing this in their own way. One of them was in a relationship that we could say was thriving. Their situation was that of mutual respect and their playfulness and fondness for each other was apparent even to the perspective of strangers. It was when he told me that he was scared—truly scared, of losing what they had that I saw the fear in him. The other was in a relationship that just ended very tragically.
His three year partnership came to an abrupt halt when the other in his relationship broke things off: he was absolutely terrified of living the rest of his life without her.
While we are in these situations, it may be so hard to see. I am not judging either of these people. Fear is something that we naturally experience, but I have seen how detrimental this can be to relationships, and we can choose to live and love differently—despite how difficult this can be.
We fear loss so we cling.
We cling to that which we have, and we cling to that which we had. We even can have the propensity to cling to that which we do not yet have—that’s always a fun one, is it not?
If we are in a relationship, we typically have the tendency to either cling because we fear the inevitable loss or we take each other for granted because we assume they will always be there—two different ends of a spectrum that both can be toxic to any couple but in much different ways. Both partners in a dynamic can be clinging, or both can be taking each other for granted. This happens. But what I feel happens more often is that one person clings and lean too far and the other has the tendency to pull away or stray out of the connectedness, another version of taking for granted which can also stem from fear.
These things happen on their own. We’re all human. We all act in ways that result from thoughts and patterns of that which we are not conscious a lot of the time. This is okay. We can see this and have grace for ourselves, right?
But if your relationship is in the place where fear has begun to sprout—there is an opportunity to let that go. Many times we can let it go just by seeing it.
Other times, it is not that easy.
So how do we do this?
We let go of the fear and the need to cling by accepting things for what they are and making the conscious choice to be grateful for exactly that.
I am one that believes that fear and gratitude cannot coexist.
We can perhaps toggle between the two, we can spend more time experiencing one over the other, but from what I have experienced I do not think they can be present at the same time—and that goes for every aspect of our lives.
So we can become intentional about gratitude.
It sounds so fluffy, right??
So many of us say that we are grateful for this or that—but I just want to emphasize two things: It can be essential to feeling joy in our lives that we not only speak of gratitude, but feel it—truly realize (make real) the gratitude. Also, we have a tendency to be grateful for the bigger things in life—our homes, jobs, and sometimes people, but it is when we begin to allow this to seep into the everyday that our lives can become truly rich.
Personally, I had a major breakthrough in my own life when a couple of years back I allowed myself to feel gratitude for pieces of my life such as running water and even a toothbrush.
We can be grateful not only for the bigger things in life, but for our experience—our overall experience, and we can allow this gratitude to shun the fear from our relationships.
In the same way that we can be grateful for the smaller things in life, we can also choose gratitude for the smaller things in a relationship. The smiles, the inflection in a voice, the curiosity around what new thoughts and goals that our partner may be having, and other seemingly mundane everyday things.
This is all temporary.
Of course we know this on an intellectual level, but it is not something that we speak a lot about in most of our cultures and not something that many of us live day to day really knowing.
While realizing that any experience is temporary may cause some to cling, we can avoid this by intentionally choosing the perfect cocktail of gratitude and acceptance.
We can be grateful for each other and we can choose to not allow fear to take away from that gratitude. Fear will replace the gratitude if we allow it to do so.
Picture a hand gripping something out of fear. While our fist is wrapped around that which we are afraid to lose, the hand’s ability to both give and receive is temporarily disabled, as long as that hand is gripping.
We can slowly and intentionally release our grip. This may even take a little bit of energy to release this, because we can stiffen into what we are used to doing, and it may be more difficult for some who have spent more time gripping than others.
We can see and appreciate what we have while recognizing that it is all temporary, but being mindful to not fear that truth. We can appreciate relationships while we have them, while not allowing fear to take away from the gratitude that has the potential to nourish so richly the love between us.
We have the option to not allow fear to take anything away from our relationships.
We can see the relationship for what it is and accept that without forcing or clinging.
It is within that pocket of acceptance that we can again begin to appreciate each other for the reality of what we have. We can then allow our gratitude for the true reality of the present situation to surface–and it is gratitude for what is that can prevent us from allowing fear to sabotage our relationships.