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Fear and Relationships VII  

Last month I started writing about how to manage fear in relationships. The first thing I talked about was learning to tolerate your own feelings of fear and the vulnerability that often drives those fears. One of the next best things you can do to help manage your fears is to practice being vulnerable in your relationship.

First, share your fears. If you have fears about the relationship, or even fears about other things, share them with your partner. And be willing to listen to and accept your partners sharing of their own fears. This means you have to tolerate their uncomfortable feelings as well. If you can’t just listen to your partner’s fears and vulnerabilities and feel like you have to jump in to help them it is easy to get pulled into “fix it” mode. Fix it mode often ends up alienating the person you are trying to help, especially if they haven’t really felt like you heard them well before you jump into fix it mode.

Recognize your fears are likely to trigger your partner’s fears and vice versa.  If you acknowledge this to each other and remember it when you talk with each other it will help keep you on track – and keeping on track is important. If you are sharing with each other fears about the relationship, it will be important to stay focused on the topic at hand and not try to deal with other relationship issues. In fact, while you are talking about relationship fears and likely have some fear triggered, it will be unproductive to try and deal with other relationship issues.

To help keep you on track and to be confident your feelings won’t spin out of control in these conversations, it might be helpful to set some boundaries around your conversation. Say you will put a time limit on how long you will talk about a particular fear, maybe ten minutes, maybe thirty, depending on your tolerance. Don’t feel like you have to figure everything out all at once, or even that you have to figure everything out at all. When it comes to fear you have about the relationship it is the sharing itself that will be most powerful.

Finally, keep it in mind that fear is a part of all relationships. Recognizing this and accepting it in your relationship will make it much easier to deal with. Fear needs to be seen as a natural process within relationships rather than something that indicates there are big problems. Fears should certainly be shared and addressed, but aren’t indications of dysfunction.