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Fear and Relationships III  

One of the things that often comes up in couples/relationship counseling is the question about why people may act in those relationships in ways that they don’t act in any other relation-ships. Generally, the question is about the ways people act negatively with their partners. Acting differently in a positive way with partners than with most people feels right, the way things are supposed to be in an intimate relationship. It is the over the top anger and extreme negative feelings that feel crazy and out of place.

The simple answer to the question is that our primary intimate relation-ships are more important than any other relationships in our lives. They are where we get a sense of being loved, of being secure, and of being seen and supported in our identity. Because they are more important to us than most relationships, they tend to generate more powerful emotions than most relationships. And the experience of fear is almost always at the root of those extreme negative feelings that come out in intimate relationships.

One of the things that is true about people is that we seek and need connection with other people. We feel that most powerfully with our primary intimate partners. The fear that gets triggered often has to do with the possibility of losing that connection. Part of the trouble is we don’t really consciously think about these issues, they generally take place under the surface. We tend to have the idea that our intimate partners are the people who are most supposed to care about us, love us, and create our sense of connection. But we tend to feel that more than be aware of it cognitively. One consequence is that any interac-tion with our partners that tends to feel bad, like feeling disrespected, misunder-stood, or ignored, tends to hit us in a much more personal way. The fear is really about losing our sense of importance: if the person who is supposed to love us the most treats us this way, what does that say about us. Now, that last sentence isn’t very flattering, but at root it is often what is going on when we have extreme reactions to our partners.

There is another factor that often plays into the fear in relationships, one that is fanned by the values of our society. But it’s flip side is also one of the answers to this problem. I will address that more next month.

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