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Fear and Relationships V  

Last month I talked about the battle that goes on in all of us between being connected and being an individual and how the fear of losing our individual identity can cause fear in relation-ships. Just as common, perhaps more common, and just problematic, are fears about losing as the relationship itself. We are designed to have relationships and most of us feel a powerful desire to create a close intimate bond with someone else. When this happens it becomes very important and the prospect of losing that person, that relationship, or that connection can be terrifying.

You may be asking yourself why that last sentence seems a bit awkward and why I went and listed out person, relationship, and connection. The reason is that all of those things are very important and drive fear, but many people don’t think about all three of them and how they interact with each other. Of course if you lose the person, a spouse or partner, that is painful. And it is easy to see that losing the relationship, such as happens in divorce, is also a painful process. But what about the idea of connection? It is more subtle but probably drives a lot of the fear in relationships on a frequent basis.

I think of connection in an intimate relationship as the feeling of togetherness a couple has, or the individuals in the relationship have, when the relationship is clicking along well. It holds the essence of the relationship and is the key to what makes that relationship special compared to all others. It follows that all of the meaning you might attribute to your marriage or significant relationship, things like belonging, being loved, perhaps even being an OK person, get tied up with connection. When that connection feels threatened all of those other things feel threatened as well. When a relationship deteriorates to a place where one or the other, or both, of the partners don’t feel a solid baseline of connection at all times, any conflict can make it feel like all that goes away. It is the fear of that loss that drives so much of the anger and craziness that can come out in fights. The big problem is this further erodes the sense of connection so it can turn into a pretty rapid downward spiral. It is often the fear of broken connection that drives so much of the intensity in conflict between intimate partners.

Next month I will start looking at some specific strategies to try and manage fear adequately in relationships.

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