Instead — Look for the Good
If you’ve read anything I have written, it is probably fairly clear I border on an anxious attachment style. I question everything and I hear a whole breakup monologue in any silence I receive from my partner. It’s hard work being so darn anxious all the time! But it is harder work to try and break away from it.
However, I have realized that trust is the biggest reason why I have doubts and why I don’t have doubts when I am in relationships. I have a horrible habit of expecting the worst which inevitably means the worst is likely to happen. But I don’t want the worst to happen. And if you are like me, you probably don’t want it o happen either. So here is how I have (actively working) broken this anxious cycle I am in.
Realize you are the only one thinking this way
Unless you are dating someone that is a proven player, your partner likely isn’t playing games. So every time your anxious heart is telling you that they are getting ready to dump you, or cheat on you, or forget about you — they most likely aren’t actually thinking those things. Only YOU are thinking those things. All the stress you feel about them not responding to your text for four hours or the times you panicked because they didn’t answer your call — that is all you. It can be hard to realize that the actual problem is us, I understand. But ever since I realized that the issue was me, I have felt much more at ease.
The even better part is that I have begun to learn to identify those anxious thoughts so I can talk myself down before I get all riled up. I remind myself that if he isn’t calling or texting me, he’s likely just busy. And yes, maybe he is busy with someone else. Maybe he is talking to other people. However, I am not “other people”. I happen to be the girlfriend and that means when my partner is busy and talking to other people, I should realize he’s going to end his day with me. Because I am a person he wants to talk to — not someone he has to talk to. Which brings my next point.
Be the person your partner wants to talk to
My anxious attachment style causes me to feel like when my partner isn’t responding to me, I am being ignored or forgotten. Well, you know what? My partner is absolutely ignoring me. And you know what? That’s not a bad thing.
When we require our partner to respond to our every text or call immediately, not only are we telling them we don’t value their time, but we are creating an environment where our partner feels obligated to attend to us. I’ve never had a child, but I have been around enough children to know that when you’re watching one, you’re obligated to pay attention to them. At first it may be cute, but it can quickly become tedious and irritating. So, why do I want to act like a child with my partner? Why do I want to make them feel like they are obligated to pay attention to me? I don’t! I want my partner to talk to me, to turn to me, to confide in me because they feel like I am their person. I want my partner to do these things because he wants to, not because I have made him feel obligated to.
After all, I don’t want to feel obligated to respond to him immediately. Sometimes I want to continue with what I am doing before I respond or give him my attention. Because when I do give him my attention, I want to give him the attention he deserves. Not a tiny bit of attention because I am really paying more attention to the other thing I am doing. It’s a matter of respect.
Respect your partner
I am big on respect. I preach it to my partner and sometimes say I don’t feel respected… in hindsight, I realize I am wrong. My partner does respect me. Sometimes though, I disrespect him. When I am all riled up and anxious, it can be easy to burst into emotional monologues bringing up every single thing I’ve been feeling since my partner and I first met. He has never done this to me. Granted, he doesn’t talk about emotions very often — but still. I am spending both of our time complaining about perceived disrespect or shortcomings when in actuality, my issue is generally that he isn’t catering to my every whim. How is that fair?
Respect is a two way street and it is built when two people treat each other as they would want to be treated. I have to give my partner credit for putting up with my emotional tirades. He probably deserves a medal for it. He treats me with respect by letting me vent my feelings even though I am basically telling him he’s doing things wrong. Nobody wants to hear that. And when you respect someone, conversations about things that may be causing issues shouldn’t be one person telling the other person they are wrong. I have realized I am not respecting my boyfriend when I do this. I am not seeking improvement of the situation, I am simply being selfish and thinking only about myself. Instead, issues should be approached with respect for both parties’ time and energy and discussed in a calm manner.
Relationships take work, but they shouldn’t be work. The relationship is the car the two of you drive into the sunset in. Sometimes it will blow a tire, need an oil change, or maybe a new engine. But the bottom line is, we don’t look for issues in our car. We enjoy our car and all it enables us to do. We cruise up PCH or take a road trip to the desert. So why not enjoy the relationship as well? If all we do is look for issues with our car, we will always find them. Nothing is ever perfect. But if we enjoy the car and allow it to have issues naturally, we will find that we feel more and more trusting and confident as time passes — and really, isn’t that the best feeling?
Originally published here.