It feels sometimes as though new relationships are where the most difficult feelings come up.
You know the other person well enough to really care, but you haven’t yet built a foundation of trust that allows you to feel really secure in the relationship.
Perhaps you find yourself anxiously waiting for them to return your messages, wanting to know when you’ll see each other next, preoccupied with wondering where they are and what they’re doing.
Or maybe you experience what feels like a physical barrier, or wall between you and the other person. You long for closeness and contact, but something stops you from really allowing them in and telling them how much you enjoy their company, inviting them to meet your friends, or even returning their messages.
Both of these responses come from an underlying feeling of not being safe within this new relationship. Whether the precise fear is of them abandoning you, betraying you, or of losing yourself, some part of you is protecting yourself from feeling that fear – by limiting the kind of connection you are having.
If you have an anxious attachment style
If you identify with the more anxious approach, then it’s likely that a lot of your energy and focus is on the other person. Perhaps you can recognise some people-pleasing tendencies, or patterns of resentment showing up when your needs aren’t met (because you find it hard to clearly ask for them in the first place).
The antidote to this is to bring some of that energy back to yourself. Nurture your connection with yourself, your own desires and needs, both within the relationship and on your own. This is particularly true if you notice you have a pattern of abandoning your own hobbies and friends when you enter a relationship! Spending some time reminding yourself of all the important things you have in your life can be a great exercise to try, whether you do this via journaling or another method.
What brings you most joy in your life?
If you had a whole day to yourself, how would you most like to spend it?
What need(s) is your relationship filling, and can you fill any of those needs on your own or with friends?
The benefit of this exercise is in the reminder that you are already a whole, complete person, you can take care of yourself, and you already have a life with things that bring you joy – so you’re not dependent on the other person to provide these things for you.
If you have an avoidant attachment style
If you identify more with the other side, with having a barrier that stops you from really letting the other person in, then there’s a different approach you can try.
Here, it’s likely that sharing more of your life with them feels really vulnerable. It’s easier for you to keep them at arm’s length and pay the price of a diminished connection, than it is for you to share more of yourself with them and feel the fear of either losing the other person, or losing yourself.
The antidote here is to share that vulnerability with them.
This doesn’t require any other action, or change in behaviour – simply getting really well acquainted with your fear, so that you can share it. It’s an awesome opportunity to grow intimacy without having to actually face those fears yet.
This might sound like,
“I’m noticing that we’re spending more time together lately and it feels really vulnerable for me. I have a fear that I’ll lose myself in new relationships / that if I get close, the other person will disappear.”
Sharing and naming these things can be a great first step to removing their power, and letting the other person know what’s going on allows you to come up with creative ways that you can create more safety for you both, together.
It can be so easy to minimise what we want, think, or need. “I just feel that…” or “I think I’d like to…” instead of “I think” or “I want.” Not wanting to admit or commit means our words come out fuzzy, and we have a get-out clause; we were never that bothered anyway, we weren’t completely sure.
We fail to find the confidence to say what’s really going on, to be direct in saying what’s really true in a way that shows we also know ourselves.
This lack of confidence shows up in other forms too.
“This always happens,” or “I never do that” seem like the opposite on the surface, an over-confident sureness in our conclusion. But this is coming from a similar place: wanting to find a way out, an excuse or reason not to be who we truly are. Not to be occasionally wrong or inconsistent.
In both cases we’re lazily using language to hide behind, as way to cover our tracks and avoid being caught out. Either by never fully committing to a position in the first place, or by preventing us from seeing alternatives: only ever allowing one possibility, in case different outcomes mean failure or change.
Noticing both of these habits – and especially if they’re habits – can be a first step towards finding the places where we don’t feel confident in showing ourselves.
Beginning to change these language patterns can have a real impact on our thoughts and perceptions, and allow us to communicate with more confidence – both in our convictions and our fallibility.