“Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.”
~ Nat Turner
The way our past relationships went affects the relationship we are trying to build. If you are in a relationship with someone who is afraid of getting hurt, chances are, it happened to them in the past.
So even if they love you, they might be worried about committing or trusting you fully, not because of you, but because of their experiences.
If you find yourself with someone who is worried about getting hurt, here are a few things you can do.
1. Be honest with them and learn about their experience.
Honest conversations are the backbone of a fulfilling relationship. Talk to your partner about the relationship you have and what you would like it to be like, check if you are on the same page about it, think about how you can achieve what you want together.
By being open and learning more about their experiences you will show genuine interest and will gain a better understanding of what they went through and how it still affects them. This can give you both an opportunity to create a plan of how to deal with the issues in your relationship.
2. Try to be patient.
It will take time for your partner to feel like they can fully trust you and not be afraid of getting hurt. Give them space and time and try to be patient when something triggers them and they pull away.
3. Establish boundaries.
It’s important to understand what is acceptable for you in any relationship. For example, if your partner was previously in a relationship with someone who cheated on them, they might want to know where you are all the time and who you spend time with when you are not with them. This kind of control is understandable reaction to being cheated on, but it does not make it ok.
Ultimately, it is up to your partner to work through their issues. You can offer support and empathy, but you cannot solve their problems for them. Which brings me to my last point.
4. You decide if it’s worth it.
Depending on how serious the situation is, it can be a lot of work to be with someone who is not sure they can commit and trust you. So you have to decide whether this particular relationship is worth the work you’ll be putting in. It’s normal to get frustrated, but if it takes too much out of you, it might be damaging to your wellbeing.
A relationship with a partner who is afraid of getting hurt can be tough at times, so don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Mariia Bondarenko, MA – www.mbpsych.com
If you know your partner loves you, but he seems afraid of getting hurt in your relationship, it can feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back.
If this is the case in your relationship, it’s important to understand why your partner is cautious.
- How was he hurt? Was he cheated on or left unexpectedly by a previous partner?
- Has he had other close relationships (family included) in which he was wounded emotionally, neglected, abused, etc.?
Knowing more about how he was hurt will not only help you empathize with his painful past, but it can help you learn how to reassure him in a more specific way.
You may need to reassure him (with words and actions) that you love him and prove that you are different from previous people who have hurt him.
It is also important to be an emotionally safe, secure partner for him.
Here are some ways to do this:
- Show consistent, trustworthy behavior. Do what you say you’re going to do, communicate regularly and respectfully, be open and honest about your feelings and intentions, show him respect and empathy, and take accountability if you upset him.
- Keep in mind that his fear of getting hurt may intensify after times you feel close as a couple—for example, after a romantic trip. It is common for people who are fearful of getting hurt to retreat a bit after feeling close because intensified feelings create an intensified fear of losing that bond.
- Try not to get angry or take his pulling away personally, because it will likely lead to him pulling away even more.
- Try simply asking him what he needs from you to help him feel less fearful. If he asks for a little bit of time or space to think about it, give it to him. Though you will probably feel afraid to do so, it will help him get clear on why he enjoys having you in his life.
Ultimately, while it’s important to reflect on how your own behavior can allay your partner’s fears, HE will also need to work on confronting his fears in order to be the best partner he can be for YOU.
If you continue to show up as a trustworthy, secure partner and he doesn’t seem to be addressing his fears or allowing himself to get closer to you, you may need to evaluate whether you are getting your own needs met in the relationship.
He may need to work with a therapist to confront deeper fears and decide whether he can commit to you at this time. You may also benefit from getting support from a professional.
Jennifer Meyer, M.A., LPC, NCC – www.jenmeyercounseling.com
Being in an intimate relationship involves the full spectrum of emotions, from joy to sadness.
If you are with someone who loves you but is reluctant to move the relationship forward out of fear of getting hurt, ask yourself what this tells you about him.
As long as you conduct yourself with dignity, integrity, honesty, and respect, you are not responsible for managing his issues.
It is his responsibility to deal with his own fears.
- Is he someone who is afraid of life in general and lives life on the sidelines?
- Ask yourself if this is the type of person that you choose for yourself.
- Has he been hurt in the past, and is reluctant to risk again in another relationship?
If so, he may not be ready for an intimate relationship with you.
The readiness and timing of both people is an important component in compatibility.
You cannot make someone be ready for something that they are not ready for. It is usually counterproductive to try to force something when the timing doesn’t line up or that is not meant to be.
Sometimes two people could be wonderful together in a partnership , but there are various factors that do not line up.
If he needs more time to heal from past experiences in his life, give him all the time you can, but then go on with your life when you feel like you have nothing more to give.
Remember that it is a big world out there, there are lots of people, and the right person will want you more than his fear.
Anita Gadhia-Smith, PsyD, LCSW-C, LICSW – www.drgadhiasmith.com
Many people come into relationships with a history of trauma either in past romantic relationships or from other experiences. It can be very scary to enter into a relationship again out of fear that history will repeat itself or that the end result will be heartbreak.
The expression “with great risk comes great reward” applies when it comes to relationships.
It takes risk to fully invest in someone and have faith that the relationship can go the distance. If your partner is saying that he’s afraid of getting hurt again, here are some tips:
1. Encourage him to get into therapy if he’s not already doing it
Therapy can be hugely helpful in exploring where our hurts come from and processing how our past affects our present. A therapist can also help with giving new coping skills for when fears do arise to overcome them. If he doesn’t want to go, don’t push too hard. At least you’ve planted the seed and shared the idea.
2. Don’t tell him his fears are wrong
You may know that you’re not going to break his heart, but he doesn’t know that. While it can be all too tempting to say things like, “I’m not going anywhere, you can trust me” and “I’m different from your ex”, these things won’t necessarily calm your partner’s worries.
In fact, they can make it worse in some cases if he’s heard things like this in the past from people who did hurt him. Instead, listen to his fears and be fully present.
Say things instead like, “I can understand why you feel the way you do because of what happened” or “It’s okay to be scared, you’ve been through a lot.”
3. Actions speak louder than words
If you’re with someone who has a bad relationship history or has experienced trauma, showing up consistently is super important.
Text/call him back as promptly as you can, remember plans and do your best to show up on time, and show as much physical affection as he is comfortable with (sometimes a hug says more than words can).
Be patient and recognize that he may move slower than other guys you’ve been with before. Hopefully with time, he will start to feel more comfortable and trusting.
Michelle Henderson, MA, LMHC – www.nextchapter-counseling.com
Most of us have had the experience of having our heart broken by someone else. We found someone we cared about or even loved, then they left us all alone.
This situation is quite common for both men and women.
After this happens, people may think, “I won’t open myself up to be hurt again.” If this is what he is thinking, his subconscious mind is working to protect him.
There are things that can help you to understand why he feels the way that he does.
If he protects his heart by not fully stepping into your relationship, he may not be able to see that he isn’t able to fully enjoy the relationship either. Although this is helpful for you to know, it won’t help you in convincing him to fully commit.
The best thing that you can do is accept him for who he is and the emotional state that he is experiencing.
Here’s the question: Does he treat you well?
If not, it may be time to do some soul searching about your reasons for being in the relationship.
If he does treat you well, it might just be worth continuing with your relationship in order to show him in time that you are trustworthy and that he can allow himself to open up without fear of being hurt.
Finally, you hear it all the time: Communication is what makes relationships work.
So, talk to him. Ask questions without expectations of certain responses. Come from a place of curiosity in order to understand him.
When we feel understood and seen, we feel safe to open up and take risks.
Emily Garcia, LCSW, CPT – www.tribemindbody.com
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