The Hidden Fear:

You’ll be abandoned or betrayed by someone you love at some point

What it looks like in relationships:

Your husband is running late from work. He usually calls to give you a heads up, but you haven’t heard from him. You try calling him but his phone goes straight to voicemail. You start running different scenarios in your head. Maybe he’s been in an accident. Maybe he’s stuck in an unplanned meeting. Or maybe, he’s having an affair with that new assistant he’s been raving about. Of all of these scenarios, you seem convinced that the last one is the most likely. So, you begin plotting your exit strategy because, after all, you knew he would let you down eventually. Your bags are figuratively packed and you’ve rehearsed exactly what you’ll say once he gets home. Almost an hour past his expected arrival time, your husband pulls into the driveway. After walking through the front door, he quickly greets you with a tender kiss and says, “I’m so sorry I’m late, babe! My phone died and I left my charging cord on the counter this morning.” As he follows you into the kitchen, you see his charging cord lying next to the coffee pot. You suddenly feel silly and ashamed for assuming the worst about your husband who has never shown any signs of transgression. And yet still, even with this relief comes a sense of disappointment that you were wrong.

How this habit serves you:

Spontaneous, versatile and always eager to engage in new experiences, you delight others with your lively, creative and imaginative stories. You value loyalty and the freedom to be yourself in relationships. As such, you are kind, considerate and very accepting of others and often overly generous with your affection, time and support. Your strategic thinking and ability to anticipate all possible outcomes makes you the perfect sounding board for those who are considering bold moves or big life changes. Your free spirited nature and sense of adventure are admired among your family members, friends and coworkers.

How this habit hinders you:

Always waiting for the other shoe to drop, it’s not a matter of if you’ll be let down by others but when. Instead of working through disagreements, hurts, conflict or dis-ease within a relationship, you leave first (figuratively or literally) or self-sabotage relationships to protect yourself from what will be the inevitable pain and disappointment you’ll experience at some point.

Scanning your environment for danger, preparing for worst case scenarios and always having an exit strategy in place develop early in life, especially if you grew up in a home that didn’t feel safe, stable or secure or you witnessed pain in your parents’ relationship. This habit may also develop later in life after a series of significant losses or bad relationships where you felt deeply betrayed.

Fearful of being hurt, you may subconsciously believe that it’s not safe to fully commit or go “all in” in a relationship. Having an escape plan in place gives you a sense of “security” (albeit a false sense) so you don’t get hurt. However, by always having one foot out the door, you create the very pain you are trying to avoid. While building walls around you does keep pain at bay, it also keeps out all the emotions you want to feel in a relationship like trust, devotion, love, and security.

What this habit can teach you about yourself:

Yes, it’s good to be prepared and anticipate when you can. However, if you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop or assuming the worst about others, you are likely to encounter it – either by accident or through self-creation. Relationships, especially intimate ones, trigger your deepest fears and wounds so you can recognize them and heal them. It’s uncomfortable for anyone to share their insecurities, doubts, and vulnerable emotions and yet, these are the very moments that cultivate security, trust and loyalty in relationships.

Deeper Discovery Questions:

  • Do you have a history of sabotaging relationships?
  • Do you often feel trapped or restricted in intimate relationships?
  • Do you often prepare for worst case scenarios?
  • Are you always expecting something bad to happen?
  • Do you question or doubt other people’s intentions?

Self-Guided Exercise:

When you catch yourself assuming the worst or planning your exit strategy, try journaling about what happened and the emotions that arose as a result. When you have more clarity and a little space between the event and your initial reaction, share what you discovered with your partner. This exercise helps you uncover unhealthy beliefs that are no longer supporting you in having the type of relationships you want.