By the time I was 20, I  had understood that there was more to love than meets the eye. While falling in love was easy,  staying there and making it work proved elusive. 

While my relationships started well, they soon became challenging in ways too familiar. They went from a sense of joy to increasingly difficult emotional alignment, and I felt like my partner, and I was on the same dynamic page. Our interactions were often tense, and conflict seemed just around the corner. Things kept falling apart, and I asked myself, what am I doing wrong? Is there something wrong deep inside me? 

In my work as a psychologist, I see clients every day who also have problems. They describe relationships marked by struggles, animosity, conflict, or insecurities that have become callous or distant. 

Though they've tried many times to fix things, they just can't move to a better place in my years of studying psychology; I have come to understand that while our specific relationship problems are different, the underlying problem for most of us is our fear of being emotionally present and authentic in our relationships. We are afraid of our feelings. 

But why? 

Attachment science explains how early childhood experiences with our caregivers shape our emotional development. When our caregivers are emotionally open and trusting, we learn to be expressive and connected to others, critical to relationships. 

But some of us have had significant others who responded negatively to our emotional needs. Maybe they got frustrated when we were scared and needed comfort; perhaps they pulled away instead of reassuring us when we were hurt or scolded us when we stood our ground. 

While they were probably doing their best, their reactions taught us lessons that became part of our dynamic programming. We have learned that expressing our feelings is dangerous, that it causes problems, and that we can be rejected or abandoned. As a result, we avoid opening up to close people or holding back certain feelings for fear of separation.

Sound familiar? 

Do you find repeating patterns that aren't helpful? Are you afraid to open up to your partners? Do you become defensive or angry when tension or conflict arises? Do you choose partners who also have difficulty being emotionally present or dealing with ailments healthily?

If you see this behaviour in yourself or your partner and have ever asked yourself, "Why can't I have a satisfying relationship?" you're lucky. With the right tools, you can overcome your fears and become better at creating and maintaining strong, healthy, and supportive romantic relationships. 

I am living proof.

 Based on my own personal work and my work with clients, I have developed a four-step approach to overcoming fear and creating a deeper connection with myself and others. If you typically shut down, hit out, or shut down when strong feelings arise in your relationship, developing emotional mindfulness skills can help you focus. Understand what you are feeling, better communicate what you need to your partner, and listen to their needs.

 Step One: Recognize and Name 

The first step is to learn to recognize where it is triggered. Practice noticing when you're feeling anxious or defensive and label it as such. Identify what is causing you.

Step Two: Stop, Drop, and Stay 

When we self-trigger, we feel there is no choice between solid feelings (like anger, rage, hate, or fear) and our response (screaming, becoming violent, shutting down). Or run away). But to understand what is happening, we must learn to stay with our emotional experience. Instead of reacting the way you usually do, stop. They may be hidden beneath your reactivity. Feel your feelings without having to do anything about them.

 Step 3: Stop and Reflect 

Then take some time to reflect on what your feelings are telling you. When you're angry, is there anything else?? Are you really hurt, disappointed, or afraid of losing connection with your partner? Get a sense of what your feelings tell you and what you want or need to do things better. 

Step 4: Consciously Share Your Feelings 

Try revealing something to your partner once you've gotten to the heart of your experience. If you can, calmly and respectfully let him know how you feel and what you want from him. Opening up in this new way will help you connect more constructively with one another. It can be scary, but the vulnerability actually allows the connection.

And by doing things differently, you find a way out of old patterns and create new ways of being in your relationship. As I worked to become more emotionally aware of my own life, things began to change for me. Finally, I met my husband, who accompanied me on this trip. Twenty-two years later, I can confidently say that it is possible to make love work.

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