Do you sometimes doubt your love? Great, that means you have a functioning brain.
If you’re getting married, you have doubt. If you’re married already you have doubt. It’s okay. It’s inevitable. It’s part of being human.
It’s the shame you need to avoid. You can’t escape having doubts about whether you should be getting married, or whether your partner is the one. But the shame you feel about having those inevitable doubts is what will kill your relationship.
Doubt is there for a reason. It keeps you in action improving circumstances, and checking in with yourself. Introspection is a great strength. And joint introspection about your relationship with your partner leads to deeper intimacy. Shame and fear on the other hand, keep you from communicating, and lead to pent-up feelings and sudden outbursts. As Brené Brown famously said: “Shame—the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—breeds fear.” Which would you rather have in your relationship: intimacy or fear?
Essentially, doubt is just a feeling of uncertainty about the future. As such, it’s actually one of our most realistic, rational emotions, because one thing’s for sure: You can’t predict the future. Uncertainty is fundamental to the human experience.
Since everyone has uncertainty, there is no shame in it. But now comes the real challenge: sharing your inevitable uncertainties with your partner. If you’re like most people, you don’t want to share your doubts for fear of hurting your partner or ending the relationship. That’s a valid concern, and in fact it’s a good place to start the conversation.
But why bother? Because sharing relationship uncertainty is a critical part of being real and creating intimacy with your partner. One lesson I’ve learned over and over both as a divorce lawyer and while interviewing couples for The Together Show podcast is that creating authentic depth and trust in a relationship means complete communication. Successful couples trust that they can share anything that impacts the relationship without fear of being shamed, even the hard bits.
This is where communication dovetails with trust. The art of building trust is a long-term project, and has largely to do with layering positive experiences. You need to show over time that you can be counted on to hear and love your partner, even if it’s a tough subject.
Establishing those layers of trust and the creating the intimacy that comes with the process is the key to managing doubt. Your doubts are inevitable and healthy—acknowledge that fact to head off the shame. Then share your truth to develop depth.
Erik Newton is the founder of Together.