“Why am I doubting my relationship?”

• What causes feelings of doubt in a relationship? How much is normal and what can help control them?

Cameron Murphey, LMFT:

What causes feelings of doubt in a relationship?

It is normal to have feelings of doubt in a relationship. Common doubts include:

  • Do I really love my partner?
  • Does my partner really love me?
  • Am I with the right person?
  • Is this the right relationship for me?
  • Would I be happier if I were with someone else?

When people ask me what causes them to feel doubt in their relationship, they are usually trying to figure out if their doubt is grounded in reality or not. For example, if someone doubts whether they really love their partner, they want to find an answer to that question. The thing is, many different factors can cause people to feel doubt in a relationship. Sometimes those factors have to do with the relationship itself, such as a partner spending less time with you. Other times the factors are unrelated to the relationship at all, such as when someone is struggling with doubt in other areas of their life as well.

This is what is confusing: sometimes doubts are accurate, and other times they aren’t. Let’s say that everyday after leaving home, you doubt whether you locked the door. If you go back and check, sometimes you’ll find that you’d locked it, and other times you’ll find that you hadn’t.

So, if you have feelings of doubt in your relationship, the first thing to do is to pause. Don’t jump to conclusions. It’s going to take time for you to figure out if this doubt is valid or not.

In other words, it’s very hard to know right away what’s causing you to feel doubt about your relationship. It’s often only when you have some perspective that you can look back and understand why you had feelings of doubt.

How much is normal and what can help control them?

Everyone has doubts at one time or another about their relationship. Some people’s doubts might be brief, like a flicker or light, while other people’s doubts might come more frequently and last longer.

The best way to control your doubts is by not overreacting to them when you first notice them. Remember, it’s usually not until you have some space and time to look back on your doubt that you have the necessary perspective to make sense of it. But, if you overreact to any old doubt that passes through your mind, then you will make the feelings of doubt bigger than they would be otherwise. In therapy language, this is called “non-engagement”, meaning you keep yourself from engaging with the doubt. Treat it like a spam email in your inbox – you might notice it, but you don’t open it up and read through it.

That being said, if you found yourself plagued with doubts and feeling overwhelmed, you might really benefit from speaking with a therapist. There are useful and effective strategies that you can use to reduce your doubts and suffer less.

Individuals with histories of anxiety, worry, and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) especially deserve to have the support of a trained therapist.

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