The Ripples of Self-Doubt We Experience in Love
There I was, the day bright and beautiful, the sun shining down on my face, on my skin, and, for just a few moments, I thought to myself that this is the paradise of adulthood that I’d been waiting for. I’ve finally gotten my career going, my home is quaint and enjoyable, and of course, I have my other, my significant other, the person who completes me in the ways that I alone could not manage. But, if you’re anything like me, even the most perfect relationship wouldn’t be enough sometimes…but only sometimes.
I think we all know this feeling quite well.
Suddenly, I was beset by all of the haunting and gnawing questions that many of us face in love, even in the most perfect of situations and relationships, questions like, “Did I choose the right person for me? Will this thing actually work? Or am I wasting my time? Am I compatible with this person and are they compatible with me? Will I still be happy years down the road?”
One’s tempted to say that these questions are as universal as they are understandable. It doesn’t take long before we’re reflecting on our pasts, our relationship failures, all of the time wasted, the trauma endured, and more. Do you do this? Of course, you do, you’re a human being…and it’s both perfectly okay and perfectly natural if you do.
When love makes a splash, there’s almost a natural tendency for us to reach back to a time before the splash and sort of normalizing ourselves, when the crushing existential weight of the reality sinks in that we’re in it for the long haul in our relationships. These are the ripples felt long after the splash subsides. I think that we do this in part because of our own insecurities, questioning our self-worth, coming from a place of loving our partners so much that we question our ability to make them happy indefinitely. This is perfectly understandable, loving someone indefinitely is a massive commitment, one that we ought to be licensed to question sometimes…but it’s best when these questions remain in the realm of questions and not actions.
Have you ever been stuck in a ripple? When the gnawing feeling just won’t go away and you keep questioning and questioning, resurrecting the ripple over and over again in your mind, playing through the tape in your head of all the possible scenarios that could go wrong? Ever follow a ripple all the way until the conclusion of a relationship, one that you inevitably regretted concluding later? I certainly have and I’m here to say that this behavior oftentimes has less to do with our actual relationship and more to do with the general anxieties of life and relationships in general.
They're perfectly natural. Crystal Raypole says for Healthline:
Some people experience relationship anxiety during the start of a relationship before they know their partner has an equal interest in them. Or, they might be unsure if they even want a relationship. But these feelings can also come up in committed, long-term relationships.
Crystal goes on to tell us that there is a series of signs we can look for when it comes to relationship-anxiety. Do you find yourself constantly wondering if you're good enough for your partner? Do you feel like they may have had better partners in their past relationships? Do you sometimes wonder if they secretly want to break up with you? If so, you may be experiencing relationship anxiety.
And I'm here to remind you that the ripples are temporary and natural, and if they’re not, they’re usually signs of a much deeper problem within our relationships that need to be addressed. They aren’t definitive of our relationships and they speak much more to who we are as individuals capable of thinking and feeling multiple things at the same time. We’re human, we’re complex compositions of walking contradictions, in a very real way, and this is okay, as long as we try to keep it to a minimum. We’re allowed to question our relationships.
We’re allowed our moments of uncertainty and insecurity, but when they come, just remember that these ripples too shall pass. If we focus on what’s important, we can build wonderful lives with our partners. I’ve seen it and lived it first hand. I think way too many relationships end because these ripples end up becoming permanent, and every time they have for me, once I found myself single again, I realized that I threw away a perfectly good relationship for some ambiguous notion of perfection that simply doesn’t exist. Love is a perfect concatenation of imperfections and it always will be. We shouldn’t for a moment mistake this for an imperfect concatenation of perfections.
Relationships aren’t about being perfectly happy all the time; sometimes, the question is whether or not they are tolerable, because love is not the same as a convenience — and nobody said love was going to be easy. I know I’ve spent way too many wasted nights awake actively looking for things that I could become convinced were going to go wrong with my life, and my relationships were usually the first place I would start with my insecurities.
These ripples disturb the otherwise blessed calm of a passionate existence in a secure love, and by their very nature, stand as a testament to the very stillness and tranquility of our love, one which, when so still and serene, can be disrupted by the slightest wave of self-doubt which may plague us. But as always, given enough time, the self-doubt, the fear, the anxiety subsides if we can learn to allow it to.
Nothing we cherish comes without its share of doubt.
Ripples are nothing more than our self-doubt reminding us of the value of what we have by reminding us of our fear of losing it. Ripples are so much more than just natural doubt, they’re signs that what we have is truly amazing in our eyes and our hearts, something we wouldn’t want to part with, and this is one of the most understandable and least spoken of facets of love…doubt.
So, take your moments of doubt, but don’t forget to let them pass and return to your love realizing what you stand to lose, loving again with vigor and commitment, more than you ever had, and “give all to love; obey thy heart.”