I’m a firm believer in trusting my gut, but that hasn't always been the case. I used to overthink everything. At the time, I didn't have the confidence to trust my own instincts and it got me into trouble on more than one occasion. There were a handful of times when I was paranoid about my partner cheating, but I got so caught up in my own head that I just ended up frozen in indecision on what to do about it. I wasted a lot of time that way. It was a tough lesson, but eventually I learned it.
The truth is, your gut is a useful tool because it's an excellent early warning detector that things might be off in your relationship. The only problem is that it can also be an unreliable narrator, as Kerri-Anne Brown, a licensed mental health counselor and founder of Healing with Wisdom, tells Elite Daily. “Sometimes your gut can be reliable but not always. Things are not always as they appear, so in instances when you’re feeling doubtful, it’s important to communicate clearly the concerns you have and why you're having them,” says Brown. In other words, instinct isn't always great about nuance, so while trusting your gut is usually a good idea, you still might need to temper it with some thought. When you start to feel that creeping paranoia that your SO may be cheating, it's important to take a beat and consider if there any extenuating circumstances that may be making you feel like not all is well in your romance, but don’t necessarily add up to cheating.
Here are five things the experts say may be the cause of your relationship anxiety.
1. You're Feeling Insecure In General
Has something happened in your life recently that may be affecting your confidence? “Insecurity can definitely be a cause of paranoia,” confirms Brown.
Relationship expert Susan Winter explains that change can be scary, and has the potential to throw off your sense of security and make you feel like you’ve lost some control of your life. This can be anything from health issues, to losing a job or a loved one. “Any of these factors can reduce your sense of inner stability. That can affect your overall confidence in a relationship,” says Winter.
2. You Were Cheated On In the Past
Was a past partner unfaithful? If so, what you’re feeling may actually be projection — especially if your last partner’s infidelity caught you off guard. Past betrayals can be a huge source of anxiety in your current relationship, says Brown, as being blindsided like that can really put a dent in your confidence and make everything your new partner does seem suspicious. “A person can have difficulty trusting their partner, even when there’s been no indication of a trust violation, because of experiences in past relationships. Interpersonal trauma, like experiencing infidelity, can have a lasting impact for many people,” she explains.
Celebrity matchmaker Alessandra Conti agrees. “When someone has been cheated on before, they kind of develop a bit of a PTSD where they are hypersensitive to being cheated on again because it was such a painful experience,” says Conti. “Your partner may be displaying perfectly normal behavior, but if you've been cheated on previously, you may take those actions as red flags.”
3. You’re In A Sudden Sex Drought
When you first started seeing each other, chances are you probably couldn’t keep your pants on. And while everyone says it’s normal for that desire to slow down over time, you just can’t help but feel like it might mean they're looking for sex elsewhere.
Dating coach and relationship expert Nora Dekeyser says that, despite feeling like a slow down in the bedroom must be a sign your partner's being unfaithful, it “is rarely the case. It's normally just due to a busy life,” she tells Elite Daily.
If you want things to pick back up, it's totally possible to make that happen. “Don't always expect your partner to initiate. You can always initiate!" says Dekeyser.
4. You’re Spending More Time Apart
Has your partner gotten really busy with work or school, or had to do some traveling that put some miles between you? If so, that distance you feel from one another may literally just be physical distance.
No one could blame you for feeling like you’re disconnected when you can’t actually connect with one another, and if this is the cause of your anxiety, then Dekeyser suggests seeing if there's something you can do about it. She suggests looking into working remotely and making it “a work vacation trip for both of you." If that’s not possible, just work to make the time you are together quality time.
5. Your SO Has Become Distant
Feeling your partner pull away can be scary. Why, when you used to be so close and spend all your time together, are they suddenly pushing away? Of course your mind goes to cheating, who’s wouldn’t? But here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to. Needing a little more personal space is not a sign that someone isn’t still in love with you. “Not everyone wants to be in constant communication. There are many men and women who just need more time to themselves to unwind after a long work day,” says Conti.
If you're still unsure, every expert I spoke with gave me the same advice: Talk to your partner about what you’re feeling. Brown warns that if you don't, you may make incorrect assumptions and jump to the wrong conclusions. “When we don’t have all the information, we often tell ourselves stories to understand and make sense of things. This is problematic because the stories we tell ourselves aren’t always accurate,” she says.
“Before you assume, get your facts,” advises Winter. “Do you have any conclusive evidence that your partner is cheating? Are you watching patterns of behavior you recognize as red flags? If so, be brave. Ask your partner directly,” she says.
Ideally, having the conversation will actually put you at ease, but even if it does confirm your fears were valid, it can still ultimately be positive, says Brown. “While it may be painful to hear the truth, you’d rather know. The knowing is what can allow for repair and growth should you decide to stay in the relationship and rebuild with your partner. Even if you decide to end things, you’ll likely feel empowered in making a decision that you felt was best for you and not be in the dark,” Brown concludes.
In other words, depending on how the insight above applies to you, you may want to check in with your gut again. If it still sounds the alarm, it could be time to heed it and start considering your next steps.
This post was originally published on Oct. 25, 2017. It was updated on Aug. 9, 2019. Additional reporting by Rachel Shatto.
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