• Ma'ayan Greenbaum

The reason you’re afraid to bring things up with your partner

You may have heard me say recently that up to 75% of my clients have experienced some form of anxiety about speaking up when they’re upset in their marriages.


Maybe you really identify with the powerful unconscious fear that goes something like this (once distilled into its simplest form):


“If I speak my truth, my partner might abandon me and I’ll be left alone with my suffering.”


Have you ever felt the pang of of any of these crippling fears bubble up during a dark moment in your relationship?

  1. If my partner disapproves of me, he/she will abandon me.

  2. If my partner rejects me, I (or we) won’t be able to recover.

  3. Asserting myself might backfire & destroy everything that’s good between us

If these worries are reminiscent of the heart-contracting, vigilance-raising reactions you experience in your relationship, there are good reasons why they probably feel threatening and are all too familiar.


I want to break this down further, so that next time you begin to feel the terror of these feelings you’re in a position to recognize, lovingly witness and understand them better.


As children, our physical and psychological survival depended on our ability to remain connected to our caregivers. For some children this required stifling, diminishing, or denying their own needs:

  • to keep an ANXIOUS PARENT from becoming overwhelmed

  • to keep a parent who is QUICK TO ANGER from becoming reactive or unpredictable

  • to manage the child’s disappointment or frustration with a DEPRESSED PARENT who may have struggled to be responsive to the child’s needs

As human beings, we reflexively assume that what we needed to do to keep a parent close is what we’ll need to keep doing in order to stay connected to our adult intimate partner as well.


Unfortunately, for many adult partners this means stifling, disavowing or silently enduring their own upsets - resulting in disappointment, resentments, anger and hurt accumulating inside ALONGSIDE disconnection or loneliness in their marriages.


Can you relate?


How have your childhood experiences impacted your assumptions about how safe it is to feel your feelings, to be angry, or to talk about your disappointments or upsets?


How might these old relationship blueprints be keeping you from sharing more of yourself authentically and vulnerably with your partner today?


What do you need in order to comfort your inner child and reassure him or her that your present relationship can handle big scary feelings?

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Dr. Ma’ayan Greenbaum is a NJ and NY licensed clinical psychologist. Her psychotherapy practice in Livingston, NJ is dedicated to working within the interfacing spheres of relationships, sexuality, fertility and parenthood.

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