How to Deal With Uncertainty in a Relationship
Over the course of your romantic history, the advice you’ve received about what it means when you get mixed signals from a partner or potential love interest is likely, well, mixed. If you’re consistently having trouble determining whether or not bae is actively digging you, your mom may tell you to bail ASAP, while your bestie says that it sounds like things are simply staying interesting. Some people think that a little emotional game playing is part of the fun, while others won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.
A May 2018 article in PsyPost references a recent study from the University of Rochester and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel (to be published in the August 2018 issue of Computers in Human Behavior) that thoroughly examines these perplexing matters of uncertainty in relationships new and old. The key takeaway? The sense of “game playing” that often takes place when you can’t quite figure out if someone is into you is more commonly detrimental than beneficial to a relationship. In a controlled research scenario in which singles were placed in online IM conversations with prospective love interests, participants found potential relationship partners who seemed unsure about pursuing a relationship less desirable than relationship partners who more openly expressed their interest and attraction. “These findings demonstrate that people tend to experience less desire for, and avoid seeking out, partners who are likely to cause them pain,” according to the PsyPost article.
New York City-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson — who was not personally involved in the study — echoes these findings based on her own professional experience. “Uncertainty is a form of pain because it leads to anxiety,” she tells us. “It may also lead to one feeling they are never good enough.”
Even in more established relationships, uncertainty can have harmful effects. Two of the six segments of research focused on long-term partnerships and the impact that perceived ambiguity can have on day-to-day interactions in those scenarios. Over the course of 42 days, coupled participants were asked to rate how positively their partners had recently seemed to regard them and how certain they felt in their relationship, as well as how much sexual desire they were feeling for their partners. Not surprisingly — based on the results of the research, at least — participants who reported a clearer sense that their partners were holding them in a high regard felt more sure about their relationships and were more interested in getting busy with their S.O.
“One should not have anxiety in a relationship,” Hershenson says. “They should know where they stand and not always have to question things.”
If you worry that your significant other isn’t feeling as secure about your partnership as they should, there are specific habits you can implement to help clear things up and minimize the sense of game playing for optimal relationship satisfaction. Hershenson suggests the below methods to communicate the clarity of your feelings. (If you‘re the one in doubt about the relationship, consider subtly suggesting these to bae!).
- Call and text regularly. Your S.O. shouldn’t have to chase you down. Consistent check-ins — even the occasional “Hi! Just thinking of you!” — will go a long way toward helping your partner feel comfortable and sure of where things stand.
- Openly express interest in spending time together. Don’t let one date come to an end without putting the next one on the calendar! If you’re married or in a long-term relationship, you should still make a point of intentionally asking your partner to set time aside for QT.
- Share your feelings. Making yourself emotionally available to your significant other is a clear demonstration that you trust and care for them. If you’re feeling upset with your other half, explain why. If you’re head over heels for them, tell them enthusiastically! The more you can let your S.O. in, the healthier your dynamic will be.
- Include your S.O. in events with family and friends. Invite your partner to join you at family dinners and happy hours with your pals. As they begin to feel more included in other aspects of your life, they’ll feel more secure with you… and their own feelings will only continue to grow.
When you get mixed signals from a partner, does it make you feel intrigued or cautious? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photo via Getty)