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How A Fear Of Rejection Damages Relationships

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How A Fear Of Rejection Damages Relationships

The fear of rejection and fear of engulfment cycle

Should you leave a relationship that is stuck in a negative cycle?

It is quite common for me to work with clients who are stuck in a dysfunctional relationship cycle. Sarah describes a common cycle that she wants to resolve:

“I am stuck in a two year uncommitted relationship. When he fears he is losing me that’s when he is on his best behavior and does anything he can to win me back (which doesn’t require much). Once he gets me he pulls back. Then I become needy. Then I pull back and the cycle begins again. I would like to experiment with creating a higher standard to win me back and see what happens. I am eager to get married and have children. Is this a waste of time?”

Sarah, I will answer your last question first: “Is this a waste of time?” Well, yes and no. Here’s why.

It is a waste of time to move on, because you are as much a part of this stuck relationship cycle as your boyfriend. If you move on without learning about and healing your end of this system, you run the risk of creating the same or a similar system in your next relationship. This is because this system is based on two fears that you will take with you: The fear of rejection and the fear of engulfment. Both you and your boyfriend are likely operating from these two fears, although your primary fear seems to be the fear of rejection, and his primary fear is the fear of engulfment. I will show you how I know this from your question.

“When he fears he is losing me that’s when he is on his best behavior and does anything he can to win me back (which doesn’t require much).”

When his fear of engulfment is diminished due to you pulling away, he goes into his best behavior to win you back. Your fear of rejection leads you back into the relationship. Neither of you are operating as a loving inner adult – who knows how to manage rejection without giving yourself up.

“Once he gets me he pulls back. Then I become needy.” He pulls back because of his fear of engulfment, which gets triggered as soon as he is back in the relationship. Then your fear of rejection is triggered and you get needy – which further triggers his fear of engulfment. He doesn’t want responsibility for your worth and safety, and he doesn’t have a loving adult self who knows how to set limits against being controlled by your neediness, so he pulls back even further to protect himself from your pull on him.

Instead of taking care of your own feelings when he withdraws, you abandon yourself, which is what creates your neediness. You are actually rejecting yourself rather than learning to love yourself.

“Then I pull back and the cycle begins again.” Your fear of rejection leads to you pulling back rather than to taking loving care of your own feelings of worth and security.

“I would like to experiment with creating a higher standard to win me back and see what happens.” This will do no good at all. He will certainly try harder because his fear of rejection will be motivating him, but without both of you doing the Inner Bonding work of creating a loving adult so that you can manage your fears, rather than continue to pull and resist, the same system will continue.

When you do your inner work to develop a loving adult self, then you will not become needy in the face of his pulling back. Instead, you will move into compassion for your own feelings. If he also does his inner work, then he will lovingly show up for himself when his fears of rejection or engulfment are triggered, rather than pull away.

So the answer to “Is this a waste of time?” is that continuing this same system is a waste of time, but staying in the relationship and learning to take loving care of yourself in the face of whatever he does is not a waste of time. Even if the relationship ultimately doesn’t work out, you will have learned a lot that may enable you to move on to a more loving relationship.

[Margaret Paul Relationship Toolbox]

 

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CO-CREATOR OF INNER BONDING Dr. Paul is the author/co-author of several best-selling books, including Do I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By You?, Inner Bonding, Healing Your Aloneness, The Healing Your Aloneness Workbook, Do I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By My Kids?, and Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God? Dr. Paul's books have been distributed around the world and have been translated into eleven languages. Margaret holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is a relationship expert, noted public speaker, workshop leader, educator, chaplain, consultant and artist. She has appeared on many radio and TV shows, including the Oprah show. She has successfully worked with thousands of individuals, couples and business relationships and taught classes and seminars since 1967. Margaret continues to work with individuals and couples throughout the world -- mostly on the phone. She is able to access spiritual Guidance during her sessions, which enables her to work with people wherever they are in the world. Her current passion is working on and developing content for this Website, as well as distributing SelfQuest®, the software program that teaches Inner Bonding® and is donated to prisons and schools, as well as sold to the general public. Margaret is passionate about helping people rapidly heal the root cause of their pain and learn the path to joy and loving relationships. In her spare time, Margaret loves to paint, make pottery, take photos, watch birds, read, ride horses, and spend time with her grandchildren.

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