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How to Handle the Uncertainty that Comes with Relationships



Everything except this very moment is uncertain. For example, when you go to bed at night, you expect your car to be where you parked in the morning. In reality, you don’t know that it will be there until the morning comes and you find it in the same place. Most people don’t acknowledge all of the uncertainties that truly exist. If your car isn’t there in the morning, you deal with it then, rather than worrying all night about whether or not it will be there.


Relationships are also uncertain. You don’t know what will happen in a month, a year, or a decade. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. It can be difficult to feel the anxiety that comes with acknowledging the uncertainty in your relationship.


Usually, people cope with uncertainty by spinning story after story about what might happen. All of the stories tend to be negative, painful, worst case scenarios.


You may struggle to believe you are lovable and deserving of a secure, lasting relationship because of trauma and old wounds from your past. You may fear you are unworthy of being loved, and you may have a deep fear that everyone will disappoint you. Whatever the reason, being in a relationship that you constantly fear will end is extremely painful. You may be on high alert that you could get hurt, and you may spend a lot of time trying to know the future before it happens.


The desire to have certainty makes sense. You want to know if you’re going to be hurt. You want to feel prepared. The problem is, you can’t know the future before it happens no matter how much you think about it. Worrying, fantasizing, and making up stories about the future only make the present feel painful.


Since you can’t know what the future holds, it isn’t serving you to try to know it. You’re wasting a lot of head space and energy trying. Instead, you can learn how to be present in your life, trusting that the future will come and you’ll deal with whatever it holds when you get there. When you’re able to be present and tolerate the discomfort of uncertainty, you can show up in your relationship from a place of allowing, instead of controlling. Allowing means seeing where things go and how the future unfolds when you show up as you are. Being at peace in uncertainty doesn’t guarantee that things workout forever, but it gives the future a chance to emerge naturally. Trying to control the future eliminates the chance for things to grow.

The following tips will help you handle uncertainty in a way that feels better and helps you let go of control, so you can enjoy your life and your relationship and see where things go:


  1. Notice that you are struggling with uncertainty. You may notice that you’re overthinking, analyzing, or imagining the future and trying to know what’s going to happen. You may notice that your breathing is shallow, or other sensations in your body. Awareness in the moment is key.

  2. Surrender. Surrender to the fact that you don't actually know what's going to happen, what your partner is thinking, or what they meant by the way they looked at you the other day. Whatever the uncertainty is, you just don't know. No matter how much you think about it, and how much you analyze it and how much you imagine it, you are still not going to know. All that is going to happen if you keep doing that is you’re going to keep stressing yourself out and keep being in a place of uncertainty. Instead, surrender to the fact that you don't know and you can't know, so there is no point in continuing to try.

  3. Remind yourself that when you can know, you will know, and you’ll deal with whatever it is. Give yourself a pep talk and remind yourself that it’s ok not to know more than you do right now.

  4. Breathe. Imagine letting your worries, analysis, and fantasies fall away.

  5. Shift your attention to something else. Think about something interesting, do a task that requires your concentration. Contact a friend and get connected. These are all ways of getting present.


Make sure that you practice your deep breathing to tend to your nervous system regularly. All that worrying and overthinking exacerbates anxiety and leads to dysregulation. Breathing exercises and supportive self-talk will help you get regulated and be more present.


This blog was originally published by Caitlin on Psychology Today.



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