I have a client who finally got out of a bad marriage after years of unhappiness and abuse. It wasn't long before she met a guy with whom she fell in love. Things between them took off. To me, it seemed that this positive relationship started to balance off some of the negativity of her marriage. As her therapist, I was very happy about how her life had turned around.
However, she became less optimistic the longer they were together. Her response to Mr. Right wasn't right. It wasn't what I thought would have been. I finally asked her why she seemed so apprehensive. After trying to find the right words, she blurted out, "Yes, it's a good relationship, but I'm afraid that he'll leave me." Her fear went to the core of her being, and terror seized both her heart and head. Her apprehension wasn't allowing her to invest further in the relationship out of fear that he would desert her.
I raised my concern that her fear would soon become a self-fulfilling prophecy and showed her what could happen. If she continued to back off out of fear that he'd leave, he would sense something wasn't right. In turn, he might translate her reserve as she was no longer in love with him. Then he would start to back off not wanting to be hurt himself. Next, she would pick up on his reservation and would back off even farther. On and on would this disastrous dance go until they would finally split up. She would then come to see me and say that her worst fears had been realized.
My client could see what she was doing and asked how to avoid making her worst fears become an unwanted reality. My suggestion was to imagine the worst possible scenario. She said that his leaving her would be the worst thing that could happen. Then I asked what would be the best outcome? She said that living happily-ever-after would be the best result. Then I asked her, if the negative self-fulfilling prophecy works negatively, why wouldn't a positive self-fulfilling prophecy work equally well? I reminded her what Henry Ford said about determining the future: "You can believe you can or you can believe you can't, either way you will be correct."
In addition, even if the relationship has a possible fatal flaw that may in time cause them to split up, why not enjoy the time they have together? Besides, if their relationship continues for the rest of their lives, imagine the needless hours of fear and doubt that she endured. She would have painted a portrait of their relationship with the pigments of panic and would have ruined a pretty picture. Therefore, my client needs to assume the best and approach their friendship with a positive mental attitude.
What is true about relationships is also true about all other aspects of life. Even if you aren't obsessing about someone leaving, you and I need to take a positive attitude about life and expect the best. We don't know what will work in our lives and what won't. Therefore, live life with the three Bs.
We don't know what life holds for any of us. Will my client's relationship be a long term and happy one or not? We don't know. Nor do we know how each of us will fare dealing with our doubts and fears. However, our lives will be substantially happier and positive if we follow these suggestions.