Relationship anxiety or gut feeling - how can I tell the difference?

What's really behind your relationship worries - intuition or insecurity? Explore how past experiences shape your reactions and learn to distinguish between genuine gut feelings and anxiety-driven doubts.

Navigating the intricate maze of relationships can sometimes feel like being a detective in your own love story. You're constantly on the lookout for clues, trying to decipher if the butterflies in your stomach are signs of a budding romance or warnings of impending heartache. One of the most perplexing dilemmas is distinguishing between relationship anxiety and a gut feeling that something might be off. This is where understanding a bit of psychology, without getting too lost in the jargon, can be a game-changer. 

Understanding “schema chemistry”

First things first, what is schema chemistry? In the simplest terms, it's about the unconscious patterns and beliefs we carry into our relationships, formed from our past experiences. These schemas can influence who we're attracted to and how we behave in relationships, often without us even realising it. Think of it as the invisible strings that pull us toward certain people or behaviours, shaping our love life in ways we might not be fully aware of.

The magnetic pull of “schema chemistry”

Interestingly, schema chemistry often guides us toward situations that echo our deepest beliefs, even when those beliefs are tied to the things we fear most. It may seem counterintuitive, but this is actually our brain's way of protecting us. Our brain prioritises our survival over our happiness, operating on the principle that what has brought us this far has kept us alive.

For example:

The Abandonment Schema might make someone unconsciously choose partners who are emotionally unavailable or inconsistent, thereby reenacting the fear of abandonment they're already familiar with. The initial attraction to such partners can be intense, mistaken for a strong connection, when in reality, it's the schema chemistry at work, playing into our fears and expectations.

The Defectiveness Schema can drive individuals towards relationships where they feel constantly judged or criticised, reinforcing their belief in their own defectiveness. The mistaken belief that "this is what I deserve" can often be confused with the idea that there's a genuine bond, rooted in a deep understanding of each other's flaws.

The Mistrust Schema might lead someone to gravitate towards relationships filled with jealousy and suspicion. The intense emotions involved can feel like passion and connection, but in truth, they're manifestations of the schema, seeking out scenarios that 'prove' the person's deep-seated distrust is justified.

Relationship anxiety - the what and why

Relationship anxiety often stems from our deepest fears and insecurities about being unworthy of love, abandonment, or rejection. It's like having an alarm system that's too sensitive, going off at the slightest hint of trouble. This can make us question our partner's feelings, our own feelings, and the stability of the relationship, often without concrete reasons. It's important to recognise that relationship anxiety can be a reflection of our inner schemas at play, echoing past hurts or insecurities rather than our current reality.

Gut feeling - is it intuition or fear?

On the flip side, a gut feeling about your relationship might not be as baseless as it seems. It's that instinctive sense that something isn't quite right, even if everything looks perfect on the surface. Unlike relationship anxiety, which is fueled by fear and insecurity, a gut feeling can be a more grounded, albeit subtle, sense of discomfort or unease about a particular aspect of your relationship. It's your subconscious mind picking up on cues that your conscious mind hasn't fully processed yet.

How to tell the difference

Reflect on the source - Is your worry based on specific behaviours or situations, or is it more about your own fears and insecurities? If it's the former, you might be dealing with a gut feeling. If it's the latter, it could be relationship anxiety.

Look for patterns - Consider whether your feelings are isolated to this relationship or if you've felt this way in past relationships. Recurring fears and insecurities across different relationships might indicate underlying schemas at work.

Assess your reactions - Anxiety often leads to a heightened state of alertness, where you're constantly looking for signs of trouble, which can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. A gut feeling, however, is more about a consistent sense of discomfort that doesn't necessarily escalate in the absence of new information.

Seek clarity - Sometimes, talking things through with a trusted friend or a therapist can help you separate your anxieties from your instincts. They can offer a fresh perspective and help you see whether your feelings are more rooted in past experiences or the present situation.

Understanding the difference between relationship anxiety and a gut feeling is crucial for navigating your romantic life with more clarity. By acknowledging the role of schemas and schema chemistry, you can begin to unravel the complex web of emotions and reactions that define your love life. Remember, it's okay to seek help and talk about your feelings, as this journey of self-discovery is not only about understanding your relationships but also about understanding yourself.

Get our personalised Relationship Report to get an understanding of what’s holding you back in your love life.

Join the newsletter

We'll send a monthly roundup with all the latest content.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.