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Uncertainty in a Relationship: What It Feels Like, Causes & 32 Ways to Fix It

Most people don’t like the feeling of uncertainty, especially when they’re in a relationship. So, if you’re feeling that way, here are some tips for you.

relationship uncertainty

Uncertainty could mean that you’re not sure where the relationship is going *or if there’s a relationship at all*. It could mean that you’re not sure if you really want the person you’re with to be your life partner, or if you just want casual companionship. 

It could also mean that a person loves you very much, but they are still married. Actually, if we allow ourselves to list down all the uncertainties that could possibly spring from relationships, we’d be writing a book thicker than the Bible.

[Read: Casual relationship – 80 casual dating tips and rules to not get hurt or attached]

What does relationship uncertainty mean? 

When you are uncertain about your relationship, that means that you have mixed feelings about it. 

One part of you might feel like the relationship is pretty good and you have a connection to your partner. But the other part of you might not be sure that they are really in love with you or want to be with you long-term. Or you might be the one feeling that way about them.

One or both of you is probably questioning whether the relationship is right for you or whether you are really happy.

You also might be worrying about where the relationship is going in the future. Will it last? Do you really care enough about each other?

Uncertainty can also be a form of insecurity about the relationship. It could be that you feel like your partner is going to cheat and/or break up with you. [Read: Should we break up? 35 signs it’s over and past the point of no return]

The uncertainty you feel can make you feel obsessive and cause you to overthink and analyze everything about your significant other. You think that doing this will give you more control over the relationship, but really it’s only causing it harm.

What causes uncertainty in relationships?

Uncertainty in relationships is a natural instinct that kicks in when we feel like we have to protect ourselves.

But some people are so worried that their relationship will end, even when there are no signs that it will, that they hold on to too much anxiety.

But what causes that build-up of anxiety? There are several causes of relationship uncertainty, including:

1. You perceive that your partner just isn’t supportive of you

A healthy relationship consists of two people who love and support each other at all times. It requires good communication and a strong foundation of trust and friendship. 

So, if you think that your partner is dismissive of your wants, needs, and problems in life, then it leads to uncertainty about whether or not that person is the right one. [Read: 17 signs of a supportive partner who encourages you and your goals]

A good relationship is a partnership, not a one-way street.

2. Your partner behaves in ways that you don’t like

While it’s impossible to find a partner who is “perfect” and never does anything that annoys you, it shouldn’t be overwhelming. We all have our quirks that might irritate our partners, but that’s normal.

However, if you find that you spend more time focusing on what you don’t like about your partner and very little time focusing on what you do, then that is not a good sign. [Read: Lazy boyfriend – 20 signs, why guys get lazy in love, and how to help him change]

It’s bound to make you uncertain about your relationship.

3. There may be key differences between you and your partner

Of course, no one is exactly like you. Not even identical twins are exactly alike even if they look like it. So, you will never find someone that isn’t different than you.

However, if your differences are very obvious and they make you incompatible, that can make you uncertain if the love is meant to be. [Read: Relationship with a polar opposite – 26 truths and must-knows to make it work]

It could be anything from the homebody-social butterfly, or liberal-conservative, different religions, or any other worldview, that can make a relationship feel unstable.

4. You may have issues, such as unrealistic expectations, that you bring to the table

There might not be anything wrong with your partner, but it could be that your expectations are too high and unrealistic. If that’s the case, then you should look within yourself and do some self-reflection. 

For example, it’s not reasonable for your partner to be a mind reader or your slave. [Read: 20 healthy expectations in a relationship that define a good love life]

Sure, it’s nice when your partner knows you well enough to anticipate your wants and needs, but not everyone has that ability. 

And it’s nice if they give you massages and other nice things for you, but you can’t expect them to sacrifice their own needs for you all the time.

5. You have different attachment styles

Everyone forms bonds with people in different ways. Experts suggest that there are four main attachment styles: secure, avoidant, fearful-avoidant, and anxious. You can get an idea of what each attachment style is based on according to their titles.

When two people’s attachment styles don’t line up, and they don’t do anything about it, that can cause serious problems. For example, someone with an insecure attachment style, who fears abandonment, is going to be made to feel very uncertain in a relationship with someone with an avoidant attachment style, who runs away from intimacy.

Relationship uncertainty and its dangers

Uncertainty in a relationship doesn’t mean that the person is wrong for you. If you gauge the potential of a relationship based on certainty, you wouldn’t ever get past the dating stage. 

After all, every dating person is not only getting to know their dates, they’re also getting to know themselves and the relationship in the process. [Read: Feeling unloved – 51 ways we feel less loved and how to feel love again]

However, uncertainty becomes unhealthy when it has been going on for a long time *e.g. more than a year* and both parties are not talking about it, or doing anything to push the relationship forward. 

You might say, “Well, it’s better than nothing. I have nothing to lose, anyway.” But the fact is, you have a lot to lose. Here are some of the reasons it’s dangerous to stay in a relationship full of uncertainty. [Read: Walking on eggshells in your relationship? 18 signs and how to fix it]

1. Uncertainty can be a huge blow to your self-esteem

If you’re unhappy with your relationship, you might start blaming and feeling sorry for yourself. You will start asking yourself questions like, “Do I not deserve to feel secure?” or “Am I not good enough to be in a stable relationship?”

These questions will haunt you and crush your self-esteem. Unless you manage your expectations and do something about your relationship, these toxic thoughts will push you into a downward spiral. 

You will start to believe you are not deserving of the kind of love that you want, so you will likely just accept whatever is tossed your way. [Read: Signs of low self-esteem and the ways to increase it]

You might not be aware of it, but you are slowly falling into a trap—a trap that is firmly established your low self-esteem… which is very hard to cure.

2. Zero accountability

If you are not certain about your status as a couple, or you have not talked about your roles and limitations, then it’s easy for you both to reject accountability for the other’s well-being. 

So, if rules are not put in place, neither of you will accept responsibility for the other’s life and happiness. [Check out: 250 fun, deep relationship questions for couples to feel closer and more loved]

If you are going through a rough time, should you demand that your partner visit you, so you’ll share your troubles, or would that be too much? If you lost your job, can you expect the other person to pay for your bills? 

A lack of certainty in a relationship is beneficial only to the one who wants a carefree life. They get to enjoy the good times, but bail during the bad.

You can’t demand the big stuff and this will become painfully apparent in desperate times. What if you wind up pregnant—then what happens? [Read: 61 signs you’re dating a narcissist and the best ways to help them change]

3. Realizing that you don’t love the person, after all

Some of us find hard-to-get, unpredictable people exhausting rather than exciting. They might be hot one minute, then extremely cold the next. Initially, this behavior might drive us crazy—but we love it! Right? 

As a result, we embark on a mission to make them fall head-over-heels in love with us. We play their game, because we’re in love with the chase.

What’s dangerous about this is that once all the chasing and drama ends, we might not like the person, after all. [Read: 33 honest questions to ask before marriage to know if you’re a good match]

If the uncertainty is prolonged, the chase will be prolonged, too, thus delaying the time we get to know the person on a deeper level. Imagine realizing this after your wedding! That would be one big, expensive, life-changing “oops” for you.

4. The chance of meeting the right person is greatly minimized

Even though you have plenty of uncertainties in your relationship, you don’t want to date other people. [Read: Best dating apps for a relationship – 18 hottest apps to try in 2023]

You are still hopeful that things will turn out right, and it’s against your principles to see other people while you’re with someone—no matter how shaky your relationship is.

This limits your chances of meeting other eligible life partners because you are unapproachable, you will likely turn down other dates, and you won’t present yourself as a single person. 

Imagine the regret you will feel if you say no to a person you truly adore, just to stick to an uncertain relationship that will eventually end. [Read: Real soulmates – what it is, how it works, 59 signs and secrets to find yours]

5. Chronic stress

Being in an uncertain relationship makes us feel lonely, tired, and just generally unhappy. Sure, you laugh a lot and enjoy each other’s company, but if you have uncertainties in your relationship that have not been addressed, you will find yourself conflicted. 

You enjoy each other, but the fact that he still hasn’t proposed keeps you up at night. You get giddy reading her sweet poems for you, but when you see her talking to her ex, you feel the need to punch a wall. [Read: Love-hate relationship – what it is, the big signs, types, and how to overcome it]

Having uncertainty in a relationship can make you emotionally stressed and unstable. There are times you’ll even start to question your sanity. No kidding! 

If you feel insecure in your relationship for more than a year, it will greatly affect your body, as well as your mind.

6. Your life plans become uncertain

You want a wedding, three kids, and a nice beach house, but your partner cringes every time you talk about it. [Read: 38 small changes to better your love life and improve the relationship tenfold]

We all have plans before we meet our significant others, but when they become part of our lives, we accommodate them fully… to the point that we tweak our life plans.

We integrate our life plans with their life plans because, of course, we want to be with them in the future. 

This “integration” affects us in every aspect of our lives, from the kind of career we try to build, to the kinds of shows we watch on TV. [Read: 21 secret signs of a bad relationship that signal a bad future ahead]

However, if the relationship is uncertain, our life plans become uncertain, too. And isn’t that just tiring?

7. One day, you will realize you just wasted a decade waiting

We’re not getting any younger, yet we believe things will turn out fine. 

Optimism and unconditional love are wonderful traits, but if you find yourself waiting for a very long time for things to happen, things to change, or things to finally settle, maybe it’s time to be selfish. [Read: What is true love? 58 signs and ways to tell if what you’re feeling is real]

Yes, you read that right. Tell your lover or partner what you really want. Ask if you’re on the same page. You have to get your answers and be level-headed in dealing with it. 

If you still feel uncertain in your relationship, even after you’ve talked things through, ask yourself if you’re willing to wait even longer. Bear in mind that there’s still no guarantee, even if you choose to wait.

We can’t be fully certain of how things will turn out in our relationships. But if uncertainty is caused by the other person and affects us greatly, then it’s important to do something about it.

However, you have to use a timeline that’s fair for both parties. [Read: Soul connection – what it means, 8 types, and 16 signs to find and recognize it]

How to cope with uncertainty in relationships

Having uncertainty in your relationship is never a good feeling. So how do you cope with it? Here are some tips you can use:

1. Communicate clearly

Most people are not taught not to communicate properly. In fact, many of us picked up bad communication skills from our parents. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to be a good communicator now.

You have to clearly, calmly, and rationally tell your partner your needs, wants, desires, and thoughts. [Read: 42 secrets to communicate better in a relationship and ways to fix a lack of it]

And you need to ask them the same. Both of you need to have empathy for each other and see situations from their point of view—not just your own.

2. Give up your need for control

Some people have naturally controlling personalities, and others don’t have any need for control. But most people like to control situations and relationships at least to some degree. 

But when you have a deep need to control your partner’s actions and thoughts or the direction of the relationship, it just won’t work. [Read: Controlling relationship – 42 signs and ways to love without bullying]

The only thing you can control is yourself. You can try to control other things like your partner, but it will only backfire on you and push them away.

3. Get in touch with your feelings

If you want to work through your uncertain relationship, then you will have to do some self-reflection and get in touch with your feelings. Some people are good at this, while others don’t know what they are feeling or why they are feeling it.

But in order to make your relationship stronger, you need to communicate your feelings to your partner. And if you don’t even know what they are, then it’s impossible to do that. So, it all starts with you. [Read: 25 honest, self-reflection questions to recognize the real YOU inside]

4. Avoid criticising your partner

It’s so easy—and sometimes even instinctual—to criticize your partner for the things that they do that annoy you. But even if you think that is going to help them change, it won’t. In fact, it will just make them defensive.

Do you like it when your partner criticizes you? Of course, you don’t. No one likes being criticized by anyone. And while sometimes criticism can be helpful if it’s delivered in the right way, it usually creates a negative climate for a relationship.

5. Get more involved with your partner

After people have been together for a while, they get kind of lazy. In the beginning of a relationship, people are on their best behavior and are constantly trying to “woo” the other person. [Read: Bored in a relationship – 78 signs, reasons, and ways to make it fun ASAP]

But then they turn into their true self eventually. 

So, make sure you stay plugged into your partner and stay involved. Don’t just ignore them when they’re around by being on your phone, watching TV, or playing video games. Actually have some deep conversations so you can stay connected.

6. Try to learn your partner’s love language

According to Dr. Gary Chapman in his book, The Five Love Languages, people give and receive love in one of five different ways: acts of service, words of affirmation, giving gifts, quality time, and touch. A person might give love one way and want to receive it another.

If your partner’s love language is acts of service *doing nice things for you* but yours is words of affirmation *hearing “I love you” and compliments, etc.* these don’t match up very well. After you learn each other’s love languages, you can understand each other better.

7. Practice self-care

Maybe you feel so uncertain about your relationship that you focus all of your energy on your partner or trying to fix things.

In fact, it’s likely that you might have even turned into a people-pleaser or a doormat and your partner is taking advantage of you.

But in a healthy relationship, you have to take care of yourself too. In order to love someone else fully, you have to love yourself first. So, it’s important for you to practice self-care so that you can get in touch with your own needs and desires.

8. Let go of high expectations

Some expectations of other people are healthy and necessary, and others are just flat-out unrealistic. [Read: 19 unrealistic expectations in love we want to believe but shouldn’t]

For example, expecting your partner to treat you with respect and love is realistic and should be expected. But expecting them to be perfect and just like you aren’t.

Realistic expectations emerge out of self-love in the form of personal boundaries. But unrealistic expectations emerge out of a bit of narcissism and a need for control. So, let go of your high expectations if you want to deal with your relationship uncertainty. 

9. Evaluate where the feelings of uncertainty are coming from

Uncertainty comes in many forms. It could be that you feel uncertain of your partner’s feelings for you. Or you’re uncertain about your feelings for your partner. [Read: Abandonment issues – what it is, causes, types, 34 signs, and how it hurts you]

Or maybe you’re uncertain about your compatibility or if your values or visions of the future line up. Where are these feelings of uncertainty coming from? Are they coming from your traumatic past? Is it that you keep choosing the same kind of partner? 

10. Accept that not all relationships work

When people get into a relationship, they don’t usually think that it’s going to end. They hope it will last forever.

But let’s face it—not all relationships do last forever. In fact, most probably don’t. And that’s okay. [Read: How to break up with someone who loves you and not hurt them more]

Not all relationships are meant to last. Sometimes you just learn what you want and don’t want next time, and hopefully, you’ll grow as a person too.

11. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

There are a lot of people who would rather be in an uncertain or unhealthy relationship rather than being single and alone. And because of that, they just keep hanging on when perhaps they should let go.

Remember, there are a lot of fish in the sea. This person you’re with right now might not be the right one for you. [Read: Should you try online dating? The guide to see if it’s right for you]

So, don’t put all your eggs in their basket. It might be time to break up if you’re that uncertain and explore dating other people.

12. Address your fears

You need to figure out what fears are underlying your uncertainty. For example, if you fear that your partner has a low sex drive and that eventually they will lead the two of you into a sexless relationship, then you should be honest with yourself—and them.

Where are these fears coming from? How can you best share these fears with your partner? [Read: Breakup anxiety – how to deal with it and overcome your biggest fears]

Fears aren’t necessarily bad. But you do need to identify what they are so you can work through them. You can’t change what you don’t recognize and acknowledge.

13. Be more generous with your partner

Selfishness is toxic to relationships. When you are selfish, you ignore your partner’s needs and desires. And in the long run, that will make them resentful and it could lead to the end of the relationship. 

So, you need to be more generous—in all ways. [Read: Selfless love – 18 traits that sets it apart from selfish love]

Be more generous with spending time with them, giving them gifts, or doing nice things like giving them a massage. The more generous you are, the more they will respond the same way to you.

14. Turn to someone for support 

When you have feelings of uncertainty in your relationship, it’s difficult to deal with them alone. So, talk to a trusted friend or family member to help you sort through your feelings and help you figure out if they are valid.

A person who is on the outside of your relationship will be able to be more objective than you are. [Read: True friendship – 37 real friend traits and what it takes to be a good one]

And once you figure out exactly what you feel, then your friend can help you figure out a plan and where to go from there.

15. Consider if your feelings are red flags

Some feelings stem from the past and have nothing to do with your partner. For example, if you’re uneasy because you think they will cheat, it might just be because your ex cheated on you. It’s not fair to put that fear on your current partner.

But your feelings could very well be red flags too. Is your partner a narcissist? Abusive?

If they aren’t treating you with respect in any way, then it is a red flag. So, you need to figure out what a red flag is to you and what isn’t.

How do you deal with uncertainty in a relationship?

Finally, you need to know how to deal with—you need to actively work to get rid of uncertainty in your relationship. Here are some things you can do.

1. Share your fears

It’s never good to keep your fears to yourself. It makes you feel alone and disconnected from your partner. [Read: Insecure attachment – what it is, types, 23 signs, and how it affects your life]

So, it’s important to get them out and share them. You might want to share them first with a trusted friend or family member. That way you can sort through them.

But ideally, you should also share them with your partner. There is no way to work through the uncertainty if you just keep it to yourself. Share how you’re feeling and ask how your partner feels too. Try to find a solution to your uncertainty so you can move forward.

2. Give without getting

As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to not be selfish in a relationship. You have to be a giver as well as a receiver. If you do nothing but take from your partner and never give back, they will grow resentful. [Read: Self-centered people – 40 signs and ways to change yourself or deal with one]

So, make sure you do this. However, don’t do it because you are trying to get something in return. Sure, your partner should naturally want to give back to you. But you shouldn’t expect it all the time. Sometimes it’s good to be selfless.

3. Choose trust

Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Without it, the relationship will crumble. Trust is like the foundation of a house—it should be solid like concrete instead of quicksand.

But sometimes trust is a deliberate choice. If your partner hasn’t given you any reason to not trust them, then why wouldn’t you? The lack of trust—especially if it’s unwarranted—will just erode the relationship. [Read: Trust issues in a relationship – 22 whys and ways to get over it together]

4. Never punish

There are probably a lot of reasons why you feel uncertain about your relationship. And one of the big reasons is that there is something about your partner that you don’t like or that isn’t meeting your expectations.

You might have the instinct to criticize and punish them. [Read: Silent treatment abuse – how it’s used and 40 signs and ways to respond to it]

Maybe that’s how you saw your parents deal with their relationship, but it’s not healthy. Punishment doesn’t really rehabilitate people, it just degrades them and makes them feel bad. 

5. Live consciously

Most people live life unconsciously. In other words, they go through life without knowing why think or act the way they do. That’s because they never do any self-reflection and look at themselves deeply.

So, you need to live more consciously. Why do you do what you do? And why do you say what you say? Why do you choose the romantic partners that you do? You should have these thoughts in your head at all times, and when you do, you’ll make better decisions.

[Read: Stagnant relationship – 36 standstill signs, why, and how to make it progress]

It’s unfair to force the other person to define the relationship, but it’s equally unfair to keep you waiting. Don’t dwell in relationship uncertainty—discuss your relationship and where it is heading as soon as you comfortably can.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...