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How Your “Plan B” Is Killing Your Relationship

You spill coffee down the front of your white blouse on your drive to work.

But it’s okay, you have a Plan B: two extra “backup” blouses hanging in your office just in case.

Your electricity goes out during a big storm. It’s back on again in moments because you have a back-up generator, just in case.

Having a Plan B supports us in many areas of our lives, from the unexpected accident to the out-of-our-control event. But in relationship, a Plan B is detrimental. In fact, having a “just in case” with your partner can be the biggest force that ultimately destroys your relationship.

I’m not referring to a “just in case” we lock ourselves out of the house there is a lockbox hidden under the stone by the front porch. Or just in case something happens to one or both of us, we have a will set up so the children will be taken care of.

No. I’m referring to the kind of “just in case” that is the exit plan you hold onto, consciously or unconsciously. It is your Plan B for what you will do if your relationship doesn’t work out or you decide it just isn’t working for your anymore or you get tired of tolerating the person you once loved.

Do You Have A Relationship “Plan B”?

Although you may not tell anyone about your Plan B, especially not your partner, it’s often there, lurking in the shadows. It drains your energy and keeps you from FULLY BEING IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP. Because, hey, if it doesn’t work out you’ll:

• Pack your stuff and take that trip to the Cayman Islands you’ve always dreamed of

• Go live with your sister in Chicago and start taking art classes again

• Sell your portion of the house to your partner, along with all your belongings, and go live in a monastery in Thailand

Imagine your relationship is a bank account and both of you make daily deposits when you acknowledge, respect and honor each other. But every single time your mind touches on the possibility of your “just in case” scenario, not only are you depositing money in the Plan B account, you’re also withdrawing money from your primary shared account.

Why do we destroy our relationships like this?

We’re perpetuating a cycle of abuse that we ourselves experienced in the past. Whether we experienced sexual abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse or physical abuse, we got swallowed up. There was no place to go but out through the “back door” where we retreated as far into ourselves as we could. We might have disconnected or even dissociated.

Our current day Plan B reassures us that we will never, ever be trapped again. This gives us a feeling of safety, knowing that no matter what, we can jump out of the airplane because we have our parachute.

But this way of relating is exhausting, draining, and at its worst, destructive. Fights escalate or the silence freezes any sense of affection and possibility. There are affairs and other infidelities. Our Plan B begins to look more and more appealing (or become more satisfying if we actually indulge in it) and we put more attention into that than the relationship itself.

This is when fantasy and inventions take over. We begin to see our partner as our past abuser. This can be so subtle and so unconscious that we don’t even realize we’re seeing our loved one through abuse-colored glasses. We base our Plan B on the lie: “No relationship will ever really work for me.” With this strong belief in place, how can a relationship ever work out for us?

Do you ever get to have true communion?

Our “just in case” creates separation. We never experience full communion – not even with ourselves. We’re not fully present in any relationship. It’s like one foot is on the dock and one foot is on the edge of the boat, waiting, watching, preparing to depart.

What does it take to change this?

The most essential thing you can do to put an end to the “just in case” scenario that is killing your relationship is to COMMIT TO YOURSELF.

When you fully commit to yourself – and to being the fully empowered adult that you truly are – you begin the journey of healing the young version of you that feels like a victim; that feels out of control and powerless. It is the little one inside that requires reassurance that you will never allow yourself to be trapped again in a victim-perpetrator situation and that instead – you will create new kinds of relationships that are empowering and supportive.

And that new kind of relationship begins with the one you have with yourself. It is time to bring together all the parts of you that disconnected and dissociated. It is time to choose communion with yourself. Only then, can you experience true communion with another.

Would you be willing to close the door on your Plan B and step into your life with both feet? What else is possible when you commit to you?

Be You. Beyond Anything. Create Magic.

You can find more information from Dr. Lisa Cooney on her site or find her on Facebook or on Twitter @DrLisaCooney!

How Your “Plan B” Is Killing Your Relationship

Dr. Lisa Cooney

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APA Reference
Cooney, D. (2019). How Your “Plan B” Is Killing Your Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Mar 2019
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