What Is Relationship Anxiety Why Do I Experience It & How To Solve It
Relationships can be a great source of joy, appreciation, love, and meaning in our lives. Finding another person whose company we enjoy and who equally enjoys spending their time with us feels amazing.
In healthy relationships, we feel safe and secure with our partner. We trust them to treat us well, and we offer the same in return. However, some people struggle with anxiety in relationships, even when theyre with a trustworthy partner, and everything has been going well so far.
Relationship anxiety refers to feelings of anxiety and stress regarding ones relationship. It is not a mental health condition in itself but is similar to social anxiety disorder in that the source of anxiety revolves around ones relationship with other people.
In this article, well investigate relationship anxiety. Well explore what it means, what causes it, and how you can overcome relationship anxiety if its affecting you today.
So Is It Anxiety Or Plain Old Stress
Heres the thing: Everyone, at some point, probably experiences some anxiety about a relationship. If we didnt, we might be sociopathic. When we like someone, we hope they like us too! When were married to someone, we work hard at it and its not always easy. Continued, overwhelming anxiety about relationship-specific issues is what requires some major rewiring.
Luckily, the stigma around mental health has been challenged in recent years and people are much more open to discussing anxiety disorders and learning how to tackle them, one step at a time.
Where It Comes From And How Deal With It
She isnt attracted to me anymore. She never acts as excited to see me when I come home. Why cant it just be like it was in the beginning?
My friend has just entered into the first of two common phases of relationship insecurityrhetorical questioning. The internal investigation continues: She takes forever to answer my texts. Doesnt she miss me when Im gone? She used to always laugh at my jokes. Do you think shes interested in someone else?
Then comes phase twoturning on himself. Its because Im losing my looks. Im away too often. She doesnt think Im fun anymore. I cant make her happy. Theres something wrong with me. She wants someone better.
Weve all most likely been at one or the other end of this scenario either the worrier or the partner of the worrier. Chances are, weve experienced both. Insecurity, as most of us know firsthand, can be toxic to our closest relationships. And while it can bounce back and forth from partner to partner, both the cause of our insecurity and its cure reside in us alone.
- Uncover the real roots of our insecurity.
- Challenge the inner critic that sabotages our relationship.
1. Where does our insecurity come from?
Nothing awakens distant hurts like a close relationship. Our relationships stir up old feelings from our past more than anything else. Our brains are even flooded with the same neurochemical in both situations.
You May Like: What Is The Best Treatment For Anxiety
Comparing Your Relationship To Others
If you have relationship anxiety, you might be tempted to compare your current relationship to past relationships, your friends relationship, or your idealized version of relationships. This kind of behavior will make it impossible for your partner or your relationship to succeed. To cope with this, focus more of your energy on your relationship rather than on comparisons.
Consistently Doubting That You Matter To Your Partner
Do they even love me? Do they want to get back with their ex? Is this really going to go anywhere?
Relationships are inherently built on a sense of trust. Of course, this trust takes time to build, and if your partner consistently breaches your trust, thats a cause for serious concern. But if they tend to be stable and consistent in their behavior, it may be more of a reflection of your anxiety.
You May Like: How To Manage Stress And Anxiety
Worrying They Want To Break Up
A good relationship can make you feel loved, secure, and happy. Its perfectly normal to want to hold on to these feelings and hope nothing happens to disrupt the relationship.
But these thoughts can sometimes transform into a persistent fear of your partner leaving you.
This anxiety can become problematic when you adjust your behavior in order to secure their continued affection.
For example, you might:
- avoid bringing up issues, such as frequent lateness, that are important to you in a relationship
- ignore when your partner does things that bother you, such as wearing shoes inside your house
- worry a lot about them getting mad at you, even if they dont seem angry
Wondering If You Matter To Your Partner
The most common expression of relationship anxiety relates to underlying questions of Do I matter? or Are you there for me?’ Robertson explains. This speaks to a fundamental need to connect, belong, and feel secure in a partnership.
For example, you might worry that:
- your partner wouldnt miss you much if you werent around
- they might not offer help or support if anything serious came up
- they just want to be with you because of what you can do for them
Read Also: What To Say To People With Anxiety
Why Does My Relationship Give Me Anxiety
Many factors may trigger relationship anxiety, including feeling as though youre losing independence or simply childhood experiences or past relationships that didnt work out and left you in constant need of reassurance.
Projecting these memories onto your current relationship could cause anxiety regardless of whether your fears are founded or not.
You Push Your Partner Away
Your relationship anxiety is led by your fears. Most commonly your fears of losing the person you love of having them leave you. Theres most likely some limiting beliefs in there, at the heart of everything. But it drives you to behave badly.
Intentionally or not, you do things that push your partner away. In fact, you often know your behaviour isnt quite right and theres a chance you could end up pushing them too far but its a toxic, viscous cycle thats difficult to escape.
In many cases, youre also testing them testing them how far you can push them, how much they will fight for you, and how much they actually love you.
Youre also scared of something happening, you think it will happen, so you try to prove yourself right If they then leave, you can say I knew it, but this only feeds into your low-self esteem and negative beliefs.
Read Also: How To Help Calm Anxiety
You Create Mountains Over Molehills
Sign: You pick fights and make them extreme issues, you use hurtful or definitive words, and create huge arguments around something that isn’t very big once you’ve taken a step back.
Action to Take: Reflect on three to five fights you’ve had in the past and look at them objectively. Ask yourself what was underneath the content you were arguing about and try to identify patterns.
The Why:“You may be able to identify internal patterns you weren’t aware of. Maybe you are making bigger arguments out of smaller details because you never felt a big issue was repaired fully maybe you struggle with allowing yourself to feel truly close to someone so you’re sabotaging happiness maybe you have needs that aren’t being met in your relationship but it’s easier to fight about the laundry or who they added on Instagram rather than directly address them.”
What If Vs What Is
One of the most common tools that I have my clients utilize when theyre getting wrapped up in their tangled web of anxiety is to check in on whether theyre using What if? vs. What is? thinking.
What if thinking always produces anxiety. It puts your mind in the future, and places you in a fear-based, invented place.
What is thinking brings you back to the present moment and allows you to see your situation for what is truly is.
More often than not with people who deal with anxiety, our minds are simply fountains of noise, spewing off endless fears that are ultimately unproductive. Or, as Mark Twain once said, Ive lived through some terrible things in my life. Some of which actually happened.
But how do you know if your anxiety in the present moment IS about the reality of your situation?
Don’t Miss: Do I Have Ed Or Performance Anxiety
Dont Be Afraid To Seek Therapy
Finding support can help you deal with your relationship anxiety in a healthy way. If youre not comfortable sharing your thoughts with your partner yet, consider finding a therapist specializing in anxiety disorders.
Whether individual or aimed at couples, therapy can help guide the introspection necessary to start acknowledging your relationship-based fears and facing them without becoming crippled by anxiety.
What Is Relationship Anxiety
As mentioned, relationship anxiety is not a mental health disorder. There is no entry for relationship anxiety in the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual Fifth Edition, and you would never hear a doctor diagnose a person with such a condition. Nonetheless, relationship anxiety is a genuine issue that can affect anyone, regardless of your age, gender, or background.
Relationship anxiety can manifest in several ways. Its normal to feel a little anxious in a relationship, especially in the early days when you and your partner havent had enough time or experience to formulate a strong, trusting bond just yet.
In the early days of a relationship, youre still figuring out your partner
Still, as the relationship progresses, youll likely become more familiar with your partners habits, viewpoints, and mannerisms. What once seemed subtle hints or cures of disinterest or dislike might later be understood as something else entirely, such as tiredness or a low mood.
However, suppose you experience more moderate to severe anxiety in your relationships, and the feeling persists. In that case, your relationship anxiety may end up jeopardizing the quality of your relationship and the quality of your life in general.
Just like other types of anxiety, the associated stress and tension can harm our physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health, so its important to take action and make the changes necessary to keep your overall health and well-being in check.
Don’t Miss: Is Effexor Good For Anxiety
Effects Of Relationship Anxiety
Before placing a magnifying glass on the way you act within your relationship, it’s important to note that not every demonstration of worry is a sign of relationship anxiety.
In fact, taking stock of what is working, changes in communication, and feelings shared within the relationship is healthy and encouraged. However, when the energy you expend in keeping tabs on your partner and their attitude within the relationship constantly leaves you feeling on edge, that could be problematic.
Constantly worrying about the relationship can also affect the quality of love and intimacy you enjoy. In some cases, experiencing persistent feelings of anxiety within the relationship can produce the most feared resultan end to the union.
If you realize that you frequently experience relationship anxiety, this can negatively affect your well-being and the chances of experiencing a future with your partner.
However, you should know that there are steps you can take to improve the quality of your life and your relationship to avoid the harmful effects of anxiety.
Missing Out On Good Times
People with relationship anxiety are often so worried about things going awry that they miss out on all the good times in the relationship. All serious relationships will go through rough patches, which is why its so important to enjoy the good times when theyre here. Focusing on staying present in the relationship and not fretting about the future will help you cope with this relationship anxiety.
Recommended Reading: Can I Sue My Employer For Stress And Anxiety
The Relationship Itself Causes Anxiety
For many, however, the issue can be placed on the quality and experiences in the relationship itself. It is not necessarily about a single behavior of a partner or a broad fear of commitment. Sometimes, anxiety just arises over time as the relationship progresses due to a number of different factors.
That is what we are focusing on here, below, as it is common in relationships of all ages, styles, and lengths. It can arise in happy marriages and it can arise in unhappy short-term dating. It is always a good idea to evaluate it to determine what the next steps may be.
You May Abruptly End The Relationship
If you suffer from anxiety in relationships, youre likely to end up LOOKING for reasons to end it to try to get you back in a more comfortable position
Even when things are going well in your relationship, you find problems, create problems, get the ick for no apparent reason, and like we said above literally run at the first sign of trouble, ending it instead of working through things.
All relationships have hiccups, even the strongest ones. But for you, theyre simply an excuse to get out. This is the easier option in some cases. Although it hurts, you convince yourself its for the best and then most likely push it out your mind.
You May Like: How Do You Develop Anxiety
Strengthen Your Personal Identity
Many people lose themselves in their relationships. They become preoccupied with wanting to make the other person happy. They neglect their own passions, friendships, or self-care because the relationship becomes so consuming.
Healthy relationships require healthy people! Invest in cultivating your self-esteem. This may mean practicing positive affirmations and self-compassion every day. It may also mean spending time with positive influences or taking healthy risks with work or school.
Finally, you need to have a separate life outside of your relationship. This separation keeps you feeling refreshed and engaged with the world- it can also bring the two of you closer.
Reasons Why We Feel Relationship Anxiety:
- Many times it can come from previous relationships that didnt work out well.
- It can be a result of having generalized anxiety disorder or another anxiety disorder.
- New relationship anxiety can develop when you first start dating someone.
- Long- distance relationships cause a natural strain due to lack of contact. This easily contributes to anxiety and numerous other issues. Put simply, not all couples are made to go the distance.
Read Also: Is There Medication For Anxiety
How Do We Treat Relationship Anxiety
Couples Therapy is an effective treatment for Relationship Anxiety. Where both partners agree to seek therapy together, it can be an intimate space where relationship fears can be explored, new patterns of relating to one another can be found, and a deeper understanding of early life experiences and how these shape our adult relationships can help couples reignite their compassion and empathy, as well as their sex life.
For couples where both parties are not agreeable to therapy, individualised treatment approaches are available that can target your anxiety in a way that will have a positive impact on your current and future romantic relationship. This might include CBT, ACT, DBT, IPT, or Psychodynamic Therapy. Either way, there are treatment options that can lead to positive and lasting change in your relationships.