Anxiety has a way of invading all aspects of life and can have a significant impact of romantic relationships. Those with anxiety feel misunderstood, invalidated and fearful of rejection while their partners feel alone, impatient and unsupported. If you struggle with anxiety, here are few things you can do to help lessen the impact.
Reality Checks. You might think you can read your partner’s mind; you can’t. Anxiety is great for creating a narrative but that narrative is rarely based in reality. So the next time you are making up a story about what your partner must be thinking, check it out. I’m a fan of something like, “Hey dear, I know this might sound weird but I’m worried you are _____________. Should I be worried?”
Be Vulnerable. I don’t know who first used the saying “name it to tame it” but Dr. Dan Siegel has popularized the idea that by naming our emotions we can reduce the degree to which they overwhelm us. It also helps put things in context for our partners. Knowing that you're upset about something at work and not at your partner will help them to respond with compassion rather than defensiveness.
Make Sacrifices. If you want to be in a relationship and you have anxiety, sometimes you're just going to have to do the thing that makes you anxious. If your partner is always the one doing the accommodating or altering plans they're going to eventually become bitter and resentful. Acknowledge your anxiety and then do it anyway.
Ask for Help. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that up to 18% of adults in the United States suffer from some type of anxiety disorder. And while anxiety disorders are highly treatable, less than a third of those suffering seek out help. It’s important for your partner to see that you’re trying; so try.
Seek Reassurance (sometimes). “Are you ok?” “Is anything wrong?” “Do you love me?” “Are you sure you’re ok… How about now?” Get it? Dial it back a few notches. If you can't, it will only lead to your partner distancing from you which is exactly what you're trying to avoid. It’s not your partner’s job to relieve you of your anxious thoughts. That’s your work; most of the time.
Find Ways to be a Support. Relationships like balance. If your needs are taking up too much space in the relationship it doesn’t leave much room for the needs of your partner. Anxiety has a way of keeping you focused inward, making it easy to miss what’s going on with the person right next to you. Sit down and make a list of things you can do to make your partner’s life easier. If you need to, set reminders in your phone to ensure follow through.