Scared of getting into a relationship or not in love? Don’t know whether you are with the right person or if the relationship will last? Well, all these thoughts are probably giving you a classic case of relationship anxiety. But, before we discuss how to deal with relationship anxiety, let us first try to understand what relationship anxiety is.
Experiencing a certain degree of relationship anxiety is normal, especially when you’re at an important juncture such as the beginning of the relationship or taking the next big step like asking a partner to move in or getting married. However, when it spirals out of control and the mere idea of being in a relationship leaves you riddled with anxiousness, it can be a sign of trouble. It’s not exactly considered a formal diagnosis in the world of mental health but does affect the physical and emotional well-being of those dealing with it. Before you get all worried, know that it is possible to overcome relationship anxiety. There are ways to cope with it.
We’re here to help you figure out how to deal with relationship anxiety with insights from counselor Neelam Vats (certified CBT and NLP practitioner), who has over two decades of experience helping children, adolescents and adults cope with issues related to depression, anxiety, interpersonal relationship and career concerns.
What Is Relationship Anxiety?
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Being in a relationship is one of the most beautiful and happiest feelings in the world. But, for some, it can be a breeding ground for anxiety. You can experience anxious thoughts and feelings at pretty much any point in your relationship. For a lot of people, just the thought of falling in love or being with someone can cause stress and anxiety.
So, what is relationship anxiety? Well, it’s a constant state of excessive fear, uncertainty, and insecurity where you’re always worrying about your relationship, questioning yourself or your partner, overthinking, and doubting your worth. Those suffering from it tend to push people away or cling too much. They are likely to doubt their feelings toward their partners at the start of the relationship. They are plagued with questions like:
- Am I good enough?
- What if it doesn’t work out?
- Am I with the right person?
- Does my partner love me?
- Do I actually want to be in this relationship?
- Do I love him enough?
- Are we compatible enough to build a future together?
If you are constantly asking yourself these questions, you are dealing with relationship anxiety. “Constant worrying and insecurity can pop up even if everything is going well in a relationship. Anxiety can impact your relationship in different ways, depending on the symptoms you experience. It is quite common and can manifest in the form of physical (stomach upset, fatigue) and mental (emotional distress, lack of motivation) issues,” says Neelam.
What Causes Relationship Anxiety
While explaining the causes of relationship anxiety, Neelam says, “The common factors at play are childhood trauma, previous relationship experience, being cheated on, being dumped unexpectedly, partners lying about their feelings for you or misleading you about the nature of the relationship, and low self–esteem.”
If you’re wondering “Why do relationships give me anxiety?” or what triggers relationship anxiety, know that there can be several reasons behind it. Being aware of the causes will help you understand if you suffer from relationship anxiety symptoms and also figure out how to deal with the problem. Here is a list of 4 possible causes of relationship anxiety:
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1. Attachment style
Every individual has an attachment style that they develop in their early childhood. This attachment style depends on the relationship a person shares with their primary caregivers while growing up. There are different kinds of attachment styles – secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized. They dictate the quality of adult relationships we form in the future.
If you grew up feeling unsafe, insecure, or neglected by your primary caregivers, it is likely that you developed an anxious attachment style, which makes you question your partner’s feelings for you. You find it difficult to trust them and always worry that they might leave you and find someone better. This is one reason behind your “why being in a relationship causes me anxiety” dilemma.
2. Negative past experiences
Another reason behind the “being in a relationship causes me anxiety” experience could be negative experiences with relationships in the past. Your responses or the quality of the bond you share with your partner is also dictated by your past experiences. If you’ve been hurt, cheated on, or lied to in your past relationships, the emotional trauma of the experience can make of wary of intimate connections. It is possible that you carry the trauma of the past into your future relationships.
3. What triggers relationship anxiety? Low self-esteem and self-worth
This is one of the major causes of relationship anxiety. People suffering from low self-esteem or low self-worth often find themselves worrying about losing their partner. They are neither confident about their abilities nor feel secure in their relationship because they feel unworthy of the love they receive from their partner. They always doubt whether they deserve to be loved and cared for by someone. Therefore, low self-esteem and self-worth issues could be the answer to your “why do relationships give me anxiety” dilemma.
4. Lack of communication skills
Bad communication skills can destroy the most loving relationships. Not knowing how to express yourself or communicate your feelings and needs to your partner can cause relationship anxiety because you’re probably always worried about being misunderstood by your significant other. On the other hand, your partner might also feel frustrated or overwhelmed due to constantly having to deal with someone who can’t express themselves.
Other reasons could be a tendency to question your partner and the relationship, stress, trust issues, and constant conflict. These can become triggers for relationship problems, which can, in turn, feed the loop of anxious thoughts. Now that you know the causes, let’s discuss the relationship anxiety symptoms so you can figure out how to deal with them.
Top 5 Signs You Have Relationship Anxiety
There are several physical and emotional signs to indicate that you are experiencing relationship anxiety. Increased heart rate, sweating, concentration issues, self-sabotaging behaviors, making a mountain out of a molehill, and lack of trust are a few relationship anxiety symptoms. It’s important to recognize them to be able to deal with them. Here are a few signs of anxiety in a relationship to watch out for:
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1. Fear of commitment
For many, just the idea of being with someone feels like some sort of a cage or something they’re unworthy or incapable of, which is why they cut people off or become distant at the slightest possibility of the relationship getting serious. Fear of commitment is one of the biggest signs of relationship anxiety. This can happen due to several reasons like childhood trauma or a negative relationship experience in the past.
2. Separation anxiety
Separation anxiety usually stems from fear of abandonment. If you’re constantly worried about your partner’s safety and whereabouts, are scared that he/she will leave you or experience stress when they’re traveling, you’re probably dealing with separation anxiety. When the fear of losing or getting separated from your partner becomes too much to handle, it causes distress and eventually leads you to feel anxious in the relationship.
3. Overthinking partner’s words and actions
Someone with anxiety in a relationship tends to read too much into their partner’s words or actions. Something as normal as a joke or casual banter about one’s personality can make their mind run into overdrive about whether their partner wants to be with them. They blow things out of proportion and overthink each and every word that comes out of their partner’s mouth.
4. Relationship anxiety symptoms – Doubting a partner’s feelings
Worrying about whether your partner loves you or cares about you is another sign of relationship anxiety. You start questioning your importance in your partner’s life – if you matter or if they will find someone better than you. You overthink things like whether your significant other will miss you when you’re gone or support you in your struggles. You wonder whether they genuinely love you and want to be with you or they are just using you for their own benefit.
5. Worrying rather than enjoying the time together
It is absolutely normal to have doubts or moments of insecurity when you’re in a relationship. But if you find yourself stressing about it so much that you’re unable to enjoy the present, then it’s a concerning sign of anxiety and this constant worrying could make you self-sabotage your relationship. Your state of constant worry could rub off on your partner the wrong way, making them feel irritated or frustrated.
Someone with anxiety in a relationship needs a lot of reassurance and acceptance from their partner. There’s also a probability that they silence themselves and prefer to not express their thoughts, choices, or opinions out of fear of rejection or negative judgment. This can further augment anxiety in a relationship because the person gets conscious about their appearance or consumed by thoughts out of fear of ridicule or embarrassment.
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9 Ways To Deal With Relationship Anxiety – Tips From Expert
It is absolutely normal to go through a certain level of anxiety when you’re in a relationship. Dealing with anxiety doesn’t mean that you’re in an unhealthy relationship. But it becomes a cause for concern when it starts to affect your relationship as well as other aspects of your life.
There are effective coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety and depression in a relationship. Therapy and stress management techniques, change in lifestyle and honest communication with your partner can effectively reduce anxiety levels and improve your relationship. If you’re wondering how to deal with relationship anxiety, here are 9 ways that can help:
1. Identify and confront your anxiety
One of the ways to deal with anxiety and depression in a relationship is to identify its root cause, connect the dots to your childhood experiences or past experiences and then, face it head-on. You have to introspect. It’ll give you an insight into what is driving your actions and behavior, making you feel insecure, and how all of these experiences have shaped your relationship.
Neelam says, “Admit and accept that you’re dealing with relationship anxiety. For instance, if you’re dealing with separation anxiety in a relationship, recognize the fact that it’s deeply rooted in a fear of letting go of loved ones.”
A relationship is not a solo ride. It takes two to tango, which is why you must embrace your anxieties and make an effort to manage or get over them. Most importantly, make sure you include your partner in this attempt. If not anything else, your partner’s reaction will help you gauge whether the relationship is worth fighting for.
2. Communicate honestly with your partner
Communication is key to dealing with all kinds of problems in a relationship, including anxiety. Be honest with your partner about your expectations, insecurities and worries. Make sure to voice your concerns and clear misunderstandings. Healthy communication is a sign of a healthy relationship. It’s difficult but important. It not just strengthens your bond with your partner but also helps in keeping all that stress and anxiety at bay.
Through honest communication, both partners can understand what they want from each other and avoid making up the worst possible scenarios in their heads. Make an effort to honestly talk to your partner about your anxiety and how you can deal with it together. This also includes conversations around sexual intimacy and boundaries. Communicating with your partner will help them understand you better. Once they know about the problem, they will be able to help you overcome it.
3. Indulge in your favorite activities and hobbies
One of the best ways to deal with relationship anxiety is to indulge in the things or activities that bring you joy. Someone with anxiety in a relationship usually gets so involved and caught up with their thoughts and worries that the other aspects of life get ignored. Ensure that doesn’t happen.
Engage in activities and hobbies that make you feel good. Connect with friends and other important relationships in your life. It’ll help you manage your relationship anxiety. Neelam recommends, “Sit with your pet. Listen to music, watch a movie or read. Visit your favorite café or restaurant. Go for a walk. Spend time around nature.
“Plan an activity that you can do alone or with your loved ones. Touch something comforting like your favorite t-shirt or blanket and think about how it feels under your fingers. Make a list of the positive things that bring you happiness and joy. Visualize them.”
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4. Learn to manage the physical effects of anxiety
Anxiety can manifest itself physically as well, causing fatigue, chest pain, increased heart rate, stomach pain, irritability, insomnia, light-headedness, nausea, headaches, and shortness of breath, among other symptoms. You must manage these physical reactions.
Neelam recommends practicing yoga and meditation to combat anxiety. “Take care of yourself, exercise, eat balanced and healthy meals, sleep well and practice relaxation techniques to deal with relationship anxiety. Indulge in physical activities that work for you and make you feel good and love yourself. Taking care of your health will help you maintain your calm and enable positive thinking,” she says.
5. How to deal with relationship anxiety? Consult a therapist
Therapy is, without a doubt, the best way to deal with relationship anxiety. Getting professional guidance will help you know yourself and gather your thoughts better. A therapist will be able to dig deeper into the problem, identify the anxious thought pattern, and offer practical solutions to deal with anxiety and depression in a relationship.
It is your safe space to be open and honest about your feelings without the fear of judgment, embarrassment, or ridicule. You can just be yourself in front of the therapist. Neelam suggests, “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help reframe cognitive biases enabling you to relax when anxiety ramps up.” A therapist will be able to guide you in the right direction and help you work on your negative thought process, self-worth and self-esteem so you can build a healthy relationship with your partner.
You could also talk to your partner about your anxiety and enroll yourself in couples therapy. It’ll help both of you understand yourselves and each other better. You’ll be able to address underlying issues and fears without judgment, which will eventually soothe the anxiety. If you’re considering getting help, licensed and experienced therapists on Bonobology’s panel are here for you.
6. Be mindful of your thoughts and capabilities
To be able to deal with or overcome relationship anxiety, it is vital that you validate your feelings but, at the same time, learn to let go of them. Try to be aware or recognize what’s happening in that moment instead of judging it. Make an effort to let go of those negative and anxious thoughts by seeing them through a positive lens.
Neelam suggests that you believe in your capabilities if you’re dealing with separation anxiety in a relationship. She says, “It is important to keep in mind that anxiety is temporary and can be eased by being mindful of your capabilities. If you are apart from your partner, remind yourself that you have handled this before and feel the reunion with your partner become extra special.”
7. Learn to manage your actions
One of the ways to deal with relationship anxiety is to get a grip on your actions. Your actions affect your anxiety, which eventually affects your relationship. For instance, those who deal with separation anxiety feel compelled to check on their partner or know about their whereabouts. They begin to feel anxious and experience extreme stress at the thought of being away from their partner.
While it’s normal to drop a message to know if they’re safe, constantly texting when you know they’re probably at work or just hanging out will only lead to conflict. Try and control these impulses because they can negatively impact your relationship. Look for ways to distract yourself – go for a run, watch a movie, spend time with your pet, or talk to a close friend. This approach can also help if you’re dealing with long-distance relationship anxiety.
8. Try to enjoy the present
You can never know the fate of any relationship, so why let your mind wander? We know it’s easier said than done but it’s imperative that you stop worrying about the future and concentrate on the present. Don’t miss the precious moments of the present because you can’t stop worrying about what the future holds. Learn to savor the present.
Try to focus on the happy moments you spend with your partner in the present rather than stressing over the past or future. You’re not going to get those moments back. Ensure that you make the most of it. None of us know where we’ll be 5-10 years down the line. We don’t know if the relationship will last but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the current reality. Treasure those moments. Take in the happiness of being able to spend time with the person you love.
Related Reading: 11 Examples Of Self-Sabotaging Behaviors
9. How to deal with relationship anxiety? Don’t lose your sense of self
A lot of times, people experiencing anxiety in a relationship tend to their identity or sense of self. Individual personalities and identities start shifting to create space for the relationship. While it is completely natural, what is not okay is losing your identity in the process.
Be sure of who you are and what you want from the relationship. Remember that the reason your partner chose to be with you has a lot to do with your personality and individuality. If you change yourself to accommodate your partner’s needs, you’re causing harm to your self-worth and identity, which will eventually affect the relationship.
It is particularly important for those who deal with social anxiety in a relationship. Remember that you are unique and have your own set of interests, experiences and opinions. Hold on to that sense of self. Love and accept who you are. Know that you matter.
- Relationship anxiety is defined as the constant state of fear, uncertainty, and insecurity that one experiences in a relationship
- Causes of relationship anxiety include an anxious attachment style, poor communication skills, past experiences, and low self-esteem
- Doubting your partner’s feelings, overthinking their words and actions, fear of commitment, and spending time worrying than enjoying with your special one are some of the signs of relationship anxiety
- A few tips on how to deal with relationship anxiety include being mindful of your thoughts and actions, learning to enjoy the present, communicating well, and keeping your sense of self intact
- Therapy can be a game-changer when it comes to dealing with anxiety in a relationship
If you deal with relationship anxiety, you must seek help before it causes further damage to you and your relationship. Know that you are not alone and that you can manage or overcome relationship anxiety. Understand the triggers. Allow people who understand and support you to help.
Neelam also recommends observing healthy relationships. She says, “It can be useful to observe healthy, interdependent relationships because they give your brain and body a template of what a relationship is like, as opposed to only understanding codependent and insecure attachment styles.” A relationship is a two-way street. What one experiences or goes through affects the other, which is why it is advisable to seek help before things go out of hand. There’s no shame in it.
Yes. You can overcome relationship anxiety. It takes time and effort but it’s possible. You have to understand the underlying issues, get help and work toward managing them.
It is absolutely normal to experience a certain level of anxiety in a relationship. It is extremely common. People usually experience it at the start of the relationship. However, if you think it’s going out of control, consider reaching out to a therapist.
It depends on the anxiety levels. Some may notice a difference within a few sessions while others may have to undergo therapy for years. There’s no fixed timeline to this.