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 is relationship anxiety.
Going through relationship anxiety is normal. 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?
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. Am I good enough? What if it doesn’t work out? Am I with the right person? Does my partner love me?
If you are constantly asking yourself these questions, you are dealing with relationship anxiety. Those suffering from it tend to push people away or cling too much. They are likely to doubt their own feelings toward their partners at the start of the relationship. They are plagued with questions like “Do I actually want to be in this relationship?”, “Do I love him enough?” or “Are we compatible enough to build a future together?”
“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 leads to physical (stomach upset, fatigue) and mental (emotional distress, lack of motivation) concerns,” says Neelam.
It’s important to recognize the underlying symptoms. Here are a few signs that someone with anxiety in a relationship goes through:
- Fear of commitment: This can happen due to several reasons like childhood trauma or a negative relationship experience in the past. 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
- Separation anxiety: This 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 or if you’re in a long-distance relationship, you’re probably dealing with separation anxiety
- 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
- Doubting a partner’s feelings: Worrying about whether your partner likes you or cares about you is another sign of relationship anxiety. You start to question your importance in your partner’s life – if you matter or if they will find someone better than you
- 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 cause for concern
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 for fear of rejection or negative judgment. This can further cause social anxiety in a relationship where they get conscious about their appearance or thoughts out of fear of ridicule or embarrassment.
While explaining the causes of relationship anxiety, Neelam says, “The common factors that play an important role 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.”
Related Reading: 11 Ways To Cope With Dating Anxiety
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 control 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.
Proper 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. Both partners 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.
3. Indulge in your favorite activities and hobbies
One of the best ways to deal with relationship anxiety is to indulge in your favorite things. 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. It’ll help you manage your 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.”
Related Reading: 7 Toxic Signs Of An Unhealthy Relationship
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 others.
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.
5. 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 or ridicule. Neelam suggests, “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help reframe cognitive biases enabling you to relax when anxiety ramps up.”
Therapy will give you clarity and help you control your anxiety. A therapist will be able to guide you in the right direction and work on your negative thought process, self-worth and self-esteem so you can maintain 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.
Therapy is known to be immensely beneficial in situations like these. With licensed and experienced therapists on Bonobology’s panel, the right help is only a click away.
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 own 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.”
Related Reading: 11 Examples Of Self-Sabotaging Behaviors
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.
9. 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.
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.