I have, in the past, struggled massively with relationship anxiety. It is something that I have under far better control nowadays, but there was a time when it was a major issue – even a relationship-ending one.
The great thing is, there is an awful lot you can be doing to improve your relationship anxiety. You don’t need drugs (although they can certainly help under the correct circumstances), and you don’t need a miracle cure. What you do need is a positive mindset, a lot of patience, and a great deal of determination.
Relationship Anxiety Is Suffered By All
Let’s get one thing straight first of all – everyone can suffer from relationship anxiety at times. It is completely natural to feel suspicious, helpless, anxious, or any other number of emotions, whilst in a relationship. There are few other things in life that are more complex and involved than sexual relationships, and they can bring up the whole gamut of human emotions. It is learning to deal with and rationalize the anxiety that is key.
If you suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), then any relationship anxiety can be blown out of all proportion. It is a logical step that GAD in everyday life can spill into your relationships. Take a moment to consider the type of things that you tend to get anxious about. I’ll list a few of the situations that merely anticipating used to get me extremely anxious:
- Eating in public
- Going to the cinema
- Getting my hair cut
The above are ‘normal’ situations. There is no logical reason to be anxious of them. However, in a relationship, there might be plenty of reasons to have a natural level of anxiety. If you suffer from GAD and are placed in a situation that can create anxiousness in even the most level-headed person, what chance do you have?
That is the sad truth. So let’s accept that, and ask the important question – what can we do about it?
Be Aware And Analyse
If you take anything from this article, I want it to be this point: try to be aware of your excessive anxiety. Understanding that my thought processes and behavior were irrational was a huge ‘eureka’ moment for me.
It doesn’t really matter was the stimulus is. You might be suspicious of your partner’s behavior, or you may doubt if he or she really cares. That isn’t important. What is important is that you step back from your thought process, and analyse it in as rational a way as you possibly can. Ask yourself these key questions:
- What emotion am I feeling?
- Why am I feeling it?
- What rational reason do I have for feeling it?
- What rational reasons might there be for not feeling it?
Let’s say your partner says that he is going to call you – but you never get a call. Your anxious mind will start working overtime – he clearly doesn’t want to talk to you (you might think of many other reasons, but let’s stick with that one). Stop and ask yourself the questions above. Here’s how you might answer them:
I feel upset because I think that my partner doesn’t care about me. I think that because he hasn’t called when he said that he would. Him not calling is not a rational reason to think that though – there might be 100 completely ‘normal’ reasons for him not calling. I know he does care about me, because he tells me that he does, and he shows it in his actions. Him not calling when he said he would, as an isolated incident, does not overrule all of the clear signals that demonstrate his caring for me.
There is one very important thing to bear in mind when asking yourself the above questions – never over-analyse. Always do the bear minimum. Resist the temptation to roll things around in your head. If you find yourself descending into a self-propagating spiral of anxiety, then distract yourself with something active – talk to a friend, read a book, play sports – just do something to distract you.
Trust Your Partner
If you follow through with the above, recognize that your thought processes are irrational, but still act out, then you need to build up a higher level of discipline. Yes, it is incredibly hard to do this, and you will probably still have to carry around the doubt in your head, but vocalizing it will not resolve your issue – it will feed it.
Moreover, if you are constantly doubting your partner and asking them for reassurance, you will be slowly pushing them away. Trust is one of the most important parts of a relationship – if you openly distrust your partner, it will not bring you closer together – quite the opposite.
Let me say this again in an effort to drill the point home – constantly voicing fears that you know to be irrational will not resolve your anxiety. In fact, if your partner does not respond in exactly the way you want them to, it may feed it further.
I am not saying that you should bottle your feelings up. You should certainly talk to your partner about your feelings of anxiety, and make him or her aware of the internal battles you face. But discussing every single episode of anxiety will most likely fuel negative thought patterns. Treat them with minimal respect and dismiss them from your mind.
It can be difficult when you are wrought with anxiety, but try to keep a positive outlook on your relationship. Remind yourself of all the reasons why your relationship is a positive influence in your life. Recall things that your partner has said in the past that reinforce your positivity. Remind yourself that no relationship is perfect, and that it is perfectly normal to experience levels of anxiety. The important thing is to recognize when your anxiety is getting the better of you.
Get To The Root Of The Issue
If you think and act as I have recommended, in time, your ‘hardwired’ impulses will actually change. Your natural response to certain situations will be far more positive. I know this, because I have witnessed the change personally.
What is also important is to recognize why you have such a level of anxiety. This is something that is best explored with a therapist. I can personally recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). If you are serious about dealing with your anxiety issues, then you should seek therapy in the form of CBT. Your therapist will probably echo some of the methods above, but they will also seek to understand and treat the underlying cause(s) of your anxiety.
In understanding the root of your issues, you are usually far better equipped to deal with them.