Thousands of individuals across the world suffer from severe anxiety. In many cases, it is manageable and may not be totally obvious. But many couples may find that having anxiety in a relationship can create significant strain. Whether it is simple dating anxiety, social anxiety, or general anxiety with life, this can create tension with you and contribute to greater relationship stress. But while this may be causing problems with your daily relationship, remember that it is treatable. And, most importantly, you need to understand anxiety for yourself so that you can adequately support your partner through their problems.
In order to address the problem of dating someone with anxiety, you’ll need to learn some of the basics regarding anxiety. The only way to understand and support what your partner is going through means researching how anxiety manifests, affects people, and can be addressed. According to psychologists and therapists, keep the following items in mind when dealing with dating and anxiety:
- Anxiety is a real problem, not something a person makes up. It is a real mental health issue that affects thousands.
- Anxiety is not unusual. Everyone has it in one form or another. It only becomes an issue for few when it becomes severe.
- Anxiety may become a problem that affects one’s ability to function normally and living a regular life.
- Anxiety forces a fight-or-flight response even in due to issues that are not life-threatening.
- You cannot “fix” or “cure” a person’s anxiety short of medicine and therapy. Even then, these only help a person learn to cope with anxiety.
- Most people who suffer from extreme anxiety wish they didn’t have it and feel like they are a burden to family and friends.
- Even in some instances of dating someone with social anxiety, it is quite possible to have great relationships that are happy.
- Symptoms of anxiety can occur in waves, or even consistently. People with severe anxiety can experience moments when they have no symptoms.
- Anxiety is far from a logical or rational problem to encounter. It causes a person to worry about things that ordinary people wouldn’t be concerned about. As a result, anxiety causes a person to act irrationally.
- Despite all arguments contrary, anxiety is not a weakness.
- Most important of all, anxiety is treatable. Both psychotherapy and medicine can help a person to cope with and address anxiety when it occurs.
How Anxiety can affect a relationship
If you’re dealing with anxiety in a relationship or have a spouse suffering from anxiety, then it’s quite possible for them to be spending a lot of time worrying about everything that can go wrong in a relationship. Or, they may become hyper-focused on the things they perceive as wrong with the current relationship. As a result, people suffering from relationship anxiety might be asking themselves the following questions:
- What if they don’t love me as much as I love them?
- What if they’re lying to me about something?
- What if they’re hiding things from me?
- What if they’re cheating on me with someone?
- What if they are thinking about cheating on me?
- What if they like someone else more than me?
- What if my anxiety is ruining my relationship?
- What if we break up?
- What if they don’t text me back quickly?
- What if I’m the only one who always reaches out?
- What if they ghost me?
These are just a few of the common questions a person suffering from anxiety might be thinking. They are a normal part of any relationship—especially a new one—but only cause problems for those suffering from severe anxiety. However, people suffering from anxiety in marriage or a relationship tend to have these thoughts much more regularly and with greater intensity than can feel manageable. In many cases, their mind takes over and immediately focuses on the worst-case scenario.
Anxiety causes physiological symptoms, such as shortness of breath, insomnia, and even panic attacks. If your partner is having anxiety in a relationship, then they’re more likely to deal with relationship stress using a fight-or-flight response as though the stress were an actual physical attack on them.
As a result, anxious thoughts force a partner to act in ways that can stress you out and even strain the relationship. For example, sometimes if a partner is feeling anxious in a relationship, they will test their partner’s commitment to the relationship by using insecure strategies that force you to prove your feelings for them.
There are myriad symptoms that reflect a person’s anxiety level. Here are some behaviors to watch out for in a partner or spouse with anxiety:
- They are angry or irritable
- They are controlling
- They’re distracted or having trouble focusing
- They come across as overly critical
- They avoid difficult discussions or come across as passive-aggressive
- They strive for perfectionism
Coping with dating and anxiety
Anxiety doesn’t need to rip a relationship apart. Your partner can adopt numerous coping strategies to ensure a healthy relationship where anxiety won’t cause too much stress.
Take a couples or single assessment
One of the main ways to help a loved one realize that they need to seek out help to deal with anxiety is getting them to take a relationship assessment. This helps to point out problems and strengths in the relationship. Our Couples assessment gives people the opportunity to take inventory of your entire relationship and identify problem points. You can then use the results of this assessment to explore how both you and your partner scored yourselves and each other.
Simply fill out the questionnaire by truthfully scoring yourself and your partner on all aspects of the relationship. Remember the truthful part, because that is critical for addressing problem areas and helping a relationship to succeed.
Encourage your partner to see a therapist or try couples therapy
Once you’ve completed the assessment, you can sit down with your partner and examine the results to identify relationship problems and discuss the possibility of couples therapy. If you and your partner want to ensure that their anxiety does not result in a break-up or divorce, make this into an honest discussion.
But if you can’t simply discuss the assessment results, that’s where therapy comes into the equation. With the results of your assessment in-hand, you can approach any counselor with evidence of relationship problems you might be encountering. A licensed processional can then use this during counseling sessions to help address the issues flagged by anxiety.
When you care for someone with relationship anxiety symptoms, it’s too easy to try and address their problems by acting like a therapist yourself. It might seem helpful to give them someone to talk to and maybe even “vent.” But the problem is that you’re not a therapist. Trying to play that role while also being supportive of your partner can become quite draining and may even make you resent your partner. You aren’t responsible for being a therapist. But you can help encourage your partner to seek out therapy.
Gently guide them toward working with a therapist. This can drastically help improve how they deal with anxiety both in and outside a relationship. Working with a couples counselor helps to take the pressure off of your partner.
Try therapy yourself
Regardless of whether your partner agrees to or resists the suggestion of attending therapy, you should still try it yourself. Such an effort will help you to develop the skills necessary to understand the signs of relationship anxiety and how to cope with your partner’s anxiety. Therapists can also teach you how to effectively support your anxious partner. Simply take the results of your partner’s assessment with you and your counselor will tailor each session to giving you the tools to help your relationship succeed.
When dealing with relationship anxiety, help seems difficult to find. But it’s of critical importance that you take care of yourself. Going to therapy gives you the opportunity to also focus on your own mental health.
What not to do
Now that we’ve gone through some of the options available to you as a partner and couple, here are some things to consider that you should avoid doing. These can significantly increase your partner’s anxiety problems and cause additional relationship problems. DO NOT:
- Criticize your partner for having anxiety
- Dismiss your partner’s anxiety
- Coddle your partner’s anxious behaviors
- Become your partner’s therapist
- Take everything your partner says personally
- Lose your temper or patience whenever their anxiety flares up
- Try to “fix” your partner
- Recommend drugs for your partner to take (again, you are not their therapist or psychiatrist)
Anxiety can help your relationship
Anxiety shouldn’t just be a source of stress in your relationship. It can also become an opportunity to understand your partner and learn to love them more deeply. After all, their anxiety is just a part of who they are.
By learning about anxiety and pursuing professional treatment from a licensed mental health professional, you can help your partner while also looking out for your own mental health. With the right help, your relationship can become even stronger and more full of joy.