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If there’s one topic in the world of relationship advice for couples we both feel like experts on, it’s anxiety. Specifically, dealing with anxiety in relationships.
Both my husband Nathan and I are anxious people. We have lived with various types of anxiety and worry since childhood, and this has had an impact on virtually every aspect of our lives.
While anxiety sucks all the time, it can be particularly painful in a relationship context. When you have relationship anxiety, your fears attack something that is intensely personal and important to you. Anxiety about whether or not a partner cares for you, or anxiety about your own feelings: these kinds of concerns center around the deepest personal connections of our lives.
So how do you deal with relationship-based anxiety? How do you recognize it? We’re going to share some of the ways we’ve learned to deal with anxiety in our relationship, and hopefully give you some guidance and encouragement as well.
Anxiety in Relationships – Anxiety About Your Partner’s Feelings
First, let’s start with what is probably the more common type of relationship anxiety: insecurity. If you’ve ever found yourself worrying about your partner’s feelings for you, this is totally normal. It’s super common to wonder about how a relationship is going, especially in the early days. Questions like is she into me, does he love me, does she care for me as much as I care for her, are completely normal.
We’ve written about that kind of thing here: 10 Signs He Loves You (and How to Deal if He Doesn’t)
But sometimes, you might deal with some obsessive thoughts or ruminations about your partner’s feelings for you. This is exactly what I dealt with for several years in my relationship with Nathan. Despite the fact that we were in a loving, happy, and secure relationship together, I could not stop the cycle of needing reassurance in a relationship. Luckily, I was able to work really hard to overcome this issue, and today, I no longer feel this ongoing fear and insecurity about Nathan’s feelings for me. Check out my post for all my best tips, or better yet, you can grab my short ebook: Do You Love Me? How to Stop Seeking Reassurance in Relationships.
- 7 Reasons Why He Hasn’t Proposed (And How To Deal With It)
- How to Help Your Partner Feel More Secure in a Relationship
Anxiety About Your Own Feelings
What about having doubts about your own feelings? Is that what’s happening to you? Up until a few years ago, it seems that people weren’t talking about relationship doubts or relationship anxiety. And yet, this is such a normal occurrence. Nathan had some experience with this himself as a person whose anxiety tends to center around doubting his own feelings and thoughts.
Now, more people are talking about this kind of thing. We know this is not only totally normal, but there’s even been a name created for a type of severe relationship anxiety, Relationship OCD or ROCD.
Does Society Create Anxiety in Relationships?
Has anyone ever told you that love isn’t a fairytale? (PS: Here’s what real love is).
Maybe some sagely older person has, in fact, shared this piece of wisdom with you, and if so, you are lucky. You are way ahead of the game. Because in today’s culture, we don’t pay a lot of attention to ideas of love and marriage that aren’t romantic, lush, and full of drama.
Conventional thoughts on love and marriage tell us that when we’re of a certain age (typically mid 20’s) we will cross mystical paths with one unique individual who is destined to be the love of our life. This is our soulmate, the love of our life, and the one we are meant to be with. And we will “just know” they are the one for us.
But what if we don’t have those feelings? Does that mean something is wrong? Nope!
In our society, we’ve put so much emphasis on feelings that if we don’t have that magical, breathless encounter, we automatically think something is off, or this isn’t the person we should be with.
When our average love experience is far less like the conventional image we’ve come to dream about, we start doubting the relationship. And one of the prevailing relationship myths is “doubt means don’t.” So we run. But we might be running away from something amazing.
What is a Normal Relationship?
Surprise! Love isn’t butterflies, endless attraction, or drama. These heightened states may be part of your initial phase with a partner, but they don’t last (and drama certainly shouldn’t for a healthy adult relationship).
In truth, these aspects may point more toward lust and longing. Everyone knows that when you can’t have something you want it more. So the push and pull of relationships in the beginning (will she? won’t she?) as one is often the pursuer and one the pursued, creates delicious drama.
It’s so easy to become addicted to this novel thrill, but this is not the stuff true love is made of. Love can be mundane. Love is simple.
Love is, most of all, a choice you make every day to move lovingly toward your partner even when you’re not “feeling it.” If you only rely on love as a feeling, you’ll have a tough time making it through the natural ebbs and flows of any relationship. (And they will come).
Love is about seeing through those rough patches and knowing that what you have is something worth so much more than just a feeling. It’s knowing that you wouldn’t trade your comfortable, safe partnership for the fleeting thrills of an impassioned affair.
Because when you know love is not a feeling, it is easier to accept all the highs and lows that life naturally brings. A normal, healthy relationship encompasses this understanding on some level, and also makes space for each person to be an individual with all their myriad fears, flaws, and doubts.
Doubting Your Love
Have you ever wondered if you’re 100% SURE about your relationship? Is he the one? What if you’re only with that person because you don’t want to be alone? What if you aren’t always attracted to your husband or wife?
What if little things about her annoy you? What if you love them a little bit more than they love you? What if they leave you? What if they die?
These fears, doubts, and worries, and countless others are SO. FREAKING. NORMAL.
A lot of men and women have one of these doubts or thoughts for the first time and fall into a panic. If I loved them, I wouldn’t be thinking this.
Not true. We’re multifaceted people capable of feeling all parts of the emotional spectrum.
And you know what those doubts or intrusive thoughts really mean? They mean you are a thoughtful person who is giving consideration to the decision to be with another person.
And of course, that decision is hella scary. But absent of major relationship red flags, every potential partner has flaws you’ll have to deal with. No one will be perfect. So don’t let those all-too-common fears and doubts send you away from something good.
Love is effort, love is a decision, and love can be challenging, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful than the fairy tale love we’ve been sold.
If you’re dealing with relationship anxiety, I highly recommend the work of Sheryl Paul and her Conscious Transitions programs.
Other Relationship Anxiety and General Anxiety
You might also just be dealing with overthinking in a relationship. This may include both types of anxiety mentioned above, as well as general fears and worries. You might worry about your partner’s safety and wellbeing, for instance. No matter what your anxiety attaches itself too, it’s no fun, and it can be challenging and even painful for you and your relationship.
Perhaps you deal with separation anxiety in relationships, too. This is something that impacted me, especially when Nathan and I were in a long-distance relationship.
Non-relationship-related anxiety also takes its toll. And chances are good you deal with this to some degree. After all, anxiety affects roughly 40 million adults in the US alone.
Tips on How to Deal With Relationship Anxiety
If you’re experiencing anxiety in relationships, there are some steps you can take to find healing and relief.
Learn about what’s going on
First, seek out resources to help you figure out what you’re dealing with. We hope our site can be a great place for you to start, and we’ve also linked out to other resources that can offer additional guidance. Understanding your relationship anxiety is an important way to accept it and start sifting through it. Honestly, simply recognizing that your intrusive thoughts and worries are a product of anxiety can be really reassuring.
Be honest about it
If you’re dealing with anxiety, don’t be afraid to discuss it with your significant other. I know this can be difficult and even embarrassing, but being upfront about these emotions can help you find support from your partner. They might also experience some of the same things, and talking about it can be healing for both of you.
Take care of yourself
Be sure you’re not leaning totally on your partner for support, however. It is essential to recognize that you’re responsible for meeting your own emotional needs. To that end, take care of yourself. Learn techniques to manage your stress. Prioritize and practice self love and self care. It ultimately will make you a better partner.
Get expert help
Finally, if you’re dealing with anxiety of any kind, we highly recommend connecting with a professional therapist. We’ve both been helped immensely through therapy and counseling, and it can be a vital part of feeling better. Check out resources such as BetterHelp to find a therapist now.
Amy Hartle is the author of Do You Love Me? How To Stop Seeking Reassurance in Relationships, a book on reassurance seeking and relationship anxiety. Both her book and this blog are born of personal experience; Amy shares expert relationship advice from the lessons learned during her own 10+ years with her husband, as well as couples travel tips and romantic getaway recommendations, all gleaned while traveling the world together.