Relationship anxiety is the nagging fear of losing your partner or being rejected by them. Here are some tips to help overcome relationship anxiety and enjoy a happy, healthy love connection.
Even when it feels like you’ve found your ride-or-die, you might still have a nagging dread that your love boat is heading for the rocks. This feeling is called relationship anxiety. It can rear its ugly head in many ways, from constantly asking your partner if they still love you to obsessively keeping tabs on your bae’s social media.
But fear not friends. Relationship anxiety is a common issue affecting folks of any age and at any stage of their partnership, from puppy love to decades deep.
Keep reading to learn healthy coping strategies to help you overcome your relationship anxiety.
Yes! Relationship anxiety is totes normal. A lot of people have a little voice in their head saying stuff like “I’m not good enough,” “My partner is going to leave me,” or “If I forget to use deodorant, I’m 100 percent getting dumped.”
Let’s face it. Relationships can be a little scary. We air out our vulnerabilities, pin our hopes on each other, and even wrap up our identities in our couplehood. There’s a lot at stake when it comes to love. So it’s natural that we’d be a little freaked out about the whole thing from time to time.
Every relationship is unique, so identifying the underlying causes of relationship anxiety can be tricky. With a little quiet soul searching, you might see that the worry and doubt are rooted in a few different reasons. Here are some common ones:
If you don’t think much of yourself, you’ll tend to think other people agree. A negative view of your worth or value can make it hard to accept that you’re worthy of love. This might make it hard to accept your loved one’s affection or attention while filling you with dread.
If left unchecked, this kernel of insecurity can grow into full-blown panic. You might start to obsess over losing your loved one and lose sight of your sense of self.
The “ex” factor
Once bitten, twice shy, as they say. If past relationships ended badly, that emotional ouchies might make you reluctant to dive into another relationship.
Coupling up with someone new can be scary if you’ve been cheated on, lied to, abused, or devalued. And even when you do buck up and go for it, you might be walking on eggshells with your partner, expecting that other shoe to drop at any moment.
“So, tell me about your mother…” Yep, our baggage from childhood affects what we expect out of relationships. In psychology, this is called attachment style. If you were in a household where your caregiver was neglectful, unpredictable, or abusive, you might have an insecure attachment style.
Either you avoid getting close to others, or you’re anxious that they’ll leave you… through no fault of theirs or yours. This worry might stem from how you were raised or other previous relationships.
There are a ton of different ways of communicating. Sometimes it can take some effort to get on the same page.
One person in the relationship may view “me time” as a form of self-care, while their partner might see this as neglect. Even the tone in a text message can fly right over each other’s heads. These miscues could lead to some anxiety in the relationship.
Don’t beat yourself up for feeling some relationship angst. After all, anxiety only becomes a problem when it spirals out of control or mocks up other aspects of your life.
If you feel any of these symptoms, you might be suffering from a more severe level of relationship anxiety:
- Physical or mental fatigue
- Lethargy, aimlessness, or apathy
- Persistent sadness, hopelessness, panic, or a short temper
- Tummy probs, back pain, headaches, or other inexplicable physical maladies
Here are some common ways that anxiety might be poking its unwelcome face into your relationship:
- Doubting that your partner’s love for you is authentic.
- Monitoring your partner’s social media for any signs of infidelity.
- Feeling reluctant to label the commitment level of your relationship publicly.
- Assuming your partner is cheating on you.
- Constantly needing your partner to reassure you or declare their devotion.
- Bristling at the thought of your partner doing something without you.
- Constantly wanting to know your partner’s whereabouts.
- Needing to control who your partner is friends with.
- Totally ignoring your own needs to make your partner happy.
- Grilling your partner about personal details from their past.
- Thinking that little differences in taste (like music or movies) means you’re incompatible.
- Putting too much meaning onto every little word your partner says.
- Acting aloof or reluctant to show affection.
- Being too affectionate, especially in public.
- You’re so busy worrying about your partner’s commitment you don’t enjoy your relationship!
In other words, relationship anxiety can create a pattern of self-sabotage. If you’re so anxious that things aren’t working, you wire up your house like Home Alone. Your relationship will probably get pretty effed up by your boobytraps.
Here are some ways to dial down the angst and enjoy a healthy and happy relationship.
Communication is key
So many issues can be resolved with some clarity and empathy. Take a sec to calm yourself and speak from your heart. Avoid speaking with any anger or any finger-pointing. For example: “You did this! You made me feel that!” Instead, opt for this golden phrase: like “I feel…”
Speaking about your feelings assures your partner that you aren’t accusing them of anything. If they feel safer in the conversation, then honest communication can flourish. And, after all, healthy communication fosters a healthy relationship.
For an extra brave and helpful step, try to find a friend you can open up to about your relationship. But be cautious about taking advice, seeking approval, or looking for validation. Seek out an empathetic and nonjudgemental ear that will listen and soothe your anxiety. If your friend is quick to want to fix your woes, probably find a different confidant.
Be true to you
Maintaining healthy boundaries and a sense of yourself can help alleviate your worries. How do you define yourself without your partner? How would you describe yourself and the things you value without using terms that relate to your partner?
We shift naturally over time to accommodate each other. But sometimes, we can bend too much for our partner, resulting in conflict and self-erasure.
Resist your impulses
When you feel that urge to pry, to seek approval, to lash out with jealousy… don’t. Just press pause. Do you really need to check your partner’s texts? Prob not.
If you identify what you need as opposed to what you want, you’ll create a practice of self-discipline that will raise your self-esteem, lower conflict and create healthy relationship boundaries.
Gratitude changes the attitude
Our brains are designed to dwell on the negative, on what could go wrong, instead of what’s going right… right now. Hit override and stay present. Focus on what you love about your life and what’s going well. It could be about your partner, like what you love about them or activities you love doing together.
But, you might stop noticing the things you love about your life when you’re alone. Write it on a sticky note, read it before bed and update it daily.
Talking about your anxiety with a professional counselor or therapist can be really helpful for easing your anxiety, either alone or as a couple.
The common stigma about couples therapy is that it means a relationship is already broken. Not true. Couples therapy offers a safe forum for potentially uncomfortable conversations at any relationship stage.
Relationship anxiety is a nagging fear that your relationship won’t last. You live with a constant pit in your stomach that you’ll be rejected by your partner or you’ll somehow screw things up.
For some people, relationship anxiety might result from bad experiences with past relationships. For others, it might result from low self-esteem or a lack of trust in the relationship due to some ingrained attachment styles established during childhood. Whatever the reason, it’s important to remember that relationship anxiety is normal, valid, and shared in new and well-established relationships.
Try to get to the source of the anxiety by opening up all the lines of communication. Be confident and honest with your partner and friends and family you trust. Also, practice self-care and open up to a sense of gratitude.
Eventually, with patience, you’ll experience the joys of your relationship in the present rather than ruminating on any potential disasters down the road.