All relationships are hard and need to be worked on, but one thing that can really affect how you cope with a partnership is anxiety.
Anxiety often has a mind of its own and will grasp every little thought you have and turn it into something hard to deal with. It doesn’t have to make logical sense, or come from any obvious or logical start point. If it did, I guess it would be a lot easier to cope with.
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic will mean anxiety is rearing its head in more relationships than usual. After all, many couples are now spending far more time together than ever before.
For me, anxiety is coupled with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and part of that is a fear of abandonment and having an unstable relationship. Despite this, I’ve managed to hold down a relationship for over ten years now, thanks to a lot of work on both our parts.
For some, anxiety can become debilitating and a huge burden when it comes to carrying out everyday life. Here are the ways my partner and I deal with the anxieties that crop up in our relationship, allowing us to stay together despite the intrusive thoughts.
Accepting you aren’t alone
Although at times it might be hard to believe, you aren’t alone in experiencing anxiety within your relationships. It’s very normal, with many people experiencing it to some degree in the early parts of a relationship.
Anxiety isn’t something to be ashamed of either, it’s a normal reaction that everyone feels at some point and to some extent. However, when it becomes an issue it’s time to seek help and open-up to those around you.
Opening up about anxiety
One of the first and perhaps most difficult steps when dealing with anxiety in a relationship is talking about it with your partner and admitting it happens. My partner always knew about my mental health issues, but finding ways to cope with my reactions to situations was something we both had to learn over the years, and is an ever-evolving process.
It’s taken a long time for me to be able to say to my partner, “Look, I’m feeling anxious and I think you dislike me”. It’s also taken him time to understand that laughing or making a joke in response is not helpful. Instead he needs to say something along the lines of, “Now you know that’s just your anxiety Sarah, and it’s untrue”.
This gives me a real tangible statement to hold onto, and as much as my mind tries to keep telling me that he doesn’t like me, I can respond to my thoughts and reply back that it’s not true – his words told me so.
Taking that first step and opening up about the fact you live with anxiety will make it easier to talk about it when it hits later down the line.
Understanding your anxiety
Anxiety affects everyone in different ways, and this is especially true of anxiety in relationships. The way we react varies from person to person, and can include everything from trying to cling to our partner for fear of them cheating on us, to self-sabotaging a relationship by picking fights, testing boundaries, and pushing them away. All of which is done to test how much they care for us.
These reactions can make understanding our own anxiety very hard, and I have sought professional help to try and understand my own.
I’ve found that both solo and couples counselling is a good way to approach relationship anxiety. It not only helps you learn how to cope yourself, but it gives your partner help and support when trying to understand and cope with your anxiety too.
You can overcome it
One thing to always remember is that you can overcome relationship anxiety. While it will take hard work on your behalf and will become something you have to keep practising, you can come to be part of a happy relationship.
Remembering the following three actions will help in your journey.
- Be mindful – be more aware of your reactions, as well as your needs and the needs of those around you.
- Communicate – being able to talk to your partner without causing friction is a big part of working through anxiety. Learn how to speak about how you’re feeling without it coming across as accusatory.
- Try not to act on impulse – sometimes anxiety can make you want to find ‘proof’ that your thoughts are real. This can be both dangerous and harmful to you and your relationship. If you’re feeling impulsive, try and take yourself away from the situation and distract yourself until the impulse has passed.
Talking about anxiety, both with your partner and a trained therapist, is a good tool to help you deal with relationship anxiety. Relationships are uncertain, and it’s natural to feel anxiety at times, but you can learn effective ways to cope with these thoughts and feelings so they don’t derail your relationship in the long run.
NPS-IE-NP-00121 October 2020