Strategies for Loving Someone who has Anxiety

Being in a relationship with an anxious partner can feel like hard work! If you’re looking to experience some more ease within your partnership, please read on for my insider tips on how to maintain your composure while dealing a partner’s propensity for anxiety. These tips will also help you foster a healthy relationship with your anxious special someone:

 
 

1 | Manage expectations

Understand that even if your partner is working hard to manage their anxiety, it's only natural for an anxious person to want to know as much as they can about any given situation it can help them feel more "in control" and therefore safer. Keeping this in mind, managing your partner's expectations about future plans will save you both much strife. For example, if you and your partner have plans and something changes or new information is presented that only you are aware of, let your partner know! They will be so grateful to have been brought up to speed about new developments so that they can make adjustments, if necessary. Anyone who has an anxious partner can attest to the fact that their mate does not like to be surprised with last-minute curveballs!

2 | Don't take things personally

Remember that your partner's anxiety has been there much longer than you have! That said, don't take it personally when something you've done or said "makes your partner anxious." Your action or statement was simply a trigger for what was already there. I know it's very hard not to react with feelings of shame or guilt when we've triggered a partner so take deep breaths and engage in some positive self-talk, like "It's going to be okay. My partner will get through this and so will I. I am a good person and I'm trying my very best."

3 | Avoid taking on your partner's anxiety

If you haven't noticed yet, anxiety is contagious! So, take good care of yourself. When you notice anxiety beginning to take hold, give yourself some space and time to re-center. Do some self-care, whatever that looks like for you. Pop in some headphones and listen to a guided meditation. Remember that you don't have to be pulled into the anxiety vortex just because someone you love is feeling that way.

4 | Practice compassion

As much as we love our partner it can be so frustrating to see them in a state of anxiety, especially when they are being completely irrational. Remind yourself to look at the big picture although the situation may look like small potatoes to you, it feels like the end of the world for your partner, so practice compassion. Imagine what it might be like to feel such intense fear for no apparent reason. This will help you stay connected with and empathic to your partner during freak-outs. Your groundedness will also rub off on your S.O.

5 | Find outlets

Because you're in a relationship with someone who has anxiety, you might feel as though there are certain topics of conversation or areas of life you need support where you just cannot go with your partner at this time. But that doesn't mean you should keep that all bottled up! You are going to need some serious friend support so that you can discuss whatever you need to whenever you want to. There are also some awesome books on the topic that you can read. A colleague and friend of mine, Lissah Lorberbaum, co-wrote "Anxious in Love" which delves deeply into this theme.

6 | Timing is everything

To make this relationship thrive, you and your partner will have to become masters of communication. One skill in addressing issues with your partner will be timing. An anxious person might have a really hard time with a text that says "we need to talk" sent in the morning when you're not seeing them until the evening. Your poor S.O. may spend the entire day ruminating only to find out you wanted to talk about redecorating the guest bathroom! Obviously, some issues can't wait and need to be addressed immediately. For ones that are less urgent, find a time to talk when your partner can be calm and receptive to the information being presented.

7 | Use systematic desensitization

If there's an activity you're into (say, rock climbing, dirt biking, surfing, etc.) that terrifies your partner, you shouldn't have to give up your hobby just to quell your partner's anxiety! Instead, expose them to it slowly over time by engaging in a mild version of the activity (i.e. an indoor rock wall or a short ride) and then ramping it up over time (i.e. more challenging versions of the activity.) This will give your partner a chance to build new neural networks associated with these activities the more times you come back safely, the more their brain will be reinforced that there's no need to worry.

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful for better navigating a relationship with an anxious partner. Now I’d love to hear from you! What helps you keep your cool among your partner’s anxiety? What absolutely does not work? Please share your insights in the comments section below. Thanks for reading and be well!


about the author

Hi! I'm Natalie. And I'm passionate about helping people create healthy relationships in their lives. Through couples counseling in Pasadena and here on the blog, it's my mission to help foster stronger connections, healthy communication and life-long love.

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Intimate Partner Violence Series: Part I – 10 Signs of Intimate Partner Violence

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and in honor of this, I’ve decided to develop an Intimate Partner Violence Series that is intended to equip individuals with the information necessary to 1) determine if they are in an abusive relationship, 2) develop a safety plan for while they are in the relationship, 3) seek support and resources to help them get out of the relationship and finally 4) identify signs of healthy relationships. This series is intended to be educational in nature and is not a substitute for seeking professional help. Please seek the help of a therapist in your area. Today’s post is Part One of this series. If this is a topic that has special relevance for you, stay tuned for future posts.

It can be tough to know what is just normal fighting or a few harsh words within a relationship and what defines intimate partner abuse. A main component of being in an abusive relationship is the denial that one experiences in relation to their partner’s behavior, making it challenging to identify potential abuse. Another common component to an abusive relationship is the alienation of the abused partner’s support system, meaning that those who may have wanted to speak out about the violence are now estranged friends and family members. If you’re concerned about behavior within your relationship I recommend you read through the following list of signs and see if any resonate with your experience:

 
 

1 | You feel on edge around your partner

If you feel you have to watch what you do or say in front of your partner to prevent a blow-up, that is a red-flag. We should be able to feel comfortable, safe and able to be honest and vulnerable in the presence of our partner without fear of setting them off.

2 | You constantly feel like you’re “in trouble”

In abusive relationships, the abuser constantly wants the abused to feel that they are in the wrong and that they’ve done something bad to “deserve” the abuse they’re receiving. I’m going to clear this up right now – no one EVER deserves abuse of any kind, whether it’s physical or verbal.

3 | Your partner spends a lot of time apologizing

Part of the cycle of violence involves the abuser apologizing profusely after an episode of abuse. For example, many abusers may drink or use heavily, engage in abusive behavior while intoxicated and the next morning (once they’ve sobered up) apologize and try to take back what they said.

4 | Your partner buys you expensive gifts

Especially in the beginning of an abusive relationship, the abuser will attempt to gain favor and control of their partner through the use of buying expensive gifts. Abusers also will buy their partner gifts or flowers as a way of asking for forgiveness following abuse.

5 | Your partner denies the truth

Often, abusers will completely deny saying or doing something abusive. This is why many survivors of abuse will claim that they felt they were “going crazy” in the relationship – in other words, abusive partners will manipulate the truth so often that you may begin to doubt your own memory or sanity.

6 | You have fuzzy or incomplete memories

Abuse is traumatizing and while experiencing traumatic events, the brain will often dissociate from the present moment or the physical experience of the trauma, making it more challenging in the future to recall abuse. If you have a difficult time remembering certain events, this could be an indicator of abuse.

7 | Your partner alienates you

This will often manifest as all your friends being your partner’s friends (so that you have no outside support) or could present as you having fewer and fewer relationships over time. An abusive partner will slowly erode away your other support and resources so that you don’t feel you have the option to leave.

8 | Your partner throws objects

Most people know that any form of non-consensual physical violence perpetrated against someone else is a form of abuse. But a lesser-known sign of abuse is a partner throwing objects around the house. Although one might say this is benign behavior, objects can inflict physical pain if thrown carelessly.

9 | Your partner talks down to you

If your partner belittles you, makes fun of you, calls you names, denigrates you, or in any way makes you feel badly about yourself as a regular practice, this is highly concerning. The way that abusive partners assert their control over their mate is through over time chipping away at their sense of self-worth.

10 | You make excuses for your partner

You may find yourself constantly explaining away your partner’s behavior such as “oh, he was just drunk,” or “he’s not usually like this,” or “she’s going through a really tough time right now,” in order to manage people’s perceptions of your partner. But in a healthy relationship, no excuses are necessary.

Although this list is far from exhaustive, it’s a good start to take the temperature of your relationship and see if there are any concerning attributes. If you'd like to learn more about warning signs of domestic violence, I suggest you visit this linkIf you feel that you are in imminent danger, please seek help immediately, by calling The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or by calling 911. If you are not in immediate danger, but would like to find someone to talk to, you can find a therapist at PsychologyToday.com or if you are in the Los Angeles area, feel free to contact me for therapy. I hope you found today’s post informative. Please leave a comment below if there’s anything you’d like to add or ask. Stay posted for future articles in this series. Be safe and be well.


about the author

Hi! I'm Natalie. And I'm passionate about helping people create healthy relationships in their lives. Through couples counseling in Pasadena and here on the blog, it's my mission to help foster stronger connections, healthy communication and life-long love.

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