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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How do I Know it's Time to Just Move on?

Not knowing whether to stay in a relationship or leave feels like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, you know that you're not quite satisfied with what is, so you don't feel like staying, yet the idea of leaving and losing that person you care for seems too way too hard, especially if you still have strong feelings for this person. I've worked with many individuals and couples and have seen people work through all kinds of issues. However, there are certain characteristics that make it clear to me that the best course of action would be to just move on:

 
 

1 | Your partner is not interested in growth

If you are interested in self-growth, self-help, reading, learning, seeking guidance and making yourself a generally better person and your partner isn't like that, it might be time to move on. When one member of a couple is constantly evolving and bettering themselves and the other is remaining stagnant, that is a recipe for an unbalanced relationship. It will be challenging to see eye to eye, and this discrepancy will only continue to expand as you develop further.

2 | Your partner is unwilling to talk about their feelings

As uncomfortable as it can be to talk about our emotions, it is absolutely necessary for a relationship to thrive. If your partner is unwilling to explore emotional territory, this doesn't bode well for the relationship. We need to be able to be vulnerable enough to share our emotional experience with our partner and we need that back from them too in order to feel deeply connected to that person. If your partner has difficulty with this, but is working on it, great! However, if your partner doesn't see the value in expressing emotion or refuses to grow in this area, it might be time to walk away.

3 | You don't trust your partner

It's normal to have trust issues! Many people carry around the weight of previous betrayals if they haven't adequately processed through the hurt and consciously let go of those experiences. Lingering trust issues can inadvertently create tension within your relationship -- manifesting as jealousy, controlling behavior, doubting your partner's motives, etc. If you're willing to take responsibility for your inability to trust and work on it, that's wonderful. But if your partner has acted (or continues to act) in ways that reasonably diminish your trust in them and that despite your best efforts you still don't trust them, then it might be time to reevaluate the relationship.

4 | You feel worse around your partner

Intimate relationships are satisfying and fulfilling when spending time with and talking over the phone to our partner uplifts our mood and inspires us. This may seem obvious, but when with your partner, for the most part, you should feel better, not worse! If your partner is constantly complaining and focusing on the negative, then start to ask yourself, "what is this person contributing to my life?" If someone is bringing in more negativity than positivity, it might be time to consider a break-up.

5 | Your partner is abusive

Don't skip over this step! You might be thinking "oh no, that can't apply to me." But I was in an abusive relationship for almost 5 years without knowing it was abuse. Please read my Intimate Partner Violence Series for more information on this.

I hope this article is helpful to you in exploring more deeply what you believe is best for you. As a therapist I never tell my clients what to do in a given situation. Instead, I educate them as much as I can and I help them connect to their own desires and intuition so they can make a decision from a place of clarity and authenticity. I wish you the best of luck! Leave a comment below if you have any questions or thoughts about this topic. I'd love to hear from you.


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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