Anxiety in relationships is common. It occurs in new relationships before we are sure of the other person’s interest in or commitment to us. But it can happen at any point in a relationship.
Relationship anxiety is a generalized worry and fear about a romantic relationship. Sometimes, the emotions are temporary. Other times, they come in waves. However, we may start to worry when it lasts a long time. But even ongoing anxiety doesn’t mean a relationship is breaking down. It doesn’t mean we are with the wrong person.
Anxiety can affect our relationships and our health. It can lead to or worsen other issues, such as:
- Substance abuse.
- Problems functioning in daily life.
- Digestive issues.
Fortunately, we can learn to manage anxiety. Figuring out the cause is the first step. Once when we understand our triggers, we can work on solutions which allows us to enjoy the safe, caring relationships we all deserve.
Symptoms of Relationship Anxiety
Relationship anxiety can show up in several ways. The following are common signs.
- A fear of commitment.
- Having difficulty showing vulnerability.
- Tending to self-sabotage relationships.
- Feeling afraid to express our needs.
- Keeping secrets, especially if we fear they would cause disapproval.
- Over-accommodating partners.
- Trying to control our partners’ behaviors.
- Often questioning and overthinking our partners’ intentions.
- Doubting our compatibility with a partner.
- Constantly seeking reassurance.
- A tendency to be excessively clingy.
- Worrying so much that it prevents happiness in relationships.
Common Causes of Relationship Anxiety
The underlying causes vary greatly. However, understanding them can help us heal and change.
Previous Relationships. Our past plays a significant role. For instance, failed past relationships can cause doubt. A past partner may have cheated, lied, misled us or dumped us without warning. As a result, we might question our ability to love and be loved.
Childhood Trauma. Experiences in our family of origin can cause anxiety. Unhealthy family dynamics can make it difficult for children to trust others or themselves. Examples include addiction, physical violence, financial insecurity, and mental illness. This distrust can continue throughout our lives.
Broken Trust. Significant and minor issues can damage trust. As a result, a lack of faith can trigger anxiety. For instance, cheating or lying seriously harms trust. Trivial things can also cause problems. For instance, when a partner constantly forgets things, we can lose confidence in them.
Low Self-Worth. The way we view ourselves affects relationships. Low self-esteem can lead us to question our worthiness. We often feel jealous and insecure when we don’t see our value. We might worry that our partner will find someone “better.”
Poor Communication Skills. When we cannot share hurts, needs, or concerns in a healthy way, we can feel misunderstood or unimportant. This can lead to frustration, disconnection, and unease.
How to Overcome Relationship Anxiety
It might feel like the anxiety is too much to fix. However, you can definitely learn to manage it. After pinpointing the causes, we can find ways to cope with these feelings.
Communicate. Work on open, honest communication. Give yourself time to process feelings first. Then you can go into a conversation calmly and clearly. Set goals of compromise and resolution. Remember that you are a team. As a result, this will encourage constructive discussions. Be sure to use active listening, as well.
Address Conflict. Many of us avoid conflict, however, handling disagreements can prevent resentment. In turn, this builds security. Disagreeing doesn’t have to mean fighting. Plan for the conversation. Admit your feelings. Get to the point using sentences that start with “I.”
Rebuild Trust. Some practical ways to build trust include:
- Setting clear boundaries.
- Showing respect to our partner.
- Setting realistic expectations.
- Keeping our word.
- Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.
Build Self-Esteem. Positive self-talk is beneficial. Exercise helps, as well. 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week -about 20 minutes a day- can make a difference. Spending time out in nature is another way to increase self-worth.
Keep Your Identity. Losing ourselves in a relationship causes unease. Know what you like. Spend time with friends and family. Pursue your goals. Make time for hobbies. Ask for what you want. Say “No” to things that don’t feel right for you. As a result, you will find security in yourself
Learn to Self-Soothe. Find ways to calm your anxiety. Practice breathing. Meditate. Enjoy a warm bath. Write in a journal. Figure out what works for you to cope with anxious feelings.
Meet with a Therapist. Counseling can help us learn to manage negative thoughts and emotions. A compassionate, knowledgeable therapist can guide and aid you as a couple or individually.
Be Patient. Give yourself and your partner time and grace. The process takes work and dedication. Building a stronger, more meaningful relationship is worth the effort.