Hope for Relationships

The whole-person approach to healing

Better You Than Me

How is anxiety affecting your relationships?

Collin walked up the steps to the porch, dreading what was coming. Jenny would want to know how things were going and what he'd done to fix what she continually called "the problem."

The problem just kept getting bigger, and Jenny considered it mostly his fault. He'd been nervous about getting a house in the first place, but the agent had put them in touch with someone who was able to figure out a way to make it work. It worked, for a little while. For a little while he couldn't wait to get home. Now home had come to mean something else.

He vividly remembered the day they had gone in to sign the papers. He hadn't eaten all morning.

Just the thought of owing so much money made him sick, but he was more afraid of Jenny's reaction if he tried to back out. In some ways, this house was his dream and his worst nightmare. He just hadn't counted on how quickly the dream would fade and the nightmare would kick in.
Sure enough, as soon as he closed the front door, there was Jenny. She didn't say hi or ask how his day was or give him a hug or a kiss.

Had he called like he was supposed to? 

What did the broker say?

Would they be able to refinance?

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Could they get out from under the mortgage insurance?

When Collin mumbled that he hadn't actually been able to talk to anyone, that he'd left a message and his number, Jenny went ballistic. She recounted for the umpteenth time, what would happen if they couldn't get out from under the mortgage, how they'd lose the house.

What would they tell people?

What would the family say?

What were they going to do, live in an apartment again?

When the house had been a dream, she'd owned it; now she'd deeded the nightmare firmly to him. Jenny started to cry, but Collin didn't care. He was past trying to comfort her. It only seemed to make her madder. When she looked at him, it seemed as if she saw some sort of enemy. Jenny had drawn a circle of protection around herself, and Collin found himself increasingly on the outside.
Collin had no idea how they were going to get out of this mess or what tomorrow might look like, but as he watched Jenny stalk out of the room, he realized his thoughts of tomorrow and an end to "the problem" were beginning to contain less and less of her.

When Anxiety Trumps "Us" For "Me"

Anxiety exacts a stiff penalty on relationships. A person under siege from a constant barrage of anxiety has no breathing room to think outside of self. Every action becomes centered around relief from the stress and panic.

Other people become either a necessary distraction or an irritating interference. Either way, other people stop being people, with their own feelings and opinions and actions and needs. When people stop being people, it means the death of the relationship.

A healthy relationship requires that each party bring something unique and special to it. A healthy relationship is when value is placed not only on who you are together but also on who you are separately.

When anxiety overshadows a relationship, it takes primary position by the nature of its urgency. Togetherness gets thrown out the window as anxiety diverts attention to self. 

Anxiety screams that self is in danger, that self must be attended to. With that kind of urgency, us is jettisoned for me.

Relationship Q&A

Make a list of your significant relationships. You can put down as many as you like, but try to put down at least five. If you have trouble answering the following questions, try to remember a specific situation with that person that was very stressful.

  • In what specific ways does your anxiety impact this relationship?
  • Is your relationship strengthened or weakened by your anxiety?
  • If your anxiety could be removed from this relationship, what would it mean to you?
  • If your anxiety could be removed from this relationship, what would it mean to the other person?

If your main contribution to your relationships is constant worry, they will eventually break under the strain if they aren't cracking already. Yow owe it to yourself to be free from your worry. And you owe it to those you love and are in relationship with to share that freedom with them.

2011 Gregory L. Jantz, Overcoming Anxiety, Worry, and Fear: Practical Ways To Find Peace, Revell.

Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D., founded The Center for Counseling and Health Resources in Edmonds, Washington.

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