While worry is often thought to be an individual, internal process, it can also be quite relational. When women tell their partner, “I’m worried,” it can mean several different things, and likewise require vastly different responses.

Here are 9 things “I’m worried” may mean:

1. I have realistic concerns that I want you to hear. This may sound sexist, but in my clinical and personal experience, women often have inside knowledge about the goings-on of a family. They’re usually the ones who keep the schedules running smoothly, make sure people eat and get their homework done, and often know who is feeling what. When I say I’m worried about something, I probably have good reason.  

2. I want validation. Tell me that my concerns are understandable. Tell me you can see why I’d feel this way. Tell me I’m not crazy!

3. I want reassurance. While certainly, too much reassurance seeking can turn into a vicious cycle, a little reassurance can go a long way. I may simply need to be told, “It’s going to be okay” or, “You’re doing a great job in this difficult situation.”

4. I want you to do something.

When I say, “I’m worried that I’m never going to get everything done before ______,” may mean, “Please pitch in and help me.” Yes, I should be more direct. But sometimes it would be nice for you to notice what needs to be done without having to be told.

5. I may not want you to do anything. On the other hand, I may simply need to vent and I don’t want you to jump into problem-solving mode. I want you to hear me and really understand my feelings and concerns before offering solutions.

6. I wish you’d worry some, too. I believe that worrying happens at a family systems level. If my husband worried more, I’d be free to worry less. Sometimes my husband and I may make an explicit agreement that he’s going to worry about something for me, so I don’t have to. It’s kind of a joke between us, but it usually works and helps me relax. 

7. I want you to help me make a plan. If I’m worried about something, I might want you to help me problem solve. I remember times when my husband would actually get out pen and paper and write down things as we talked. I felt like he was involved, really paying attention. It felt good, and went a long way toward helping diminish my worry.

8. Tell me what your plan is. If I’m worried about something you’re doing or not doing, maybe I need you to tell me what your plan is (and hope you have one). It’s reminds me of the TV show Modern Family when Claire is always asking her husband, “What’s the plan, Phil?” I may need to know that steps are in place to get things on track.

9. Let’s enter into this uncertainty together.

I think this is what every woman wants: for her partner to join her in the inherent uncertainty of life. Let’s share this worry. Let’s hold hands and walk the path of this crazy, scary, awesome thing called life.

Full Disclosure: I put my husband of 24 years (Our anniversary is today!) through one heck of a weekend as I demonstrated my world-class worry skills and wanted him to read my mind and do about 7 out of the 9 items above.

Shyness is nice and shyness can stop you
from doing all the things in life
 you’d like to.

–Ask, by The Smiths (Read how we named our blog.)

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I am the co-author of Dying of Embarrassment, Painfully Shy, and Nurturing the Shy Child. Dying of Embarrassment: Help for Social Anxiety & Phobia was found to be one of the most useful and scientifically grounded self-help books in a research study published in Professional Psychology, Research and Practice. 

Photos:CharlotWest,  SummerSkye Photographyy, CC, via photopin and Pink Sherbet Photography

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