4 Ways to Not Let Anxiety Hijack Your Relationships
You are more than your anxious thoughts.
Posted Feb 13, 2019
Even when we deeply love and care about someone, moments of anxiety can self-defeat our best intentions and longer-term romantic goals. Here are 4 ways to not let anxiety dominate and destroy your romantic relationship:
1. Stop seeking reassurance (or at least cut it down by a third!).
Reassurance is like a drug; it only leaves us wanting more and more, because it wears off, and it wears off quickly. Also, reassurance can be a particularly burdensome tax on your partner. Your need for reassurance can become a drain on your partner's emotional resources, and over time, they may limit their interactions or time spent with you. We seek reassurance out of insecurity, but in reality it only begets more and more anxiety. Show yourself that you can tolerate the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what your partner is thinking, how much they really love you, or where they are located at all times. Tolerate the discomfort. You will come out on the other side, and the more you practice this, the less reassurance you will need.
2. You are not your thoughts.
The anxiety and insecurity that comes along with feeling deeply in love with another person can be all-consuming. A feeling of vulnerability comes on as you recognize that you need this person, and you want this person in your life, and at the same time, you don’t have absolute control over this same person. This lack of control can wreak havoc in the form of anxious thoughts. You may worry they don’t love you, or they are with another, or they are bored of you or going to hurt you and leave you. Whatever the thoughts are, it can be helpful when in an insecure state to stop and remind yourself that you are not your thoughts. You are the leader, the captain, and the one who oversees and “observes” your thought stream. Observing your thoughts leaves room to examine if they are as true and accurate as they may feel to you in a difficult moment.
3. Learn to sit with difficult emotions.
Successfully managing the ebbs and flows of a romantic partnership means being able to regulate your emotions. What does that mean? It means things are going to hurt you, upset you, anger you, worry you, and you have to find a way to soothe yourself. When we are vulnerable and in love and get close with someone, that closeness invariably brings the full range of emotions. If you go to your partner over and over again to be put back together, then your partner may become overwhelmed. It’s okay and important to express yourself and communicate (see #4 below), but do take the edge off the intensity first. Dialing back the immediate intensity of the emotion will help you to be heard by your partner, and also help you to know what you want to say without making the situation and your emotions even worse.
If you don’t share with your partner your deeper experiences, anxieties, or emotions, then they have no way of understanding you and what you need. Learn to communicate and also to listen to what you partner shares about their world. Try when communicating to both “own” your issues — for example, if you know you struggle with anxiety, state that “This may be an overreaction, I get very anxious at times" — while also staying true to yourself to say what needs to be said — “But I need you to check in more with me during the week, or I start to feel disconnected from you.” Then see what your partner says — do they make you feel better? Or, do you feel even more anxious? If it’s the latter, on a consistent basis, you may need to reconsider this relationship. In my book Be Calm: Proven Techniques to Stop Anxiety Now, I describe cutting-edge techniques that can help reduce anxiety on the spot.