Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

Letting Go of Worry -- WebI was on a national radio program last night talking about anxiety. A caller asked a great question. “What is the difference between worry and anxiety?”

Anxiety is that uneasy feeling, apprehension, a feeling of danger, doom or misfortune. Clinically speaking it a response to a perceived threat or danger. It is often produced by  anticipating future events.

Anxiety as a feeling is different than anxiety as a disorder. You can feel anxious and not have an anxiety disorder. And anxiety can be a symptom of other psychiatric disorders as well.

Anxiety is usually prompted by fear. Fear is a warning system built into our bodies as a natural reaction to danger. It is healthy to feel fear when real danger is present. But when fear goes beyond real danger and lingers in our minds, it becomes anxiety or worry. It is often prompted by uncertainty and feeling out of control, a reality we all have to learn to handle.

Anxiety as a psychiatric disorder relates to confronting a feared object or situation. It is excessive and prolonged and often involves worry. It interferes with every day life.

There are several types of anxiety noted in the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual)–Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) which is an overall feeling of being anxious that seems general;  Simple Phobia which is the most common and is related to persistent anxiety over specific objects; Social Anxiety which is anxiety around social functions; Panic Disorder which involves feelings of panic in which you feel or think something terrible will happen.

Worry is the mental part of anxiety. Worry has to do with anxious thoughts.  ‘What if…”

Thoughts, however, influence your feelings and behavior. So getting control of worried thoughts is important. For help with letting go of worry, check out my book, Letting Go of Worry. It will walk you through how to let go of worried thoughts and not allow anxiety to rule the day in your thought life.

crying womanI was in the grocery store yesterday and the tabloids were headlining the secret love child of yet another celebrity couple. While we tend to expect this from celebrity relationships, secrets are a problem for any couple. The question asked is if it is a good idea to reveal those secrets to your partner.

Let’s think about how it feels to find out after the fact. Do you really want to be surprised with a secret 10 years into a marriage, especially one that may have impacted your decision to marry in the first place? And the person living with a secret carries a burden that may interfere with intimacy as well.

Secrets tend to fall into 3 categories: 1) Things that are taboo–affairs, drug use, contracting an STI, etc. 2) A rule violation like partying, drinking too much at the office party, etc. or 3) More conventional problems like failing a test, hiding a health problem, etc.

We keep secrets from our loved ones for all kinds of reasons. We may be afraid of  disapproval; we may want to protect that person, or we may worry about his or her reactions. But self-disclosure actually helps relationships and builds intimacy. Living with secrets is like living in a house with a cracked foundation, it never quite repairs and creates problems. While you don’t have to reveal every thought in your head to your partner, keeping secrets about important issues is not recommended.

Revealing secrets can hurt the other person, but it is the only way true repair can begin. You’ve already hurt the person by engaging in the behavior or keeping something important from him or her. Healthy relationship require honesty.

In relationships where trust is absent, self-disclosure can open the door to betrayal, gossip and violations of your privacy. Think, Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky! So don’t reveal your secrets to people you can’t trust. In fact, better to keep those secrets between you and your spouse. If you need help getting through the process, go to a therapist.

thinking womANIt’s toxic.

It can be sexual, but doesn’t have to be.

It can be present and you may  not be aware of it.

It’s at the heart of failing relationships.

The secret relationship killer is betrayal. And betrayal isn’t always about infidelity. It has different faces like when a husband thinks more about his career than his wife. Or a wife decides not to have children, even though this was not the original plan. Partners who are selfish, cold and unfair display their disloyalty in every day acts, thus betraying the emotional safety and assurance one needs in a relationship.

Lies that are told to maintain the peace are acts of betrayal. Siding with a family member against your spouse, being emotionally absent and withholding sex are other ways to betray your partner. And of course, breaking promises to each other qualifies as well.

What makes a relationship work is trust–the opposite of betrayal.

If you relationship suffers from a lack of trust, try these things to start building it back:

1) Repent and be remorseful. Accept responsibility for your behavior and ask for forgiveness.

2) Commit to being honest and carrying no secrets.

3)  Think about what went wrong and why in an order to avoid a repeat.

4) Make changes in your behavior. Tell your partner so he or she notice the change.

5) Be patient. Trust is easy to lose and takes time to rebuild. But it can be done and is necessary to move a relationship forward.

argueYou are in the middle of a fight. Temperatures are rising and you know this isn’t going well.

How can you bring down the tension and allow reason to prevail?

You make what we call in therapy, an emotional repair.

Couples who do this, stay together. In fact, martial researcher, John Gottman, calls emotional repairs the “life jackets of all romantic partnerships.” An emotional repair can move you from NASTY  to NICE  during a conflict.

Here are 10 emotional repairs that Gottman suggests to use during a conflict. These repairs don’t usually solve the conflict, but they do lower the tension enough for the two of you to have a better dialogue. And that is the point. All couples have conflict, but how they dialogue around the conflict is what matters.

1) Agree to something your partner is saying. Is there one thing that has any merit? If so, agree to that.

2) Ask an open ended question about your partner’s feelings. This signals listening and understanding.

3) Express some type of affection during a conflict.

4) Change the topic to something unrelated or minor. This calms things down for the moment, then return to the argument with a better frame of mind.

5) Agree to make some positive change. Be responsive where you can.

6) Use humor. This usually breaks tension.

7) Talk about your thoughts and feelings regarding the conflict.

8) Take responsibility for your part of the problem. Conflicts are not usually one sided.

9) Communicate empathy and understanding.

10) Talk in terms of the relationship, WE not I.