Contrary to popular opinion, relationship anxiety is not the same as a fear of commitment. Relationship anxiety can occur in people who desperately want to be in a committed relationship. Their anxiety, however, gets in the way. People with relationship anxiety are plagued with worry, fear, doubt and insecurity at every stage of a relationship.
One of the most common symptoms of relationship anxiety is the fear of being judged by a partner. This fear leads them to worry about their partner leaving them, and the person with relationship anxiety develops a fear of emotional intimacy. They cannot bring themselves to let their walls down around their partner for fear of being judged negatively, found wanting or abandoned.
Despite the fear of being abandoned, people with relationship anxiety may deliberately create conflict in the relationship or find ways to test their partner. This serves the dual purpose of reassuring the person with relationship anxiety that their partner is not going to leave them and discourages emotional intimacy by keeping their partner at arm’s length. Someone with relationship anxiety might also be inappropriately jealous, unnecessarily defense, emotionally unstable and impulsive. They begin to develop a need for constant reassurance and become clingy. They want their partner to reassure them and to have their partner show their love, but the person with relationship anxiety does not or cannot reciprocate the closeness they demand from their partner. Slowly, the person with relationship anxiety begins to face physical consequences from their constant stress. They being to become socially withdrawn and may suffer anxiety attacks. Their sex drive decreases, and they being to develop stress-based insomnia.
The underlying cause of relationship anxiety could be any number of things. The person with relationship anxiety could have suffered in a past relationship or been betrayed by a partner. They might also have come from a household that discouraged emotional vulnerability or showcased negative relationships. The underlying cause of relationship anxiety, like with any form of anxiety, varies from person to person.
Generic anxiety reduction strategies will be helpful with relationship anxiety, and the first step is accepting the anxiety. A person who does not admit that they have relationship anxiety cannot conquer it. There is no way for a person to beat a problem that they refuse to admit they have. Accepting their anxiety will also help the person suffering from relationship anxiety become more in tune with their own mind. Knowing their own mind, in turn, will help them manage their thought cycle and anxieties. This can enable the person to recognize when their anxiety is speaking. Then, they can question their negative and anxious thoughts and form a more logical and accurate picture of their relationship.
Relationship anxiety also requires getting the person’s partner involved. This is often the last thing that a person with relationship anxiety wants to do. They want to hide their imperfections and nervous reactions from their partner. After all, what if their partner thinks they are just overreacting? What if their partner is unable to handle dating someone with anxiety? What if they leave? Unfortunately, it is difficult to heal a relationship when only one person is trying to fix the problem, and relationship anxiety can easily damage a whole relationship. While the person with relationship anxiety is working to prove to themselves that their partner really cares, their partner is baffled by the behavior of the person with relationship anxiety. Why in the world are they being so hot and cold? Why are they clingy but refuse to get close emotionally? Why do they keep testing the relationship? Explaining that a person has relationship anxiety can help their partner understand what seemed like confusing behavior.
A person with relationship anxiety needs to do more than just tell their partner that they have relationship anxiety. They need to have a very honest and very frank conversation with their partner about what causes their anxiety. The person with relationship anxiety needs to tell their partner what is most likely to trigger their anxiety. Is it crowds? Meeting new people? Running late? Once those issues are identified, the person’s partner can do their part to help the person with relationship anxiety handle those problems.
A person with relationship anxiety can also benefit from keeping busy. If they have something to think about besides their partner, this can help the person with relationship anxiety avoid overanalyzing their partner’s every move. A hobby that requires physical activity as well as mental activity can also help alleviate any insomnia that results from a person with relationship anxiety’s constant stress. Physical exhaustion will not guarantee a good night’s sleep, but exercise is well-known for helping overcome sleeplessness.
Physical affection can also help a person with relationship anxiety. Simple things such as holding hands or hugging can help reassure the person with relationship anxiety that their partner cares and is there for them.
In extreme cases, the couple might even want to start over and date as if they were just beginning a relationship. This can help build up a stronger foundation of trust and put the “new” relationship on a more solid footing.
Relationship anxiety is far more than simple butterflies or jitters at the beginning of a relationship. It is a form of mental self-sabotage that keeps even those who desperately want to find love from trusting their partner’s affection. It can destroy relationships and lead to depression. Should a person with relationship anxiety find that self-help methods fail or feel that their anxiety is interfering with their daily life in extreme ways, they should seek professional assistance. Anxiety should not rule anyone’s life or anyone’s love.