Our relationships form the foundations of our lives. When your relationship with your significant other is suffering, it can sour other parts of your life. If you’re fighting with your family, it can become easy to lose your temper at work. If you’re fighting with a friend, it can seem like the world is a terrible place.
Relationships can be difficult to maintain in the best of times. Good relationships require honest communication, respect, and a desire to make the connection good for both people involved. For those that suffer from anxiety, maintaining a relationship can be even more challenging. Those with relationship anxiety might stress and obsess about how their partner might see them, or any number of things. These added worries can make the work of maintaining relationships feel like a painful uphill battle.
If you think you might suffer from relationship anxiety, read on to learn what it is, where it comes from, and how you can address it.
What is Relationship Anxiety?
Anyone can struggle with relationship anxiety. Being worried about a relationship is normal, but if it gets to the point where you are constantly stressed about the future of the relationship, chances are your anxiety has risen to an unhealthy level.
Relationship anxiety usually refers to stress about a romantic relationship, but it’s also possible, and even natural, to be anxious about relationships with friends or family members. Anxiety about a relationship, usually a romantic relationship, but it can extend to family and friends as well.
If you find yourself struggling with one or more of the following thoughts on a regular basis, you’re likely experiencing relationship anxiety:
- “I’m too boring/fat/ugly to interest them”
- “They don’t really love me”
- “They’re looking for someone else”
- “I can’t trust them to be honest with me”
- “There’s no way we can make a future together work”
Focusing too much on these thoughts will distance you from your partner, causing more issues in the relationship. It’s not uncommon for these anxieties to make it difficult to be intimate, decrease your trust in your partner, and make you feel more emotionally distant. Your partner may distance themselves from you, and end up feeling like they can’t relate to you anymore.
These insecurities can also lead to acting out against the people that are close to you. In order to try to justify these anxieties, you might subconsciously start trying to get your partner to confirm these beliefs you have. This can take the form of causing unnecessary conflict, becoming defensive in inappropriate situations, losing trust, or trying to test your partner’s commitment.
There are other symptoms you might experience if you are suffering from relationship anxiety; because you feel constant stress about your relationship with your family, friend or partner, your mind interprets these worries as a threat your body needs to be ready to fight. When the fight or flight reflex is activated, your brain takes resources away from your critical thinking centers and puts them into the parts of your body that will help you respond to danger quickly.
Because your mind is on high alert, your mental abilities are lessened. In a relationship, this is exactly the opposite of what you want to happen. You need to be able to consider all perspectives of the relationship in a relatively fair capacity in order to properly work through the problems you are facing. When your stress response is activated, it can be almost impossible to approach the situation rationally.
If you are experiencing the following symptoms and share some of the thoughts mentioned above, it’s likely you’re experiencing relationship anxiety.
- Constantly emotionally unstable
- Difficulty focusing
- Decrease in motivation
- Feeling lovesick or sad
- Feelings of loneliness
- Impaired judgement
- Impaired impulse control
Common Causes of Relationship Anxiety
There are dozens of reasons why you might be feeling anxious about a relationship. Whether or not those reasons reflect reality doesn’t matter. If it is causing you to feel anxious, it needs to be addressed.
Here are some of the common reasons people feel anxious about their relationship with someone close to them.
Long distance relationships can be a serious strain on your relationship. Whether you’re away from your significant other for months on end, or they often travel out of town for business, being away from them for long periods of time can make it difficult to connect. When you have less opportunity to connect and bond, it’s easy to grow apart from your loved one. This can lead to worries about whether they will stay faithful, or if they will even be interested when you are reunited.
Fear of Loss
It might seem counterintuitive, but if you’re afraid of losing someone, sometimes it’s easier to distance yourselves from them. If you’ve been hurt by a loved one in the past, your mind will anticipate future pain when getting close to someone. In order to prevent yourself from being hurt again, you might subconsciously distance yourself and make it difficult to have a relationship in the here and now.
Fear of Rejection
Many people are worried that their partner won’t think they are good enough. Thoughts like “my partner will love me when I lose a certain amount of weight” or “when we’re making more money, my partner will appreciate me more” come from a fear of being rejected.
When someone you love is ill, it’s easy to get wrapped up in worrying about their future. Depending on the severity of the illness, it might even consume your entire life. Disclosing health conditions to a significant other can be nerve wracking, as there is a stigma against those with chronic illnesses. And when you’re not feeling well, it’s difficult to give your all to a relationship. Your partner might feel neglected, or harbor feelings of resentment towards you or your illness because you aren’t there for them in the way you were before.
Being jealous is one of the biggest causes of relationship anxiety. Feelings of jealousy usually come from a lack of trust in your partner. They can also come from low self-esteem, or worrying that you aren’t good enough for your partner. If you see someone with the qualities you wish you had, it can be easy to worry about your partner leaving you for them.
Lack of Communication
When you don’t take the time to communicate, a lot of problems can build up. Conflicts remain unresolved and become more of a big deal than they would if you had addressed them earlier. Misunderstandings remain, and can inform feelings of resentment or frustration. Not communicating makes it difficult for others to know how you’re feeling, or where they stand with you.
68% of people in relationships say that money is a big source of contention. Especially for people who live together, talking about finances can be a touchy subject. Sometimes concerns about money aren’t actually about money, but about insecurities that you or your partner don’t feel comfortable talking about.
What You Can Do to Address it
Despite the seemingly endless causes for anxiety in your relationship, there are many things you can do to address the problems you are facing. Whatever solution is best suited to your needs, make sure you approach your partner, family member, or friend with respect and compassion.
Figure Out if You Want to Keep the Relationship
Not all relationships are worth keeping. If you have someone toxic in your life, or just someone you don’t like being around anymore, maybe it’s time to move on. If you’re not happy in the relationship, then the person you are with may not be right for you.
Being able to talk to your partner about how you’re feeling will help the two of you find ways to address problems you are facing. If you don’t talk about the things that are bothering you, they might not even know it is an issue.
Working on a relationship takes time. You’re not going to be able to change things right away. You and your partner, friend, or family member didn’t get here overnight, and you’re not going to fix it in that time either. If it feels like nothing is changing, don’t give up. Chances are you haven’t given it enough time to change yet.
Reduce Your Overall Anxiety Levels
If you’re a naturally anxious person, that anxiety might be carrying over into your relationship. You might find that after taking time to address your anxiety levels, your worries about your partner diminish, or even disappear. Breathing exercises are a great way to immediately address anxiety, in addition to seeking help from a mental health professional.
Remember, it’s natural to be worried about your relationship. But when those worries become so severe that you can’t live your life, it’s time to do something about them. Fixing your relationship might seem overwhelming, but as long as you are respectful of your partner and remember the good times you have with them, it can be done.