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Breaking Free from Fear and Worry in Your Romantic Relationships

Tips on how to navigate “relationship anxiety”



He hadn’t texted me back in over an hour. What is going on? I asked myself. He’s NEVER gone this long without texting me back!

I frantically paced our living room and started listing the worst-case scenarios in my head: cheating on me, unconscious, being held at gunpoint, dead…

When he finally texted me back, I lunged for my phone like my life depended on it. Sorry! Meeting took WAY longer than I thought it would. How’s it going?

My heart felt like it was going to slam its way straight out of my chest, but I swallowed it and texted back, Nothing much. How was your meeting?

I can remember that moment intensely because it was after a session with my therapist where she had casually asked, “Do you think you might have relationship anxiety?” “Of course not!” I’d said, but now, I was realizing, I definitely did.

What is “Relationship Anxiety”?

“Relationship anxiety” differs from just plain ol’ anxiety because of its emphasis and appearance in romanticrelationships. It’s a type of anxiety disorder characterized by excessive worry and fear about the state of one’s romantic relationships.

Those of us who experience “relationship anxiety” may not have any other issues with anxiety. We may not feel anxious at all when it comes to our work or friendships. Yet, in our romantic relationships, we may feel overwhelmed by fears of real or imagined abandonment and rejection.

Why Someone Might Have Relationship Anxiety

For many of us, we develop relationship anxiety because of something from our past. This could be a traumatic experience, like discovering your partner had cheated on you. It could also be from low self-esteem (which might look like telling yourself things like, “Of course my partner would cheat on me! I don’t deserve to be with them in the first place!”).

It could also be an attachment issue, like if you had a parent who abandoned or neglected you. It could also be part a mental health issue or other anxiety disorder that contributes to this particular manifestation in your relationship.

How It Can Impact Relationships

Unfortunately, any type of fear-based thinking can negatively impact us and, in this case, our relationships.

We may have difficulty trusting partners, so we interrogate them, accuse them of cheating, or act out on other types of behaviors that inevitably push our partners away. We may struggle communicating how we feel, and we may keep people at a distance to try to avoid getting hurt.

How to Overcome It

Thankfully, we don’t have to let relationship anxiety ruin our relationships. Here are some things I’ve done to overcome this issue in myself, which greatly improved my romantic relationship as well as my overall sense of self.

1. Practice mindfulness and self-compassion Being present in the moment and treating yourself with kindness and understanding can help reduce anxiety in relationships. It’s a fallacy to believe that if we tell ourselves not to think something, that we’ll just stop thinking it.

It’s actually much more useful and kind to tell ourselves something like, “Yes, I’m thinking that, and that’s because I have relationship anxiety, but maybe I should go on a run and that’ll help.”

2. Communicate openly and honestly Share your feelings and concerns with your partner and work together to find solutions. If you’ve chosen a decent and good person to have a relationship with (and hopefully you have), they should make it okay for you to share honestly with them about what came up for you.

This could look like saying, “Oh man, you would not believe the thoughts I had when you didn’t text me back quickly enough! I know it’s stupid, but I was worried!”

3. Challenge negative thoughts Recognize and challenge any negative thoughts or assumptions that may be contributing to your anxiety. This is all about learning to reframe those thoughts you have in your head. You won’t necessarily be able to stop them from popping up, but you don’t have to fester.

“Oh God, they aren’t texting me back right away! I bet they’re cheating on me!” could be re-written as, “They’re working and probably got distracted. I bet they’ll reach out when they’re able to.”

4. Take care of yourself Make sure to prioritize self-care, such as getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating a healthy diet. This can help improve your overall well-being and reduce anxiety in all areas of your life, including relationships.

I learned in therapy many many years ago that H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) was a super helpful way of assessing when I needed to care for myself before doing anything else. Too often, our relationship anxiety might be heightened because of something silly. Like maybe we just need a cool beverage or a nap?

5. Seek professional help A therapist or counselor can provide guidance and support for managing relationship anxiety. In my case, I very much needed outside help to get a handle on my inside. My therapist taught me the tools I listed above that I started employing immediately. It wasn’t easy, but her ongoing support and accountability helped me keep working at it.

We don’t have to let our relationship anxiety ruin something special. We can take some active steps to improve it, like practicing self-compassion, sharing with our partner, interrogating our thoughts, and getting third party help if necessary.


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