You may start questioning yourself and different aspects of your relationship, like:
- Will my relationship last?
- What if it doesn’t?
- Do we really want the same things?
- Is my partner truly the right person for me?
For others, they may find the very thought of being in a relationship brings up anxious thoughts and stress. There are different stages and levels of relationship anxiety.
Regardless of your position in or out of a relationship, it’s normal to experience relationship anxiety. You may find yourself constantly worrying about the relationship or starting a relationship. Thoughts of crippling doubt and insecurity may set in and it can be difficult to get rid of them, even if the relationship is going well or you’re looking forward to starting a new one.
In this article, we’ll talk about why people get relationship anxiety and discuss the best ways to counter these anxious thoughts and come to a resolution for the betterment of your current and/or future relationship.
What are some relationship anxiety symptoms?
There are a number of ways that relationship anxiety can occur and it differs from person to person. Arguably the most relatable symptom is that you will feel insecure about the relationship at some point. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about. The occasional doubt and fear are to be expected, it’s important to challenge your thoughts and speak openly about such fears or worries.
Problems occur when these anxious thoughts and symptoms manifest and begin affecting your day to day life. Let’s look at some of these anxious thoughts and how to quell them below:
You have thoughts about how much you matter to your partner
When in this mindset, you may find it difficult to repel negative thoughts and feel as though you’re suffering from anxiety more than usual. Questions like “are you there for me?” and “how much do I mean to you?” may indicate that you have a strong desire to connect and know that you’re in a strong and secure partnership.
Doubting your partner’s feelings for you
Even if you have already said the “L” word and know that you are devoted to each other, it’s not uncommon for negative thoughts to creep into your otherwise intimate relationship.
You might feel this for a number of reasons, maybe you expect more physical attention, maybe they’re not hearing you when you’re explaining problems or you feel as though they don’t respond quick enough to texts or calls. These small things can begin to snowball and if you already feel insecure and suffer from anxiety, these things can trigger you.
If you let these thoughts control you, they can make your relationship anxiety worse and even begin to have a serious impact on your mental health.
Overanalysing is one of the biggest pitfalls of relationship anxiety, one of the most common being reading into your partner’s words and actions. Maybe they don’t like public affection, or that they enjoy spending time on their own more often than not. These things do not mean that they don’t enjoy your company, they just have a different way of expressing affection or they genuinely enjoy alone time. Sure, there’s a chance they might be issues, but this is where communication plays a crucial role. If this bothers you about them, have a conversation about it, don’t make it a bigger deal than it is.
Concerns about the future of the relationship and that they want to end things
You should always feel secure in your relationship and that it’s going somewhere. You may feel as though you want this feeling to stay forever, and while this is normal, obsessing about this thought can manifest into a fear of your partner leaving you. This can become worse when you begin changing your behaviour for their continued affection.
Some examples of a change in behaviour might include:
- Not raising issues like your partner being late to important events in your life
- Not communicating properly about things that bother you about them
- Being scared of them getting angry at you regarding disagreements (even if they don’t seem angry)
The irony is that this may do the opposite and your partner will begin noticing these changes in the relationship and start questioning the reasons for your change in behaviour.
Worrying about the future and whether the relationship will work
Worrying about whether you and your partner are compatible for the long-term is another common worry for many people. But again, fixating on this worry when there’s nothing wrong in the relationship (it may be going really well!) can cause continued relationship anxiety. Alongside this, you may overthink your happiness, or if you really are happy.
In response, you may place more focus and importance on parts of the relationship that wouldn’t otherwise matter; like music taste.
Sabotaging the relationship
When it comes to sabotaging a relationship, it usually stems from anxiety about having a relationship. There could be several reasons for this, such as commitment issues, afraid of being hurt, afraid of emotionally hurting others. This can cause them to act out and start sabotaging the relationship with strange actions that could put a rift between you both.
This type of behaviour might include:
- Starting needless arguments with your partner
- Failing to communicate with them when there are clear problems
- Avoiding confrontation about serious topics
- Generally distancing yourself from them and not prioritising the relationship.
And while you may not be performing these actions intentionally, you’re testing the boundaries to gauge whether your partner truly cares or loves you. The irony is that your partner will likely find it very difficult to pick up on your sabotaging motives.
You might believe, for example, that resisting your efforts to push them away proves they really do love you.
What Causes Relationship Anxiety?
There is rarely a single clear cause when it comes to relationship anxiety. It will take time to identify what’s causing it and learn techniques to accept and acknowledge it.
Some common causes of relationship anxiety might include:
Past relationship experiences
Arguably one of the most common reasons for relationship anxiety is negative experiences in past relationships. This negativity could be brought on by:
- Being cheated on
- Your partner leaving you unexpectedly
- Your partner lying about their feelings for you
- Mislead you in the relationship
It’s very understandable if you struggle to trust partners again if you’ve been hurt badly before. Your current partner may not show any signs of doing the same thing to you, but this sometimes doesn’t stop you from feeling as though they might leave. It’s important to talk to your partner openly about these insecurities and discuss solutions to move forward.
If you notice relationship anxiety on both sides of the relationship
Being able to openly and honestly communicate with your partner about problems in your relationship is essential.
If you continue to have problems despite openly communicating them, you may want to consider couples therapy or seeing a professional dating coach. Seeking help is ultimately the best way to overcome relationship anxiety and feel good in your relationship again.
Little or no self-confidence
Another common association with relationship anxiety is low self-esteem.
There are certain studies that indicate people who have lower self-esteem are more prone to question their partner’s feelings about them. Simply put, if you have low self-esteem, you may trick yourself into thinking your partner feels the same way about you.
The definition of an attachment style is a type of, well, attachment style you develop in childhood and is used to measure your level of security in a relationship.
For example, if your parents or guardians were very caring and swift to respond to your needs as a child, you will likely have developed a secure attachment style. Parents or guardians that didn’t meet your every need, or allowed you to develop independently may make your attachment style less secure.
Less secure, or insecure attachment styles can cause relationship anxiety in a few ways, including:
- Refusing to, or avoiding committing to relationships
- Anxiety-based attachment; which can result in you wanting constant reassurance that your partner won’t leave you unexpectedly
However, having a less secure attachment style does not mean you’re more likely to develop relationship anxiety. As Professor Jason Wheeler puts it:
“Just as you can’t change from one kind of personality to another, you can’t completely change your attachment style. But you can certainly make enough changes that an insecure attachment style doesn’t hold you back in life.”
How to Overcome Relationship Anxiety
Relationship anxiety can be tough, in fact, it can be really crippling at times. But there is light at the end of the tunnel but focusing your time and efforts into certain areas. The key is to identify and address any issues or stigmas early to ensure it doesn’t progress to detrimental levels.
Maintain your identity
As relationships progress and you get to know your partner more, you will begin to prioritise your relationship to ensure it keeps heading in the right direction. This is typically a natural trajectory and you may not even notice it happening. You might have to make subtle differences to your life, such as sleeping with the TV off or taking their dog for a walk.
However, it’s important that you don’t lose your sense of self-worth to accommodate your partner. Compromise is essential here and it’s equally important to remember who you are and maintain your identity. It’s also worth remembering that your partner likes you for who you are, so don’t go changing too much!
Try being more mindful
Mindfulness is a growing concept that couples should take time to practice for the betterment of their relationship. Mindfulness practices incorporate a range of concepts, but at the heart of it, mindfulness teaches you to focus on the present moment without judgement. This means acknowledging negative thoughts and allowing them to pass through you so you can move on.
It’s normal to have negative thoughts pop into your head, but it’s important to not let them control you. Mindfulness helps you to alleviate negative thoughts and allow you to continue enjoying time spent with your partner.
Practice good communication
At the heart of a strong relationship is good communication. Relationship anxiety often develops from within, your partner may have done nothing wrong. But if there are certain things that annoy you, whether that’s biting their nails, wanting to go on family holidays or something else, raise this with them in a mature and diligent way.
It’s likely your partner truly loves you, and your relationship anxiety stems from within, likely an insecurity you have. Talk to them, let them in, it’s likely once you do that your bond will become stronger.
Avoid acting on your feelings
When you feel anxious in a relationship, it’s natural for you to act like everything’s okay to protect yourself and your feelings. However, when you act on your feelings in the wrong way, it can cause problems.
For example, if you’re used to a constant stream of connection with your partner – maybe you text daily to see how they’re doing, that’s okay. However, if they’re at a friend’s BBQ and you’re constantly texting them asking what they’re doing and where they are (despite knowing), this can disrupt their day and cause problems.
To help negate these feelings, it’s important to distract yourself with something you enjoy doing. Go for a run, call a friend or jump into a hobby you enjoy to take your mind off texting them.
Talk to a therapist
The stigma of seeing a therapist, whether it’s a couple’s therapist or by yourself, is swiftly fading as more and more people are realising the importance of their mental health. Seeing a therapist is a fantastic way to address relationship anxiety and learn how to manage it.
Now, because every relationship is different, the way your therapist works with you will be based on your relationship struggles and anxiety. Through your sessions, they should help you to:
- Understand your partner’s feelings as well as your own
- Understand yours and their needs
- Listen to how they’re feeling in the relationship without judgement
- Acknowledge their anxiety and prove that you care, this should help quell the anxiety
The length of time you spend in therapy depends on the extent of your anxiety and what your relationship needs to get back on track. Some couples find that just one therapy session is enough to lay the foundations to open new communication channels to address their anxieties and talk more openly about solutions.
There are Several Solutions to Managing Relationship Anxiety
Overcoming relationship anxiety can be difficult and may take weeks, if not months to understand why you have these insecurities. However, there are so many helpful paths to take to help you both understand and manage your relationship anxiety so your relationship can flourish. Whether you decide to communicate more openly with your partner, seek therapy or speak to a professional dating coach, as long as you’re committed to seeking help, your relationship will be better for it.