Pursuing a romantic relationship can sometimes feel like a dangerous game. Dating requires a certain amount of vulnerability, and it comes with the risk of getting hurt or being disappointed. Because of the uncertain outcome, people can experience a fair amount of anxiety about their current romantic relationship or the hurdles of pursuing a new one.
Many people find that having an untreated anxiety disorder can affect their romantic life. People with social anxiety disorder may constantly worry how they are being judged by others, so they may avoid romantic relationships or dating in general due to the fear of embarrassment. Others with generalized anxiety disorder may have trouble with dating or managing relationships as well, as they struggle with worry about their partner abandoning them. However, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to have a diagnosed anxiety disorder for anxiety to interfere in your romantic relationship. Everyone is susceptible to day-to-day stress manifesting as worry about a relationship, fear of the dating process, or trouble communicating with a partner.
If you’re not sure whether anxiety is present in your romantic relationship, consider moments or issues that make you feel worried. If you’re uncertain whether anxiety is causing problems in your romantic life, ask yourself the following questions.
- Do you have worries that prevent you from dating or pursuing relationships?
- Do you experience increased anxiety around sexual intimacy?
- Do you rely heavily on your partner to reassure you or calm anxious thoughts?
- Do you avoid serious conversations with your partner because you are afraid of conflict?
- Do you constantly fear that your partner is going to leave you?
- Do you experience anxiety when your partner is away?
- Do you convince yourself your partner is unfaithful with no evidence?
Action Steps for Managing Relationship Anxiety
Ask for help – Never assume that you have to learn to manage anxiety in relationships by yourself. Consider how individual counseling can help you manage your fears about relationships or take steps towards a happier dating life. Couples counseling can also help people learn to improve communication and build problem-solving skills in their relationship.
Build your own interests – If you are putting all of your focus on a romantic relationship, chances are you are going to feel anxious. People who have solid relationships with family and friends and put focus on their own personal goals and interests are likely to make better partners, and they are less likely to experience separation anxiety or uncertainty about the relationship.
Examine your thinking – Anxiety makes it difficult to objectively assess whether a worry is legitimate. For example, if you are feeling more anxious in general, then you might convince yourself that your partner is cheating or planning to leave you when there’s no evidence. Consider whether you need to work on managing your anxiety through healthy habits, communicate better with your partner, or address issues of concern in the relationship.
Share your values – Sometimes people in relationships are so focused on making another person like them that they forget to speak up for their own values and needs. Compromise is a part of any relationship, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share your thinking or be assertive when something is important to you. The earlier you can set the precedent for sharing your needs in a relationship, the less likely you are to feel resentful.
Don’t avoid – People who feel unsteady in a relationship may be tempted to avoid or distract from the issues causing problems. Avoiding is only a temporary solution, and it often ends in heated conflict. Set a standard for addressing issues head on in the relationship, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. If you need a third party to help foster better communication, don’t hesitate to work with a counselor together or individually.
If you’re not certain where to start, think of what you worry about most when it comes to your romantic relationship. How would your best version of yourself address this issue? Chances are, you already have an idea of how to improve the relationship and your own ability to manage anxiety. But if you don’t, help is always available. Consider today whom you can recruit to help you manage your relationship anxiety.