In a Psychology Today article, Susan Heitler, Ph.D. describes anxiety as a "blinking yellow light" that warns of danger ahead. In a relationship, anxiety and worry can arise in many ways. Sometimes your anxiety is related to specific circumstances, while other times, innate anxiety can lead to an overreaction to something your partner said or did.
Three Tips for Reducing Relationship Anxiety
While anxiety can occur for different reasons and to varying degrees of severity, there are a few tips that can help you reduce general relationship-related anxiety in many situations.
1. Avoid Assuming
Avoid trying to guess a partner's thoughts and feelings. The truth of the matter is that you don't really know what your partner is thinking in a given situation. Instead of assuming what your partner thinks and feels about something, simply ask him. This simple step of asking about your partner's feelings rather than assuming them, will help avoid all sorts of anxiety.
2. Discuss Personal and Relationship Problems
Anxiety may often arise because there is a problem ahead and you keep it to yourself even if your partner is fully aware of the problem, too. By discussing a problem, you diffuse the tensions associated with it. Discussion also makes the other person feel recognized. Often enough, by articulating the problem and discussing it, ideas arise that will help resolve the problem.
Good communication skills in a relationship go a long way towards healing grievances, misunderstandings, or conflicts with your partner. It's important to be willing to discuss personal problems and problems that affect both of you with equal candor. Whatever the problem, it will usually continue to get worse unless it is openly discussed.
3. Be a Good Listener
Sometimes your partner may not share his thoughts and feelings with you because you have not been a good listener. His reluctance to talk about things may actually have nothing to do with the relationship itself. Your partner might, for example, be having conflicts with a boss at work or find it difficult to handle a work project.
Unless your partner is willing to communicate their dilemma with you, you will feel needlessly anxious thinking you did something to upset them and they are withdrawing from your company. By practicing the art of listening, your partner will be more open to sharing their personal problems with you.
Dealing With Specific Anxiety
Specific causes of relationship-related anxiety and worry often include infidelity (or even suspected infidelity), a lack of trust, or excessive fighting.
Relationship Anxiety Due to Infidelity
Infidelity is an infraction in the joint agreement made about the relationship. Sometimes, what is interpreted as infidelity is in fact flirtation or miscommunication. Therefore, when it comes to infidelity, the first thing to establish is whether it really happened. If it did, then the issue is about a boundary being violated. Five steps to take if the anxiety you experience in your relationship is due to infidelity are:
- Be clear about what is really happening. Is your partner really unfaithful or merely flirtatious? Is your source of information accurate?
- If you do discover that your spouse has been unfaithful, then you have to ask her about it.
- You also have to decide whether or not you are willing to forgive the violation of trust.
- If you are willing to forgive, then your partner has to be willing to change for the relationship to heal.
- Sometimes, however, you may feel so hurt that the relationship is over, even if your spouse is willing to be loyal in the future. In this case, it is best to move on and away from the relationship.
Anxiety can only be diffused through clear communication and making a firm decision. If trust cannot be restored after a discussion, then the relationship should be considered over. Many times, this type of conversation may be so intense, you need to have a relationship counselor to help mediate.
Relationship Anxiety Due to Trust Issues
All relationships require a certain level of trust to work. If there is no trust, the relationship is pretty much over as it becomes too uncomfortable to tolerate. However, be aware that trust issues may come from your past rather than because your partner is consistently deceptive. This lack of trust magnifies anything your partner does and leads to many episodes of conflict and silent hostility in the relationship. If the anxiety you are experiencing in your relationship is due to trust issues, you can:
- Ask yourself if your trust issue are possibly because of your past. If so, you'll need to see a therapist to resolve your issues so that you can move on in your relationship.
- If the trust issue arises because your partner constantly lies and goes out of her way to deceive you, then it may be possible to discuss the issue and come to some clear agreements. If your partner is unwilling to take responsibility for her behavior or believes the low trust in the relationship is due to your issues, then you both will need a counselor to resolve the issue.
Although trust issues may appear to be something that you can sweep under the rug, this is not the best approach. Trust issues indicate something deeper going on and should be dealt with in a practical way.
Relationship Anxiety Due to Constant Fighting
Relationships can fail as a result of constant fighting,. There are innumerable reasons why you may feel that you can't stop arguing with your partner, and while it is helpful to discover some of these reasons, they may not always be clear. However, the following ten-step plan can quickly bring this sort of fighting to a stop, regardless of the primary cause of the conflict.
- Do not shout.
- Affirm before and after the conversation that you love and care for the other person.
- Be willing to admit that you may not be right.
- Avoid generalities; be clear and specific.
- Be eager to apologize when an argument is about to brew.
- Try to find out the truth, instead of focusing on winning the argument.
- Avoid swearing, cursing, or using profanity.
- Avoid making disparaging remarks or calling your partner abusive names.
- Remind yourself that you care about your partner and want to reconcile the differences.
- Accept your partner's differences instead of wanting to change them to someone who is more like you.
Seek Professional Help
Relationship anxiety can come in many forms and at many stages. If you remember to talk through issues with your partner, be a good listener, and focus on finding resolutions, it is possible to form a stronger and closer bond in your relationship. However, in order for that stronger bond to happen, both partners have to be willing to solve anxiety-causing issues. Sometimes, if an issue is severe, counseling or therapy can help. If all else fails, you may need to make a decision to move on. Know that if it has gotten to that point, you can survive, and even thrive.