No matter how you slice it, anxiety feels bad both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, relationships can lead to negative feelings such as anxiety and exacerbate anxiety you already struggle with. While a little anxiety here and there isn’t a huge problem, anxiety can be damaging when it goes unchecked. Discover why anxiety occurs, when it’s a serious problem, and how to cope.
Sometimes you can feel anxious but not realize that’s what it is. If you’re experiencing relationship anxiety, you’ll probably find it difficult to not think about issues, both real and perceived issues. This might make it hard to sleep; many people who are anxious are also insomniacs.
But anxiety, whether it’s about relationships or something else, goes beyond the mental. You might also experience physical symptoms such as tension in your muscles and jaw, an upset stomach or feeling of butterflies in your belly, and issues in your GI system. If you feel anxiety, you might have less appetite and struggle to eat. You may also feel nauseous.
Anxiety can wax and wane. For example, you might feel married before getting married or moving (are you ready to move in together?) in together because it’s such a big step. You might feel more relationship anxiety when you’re in a long-distance relationship than when you live in the same city. If you think that your man might want to break up with you, then that anxiety is completely normal.
The thing about the symptoms that come with relationship anxiety is that they’re not normal, nor are they healthy when they stick around. If you feel stressed over a long period of time, you might experience raised blood pressure, among other conditions. And lack of sleep makes it difficult to think clearly during the day, for you to keep your mood balanced, and for your body to regulate its metabolism.
Aside from the health issues related to relationship anxiety, it’s probably not good for your relationship. Your relationship anxiety may be rooted in legitimate concerns that you should work on if you don’t want to eventually become resentful (learn how to fix a relationship in strife). Or it could be irrational, in which case you need to work on yourself so that it won’t spill over into your relationship and wreak havoc.
WHAT CAUSES RELATIONSHIP ANXIETY
Although it’s true there are times when the anxiety you feel about your relationship may be warranted, this isn’t always the case. In fact, you can have anxiety about good relationships that doesn’t reflect your reality. This could happen for a few reasons.
1. YOU’RE INSECURE
You don’t think you are good enough, especially if your partner is someone who is fantastic. You might worry that you’re doing everything wrong. Or your anxiety might have you believe that eventually he will take off his rose-colored glasses and see the “real” you, the one that isn’t worthy of his time and affection.
Often, this is because you experienced something similar in a former relationship. Our past relationships color our current relationships, sometimes in ways that we don’t recognize immediately.
Related: Abandonment Issues: How Your Past Ruins Your Relationships
Perhaps this is your first real relationship, and you’re afraid of messing it up. Or you may not have been taught how to have positive self-esteem by teachers or your parents. This leads us to our next point.
2. YOU HAVE AN ANXIOUS ATTACHMENT STYLE
The theory of attachment style says that the relationship you had with your parents colors the way you do all of your relationships. There are four attachment styles, three of which aren’t so healthy. These styles represent whether you’re avoidant or are anxious. There are two anxious attachment styles: anxious-preoccupied and fearful-avoidant.
With anxious-preoccupied persons, anxiety manifests as clinginess. You’re anxious, so you try to keep in contact with this person all the time, both to ensure that they don’t forget you and to assure yourself that they care for you. People who attach in this way often view their partners as better than themselves, so it ties into insecurity.
Of course, you don’t want a good relationship to end, but you can’t always control that (being clingy definitely doesn’t help, however). Relationships come and go, each bringing lessons that can sometimes be painful. If you can’t accept that, you might hang on to things too tightly and suffocate your relationship when it needs room to breathe.
The other anxious attachment style is fearful-avoidant. It’s similarly characterized as high anxiety, but it’s also highly avoidant. Instead of being clingy, you push away from the people that you care about – or could care about – because you’re afraid of becoming attached. You view both you and your partner negatively.
Fortunately, even if you have an anxious attachment style. You can learn to have a secure attachment style.
3. YOU’RE ANXIOUS IN GENERAL
If you suffer from another type of anxiety, this could bleed over into your relationships. Anxiety can be so extreme that it’s difficult to live your life; although, many people live with a more mild form of anxiety. Some types of anxiety are specific to certain situations, such as social anxiety, while others experience generalized anxiety.
Treatments for anxiety include therapy and sometimes medication. If you suspect that you’re anxious, professional help might help you function despite your anxiety and to prevent your anxiety from ruining your relationship.
4. YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT WHAT EVERYONE ELSE THINKS
Why are you still single? When are you having kids? Hasn’t he popped the question yet?
These are all questions you might hear from well-intending family and friends if you’re not living life according to their timelines, especially during holidays and similar events. It’s easy to feel like you’re doing things wrong or that there’s something wrong with you or your relationship. However, it could be that those expectations aren’t so realistic or don’t work for everyone, so remember that before you allow yourself to become overwhelmed by relationship anxiety.
5. MONOGAMY OR RELATIONSHIPS AREN’T FOR YOU
Do you struggle with a nagging voice telling you that your relationship doesn’t fit or encouraging you to find ways to escape it, could it be that you’re just not the type of person who is meant to be in a committed relationship? Or maybe a singular relationship isn’t the right fit for you, and non-monogamy or a similar arrangement is what you need to seek to find balance instead.
Read More: How to Get Rid of Commitment Issues
Although society tends to paint the picture of monogamous, heterosexual unions that lead to marriage and children as “normal,” many people do not identify with this picture for one reason or another. You might be bisexual, not want kids, or be better suited to non-monogamy, and all of those things are okay. However, because many people do want those things or expect them, at the very least, you need to be honest with your parents to avoid hurting them if you can.
What if relationships just aren’t for you? There are plenty of reasons not to want to be in a relationship. You have no time or energy. You’re fresh out of a breakup. You prefer casual sex. Whatever your reason, it’s your reason.
But that’s difficult for many people to accept, so you might find yourself in a situation where you wind up in a relationship because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or because it seems like it’s time to couple up. After all, everyone else is doing it. Yet you can see how this is not a recipe for happiness, for you or the person who thinks they’re getting into a wanted relationship with you.
Honesty is absolutely the best policy in situations like these. The sooner you can ‘fess up about your true desires, the sooner you can let him go to find someone who is ready for a relationship.
6. YOU WANT TO BREAK UP
If you’re considering breaking up with your partner but you’re not sure if you should or how, you likely feel pretty anxious about your relationship. First, know that it’s normal to feel a little lukewarm about your relationship from time to time. It’s not all fiery passion all the time. Who would have energy for that, anyway?
Secondly, it’s also normal to feel unsure about breaking up before you do it. Even people who are ultimately happy to have ended things with their ex experience mixed emotions before they finally do it.
7. YOUR RELATIONSHIP IS CAUSING YOU ANXIETY
There’s always a chance that your relationship or partner is contributing to your anxiety. Perhaps your partner is an anxious person, and it’s rubbing off. These anxieties may not be related to your relationship in particular, but they’re results of it.
It’s absolutely true that you might be feeling anxiety about your relationship because of the current state of your relationship. You’re likely to feel relationship anxiety if your partner is controller or manipulative. This behavior can be abusive, so watch out.
Related: 7 Signs of a Controlling Man Who Might Become Dangerous
Perhaps you’re just not communicating well, or you feel like you’re slipping apart. You notice how infrequently you speak and that those conversations have become shallow. It’s almost like you’re living with a roommate, not a partner.
These are all understandable causes for concern, but none of these things has to mean the end of your relationship if you don’t want it to. Instead, the two of you can come together to fix your issues, and your anxiety should decrease.
Check out our advice for understanding intimacy issues and fixing your relationship.
DEALING WITH RELATIONSHIP ANXIETY
Whether your general anxiety seeps into your relationship, there are some issues that you need to work on, or you’re insecure, you need to be careful how you handle that anxiety – and that you do take steps to deal with it. If you’re clingy, for example, you can drive your partner away from you even if it’s a good relationship. Your boyfriend or husband might tire of your accusations or unfair expectations; it might also take a lot out of him to try to reassure you.
You must remember that while it’s nice if your partner attempts to reassure and console you, true reassurance, self-esteem and confidence must come from inside, not outside. No matter how much he loves you, tells you that you’re sexy or that he’ll never leave, it won’t help if you don’t believe it. You need to like yourself as a person and be okay with what you see as a person. As we suggested before, therapy might be useful to achieve these goals.
While discussing your anxiety with your man can be helpful, it may be only part of the solution. Talking about things that give you anxiety must also come with a discussion of why you feel anxious about certain things. We’ve suggested a few reasons in this post, and you might uncover some with help of a professional. If your man understands where you’re coming from, he can adjust some of the behaviors that make you feel anxious.
Now that you know when relationship anxiety is a sign to be concerned, you can do something about it to help both you and your relationship.