Keep your relationship connected during the difficult times.
When you are living with anxiety or panic, it can be debilitating. You feel like you can’t breathe in the midst of it, or worse – you believe you're actually going to die or catastrophic events are always around the corner. It can also be very stressful to be the partner of someone with extreme anxiety. No matter what you say, you feel like you can’t alleviate your spouse’s anxiety and she snaps at you when you say the wrong thing.
If you are living with someone who has an anxiety problem, here are some tips for how to handle an anxious partner in a way that doesn’t exacerbate the situation.
- Don’t Get Annoyed — Getting irritated will only keep your partner anxious, or it may add to the overwhelmed feelings she already has. Staying calm yourself is essential to helping versus hurting the situation.
- Get Close (if permitted) — Physical proximity can have a calming effect. Gently hold her hand or put your arms around her.
- Don’t Start an Argument — Avoid debating about how ridiculous her behavior is. It doesn’t eliminate the overly fearful thoughts, and will only add shame or embarrassment.
- Give Comfort — Soften your tone, acknowledge your partner’s fears, and comfort her. Give reassurance that the anxiety will end soon. Don’t shut down, because when you go away your partner is just left alone with the anxiety and bad thoughts. This dynamic will drive a wedge between you.
- Share Your Own Feelings – Open up about how her response impacts you. Your partner’s reactivity and fear can come across as attacking, critical, or wacky. Let her know it has a huge impact on you, makes you feel bad, and pushes you away. Your partner can start sharing her feelings of anxiety instead of the “ordering” you around or pushing way.
- Become a United Front — Fight the anxiety as a team. Seek therapy to battle the anxiety as a couple. Make the anxiety the bad guy and go to couples therapy to learn how to team up and fight it instead of turning on each other.
It can be very difficult to have a partner who is overly anxious, and sometimes you can receive the message to “get away.” What techniques have you tried and found it successful? Share by posting a comment below!
Need help navigating through anxiety in your relationship? Pay me a visit so we can see what I can do to help!
About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653