Don't Let Anxiety Take Over
If you suffer from anxiety it can be hard to maintain a strong bond with your partner. When you are freaking out and he or she tries to get close, your fear might tell you to push your partner away. In reality, it’s important to learn to turn to your partner and gang up together against your anxiety, but this might not come naturally.
The irrational thoughts and intense feelings that come along with your anxiety don’t always tell you to do the right things. Here are some tips for how to keep your relationship strong while you’re dealing with severe anxiety.
Let your partner know how he or she can help you. They may not know what to do, so if you are open and honest about the best way for them to help you things can run more smoothly. Instead of snapping at your spouse if he begins to debate your fears with you, just explain that his rational explanations don’t eliminate your fears and give him a suggestion of what he can say that will help. Teach him the coping techniques that you’ve found to be helpful, like deep breathing, so he knows what to suggest when you have an attack. If it’s hard to talk about, write a letter or start journaling when you have an anxiety episode and share it with your partner.
Don’t Shut Down Completely
If you are distancing to calm your body down, make sure to be clear that you are distancing from the anxiety and not distancing from your partner. This will help your partner understand that it isn’t about not caring about them, it is more about calming yourself down. When you shut down altogether your spouse will just feel pushed away and you will create a wedge in your relationship. Instead, talk about how scared you are and work with your spouse to take steps to fight the anxiety as a team. Talk through your fears with your spouse and allow yourself to be vulnerable. You and your spouse can begin to create a roadmap for relieving your anxiety once you are open.
A professional counselor will be able to help you work together as a team to fight your anxiety. You can both express how the anxiety impacts your life in a safe and open forum. You might find that your anxiety impacts your partner more than you thought, and this gives him or her a chance to talk about it. A therapist won’t judge; he will just encourage you to work together and finds ways to create a healthier bond despite your anxiety, as well as help eliminate the anxiety itself.
Allow your partner to get physically close. Even though this might make you uncomfortable at first, physical closeness can actually have a calming effect. Let your partner hold your hand, hug you, or give you some level of tactile comfort. Over time, this can be used as a soothing coping tool that will let your anxiety start to decrease.
Each person deals with anxiety in his or her own way. This can make it even more difficult for your partner to know how to respond to you in a way that makes things better, not worse. Open communication is key when you have anxiety so you can keep your relationship strong and stop pushing your partner away.
If you need help developing more tools, come see me and we will tackle your anxiety one step at a time.
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