Anxiety is difficult enough to deal with on your own. But when it starts to affect your relationship, it often takes special care and understanding from both partners to keep your relationship strong.
Whether one or both of you struggle with anxiety, you need to be on board to work together when it comes to dealing with it effectively. You may face many hurdles together. But working through them proactively will help you strengthen your relationship and become more secure as a couple.
So, what can you do to keep your relationship strong as you address anxiety as a couple?
1. Increase Awareness of Self and Other
If you’ve dealt with anxiety for a while, you probably know the things that trigger you and what your symptoms are as they come up. Emotional awareness is a big factor when it comes to handling anxiety in a relationship.
The more you know about your own anxiety, the better you can communicate with your partner about it. Over time, the partner who isn’t struggling will also be able to pick up on certain signs that you’re feeling anxious and struggling.
Awareness from both parties is extremely important. When you both realize what’s happening or what might be coming, you can work together to learn how to effectively respond.
2. Know Your Stories
People who experience anxiety often have “stories” running through their head that can either trigger anxious feelings or make them worse. These are often deflating stories, such as “no one loves me” or “I’m an idiot.”
Obviously, these negative stories aren’t true, but that doesn’t make them seem any less real.
However, once you know your own stories, you can start to separate reality from what your anxiety is trying to tell you. Being able to reign in these stories and replace them with more accurate ones can make a big difference in your own life. And sharing the stories with your partner can also help them to recognize when it’s anxiety talking and not the “real you.”
3. Learn to Share Present Moment Experiences
Blame and criticism are often an instinctive approach to in a relationship when you’re feeling anxious. As a whole, we also tend to criticize our partners using blanket statements. This could include things like, “you’re never there for me” or “you always do this.”
Instead of blame and criticism, it’s important to stay in the present to your own experience, especially when you’re feeling anxious or you want to help them to feel less anxious. Try saying things like, “I’m having a hard time knowing what to say” or “I could use your support.”
Staying in the present and sharing your internal experience, rather than automatically blaming your partner, can help to dispel an argument or negative feelings before they get out of control.
4. Find Ways to Co-Regulate
When one partner is anxious, it’s easy for the other to get their own emotions triggered. You get caught in a negative cycle that drives you further away from each other.
Instead of allowing that to happen, find things you can both do to stop those feelings and turn towards each other instead of away.
It can be something as simple as a walk, hand-in-hand, around the neighborhood. Sometimes, a simple but meaningful hug, a kiss, or another warm gesture can help to alleviate your stress and help you feel closer to your partner.
Dealing with anxiety in a relationship doesn’t have to be the downfall of any couple. When you both understand how to strengthen your relationship, rather than let the anxiety take over, you can work through whatever those thoughts and feelings might try to throw at you. And, ultimately, you’ll end up stronger for it.