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Anxiety and Relationships: How to Stop it Stealing the Magic

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Anxiety and Intimate Relationships How to Stop Anxiety From Stealing the Magic

Intimate relationships are a mirror, reflecting the best and the worst of all of us. They can inflame our struggles or soothe them. When they’re right, they can feel like magic. Even when they’re completely right, anxiety can steal the magic and loosen the connection between two people who belong together. All relationships require trust, tenderness, patience and vulnerability. People with anxiety often have these by the truckload and will give them generously to the relationship. The problem is that anxiety can sometimes just as quickly erode them. 

If you’re someone who struggles with anxiety, there are plenty of things about you that would make loving you easy. All relationships struggle sometimes and when anxiety is at play, the struggles can be quite specific – very normal, and specific.

Anxiety can work in curious ways, and it will impact different relationships differently, so not all of the following will be relevant for every relationship. Here are some ways to strengthen your relationship and protect it from the impact of anxiety: 

  1. Top up the emotional resources.

    You’re probably super sensitive to the needs of others and give openly and abundantly to your relationship. Sometimes though, anxiety can drain those resources from the relationship just as quickly as you invest them. This is completely okay – there is plenty of good that comes with loving you to make up for this – but it may mean that you have to keep making sure those resources are topped up. Whenever you can, heap your partner with attention, gratitude, affection, touch – lots of touch – and conversation around him or her.

  2. Let your partner see you as a support too.

    Your partner might feel reluctant to ‘burden’ you with worries, particularly if those worries don’t seem as big as the ones you’re struggling with. People with anxiety have so much strength – it’s impossible to live with anxiety without it – so make sure your partner knows that it doesn’t matter how big or small their struggles are, you can be the supportive one sometimes too. The tendency can be for partners of anxious people to dismiss their own worries, but this might mean that they do themselves out of the opportunity to feel nurtured and supported by you – which would be a huge loss for both of you. Be deliberate in being the rock sometimes too. Ask, hold, touch. There’s nothing more healing than the warmth of the person you love.

  3. Let your partner in on what you’re thinking.

    Anxious thoughts are supremely personal, but let your partner in on them. It’s an important part of intimacy. You will often be thinking about what you need to do to feel safe, what feels bad for you and what could go wrong. You will also have an enormous capacity to think of other people – anxious people do – but make sure that you let you partner in on the thoughts that arrest you. Keeping things too much to yourself has a way of widening the distance between two people. 

  4. Asking for reassurance is absolutely okay – but just not too much.

    Anxiety has a way of creeping into everything. When it’s left unchecked, it can make you doubt the things that don’t deserve to be doubted – such as your relationship. It’s completely okay and very normal to ask your partner for reassurance. Too much though and it could be felt as neediness. Neediness is the enemy of desire and over time can smother the spark. Make sure your partner has the opportunity to love you spontaneously, without prompting – it’s lovely for them and even better for you. 

  5. Be vulnerable.

    Anxiety can effect relationships in different ways. In some people, it might stoke the need for constant reassurance. In others, it can cause them to hold back, to lessen their vulnerability to possible heartache. Vulnerability – being open to another – is beautiful and it’s the essence of successful, healthy relationships. The problem with protecting yourself too much is that it can invite the very rejection you’re trying to protect against. Part of intimacy is letting someone in closer than you let the rest of the world. It’s trusting that person with the fragile, messy, untamed parts of you – the parts that are often beautiful, sometimes baffling, and always okay with the person who loves you. It’s understandable to worry about what might happen if someone has open access to these parts of you, but see those worries for what they are – worries, not realities – and trust that whatever happens when you open yourself up to loving and being loved, you’ll be okay. Because you will be.

  6. Be careful of projecting anxiety onto your relationship.

    Anxiety can be triggered by nothing in particular – that’s one of the awful things about it – so it will look for a target, an anchor to hold it still and make it make sense. If you’re in an intimate relationship, that’s where the bullseye will sit, drawing your anxiety into its gravitational pull. This can raise feelings of doubt, jealousy, suspicion and insecurity. Anxiety can be a rogue like that. That doesn’t mean your relationship deserves your anxiety – most likely it doesn’t – but your relationship is important, relevant and often in your thoughts, making it a lavishly easy target. Remind yourself that just because you’re worried, that doesn’t mean there’s anything to worry about. Worry if you have to, but then see it for what it is – anxiety, not truth. You are loved and you have anxiety and you are okay. Let that be the truth that holds you. 

  1. Analysis leads to paralysis.

    There’s a saying – ‘Analysis leads to paralysis,’ – because it does. ‘Is it love? Or lust? Or am I kidding myself? What if my heart gets broken into tiny jagged pieces? How will it ever work if we don’t like the same music/ books/ food/ movies? What if we book the holiday and the airline goes on strike? What if one of us gets sick? What if both of us get sick? What if we can’t get a refund? Or pay the mortgage? What if he gets sick of me?’ Yep. I know you know how it sounds. What you focus on is what becomes important, so if you focus on the possible problems they’ll absorb your energy until they’re big enough to cause trouble on their own. They’ll drain your energy, your sense of fun and your capacity to move. You probably already know this, but what to do about it. Here’s something to try … Set a time frame in which you can act as though things will be fine. So for example, worry from 10-3 each day and after that, breathe, let go and act as though things will be fine. You don’t have to believe it – just ‘act as though’. You’ll have another chance tomorrow to worry if you need to. Be guided by the evidence, not the worries that haunt you at 2am. 

     

  2. Come closer. No. Go away.

    When you focus on every detail, things will get wobbly. You might focus on the things that aren’t right with your partner or your relationship, while at the same time looking for reassurance that your partner loves you and is committed. This can cause you to push your partner away, (‘You’ve disappointed me,”) then pull him or her close, (‘Tell me that you love me. You do love me, don’t you?’). Have a chat with your partner and if it is a familiar process, set up a safe way for your partner to point out when it’s happening. Agree on what that will look like. When it does happen, be careful not to hear it as a criticism – it’s not – it’s your partner asking for some stability with the way you love each other.

  1. The tough conversations can bring you closer.

    All relationships have to deal with tough stuff now and then but anxiety can make things more threatening and bigger than they are. The temptation might be to avoid talking about difficult issues with your partner, because of concerns about what it might do the relationship. Difficult issues don’t go away – they fester until they reach boiling point. Trust that your partner – and you – can cope with a hard discussion. Relationships are built on trust, and trusting that your relationship can power through difficult conversations is an important one.

  2. Let your partner in on what it’s like to be you.

    We humans are complex creatures and bringing someone in closer to you and your story – even if it is someone who has been with you for a while – is the lifeblood of intimacy. People change, stories change, and even in intimate relationships it’s easy to lose touch with the person who fall asleep next to at night-time. Let your partner in on what your anxiety is like for you. Talk about your thoughts, how anxiety is affecting you, your work, your relationship, your partner, and how grateful you are for the love and support. 

  3. Let your partner know what triggers you.

    Is there a particular situation that’s tends to set your anxiety alight? Crowds? Strangers? Difficulties of exit? Loud music in the car? Being late? Talk to your partner so that if you find yourself in the situation without warning, he or she will understand what’s happening for you.

  4. Be patient. The quick fix isn’t always the best.

    As a way to feel better and ease your anxiety, you might be tempted to press for a quick fix to a problem or issue within your relationship. You might become frustrated with your partner’s desire to wait or put off committing to a course of action, or their resistance to keep talking about the issue, but be open to the fact that your partner might see things differently, sometimes clearer. Breathe, talk, and don’t assume that your partner is taking time or pulling out of the conversation because of a lack of commitment or because the issue isn’t important enough. 

  1. Make sure you’re looking after yourself.

    Being in love is crazy good but it can take your attention away from looking after yourself and on to looking after your special person. We all tend to do this but for people with anxiety it can be particularly problematic because once you’re off-balance, the ripple can bring other things undone. Taking good care of yourself is so important. Eating well (a healthy diet rich in omega 3, low in processed carbs and sugars), as well as regular exercise and meditation will help to build your brain against anxiety. If looking after yourself feels selfish, think of it this way: it’s not really fair to expect your partner to support you through your anxiety if you’re not doing everything you can do to support yourself. Think of self-care as an investment in you, your relationship and your partner. Remember too that anything that’s good for anxiety is good for everyone, so talk to your partner about chasing a healthy lifestyle together – cooking, exercising and meditating together … nice.

     

  2. Understand that your partner will need boundaries

    For the relationship to stay close, healthy and connected, boundaries built by your partner can be a great thing. Understand that boundaries aren’t your partner’s way of keeping you out, but as a way to self-protect from ‘catching’ your anxiety. You might be worried and need to talk about something over and over, but that’s not necessarily what will be good for you, your partner or your relationship. Your partner can love you and draw a bold heavy underline between the last time you discuss something and the next time you want to. Talking is healthy, but talking over and over and over about the same thing can be draining and create an issue where there isn’t one. Know that your partner loves you and that boundaries are important to nurture love and grow the relationship, not to push against it. Talk to your partner about what he or she needs to be able to feel okay in the face of your anxiety. Invite the boundaries – it will help to keep your connection strong and loving and will help your partner to feel as though he or she is able to preserve a sense of self without being absorbed by your worries. Worry is contagious so if your partner wants to draw a boundary (eventually) around your worry, let it happen – it will help to preserve the emotional resources of the relationship and will be good for both of you.

  3. Laugh together.

    This is so important! Laughter is a natural antidote to the stress and tension that comes with anxiety. Laughing together will tighten the connection between you and when there has been a stressful few days (weeks? months?) it will help you both to remember why you fell in love with each other. Anxiety has a way of making you forget that life wasn’t meant to be taken seriously all the time. If it’s been too long since your partner has seen the shape of your face when you laugh (which will be beautiful and probably one of the reasons he or she fell for you in the first place) find a reason – a funny movie, memories, YouTube … anything.

Falling in love is meant to be magical, but getting close to another person isn’t without it’s highs and lows at the best of times. From the ecstasy of realising that someone pretty wonderful is as moved by you as you are by them, to the agony of self-doubt and possible loss, to the security, richness and sometimes stillness of a deeper love, intimacy is a vehicle for every possible emotion. Anxiety does effect relationships, but by being open to its impact, and deliberate in responding to it, you can protect your relationship and make it one that’s strong, close and resilient.

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213 Comments

ScottyQ

So I am in that class of needy and insecure and I have a lot of work to do to understand how to increase the value I bring to the relationship. I am in a rekindled romance after a 4 year break. When it re-started she was pursuing me like crazy. Then she backed off a little and that got me worried and I started acting needy. We had a talk and things settled down. Then we went on a trip and she said some things about me that really put me off and I considered ending it. She turned up the love sending endless texts. Two days later she went completely silent and that triggered a huge needy reaction. It was bad. I think she considered ending it. Then, she said she did not want to end it but I needed to keep my needy reactions in check. Easier said than done. So for the past couple days I have been sending a good morning message and responding to her texts but I am trying to keep the number of texts I initiate down to one or two a day. When I send a text, I make it relevant… otherwise I don’t send it. I am avoiding sending anything mushy right now with the hope that scarcity will raise the value she perceives. So, what I wanted to mention to those reading these comments (and the author) is that as hard as it is, reducing the amount of contact without cutting someone off is a good way to build up the value the other person sees in you, provided that person sees a potential future with you.

The other think I have learned recently is that needy and insecure behavior will build quickly if you seek reassurance. The euphoria fades quickly and you start longing for more. I think that is why, when she was texting non-stop how much she loves me, I got too high too quickly… and then when she cut it off, I panicked that the supply was shut off… feeling like the love shut off too.

And the last thing I learned is that if you’re insecure because you think she is falling out of love with you, cheating on you, or otherwise wanting you less… In reality you have no control if she makes up her mind to leave you. None. So accept that she can leave you at any time and that you will have to start over. It’s ONLY a fact that it “can” happen… not that it will happen.

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Hey Sigmund

Thank you so much for sharing this! Your insight is wonderful and makes so much sense. You are absolutely right about insecure behaviour building the more you seek reassurance. As with any anxiety, the more you do of the behaviour that helps to lessen the anxiety, the more dependent you become on that behaviour. If it’s reassurance, then you will become more dependent on reassurance to feel okay in the relationship. It sounds like you have the makings of a strong, loving relationship. Write down your insights and keep them handy so you can remind yourself of them when you need. They’re powerful. I wish you all the very best with your relationship. You deserve it.

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Jenna

This article is exactly what I’ve needed to hear. I am in a newer relationship with a very, very special someone and am in the midst of a full-blown panic. All of a sudden I am doubting everything and pretty convinced in my mind that this panic is because somehow we are not “right” for eachother. But he’s so amazing and loving! We have so much fun together! It’s crazy how anxiety can cloud things so severely. Thank you for the insight and hoping to get a better handle on this soon. I don’t want to let my anxiety take this relationship away from me.

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Taia

I just started seeing someone a month ago and we enjoy each others company but he’s very busy with work and we live about an hour apart.
He has to cancel plans at times because of the nature of his job and the fact that he just started in his position.
I understand this in my logical mind but my anxiety kicks in immediately and i start to think about all the things he could be lying about to get out of spending time with me.
whenever he doesn’t call back right when he says or doesn’t answer a text message I start to doubt.
I had a full blown anxiety attack one evening after a miscommunication and was quite crazy. I calmed down and laughed at it and then told him how crazy i felt and he laughed with me and then came over to see me.
I know all of this is good but I can’t stop these negative thoughts and the anxiety that takes over my body when i have them.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Taia what you are describing makes sense. Anxiety can really intrude in relationships but it can be managed. You have what you need inside you to do this. Find yourself an anchor – a text message, a photo, and focus on this when you start feeling anxious. Breathe and use your anchor to remind yourself that your anxious thoughts are just that – thoughts, not facts. They will come and they will go. He sounds like a wonderful man. He’s lucky to have you.

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Jenna

This article is really soothing. I’ve been in a relationship for nearly 4 years…I’m so at the end of my tether with my cycles of doubt and anxiety that I starting to believe that maybe it’s the relationship and a couple of differences we have – though I know I’ve had panic and anxiety before him – it’s seems worse and is getting frequent and debilitating – I guess it rout of the blue freaked out about sharing space. This is the first relationship where I feel truly secure and loved unconditionally – and at the same time scared out of my wits. I only have to have a doubt like ‘I wished he’d come out with me more’ or ‘are we in rut’ to spark remuneration and overthinking. I can talk to him about anything and he’s always willing to listen and compromise within reason – he have also experienced my cycles of anxiety and doubt several times now – he text me just today to say ‘everything will be fine as long as you believe it will. I’ll always be here for you’. I had to run in toilets at work and just cry. When I get in this state I do wonder if I should just surrender to my doubts, our differences (I’m very social and we have different passions and I wonder weather I would be better meeting someone of a similar ilk – but then I why should this define us and why do I feel the need to ‘feel’ like part of couple when I’m out, can’t I feel liberated that we have the freedom to do our own thing – I’m driving myself mad with extreme – like will we only be a couple when at at home? or am I really in denial about wanting break up? will breaking up provide relief from my recurring doubts? – but, oh my word, he is the most beautiful, kind caring person (it makes my heart swell how supportive he is and how it must hurt him sometimes when I appear on the fence) and I don’t doubt my love just weather we can go on with my anxiety chipping away at it. I wasn’t a love at first sight, a slow burn as he was a quiet man it took a while to get to know him – I fell in live with his kind heart. Only yesterday he agreed to come and see an live band – even though it’s not his thing, as I sometimes just want him with me to feel like a couple – but I just kept focusing on whether he was enjoying himself and getting resentful that he didn’t embrace it as much as me because he was sitting quietly while I was dancing – I got myself so upset and then he made me see how much I was overreacting – bout then I counteract that with – should I be with someone more outgoing – does that outweigh everything???? Am I just torturing myself my not getting that need met and call it quits, or should I learn more compassion – or is this just anxiety taking hold??

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Jenna the right relationship is the one that feels right for you, not the relationship that has nothing wrong with it. No relationship will ever be perfect. Strong, healthy relationships are about being able to work through differences or accept them. After four years, there are going to be things that you notice and there are going to be struggles – there would be in any relationships. It is for you to decide whether they are differences that you can live with, or that you can’t – but all relationships will have them. Does the relationship feel right? Does he feel good to be around? Does he make your life better or worse? Do you like the way you feel in this relationship? Do you like the person you are in this relationship? How do you feel about him and the relationship when you aren’t feeling anxious? Anxiety can make things confusing – I completely understand that. Thinking about these questions will hopefully give you some clarity.

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Malia

Hello. My boyfriend of two years broke up with me about a week ago for reasons that I believe are related to my anxiety and that were warned about in your article. He said he was exhausted from my complaining and negativity, but wants to remain in my life and said he would be willing to try things again in the future. Soon after we broke up I realized that he was completely right about everything he complained about. I am seeking professional help and doing things to counter my anxiety, but I was wondering if you have any suggestions as to how to repair the relationship since there is still love there and he still cares about me. Thank you!

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Hey Sigmund

Malia it’s great that you’re getting outside support for this. Anxiety can be hard to understand for people who haven’t experienced it before. If you recognise that you may have contributed to the breakup by being negative, start focussing on turning this around. Let him know what you are grateful for. This is healthy for you to do anyway. If you can keep a gratitude journal and name three things each day that you are grateful for, this will start to steer your focus towards the positive things in your life. What you focus on is key, as it sets the filter through which you view the world. Here is an article that explains that https://www.heysigmund.com/why-what-you-focus-on-is-what-becomes-powerful-why-your-thoughts-and-feelings-matter/. Also, getting into a regular practice of mindfulness will help you to be more deliberate in where you let your thoughts wander. Here is the link to the mindfulness articles. https://www.heysigmund.com/category/being-human/mindfulness/. Take your time over these and see what you can do to incorporate mindfulness into your life. A few minutes a day will make a difference.

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stacey

for me having anxeity is like being in a bubble i cant get out of and i am scared, i have the best boyfriend in the world but i cant talk to him about how i am feeling because i dont want to burden him. i trust him 100% but i dont know how to deal with it. i feel like i am on my own.

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Hey Sigmund

Stacey I completely understand how isolating anxiety can make you feel. We all have parts of us we wish were different, but your boyfriend would know for certain that your anxiety is only one part of you and there are so many other reasons why for him, you are perfect. Let him know how much he means to you and focus on the good in your relationship. This will be hard some days because the temptation will be to focus on the fear, but you have the strength it takes to push against this. There are articles on this link that will help you to manage your anxiety https://www.heysigmund.com/category/being-human/anxiety/. There is a lot info here but there’s no hurry to take it all in. Take your time over it. The information will make a difference.

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Raabi

Hello!

Thanks for this article i’m going to read it everyday to remind myself that it’s all anxiety and thoughts! It’s been 3 weeks. I’ve been questioning everything about my relationship with the most amazing guy i’ve ever met. He knows everything about me and he wants me despite of my issue. At first I had so many thoughts “Do I love him?” “Is he the one” “He isn’t good looking” “He is boring” “I feel overwhelmed by the relationship” I crashed down couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat for 4 days after that I started to work on it with him. A lot of my thoughts are gone. I know now I love him and I want him but I still can’t shake this anxiety feeling idk why ;( I know it’ll take time. I always worry about our future together! I’m worried that my issue is going to ruin this for us and I don’t want that. I’ve always accepted that I have ocd/anxiety but when it targeted my relationship I hated myself even tho I know it’s not my fault and I thought of ending the relationship because I couldn’t handle it but I knew ending it wouldn’t be the answer! My boyfriend means the world to me we’ve been through too much and we shared everything for 3 years now. As my thoughts go away I can see that it’s getting better and i’m not depressed anymore! I know what I want now but I still worry.. I worry if we are gonna have fun if we go out or not, I worry what if I got depressed and he couldn’t make me happy, what if he couldn’t handle it and left me, what if I wasn’t good/strong enough. I know I deserve to be loved but I don’t wanna ruin this. Is this going to go away with time?

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Hey Sigmund

Remembering that your worry is just the thoughts of an overprotective brain can be very powerful in managing your anxiety. An anxious brain lives in the future, which is why you might tend to question your relationship. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your relationship – it sounds wonderful – it’s just your brain doing what brains were meant to do – keep us safe. Yours just does it a little too much at times. If you can practice being deliberate about where you put your mind and give yourself the opportunity to relax into your relationship, this will help to train your brain to stay in the present rather than spending too much time in the future. This can be really difficult with anxiety, but what can help is setting a time limit. Give yourself a certain amount of time to explore the relationship. It might be a few months – whatever works for you. That way, you’re giving yourself a safety net so you can remind yourself that there is no need to think about the bad stuff now, because you have set a date to think about things. Then, when the date comes around you will have evidence and reason to feel stronger and more confident. You will also have proven to yourself that it’s okay to relax. If you’re still not feeling relaxed, set yourself another time period.

Things like exercise, plenty of sleep, and mindfulness can also help to strengthen your brain against anxiety. Your anxiety might stay in the background, but it doesn’t mean that it will always interfere the way it does now.

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Dave

Have a relationship with God at the center of it and you will enjoy each other best. Without God, the relationship will not last. Truely living your life with God first is the key to happiness because everything we need is written in the bible. Strength, guidance, sex talk, what is right, what is wrong, yet people, myself included struggle. God will keep us strong, so our relationship can flourish.

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Jeroen

I have relationship anxiety as far as i know. This time i am in a relation of nearly a year and i am still there. However, my anxiety is a bit less then in the beginning, it is still there. Although the feeling, and the tension in my lower body is unbearable, i want to go on and get this over with.

I got over most of the triggers from the beginning, however the one or two that are still there still starts the anxiety everyday again.

What i would like to know is this; will the anxiety always leave if you wait long enough? I mean, the only thing that keeps me going is that the feeling will leave me, but will it..?

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Hey Sigmund

Your anxiety can certainly get to a point where it is no longer getting in your way. Anxiety is something that might always be there in the background, but it can definitely be managed so that it doesn’t cause you physical and emotional pain any more. It’s great that you know your triggers. The thing to remember with anxiety is that it’s your brain being overprotective and trying to warn you just in case there’s trouble coming. It’s your body’s early warning system – we all have it but in people with anxiety, it’s more sensitive.

There are things you can do to strengthen your brain against anxiety – exercise (try for 30 minutes 5 times a week) https://www.heysigmund.com/activity-restores-vital-neurochemical-protects-anxietyepression/; mindfulness (start with 5-10 minutes a day and gradually work up to 20) https://www.heysigmund.com/overcoming-anxiety-mindfulness/. These will both change the structure of the brain in ways that will strengthen it against anxiety. Getting enough sleep is also important.

As well as these things, practice taking slow deep breaths – in for 3, hold for 1, out for 3. This will initiate the relaxation response which will reverse the neurochemicals that surge through you when anxiety is triggered. It is these chemicals and the physical processes they initiate that are responsible for the physical symptoms. Every physical symptom you have (racy heart, tension in the muscles, sick tummy etc) are there because of the fight or flight response. The neurochemicals are triggered when the brain things there is need for fight or flight. These are designed to make you strong, fast and powerful to deal with whatever your mind thinks the threat is. (The threat doesn’t need to be a real one – in anxiety it’s just an overprotective ‘just in case’.) The idea is that when you fight or flight, it burns the neurochemicals. When there is no need for fight or flight, (as in when you are with your partner) there nothing to burn the neurochemicals and they build up, causing the physical symptoms of anxiety. Deep, strong breathing reverses this. Try to practice every day. It sounds odd having to practice breathing, but when your brain is in the thick of anxiety, it won’t remember to slow down your breathing. The more you can practice it (try a few breaths a few times a day) the more automatic it will become.

This article explains where anxiety comes from. It was written with kids in mind, but the definition is also relevant for adults. https://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-in-kids/ If you can understand where your anxiety comes from and what causes it, it will be much easier to manage.

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Jeroen

Thank you Karen,

one thinks it’s about relationship problems, troubles from the youth, the wrong girl etc. and ends up in therapy, spiritual groups, yoga, thoughts about that there is something really wrong and then there is this little but clear info that it’s just an oversensitive run and flight thing. Everything makes so much more sense… also your healing tips i understand completely. I will do both. Moving and mindfulness. For the first time i have the feeling that this will actually going to work. Thank you. ( deep bow ))

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Mary

Thank you so much for this! I have recently started dating this amazing man that is aware of my anxiety and still is understanding.
My question is: Does anxiety also affect physical expressions of affection? I fear small things like a simple kiss and getting to close physically. I haven’t heard of anyone else who deals with this. How can I get over my fears of physical expression of love?

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Hey Sigmund

You’re very welcome Mary. And yes – absolutely – anxiety can affect anything in relationships. Anxiety is a brain that lives in the future as a way to protect you. It is always looking out for the things that could go wrong, to warn you before they actually do go wrong. This is why anxiety is so intrusive and often doesn’t make sense. Your body’s warning system will be triggered when the brain thinks there is trouble, regardless of whether or not the threat is real. Physical expressions of affection can certainly bring on anxiety because of the unknowns and the what-ifs that come with it. To move through this, remember that your anxiety is just your brain being overprotective – it doesn’t mean there is anything to worry about. Move slowly and gently through the awkwardness. Talk about it with your partner and laugh about it! The more familiar it becomes and the more you face it down, the easier it will get. Let whatever happens happen, and remind yourself that if the worst thing that could happen in a kiss happens (whatever that might be for you), you’ll still be totally fine – you’ll be better than fine. Be kind to yourself and go gently. We all have our stuff and it’s completely okay that this is yours.

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Beatriz

Hey there, thank you so much for this beautiful post. It sure helped me understand I am not alone in feeling trapped inside my own head and thoughts.
I am generally an anxious person, not really about social interactions or anything but more about being afraid I am making a mistake (in my relationship, in my work, where I live…).
My boyfriend of 2,5 years used to be one of my close friends, one day I started noticing I felt differently around him, another day we kissed and from there to dating things went fast. Since the very beggining I’ve had these nagging thoughts (Do I love him? Am I in love with him? Wasn’t I supposed to feel butterflies and see myself with him forever? Miss him so much I can’t even breathe? What if we are just friends? What if this is not meant to be?). I would always seek for reassurance and he was always loving and kind, up until a couple of weeks ago.
This has taken a huge toll on him and he told me he cant do this anymore, he doesn’t quite understand what I’m feeling and says he lost the hope that I’ll ever work out my doubts. He broke up with me, only to immediately regret it after, and we agreed to stay apart for a while so I can try to work with this and figure out what my true thoughts are.
I feel so lost and lonely right now, I think I messed everything up and feel pathetic for not knowing what my feelings toward him are.
No one talks about this and something deep inside of me is terrified “hes not the one” or that this isnt love,or that there might in fact be real red flags in this relationship, and that this isnt really anxiety but mt gut telling me to let go.
Any insight on this would be dearly appreciated 🙂

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Beatriz what you are describing makes a lot of sense. Anxiety has a way of keeping your mind constantly in the future and contemplating the what-ifs. The important thing to remember is that this is a normal part of anxiety’s warning system – but it is not a prediction. It doesn’t mean that there is actually anything to worry about. It’s just your brain being very overprotective and trying to keep you out of harm’s way. So, when you wonder if it’s love or if this man is right for you, this is your anxiety trying to keep you safe. It is an overprotection though and doesn’t mean at all that there is anything to worry about. I know how difficult this is, but the best thing you can do is to surrender to your relationship for a little while. By that I mean just let it evolve and see what happens. Give yourself a time limit if you want, say, 6 months, and decide that you will give it everything you’ve got and you won’t question it until that time is up. By the time the 6 months is up, you will have the evidence you need to feel more secure and more sure about your relationship. You don’t have to know what your true thoughts and feelings are. If it feels good, keep going – that’s all you need to know.

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James

This is spot on to what I’ve been experiencing recently with my significant other of about a year now. From an approaching closing date on a new house, higher than normal stress at work, and the realization that I have developed deep feelings for what was supposed to be a very casual relationship, I have been absolutely plagued by anxiety, and it has affected my behavior towards her. I’ve become overbearing and am seeking constant affirmation/interaction, which is out of the realm of what was ordinary for us.

I’m hoping to be able to show her the article. I’m trying not to worry that I may have ruined it beyond repair. I’d really like to make it to the one year mark!

Thanks for writing this! Any further advice would be much appreciated.

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Hey Sigmund

James it’s completely understandable that your anxiety might be driving you to seek constant reassurance. You’re certainly not alone there and plenty of people would have struggled with this. It’s great that you’re aware of what’s happening, what’s driving your need for reassurance, and that your need for reassurance might be getting in the way of your relationship. What’s important is your openness to doing things differently. No relationship is perfect, just as no person is perfect – we all come with our flaws – but what makes a great relationship (and a great human) is the willingness to be better for the people close to us. You sound as though you have plenty of that. There are more articles on this link that might be helpful for you, both in terms of understanding your own anxiety, managing it, and helping your partner to understand your anxiety https://www.heysigmund.com/category/being-human/anxiety/ . I hope this helps.

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Marissa

This was a great read. Thank you. I’ve met the greatest guy and my anxiety tends to be a big douche and add thoughts to my head and then I worry. This made me feel better. 🙂

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Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome Marissa. Anxiety can have a way of making you question things – even the good things. I’m pleased the article has helped.

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Smdp

Hello 🙂

For the last 6-8 months i’ve been dealing with a bunch of thoughts regarding my relationship. My partner and I have been together for 2 years and 11 months now and he is my best friend, my biggest supporter and the most caring person I’ve ever met. 6-8 months ago i started noticing that my “feelings” are gone and that i didn’t want to be intimate as often anymore, then the thought followed that i didn’t love him anymore and so i started believing it. I refuse to think that that would be the end of this relationship and that makes me feel panicky. Somewhere in me i think that i do love him and i care about him very very much. But on the other hand i have thoughts saying that “I’m just staying because i dont want to be alone” or “I don’t want to be here”. It got to the point where i started believing all this and started to think of ways to fix it. I do believe that i have a good relationship and a good partner and that i am worrying for nothing.
In the first 2 years i always thought this is the man i would be spending my life with and when i started to doubt and worry i immediately thought something is wrong. I want to get to the point where i can enjoy my relationship again and build that future. I feel like it’s ruining a really good relationship.

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Sarah

I’m so sorry if this is too long, I’d appreciate all the help I can get and I need it,
I’ve been with this guy for almost 4 months now and I can safely say I’ve never felt like anybody was as right for me as he is. I even broke my rule against long distance (I always thought I’d never go through with a long distance relationship) because I felt like I hit the jackpot when I thought of the possibility of being with him. It wasn’t even love at first sight because I don’t exactly believe in that, it was more like, I was always attracted to this person (we’ve been friends for a year before that, but not close) and wanted to get to know him better. That never happened though because he was very distant and never showed any interest in me so naturally, my feelings never developed further and I never really thought about it. Anyway flashforward and we’re together and I’m happy and see a lot of possibility and a great future and then BAM anxiety kicks in. Do I love him? How long does it take to fall in love? Is it okay for me to be doubting this? Am I supposed to feel a certain way all the time? I also felt guilty about him having stronger feelings for me than I did for him although it does make sense because he never allowed me to get close to him whereas I was generally more expressive. Long story short, I tried and still continue to try and pinpoint the roots of my anxiety regarding this relationship because if there’s one thing I know for sure is that I’m NOT willing to give up on him and he’s worth every bit of effort. My thought process went as follows: started with a few questions that got intertwined and because I’m a worrier by nature, elicited immense worry until it started to ruin my whole day and the thought of him leaving me produced even more anxiety. Then that sort of abated and somehow it turned into a sort of dread towards him as a result of all the bottled emotions and I eventually reached an emotional blackout for a couple of days. It turns out I had subconsciously associated him with my anxiety which resulted in that dread or fear because all I really wanted was to avoid that anxiety, not him. That realization made me feel so much better and a lot more open and receptive of him and I know that if I keep this up I’ll hopefully be able to wholeheartedly love him, but I wanna know how to keep these thoughts away and not constantly question everything and let anxiety kick in again. I’m sorry if this is too long.

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Hey Sigmund

Anxiety can really get in the way of a beautiful relationship can’t it, but you can be bigger than it. The key is to always be checking in with the facts and the evidence around you. Question your worries and remember all the time that your worries are there to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that your not. Let them come, and then let them go. Have a key word or image, maybe a text on your phone, that helps you to feel secure and sure about the relationship. Whenever your worries try to take over, go back to that anchor word or image or text and let yourself fall into the safety of that.

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kat

yesterday my husband told me he has anxiety . He finally let me in to his head, unfortunately-too late. We are about to separate. Now I finally have a clear answer to why I was emotionally and physically neglected for over 7 years which almost caused me to take my life as his distance and ignorance broke me to pieces. I just couldn’t get through to him. I am emotionally very open person. I always told him what’s on my mind and in my heart. I begged him to work on our marriage with no results. I believed that I must be ugly, stupid, not good enough. I felt so tired. No response from him. Barely any cuddles, barely any love making, a few kisses. No sign of affection. I am not saying he was a bad man as we haven’t argued either . So, after I grieved over our broken marriage I finally was ready to tell him, I want to go my way. After I read about anxiety and what he has told me (FINALLY) I have some understanding of it. If he was clear with me from the start we still would be happy together. He knows that too and regrets he wasn’t open with me but also knows that i need to go away. He signed himself up for therapy and counseling and said he will do this as it’s been way too long. I am proud of him and wish him all the best. I believe he will fall in love again and will be able to have a fulfilled and loving relationship. Sorry for a long post. I just wanted to say that even If you are scared to tell your loved one what you are against – you should. I am sure if they love you they have the capacity to understand and give you all the support you need. Just tell them early, before the other person is torn into pieces wondering what did they do wrong.

Reply
J

Thank you for sharing your experience to help others. I fear/know I am much like your husband. I felt so much of this article resonated with me and several of the tips give me hope that even after years of having one foot with my wife and one with my anxiety as my partner, it may not be too late yet. (She sent me the link to this article.)

Now this post from you that could easily be written by my wife has given me a good hard push to pair with the ideas and the hope. I’m going to talk to her tonight. Thank you and I hope you find your way to someone who will let you in and share their love with you.

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Bri

I’m so glad I found this article. I identified with doing all of the things you listed and it really helps to see the solutions you have given. My partner has been so overwhelmed and feeling boxed in that he tried to end our relationship as my anxieties over our relationship were really getting to him. I actually realised what I was doing because of my GAD and we are currently on day 2 of a week of space from eachother so that he can feel a bit more like himself again without the worry I project, and so that I can think more about the fear that I have (I obviously can’t get him to reassure me that he loves me every second). It’s tough but with all these tips you wrote, I feel more positive that this is going to really help. Thanks x

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Hey Sigmund

Bri I’m so pleased this has helped you. I know how tough it is spending time away from the person you care so much about. I hope you are both able to work through it in a way that is good for you both x

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Mariah

Thank you SO much for this! I face these issues in my relationship. When I talked about it with my best friend, she told me these emotions aren’t normal and I should break up with him, which makes me even more upset because he’s such a loving and supportive partner who tries his best to understand my GAD. So glad to see I’m not alone! I’m lucky to have him.

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Amanda

This had been the answer to all of my relationship issues that have been occurring recently. I have anxiety and all of these tips are spot on. I am going to really utilize these in hopes of improving my relationship. Thank you so much for such great tips!!

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Annie

Thank you for that very insightful article. From my own experiences with terrible anxiety, these coping strategies are great for getting through day-to-day but doesn’t quite get to the root of where extreme anxiety comes from. Do you think seeking professional help would benefit?

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Hey Sigmund

You’re very welcome. Yes, a counsellor would be able to work with you to help you find ways to manage your anxiety. Here is some info to help you understand more about where anxiety comes from https://www.heysigmund.com/dealing-with-anxiety/ and also some ways to manage it:
>> Managing Anxiety – 8 Proven Ways: https://www.heysigmund.com/managing-anxiety/
>> Anxiety: 15 Ways to Feel Better Without Medication https://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-without-medication/
Hope this helps.

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Dee

My question is about how to respond to the push-pull. I know my anxious partner loves me. We’ve been getting closer over several years and when we are together it is amazing and loving. Periodically though he pulls away to ‘regroup’ and come to terms with new developments in the relationship. I understand and can manage the spaces in an otherwise wonderful relationship. But what I’m not sure about is how to support him during these times. I can mail, text, write thoughts, poems that show him I love him; he can’t respond instantly (or even in days) to these. I am not sure if I’m intruding in the space he needs to work stuff out, or if I’m making it harder.

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Hey Sigmund

This will be different for everyone, so if you can have a conversation about this and let your partner think about what he needs, this will really strengthen your relationship. He is lucky to have someone who is so loving, supportive and understanding.

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Alice

Hey, thank you so much for your article. When I’m in a intimate relationship i have so much anxiety that i often end the relationship so that the anxiety end’s too. I started a new one and it’s happening the same and i new desperately to stop this fear and start enjoying love and live but i’m affraid i can’t…

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Hey Sigmund

I really understand. With your new relationship, know that you don’t have to do everything differently, just start with one thing. What you focus on is what will become important. If you focus on the fear, that’s what will become real for you. Have a look through the list on the article and choose one thing to focus on. If you focus on too many, the risk is that it will become overwhelming. You’re experiences with your previous relationships are not wasted. Try not to think of them with regret. They are the things that have happened to give you the wisdom, strength and will to do something differently. Change comes at the point of frustration – when the force to change is stronger than the force to stay the same. Change is never easy, but it’s always do-able. You can do this.

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Noelle

Hey, thanks for this. Do you have similar advice for when anxiety affects a close friendship? I imagine there are many parts of what you wrote above that apply, but I’m just curious. I had an especially violent bout of anxiety recently that’s left me feeling like I’ve lost something with my closest friend, but I’m lost as to how to deal with it. Especially since the anxiety hasn’t fully receded and I’m not clear on what changes are good and what changes are losses. So advice regarding that would be cool.

Also, how common is it to have such intensely introspective anxiety that it becomes difficult to clearly describe to others? That’s often my problem, and between that and the feeling that what is worrying me is of crucial importance, I end up feeling like I’m being sucked into a black hole of terror and despair. The inability to fully analyze *or* communicate something that feels intensely real and important is horrifying. Not to mention the attempt to describe it to a loved one can be kind of humiliating. I know anxiety can be a lifelong tendency, but I’d really like to get past this particular level of it…

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Hey Sigmund

I don’t have any posts about anxiety affecting friendships, but it’s a great idea for a post. What you’re describing with your anxiety is so common. Anxiety is really difficult to understand for someone who hasn’t been through it – you’re certainly not alone there. One of the ways people describe it is like the feeling you get when you miss a stair, or the feeling of falling when you’re almost asleep. The information in this article might help you to explain to people what anxiety is like. It’s written for kids, but don’t worry about that – go straight to the explanation of why anxiety feels the way it does. A lot of adults have read it to understand and explain anxiety – sometimes the simplest explanations are the best. https://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-in-kids/ . I really get how it can feel scary not being able to explain how you’re feeling, but know that you’re not alone. I hope the information in the article is able to help move your forward.

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Noelle

Thanks so much for your understanding. It’s amazing how comforting even a small affirmation can be. I’ll check that article out … looks like a great resource. I hope it helps me move forward, too!

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lorri

Amazing article! Wish my ex could read this because he would agree. Its a diary of our 8yr relationship issues to a tee. Thanks, i will read this daily.

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Hey Sigmund

Thank you! I’m so pleased you’ve discovered what works for you. It’s that openness to doing what it takes that is the key to happy, long lasting relationships.

Reply
John

Unfortunately a month too late for my ex fiancé and I. Though a great insight into how well apart. Wish We had read this together a few months ago.

Reply

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Hey Warrior - A book about anxiety in children.








Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Our kids are going to make bad decisions. Hopefull Our kids are going to make bad decisions. Hopefully they’ll make plenty - it’s one of the ways they’ll learn and grow. We won’t always be able to love them out of a bad decision, but we want to be the ones they come to when the mess unfolds. 
When they get it really wrong, they’ll know it. They’ll also know exactly what we think. Of course we’ll be tempted to remind them over and over of what they’ve done and the fallout from that, but it will be useless. There is no new wisdom in telling them ‘I told you so’, and it also runs the risk of switching them off to our influence and guidance at a time they need it most. 
There will be wisdom in the mess for sure, and the best way to foster the discovery is to make a safe space for this to happen - and there is no safer space than in their connection with you. 
When we prioritise connection above lectures, criticism, or judgement, we clear the path for self-reflection. This is where the magic happens. When they feel safe with us, and free from shame or disconnection, we have enormous power to facilitate growth - ‘Can you tell me what happened? I know you’re a great kid and I’m wondering what made this feel like a good decision? What can you do differently next time? I know you didn’t mean for this to happen but it has, and I’m wondering how you might put things right? Do you need my help with that?’ When we strip it back to bare, discipline was always meant to be about teaching, and this will never happen when there is shame or when they feel disconnected from us. You are their everything. They don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to disappoint you - but they will, lots of times. 
With every one of their bad decisions is an opportunity to guide them towards growth, but only if we keep them close and hold their hearts gently amidst the breakage. When we keep their hearts open to us, they will open their minds and their mouths too. They will talk and they will listen, and they will know that even when their behaviour is ‘questionable’, they are our everything too.

Our kids are going to make bad decisions. Hopefully they’ll make plenty - it’s one of the ways they’ll learn and grow. We won’t always be able to love them out of a bad decision, but we want to be the ones they come to when the mess unfolds.
When they get it really wrong, they’ll know it. They’ll also know exactly what we think. Of course we’ll be tempted to remind them over and over of what they’ve done and the fallout from that, but it will be useless. There is no new wisdom in telling them ‘I told you so’, and it also runs the risk of switching them off to our influence and guidance at a time they need it most.
There will be wisdom in the mess for sure, and the best way to foster the discovery is to make a safe space for this to happen - and there is no safer space than in their connection with you.
When we prioritise connection above lectures, criticism, or judgement, we clear the path for self-reflection. This is where the magic happens. When they feel safe with us, and free from shame or disconnection, we have enormous power to facilitate growth - ‘Can you tell me what happened? I know you’re a great kid and I’m wondering what made this feel like a good decision? What can you do differently next time? I know you didn’t mean for this to happen but it has, and I’m wondering how you might put things right? Do you need my help with that?’ When we strip it back to bare, discipline was always meant to be about teaching, and this will never happen when there is shame or when they feel disconnected from us. You are their everything. They don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to disappoint you - but they will, lots of times.
With every one of their bad decisions is an opportunity to guide them towards growth, but only if we keep them close and hold their hearts gently amidst the breakage. When we keep their hearts open to us, they will open their minds and their mouths too. They will talk and they will listen, and they will know that even when their behaviour is ‘questionable’, they are our everything too.
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