Anxiety and Relationships: How to Stop it Stealing the Magic

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. 

    [irp posts=”1100″ name=”The Things I’ve Learned About Anxiety – That Only People With Anxiety Could Teach Me”]

     

  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.

    [irp posts=”974″ name=”When Someone You Love Has Anxiety”]

     

  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.

227 Comments

Christina

About two months ago I had a panic attack and the next day I started to have severe doubts about my feeling for my boyfriend. I knew instantly that something was wrong. I did a lot of research and talking with my boyfriend and discovered that this sort of anxiety was common. I went to the doctor and got a mild everyday anxiety medication and day by day I have gotten better and fallen in love with my boyfriend again. I know how it feels to feel that doubt, but you have to remember your feelings and talk to your partner about how your feeling. Just remind yourself every day that everything is ok and everything will be ok. Your feelings haven’t disappeared, anxiety plays tricks on your mind. You love your partner and you’ve always loved your partner.

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Alex

Very insightful thanks. Wish I had researched earlier.
I had waited for my ex partner to open up on how anxiety affects him & what it means for us as a couple, however that never happened.
And he’s closed himself off now for the past 5 months regardless of my reaching out.
Is there hope, or should I leave him be?

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Sarah

I don’t have a diagnosis, but my doctor has told me that I do suffer from anxiety attacks. And of course it’s about my relationship. We have been together for 10 months, and I love him so much, and I know it deep down, and when we’re together there’s no problem, everything is just great. But when we’re not together, I get all these horrible thoughts, and they’re though to let go of. Thoughts like “do I REALLY still love him?”, “would he be better of without me?”, “Should I just give up?”, “Is it true love or just something else?”, “Am I just convincing myself that I love him and lying to myself?” and so on. It can be tough for me from time to time, but I just don’t want to give up on him, and again all of it comes when I’m alone, without him. I’ve found out that saying things out loud helps, cause the worries does the most damage in my head, but it can be a tiring battle. He has drawn the line for how much I can vent to him, and that’s okay, cause I don’t want to burden him and I want to learn how to deal with it myself. But I feel like I’m not getting anywhere and I am so so scared that it will end up ruining the relationship, if I don’t learn how to deal with it when we’re not together! Plus the internet is a HORRIBLE place to seach, and confuses my worries and doubt even more…Is there anyone who can help me? I don’t want to lose him.

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Madison

Hello lovely humans (:

I have a whirlwind of a story to throw your way so I hope you’re ready.

I am 22 years old and I am engaged to the love of my life. I just spent two months working at a summer camp and I went from dating someone from back home who was nice and sweet and could have offered me a very nice life and I decided to follow what my heart was telling me and take a leap of faith to entering into a relationship with someone who was also staff with me. He is the perfect match for me and is my best friend. I was the happiest I have ever been being away from home and being in that environment. My home was very far away and I felt free. I return home to not the greatest relationship with my parents due to the fact that I seem to have been erratic and for lack of a better word insane. My fiancee then decided to come and spend a few weeks with me before he has to fly home due to his Visa expiring. Currently I am getting ready to properly move out of my house tomorrow and then start my last year of undergraduate study and my practicum on Monday. I am having terrible feelings of anxiety and this pit in my stomach that won’t go away. I keep questioning our relationship and myself to the point where I have panic attacks. I hate looking at this man who I know is everything I have ever wanted and either questioning if I love him which I know I do (most days) or if he and I are going to work when all he is giving me is unconditional love and support. I was on certain birth control medication to ease ovarian cyst symptoms but that eventually just made me feel numb. I don’t want these thoughts to proliferate our love especially with him leaving for awhile but I also don’t want to feel nothing at all. I want to be back to myself and to get back to him. I have always felt as if I had anxiety but I brushed it off and pushed through since I also have a thyroid condition. It just all seems so heightened since coming home from being away for two months and not being completely anxiety free but feeling so much better. I love this man and I just want us to be whole again so our marriage can start in a place of joy and not stress.

Thank you all for reading this that did – I am hoping someone tells me something other than “that voice inside you is your conscious telling you you are doing the wrong thing” as my mother likes to point out.

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Aly A

Thank you so much for this article! I am a high school student in a long-term relationship, and I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression for many years.
One thing I’ve found that helps me (and is not listed in this wonderful article) is to not constantly look at online magazines for signs of potential “problems” in my relationship. Every relationship is different, and what might make one couple want to break up is perhaps what fuels another.
Stay calm, stay grateful, and remember that the future is never as bad as you think it will be.

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FM

Hi, i came to this article because like many of us here i have some anxiety issues and i just accepted this. I am the type of person who cries when frustrated, when i cannot control a situation – and now it s filtered into an already complicated relationship.
I feel anxiety because i dont know what will happen, because i am pretty scared about not fulfilling my relationship goals.
I have been in a relationship that has demanded the most work and the one that has made me learn the most about myself. This relationship is with a man that has his own emotional luggage so from start i knew it would not be a walk in the park. Sti ll i decided to take a chance to know hom and maybe fall in love, and i did. I got to see a wonderful guy but also a man whose problems would just take over everything. I gave him and the relationship all i could until i had no more to give. I felt – more often than i like to admit – the only constant or sure thing was disappointment and loneliness.
So it ended about 6 months back – and i have been doing a lot of reading here and a lot of meditations to move forward and let go. About 2 months ago we started to talk again, me filled with distance and skepticism as all trust was gone, so what could possibly be built or rebuilt without it?
But i have at least opened myself to the possibility – with my heart more than happy and hopeful, but my mind terrified…and this fear is just always in the back of my head telling me it will never work, nothing has changed and putting the handbreak on how i feel or when i feel hopeful.
The fact that i dont see progress and concrete actions are really scaring me. I receive a lot of promises and beautiful words, but no actions or proof that these are true and genuine.
So i feel trapped in these insecurities and in this uncertainty. I dont know how to handle this situation. I wish i could mind read him! Unfortunately that is far from happening and actually not the solution to how i feel since this has more to do with me than with him.
Even though i do love him with all my heart and mind, sometimes i wish i didnt and wish i could just erase it all. But even then a tiny little piece of me wont let go, feeding that anxiety…a vicious circle it seems.
Just putting my thoughts to words is already a weight less.
Thank you for reading me ☺

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Andi

Hi.

Thanks for this article.
I’m 41 and started seeing a therapist last week. This isn’t the first therapist I’ve seen, but the first one I’ve gone to and admitted that I am suffering from anxiety.

After our first session I’ve been thinking back and I’m realizing I’ve been suffering from anxiety from as far back as age 17.

I’ve coped by taking on other things. By trying to help people. By making career choices that would distract me from dealing with myself. I’ve fooled myself at points into thinking I’m suffering from illnesses that I didn’t have. I could go on and on.

I’m in a weird place right now. I feel a sense of relief that I can now admit that I’ve been distracting myself from dealing with this for decades but I’m also very sad that I’ve wasted the most productive years of my life on worry.

Yet, I’m pressing on and am looking forward to getting better and finally tackling this illness.

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Mackenzie

Hello everyone. I’m looking for advice on my relationship anxiety.
I have been dating my boyfriend for about 3 and 1/2 years now and love him with all my heart but I have terrible anxiety. I find myself being very controlling and clingy. I was never like this before until I started to really start having feelings for him. I am super jealous when it comes to other girls. I hate being in front of large crowds and am always tapping my boyfriend and freak out on him if he even looks in the direction of a girl. I find myself doing this whenever I am in public. I don’t know why I do it but it just happens and he hates when I do it and it always leads in to fights. Even on tv or movies if there is a hot girl I am making sure he isn’t looking. I just feel like I deserve respect and want to be the only girl he looks at. I’m also very clingy and am always with him at all times when he gets home from work. He is always wanting to hang out with friends but I started to have trust issues because he would always lie about It in the past. So we really don’t hangout with friends. I just can’t stop thinking about him and am always wondering what he is doing and feel like I need to be in control. I hate that I do it but I just can’t help it. We even track each other on our phones to see where the other is at.
Please help me. I don’t want this relationship to end but I feel like he doesn’t care about me anymore. Help me please.

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Aly A

Hi Mackenzie, thank you for telling your story. Hearing about other peoples’ experiences brings validation of my own feelings of anxiety.

As for you, I have seen this kind of situation occur in the past with couples who had been dating for a number of years, and it was always the lack of trust that broke them apart in the end. I don’t know your exact situation, but it sounds like your partner is secure in your relationship, although he is not always happy with the constant paranoia on your part (this is how it is in my relationship of over a year). You are both clearly able to love and be loved greatly, and want to put in effort to prevent and fix problems since you have been together for so long. I know it’s much easier said than done, but you have got to exercise faith in your relationship knowing that you have overcome adversity together, probably many times, in the past.

Start with baby steps to relinquish control of each other. For instance, allow your partner to go out for a guy’s night and fight your urges to text or call him in anything short of an absolute emergency. Go out for a night with your family or some girl friends and tell him about it in person once you get home. From there, you can take bigger and bigger steps: Staying out for a night with friends, taking small family trips without each other, etc. By becoming independent of each other, you will be happier as individuals and as a unit.

I hope that this helps…

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Pete

Karen,
I have been in a relationship with a girl for 8 months. For the most part we have a great relationship. We never fight and work well as a team.

During the 8 months we have been dating, there were four similar incidents I have let anxiety get the best of me. The fourth one was last week. I was getting paranoid that my girl friend was having inappropriate texts with some one else. When I confronted her she showed and explained to me the content of the communication, and of course it was all very normal. I let my imagination and anxiety get the best of me causing damage to my relationship trust for something that didn’t exist. The worst part is this was the fourth time it has happened, and she expressed that my insecurity is ruining the relationship. I know she is hurt and offended that I had to ask her to explain her communications. Any suggestions?

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Karen Young

An anxious brain will pull you into the future and have you wrestling with what-ifs before you realise what’s happening. Keep in mind your anxiety is only a thought, not a prediction and not a truth. When you start to feel your imagination taking you to dangerous places, breathe, settle yourself, imagine your thoughts as traffic (or clouds or bubbles or whatever works for you) and then imagine yourself letting them go. Remind yourself they are only thoughts – they will come and they will go, but don’t let them take you with them. Then, think of the three things you are grateful for about your partner and the way you feel with her. Gratitude helps to squeeze out negative thoughts.

It’s also important to understand how anxiety works. Here is an article that explains how anxiety works, and why it is so persuasive https://www.heysigmund.com/dealing-with-anxiety/. And here is another article that might give you some strategies to help find calm when you are starting to feel insecure or worried about your relationship https://www.heysigmund.com/dealing-with-anxiety-anxious-mind-calm/. Be patient and kind to yourself. Your brain has been doing its thing for a while, and it will take a while to retrain it to stay calm when you need it to, but for sure you can do this.

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trad

Who ever is reading this..i hope will be able to give me some insight..

I started dating this woman 3 months ago. It was basically love at first site..she fell into my world unexpectedly. She told me she loved me about a month ago. I said it back of course. She truly is great. She isn’t as emotional as me and sometimes I over think.
I think it may be anxiety/insecurities. I think rediculous things..like if she doesn’t have an orgasm while i have sex with her i’m not as good as her ex boyfriend, or if we don’t have a plan to see each other right away or if i cant come give her a hug and kiss before i go to work it means maybe she doesn’t care to see me. Sometimes after sex i wonder if i satisfied her enough. The other night we were having sex and she asked me after i came if i could start back up right away. For me it wasnt going to work i need time in between and she kinda blurted ” IS IT GONNA WORK?” i felt like crap. Then i was apologizing after. She said you think that matters to me? Basically assuring me it was going to be ok.

(WE TALK ALL THE TIME THROUGH TEXT) If i bring up the fact that im feeling anxious..she tells me that its going to be “ok”..or i feel she just gets fed up and tell me to “stop tripping”. Like i stated above, sometimes ill offer to come giver her a hug and kiss before work but she says “not like this” meaning she thinks shes too ugly to be seen by me, which she has lots of self confidence issues with that way she looks, the way she has sex with me. She says shes not confident sexually with me yet. Even though i tell her shes beautiful all the time. Then when i send her emotional messages i feel like an idiot because i realize i’m acting to emotional for her maybe and lessening her love for me? She tells me to tell her anything that’s on my mind, but i feel she cant stand some of my anxious thoughts when i need to share them with her.

Everything seems to be fine when we are hanging out with each other. We hold hands when we drive, in public, cuddle lots when we are at home together. She HATES when i stare at her..and will literally push me away. I look at her because she actually is stunningly beautiful and I like to take in what is sitting in front of me. Her safe place is when she jumps on to me lets me hold her in my arms while shes got her legs wrapped around me. I rock her back and forth and give her lots of kisses. (Not sure if thats relevant or not).. I picture her being my long term girlfriend..sometimes she drops subtle hints about the future…like she didn’t want to scare me but she was looking at wedding dresses the other day..or her dad will eventually call me his son in law..she shows love in the opposite way that i show. We are kind of ying and yang.

I realize space and distance is important. I sometimes feel like i’m not doing enough for her, even though i know i am. I feel like my world is stable and im usually well organized in my life. But sometimes my thoughts get the worst of me and i need reassurance. I want to feel like i can gain reassurance from her if im feeling anxious without her thinking im some sort of nut. She asked me “seriously, how does your brain even get to these places?” as if shes at the end of her rope. We always talk through text when we are apart but suggested we start talking on the phone. Sometimes i read text messages differently and unsure of her tone. I’m constantly overthinking and am trying to stay positive when i have my anxiety moments. Its probably once a week where i feel unsafe in my deep thoughts..

One thing to keep in mind about her is that she tells me to “be patient” with her.
She is currently not working and suffers from fatigue and anxiety and depression. She says shes gotten better. I figure shes trying to become independent as well and get back on her two feet without me constantly trying to tell her im there for her etc..

Anyways..I feel better that I’ve ranted..

Can someone help me out and give me some decent advice on how to manage this?

Reply
pam

I understand the agony you are feeling it sounds exactly like my relationship but im the female and my boyfriend sounds like you. Keep telling your girlfriend how you feel about her keep reassuring her you will get so much more back if you make it safe for you to both communicate.
a good place to start is : when you ….. i feel…….. because……
books to read that might help; wired for love by Stan Tatkin and Attached by Dr. Amir Levin and Rachel Heller.
My best wishes to you both, time is a great healer be gentle on yourselves.

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Yvonne

After nearly 30 years in a relationship that was toxic I have taken the decision of ending this marriage. I am now starting a new relationship with an old friend , we always felt something special between us, but I was married and he respected that. As soon as he found out that my marriage was broken, he just walked in my life. I feel very anxious because he is with someone else and he is telling me that he will end it to be with me. We have been together for the last 5 months and I am starting to be anxious about the situation. In addition, at the moment I am with a lot of problems starting the process of separation and divorce in a not amicable way with my ex, I also started a new job, etc. I feel I am at my worst moment and he has been my fantasy for many years and I can’t believe this is happening to me. What can I do not to get anxious every time he doesn’t answer my text, the phone?. He has told me that is going to take a while for him to sort out his life and also mine. Should I stop asking him to leave his partner?
I have found your article very interesting and I have made notes about it, but I would appreciate any tips to help with my anxiety, because I don’t want to appear as a needy person to him. I also have many battles at the moment and they are all very complicated, feeling like a single mother of two children, not only emotionally but also financially in addition to the above. Thank you.

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Karen Young

Being in a relationship with someone who is also in a relationship with someone else is going to create stress and anxiety, if there is any expectation of exclusivity. Having said this, it is not for you to ask him to leave his partner. The decision about whether or not to end the relationship is one for him and/or his partner. If he leaves because you told him to, rather than for reasons that feel right for him, there is a lot of potential for fallout. It’s a risky game for you if he gives up his relationship ‘all because of you’ or ‘does that all for you’. In relation to your anxiety, the strategies for dealing with anxiety in your relationship can only go so far if you are looking for security and certainty in a relationship, and you are in one that feels fragile or uncertain. You will find many ways to deal with anxiety on this link https://www.heysigmund.com/category/being-human/anxiety/

Reply
Ivonne

Thanks very much for your reply. Our relationship seems to be going forward, he is there for me when I need him and he is being very supporting and caring. I haven’t ask him to leave his partner. I have told him only that I wouldn’t like to be her. It seems he had his own plan and he is now starting to open up with me and sharing his future plans. He is going to move out and he is planning to live in his own house. I am not asking much and it seems to work because he is talking about his feelings towards me. I really don’t understand how he is managing to come and visit me so often and her not being upset with him. Is it appropriate for me to ask him how are things with him and his partner? Shall I wait for him to tell me? I did said to him that he is finding it very difficult to tell her what’s going on, but he said no to my surprise, because six months ago he said that he wasn’t sure what to do because the 10 years that they have been together, have been good. I am not feeling so anxious about us. We both look forward to be together and we have a really nice and fun time.
Two months ago, I thought of leaving him, because I don’t like to be the lover and I don’t like to be the cause and the problem of his relationship.It goes against my way of thinking. He said to me that he always fancy me and he is feeling fire in his stomach when he is with me. Do you think that leaving him will work in my favor?
Thank you very much for your help in this important matter.

Reply
Amelia

Hi Yvonne,

I am in a somewhat similar situation; I also am currently divorcing/ leaving a toxic relationship (10+ years) and have started a relationship with a guy who I was always somewhat in love with and have known for a long time. He was also in another relationship when we started our affair, but he thankfully left his partner within a month or so of us getting serious, to show his commitment to trying to have a relationship with me.

My life is also changing SO much from the divorce and it is so stressful and I have severe anxiety. One thing I would say to you to consider is this: it has often been hard for me to separate the two DIFFERENT anxiety sources I’m facing, which might be similar to what you are going through, and I separate them this way:
(1) Anxiety about all the changes in my wider life – finances, career, resolving the divorce proceedings in a way that I can ‘live with’ later when it is all said and done (but not letting my ex walk all over me, because he was emotionally abusive and I am somewhat fearful of his rage, so I often give in to him)
(2) Anxiety about my new relationship – how much effort I should put into the creation of a future together with my dream guy versus holding back and moving slowly because he has JUST left a relationship and so have I, so I know we both have to deal with the emotions around our breakups for awhile before we can be totally healthy and ‘available’ again.

I am quite insecure because of how bad my marriage was. Our long toxic relationship hurt me and made me feel ‘not good enough’ as well as somewhat of a ‘failure’ as a wife and in romance. (I was an extremely confident person earlier in life.)

What I would say is this – ask yourself what do you WANT from your new, divorced life?? Do you want to just do all this work to make your life better after leaving a toxic relationship, but then at the same time sit around hoping maybe the guy you are in love with will be exclusive with you? I would not want that, personally. Life is short, we are all meant to be happy and pursue what we dream of for ourselves, and do it bravely. It is very hard to be brave about big decisions when we have anxiety in our lives, but we have to. And we have to be HONEST with OURSELVES the most. You can and will have love, if you want it, and it sounds like you do. I would recommend you tell your new guy (perhaps in a letter, it can be easier..?) how much you feel for him, but that you are uncomfortable with the current situation, and that you are going to focus on you and your life for awhile until things are more stable for you. Hopefully this will give him the chance to decide whether or not he loves you enough to start a new life of his own, too. (And you don’t have to ask him to leave. Just tell him that THIS is not what you want for your life. It’s your birth-right to express your wants and needs!)

Good luck in life and love and all the best for 2018! I hope everything works out but if not, you will find someone else better and more available for you. Age doesn’t matter. The only factor is how much you love and respect yourself! 🙂

?? ?

Reply
Tatyana

Hi, I’m only 15 but I’ve been struggling with anxiety for 6 years. I was getting a lot better and my life felt a lot clearer and I met a guy through friends who I’ve fallen in love with and he loves me too, I felt a lot stronger around him. But recently I relapsed and now I feel a lot weaker around him, he’s had previous relationships with people who have anxiety/depression and it’s had a large impact on him. I’m really scared of hurting him, and I’m scared of not being able to improve again because of how much I care about him. I don’t want to drag him down, but I don’t want to lose him. Do you think taking a break for a short time would work? So I can get back on my feet? Because everything I used to love about being around him I now hate, everything feels dislocated.

Reply
Karen Young

Tatyana – I know it’s been said a lot but communication really is key. It’s so important to let him know how you are feeling. Try to do this from a position of strength, perhaps something like … ‘this is how I’m feeling – just wanted to let you know but I don’t need you to do anything about it. I’m working on it and I’m going to be just fine.’ This will help him to understand what’s happening for you, without feeling the need to ‘fix’ it, which can sometimes be overwhelming.

The truth is that in all relationships we have to learn about each other and what works and what doesn’t. The only way to do this is by talking about it what you need, what the other person needs, and what can make the relationship work better for both of you. You have so much insight and clarity around what you are feeling – that’s so wonderful! Self-awareness is such a healthy, important thing, but it can be difficult. The more aware you are, the more you can see your impact on people, understand their impact on you, and do things in a way that strengthens you. Anxiety is something that happens to you sometimes. It doesn’t define you and it doesn’t define your relationship. You are strong, insightful, brave and open-hearted – remember that.

Reply
Melisa

Hi my name is Melisa and I’ve been in a relationship for almost 3 years. Things started off great. I was an undergrad student, completely focused and would be graduating with honors. Then, I started to go on a decline, losing motivation, feeling lethargic and it just took a complete toll of everything, including my relationship.

Fast forward 2 years later and things have gotten worse. I’ve tried to be completely transparent and explained the triggers, ask for him to point out any signs of the anxiety and yet, while I go thru it and battle instead of compassion, he gets extremely defensive and angry. Small minor misunderstandings and misconceptions of what I’m trying to express (in a very non-combative way), get taken far left and now I’m the one who is in the wrong for having feelings. I understand that my feelings are just that, feelings. They very well be doubts and fears that deserve absolutely no time or focus, yet when I’ve asked to be corrected or reassured, all I get is instant defensiveness. He takes the things I express as personal attacks and then says, “I’m so tired! I’m not doing this and I’m not doing that! Nothing will ever be good enough for….etc”!

I have literally took the time and placed effort into my approach and I never say things like that! I never say “you…., or you….”. I always say “I would like this…..or it would really mean a lot to me if….” I don’t yell or attack him. I’m very gentle in my tone and I listen to constructive criticism because I do want things to be successful, and always am ready to stand to be corrected. A lot of times, I will say, “this is the way I feel; however, maybe I’m in my feelings and could be wrong. If that’s the case, please let me know”. No response. Just silence or then aggressively saying, “well if that’s how you feel, what you’re basically saying is this…”. It’s like at that point, I don’t know if it’s my anxiety getting the better of me, or if my feelings are in fact valid. All I have to go off of, is my feelings and nothing more. No facts, no contradiction, reassurance in anything.

I am lost and although I know my anxiety gets the best of me at times, this is not what I want. I’m trying my best and I literally believe that I already do some of the things listed in this article, but maybe I’m doing something wrong. All I’m asking for is for him to listen to understand rather than simply to respond. I may need compassion and some reassurance during these times. Am I really asking for too much?

I’d also like to state, we do not live together (15-20 min distance). We only get to see each other maybe once a week (Sunday or one day during the week), and that is ALWAYS in the evening (after 9pm) and stay the night. The next morning, we get up (6am) and we are both off to assume work….etc. Although, I appreciate every moment spent together, I’ve expressed the need for more quality time and how it’s important for relationships in bonding….etc. Seeing someone once a week for 2-3 hours (only at night then you go to sleep), is great and acknowledged, but face-to-face interaction is vital. When my anxiety builds, I don’t always have that hand to hold mine or a simple hug, because the lack of quality time, so at times it reinforces and/or amplifies my level of anxiety that I’m literally trying to quash. I’ve explained this, I’ve asked for patience and understanding…..and I’ve taken the gentle approach to saying, “when we are together, we have such a great time and I’d like more of it and it would mean a great deal to me if we could both set aside that time for one another”. Please keep in mind that I’m not the one who’s consumed, as I’m constantly free, yet I include myself in saying, “if WE can set aside time”. This is to avoid the misconception of me attacking him. Seriously……am I wrong for feeling like wanting to spend time with man is wrong? Am I wrong for wanting an actual date during the day??

For all readers, I do not think he is cheating. He works 12 hours a day, 5-6 days a week and is a widower with 2 boys (ages, 9 and 7). Given that said, my requests always consider those aspects in his life, and it’s also important to note that we spent more time together before, so why the lack of it now? Work is the same, schedule is the same and he has family members that are available to watch the boys, as they have before.

So I say all of this to say, yes! I do believe my anxiety is hindering my ability to cope and deal with things in my life, especially my relationship. I’m aware of it very much and I don’t like it. I try very hard to be as open about it 100%, yet I don’t know if it’s just that, that’s having such a detrimental impact within my relationship. I feel like I’ve reached the point of no return and it’s all my fault. I get made to feel like, #1 my feelings are complaints, #2 I’m wrong for having feelings, #3 my feelings are always personal attacks, #4 I’m wrong for asking for more quality time that is not just me/him coming over late pm to leave early am AND I’m unappreciative when I express my wants/needs and #5 I’m the cause of this all because he’s just tired and just needs “peace”.

I feel like an utter failure.

Reply
Karen Young

Melissa you are NOT a failure! From what you are saying, your needs and wants sound very reasonable and very understandable. We all have our ‘stuff’ – the things we need to grow through, and the secret to a successful, loving relationship is being with someone who can support you through your stuff, not make it worse. Of course, we all have a responsibility to continue to grow, but the people we choose to be with can make this harder or easier. It’s easy to take it personally when things don’t happen in a relationship that you need, but sometimes it isn’t about either of you separately, but about the combination of you. No relationship is perfect, but the ones that work are open to each other and to the needs of the relationship. Keep talking about what you both need, and listening to each other about what you might be doing that is getting in the way of the relationship moving forward. Then, it is for you to decide whether or not the relationship is able to work towards giving you both what you need.

Reply
Bluebird

Hi,

I resonate with your story so much I felt my thoughts had been written down. My partner and I have been together for five years and I struggle with anxiety and depression on and off. I also experience the blame and guilt for having feelings or asking for more time. Those 5 key ways you feel after expressing your feelings or asking for something are identical to how I am feeling and have for a while.

I only see my partner on weekends, sometimes mid week if possible. He is a busy guy and is trying his best to become successful in his career. He reassures me when he feels it isn’t damaging and is quite supportive. Overall he is an intelligent, kind and humourous person that is driven. I actually feel so awful for feeling the things I do because of these very factors and am lost at what the solution is.

I feel as though it is a combination of both the anxiety taking over and causing worry and intrusive thoughts that need not be present and the defensive behaviour that makes you feel the ways you expressed. I think this combination only keeps the cycle of anxiety going.

I hope you have found a calm place and balance between the two of you. I’m sorry to hear that you are going through that. ??

Reply
Andy

I’ve only been in 2 relationships both lasting about 3 months. I felt so trapped I could barely breathe. Every time she tried to hold my hand or touch me, I would literally jump. Both times I ended up in hospital from stress. Outside of those 2 times I have never had any signs of anxiety or mental illness. I’m 40 and too scared to try dating again in case it has the same effect.

Reply
Elaine

Hi, I just say your comment. I’m 41 and find getting into a relationship hard. It freaks me out. I question everything, mostly I question am I into it, am I faking it just to be in something. But you know what I think that’s all just bullshit thoughts. Deep breaths, time outs, meditate, what ever gets you through the day. Eventually it will help u to differentiate between noise and reality. Another tip is to keep trying. Repetition reduces fear as you will see the same worry patterns emerge and common sense tells you they can’t be true every time. Lay tip, run, bike, hike or something. Whatever gets you up and out of your head. Hope that helps
E

Reply
Alejandra

Hi I have had anxiety for the past 5years I started to get anxiety during my senior year in college I was a full time student and had two jobs I had to take it easy I had panic attacks on a daily and thankfully I managed to control it by working out. Soon after that I started a new relationship I love my boyfriend to death he’s the sweetest man I know and I would do anything for him, unfortunately I have experienced a tough past in my past relationships being cheated on and betrayed. My anxiety increases the most when I’m in a relationship and lately I’ve been having more anxiety in my relationship we’ve had a rough patch and somehow I feel like that has made a toll on me, I panic when he takes forever to reply to me i get nervous when he goes somewhere after he gets out of work it’s rare for him to do that he’s a predictable man and when things aren’t in “routine” I panic and get anxious and start assuming the worst. I feel bad I know he doesn’t deserve it but I can’t seem to get control of it help ??

Reply
Gab

I have been suffering from extreme relationship anxiety. My boyfriend is an absolute angel he is so good to me and always makes sure to reassure me that he loves me and if he isn’t around it’s because he is working. Even with all his reassurance I still feel anxious when he takes lo to text back or has to work overtime. I fear that it’s beginning to annoy him but he does his best not to show it and always wants to help. I really feel hopeless because I cry myself to sleep every night when I should be feelin so lucky that I have such a great boyfriend. Anyone have any tips that keep these thoughts away when your significant other isn’t around?

Reply
Lynn

I am the same way. I know he cares so much for me but the demons creep into my head. I promise myself I’ll be laid back and just go with the relationship, but my mind goes to strange places and I end up shutting down and giving up. I get all crazy and nervous when I know he’s just working. I don’t know how to stop it and I’m losing a great guy! ??

Reply
Mia

I thought I would just say that as much as your boyfriend is trying to help by reassuring you, and as much as you think that this reassurance is what you need, this is actually what in the long run will keep your anxiety coming back. This is because every time you get reassured you have a mild relief at least for some time and your anxiety decreases So your brain starts associating the reassurance with something good and will seek for it. In the long run, however, this is what is feeding your anxiety. Therefore, the best approach for those who have OCD is to try and just accept the anxiety and sit with it. When you have thoughts like “oh, he’s not texting me, probably because he hates me” or something along those lines, just try to resist your need for reassurance and just think “ok, maybe he hates me, but I accept this. I might not be able to do anything about it and it’s ok, I accept it!”. I know it sounds hard and it probably makes you think I’m crazy but seriously, after a while your brain will stop firing you all these questions because you just won’t give in to your anxiety and your brain will understand there is no need to worry… there is no need to fight or flight. This is what cognitive behavioral therapy tries to teach you. I am trying it myself for my OCD. Worth to try it, I guess 🙂 also, if you haven’t heard of it, try to research about NEUROFEEDBACK. I did it and it helped me greatly! Maybe could be something to help together with therapy?
Please bear in mind I’m not an expert nor a doctor, so I am just writing about my experience. Each case is a case and I always advice you to seek professional help if you feel really overwhelmed. They would help you doing the therapy better 🙂
I hope I helped nevertheless.
I send you all lots of strength !

M.

Reply
Mel

What an article- almost everything in this speaks to me.
I’ve been in a relationship for almost a year now. My boyfriend lives about 2 hours away (inc travel time) so we see each other on the weekend. At first, everything was great and he was sweet and kind and I thought he was amazing- as the months have gone on however, he is turning out to be the complete opposite of what I once thought. At this point in our relationship he is completely riddled with anxiety. Whenever I go out with my friends, he is constantly worried, constantly texting me asking me questions of my whereabouts, telling me he hates when I go out at night and that he sits at home with shaking hands and a fast heart rate. I try to compromise with him by texting him at very specific times (never even a minute late because that angers him) to update him on the night. I tell him that he doesn’t need to worry and that I’m completely safe, yet I’m always met with the same “you don’t care” comment; I’ve gone out and done something purposefully to upset him and I should know better as I know what he’s like. He gets anxiety when he travels home from my house too, being put on edge by everyone around him, always thinking the worst is going to happen. He hates when people look at me and makes it known that he does not like this, always commenting on the fact that men have looked at me. At the start of the relationship he did not care about these things- he laughed them off and didn’t care. Now everything has changed. I asked him why, and he told me he only started to care when he really got feelings for me- again, something which was hurtful to me as I opened up to him a lot, before the relationship official began, and during, so him saying this felt like a stab. I had given him my ALL for 4 months for him to turn around and tell me he didn’t care.
I’m really struggling because he never sees anything from my perspective, and I always get blamed for his anxiety. I am a very compassionate person; I feel lots of empathy for people, I am kind and I have a good nature (this can be seen as a good thing, but I’m not naieve. I recognise me being too kind and constantly feeling guilty is one of my massive downfalls). I will help him as much as I can, but I don’t think it’s fair for him to expect me to change the fundamentals of how I live my life, to fit his idea of what it should be like. As the article states, I know me giving in too much is not good for him. He knows he has a problem, but he lacks the enthusiasm to do anything about it, and it’s wearing down on me and my happiness. I love him dearly and I’m at a loss of what I should do

Reply
Katta

Hello Karen,

what a lovely article! Respect for that… and I see from the flood of comments that others struggle, too. And some with similar issues as I.

I know that nobody can make decisions for me, but what I really struggle with is to understand or notice WHERE/HOW exactly fear comes into play to begin with and how this in turn affects my feelings.

For instance, yes, it is well possible that sometimes you just don’t feel it… and hence should just leave. On the other hand, what if these doubts, these “I don’t FEEL it anymore” are just the noticeable symptoms of deeper, underlying fears around commitment, loss, dependency, abandonment etc.? Fears that I may not even be aware of at a conscious level.

AND HOW CAN I KEEP THIS APART?!

I’m 38 now and have never met someone where I felt as connected and safe as I imagine/assume others with stable relationships to feel like. So maybe the problem is me, not wrong partners? In fact my current partner brings sooo many qualities to the table which are important to me that I question my own sanity and motives for not being head-over-heels (at least not stably, that is)

My specific problem is (and always has been) that I “swing back and forth” between “in love” and “out of love” … and the latter scare the shit out of me for various reasons of course: I don’t wanna hurt my partner, I see my chance of lasting happyness slip away once again, yet at the same time I don’t wanna “waste my time” with the wrong partner either, etc….

The fact that I never seem to be STABLY in love (the swings often happen in time frame of a few days), constantly keeps my heart/head “on their heels”… I don’t trust my feelings anymore and any loving period never seems to last long enough or reach deep enough to “overwrite” the doubts, the fears and to “cure” me and to allow me to believe in a happy ending.

It’s easy to “run away” again (new relationship of 7 months), stating that this just didn’t feel right/good enough. And as a longterm sufferer of this bullshit struggles I’ve also spent enough single times to know that I can be alone and that no man is irreplaceable …. BUT is it wise?

Do you see any means/tricks/questions to ask oneself in order to better distinguish between
“this is simply not the right relationship/sometimes you just don’t feel it” on one hand
versus
“this is just fears shutting you down/stealing your loving feelings….just a misguided and completely disguised attempt of your subconscious to protect you from ____InSERT HERE, e.g. a closeness and intimacy which you THINK you crave yet also deeply fear at an unconscious level” on the other hand??

Cause I guess one of the biggest challenges is the fears that run unnoticed and stealth-sabotage.
Back in the days when I suffered from panic attacks at least that part was easier: I knew that the panic attacks were fake, that they were the “hoax”… It sure felt much more right to flee from them at times, though.

With my partners I have no such “pointers” as with the panic attacks, so how could I ever make good decisions??? Maybe I run again this time just to then stage the exact same play a few months/years later with a different actor in the same role.

I’d appreciate your thoughts!

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Thanks Katta. Anxiety can make things so confusing can’t it. The clue is exploring how you feel in the moment. Anxiety takes your mind into the future and has you worrying about the ‘what ifs’ that may or may not happen. When you can, experience your relationship in the moment and explore what that means for you – does it feel right? Is it lacking? This is where your truth will be.

Reply
Ruby

Hi,

I need some relationship advice.

I broke up with my boyfriend of 10 months because I was having doubts. I began questioning my feelings for him because I felt like they were not strong enough, but I was scared to continue the relationship thinking my feelings were not going to increase. When I was with him, I never felt more like myself. I felt like I could be completely myself with him and weird and he was totally accepting of me. However, I was really judgmental of him.For example, I thought he bowled weird, I hated that he ate with his mouth open, I thought he talked too much at times or sometimes his jokes were not funny and I found myself getting annoyed with him. I would go through waves of irritation. I began to focus on these small things and they affected how I saw him or what I felt for him. Sometimes I would have a great time on the date and the next day I would doubts for the entire day.

For half the time we would be having a great time on a date, but then my doubts would surface. For the most part he has the qualities I want in a man- he knows how to have fun, he likes to try new things, open minded, incredibly intelligent. His sense of humour was also improving.

I don’t know if i have some fear towards relationships or if it something else. I have dated in the past but this was longest relationships. I think about him a lot and wonder if I did the right thing.

He really wanted to work through the doubts and we talked about them a lot but I could not see a future if I felt the doubts every single day.

We have been talking since we broke up but sometimes I feel like I need space. When I’m not talking to him, I think about him and I want to know if these issues can be work out.

Any advice you could give me would be helpful.

Thank you for your time,

A.M

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Ruby I wish there was an easy answer for you, but you’re the only one who can know whether or not this relationship is right for you. Sometimes as much as we wish we could have deeper feelings for someone, and as much as everything seems like it should be a formula for a happy relationship, the feelings just aren’t there. It’s for you to decide if you love him enough to keep trying with the relationship, or whether you are trying to force something that isn’t there.

Reply
Dave

Hi,

You article is amazing and thought provoking.

I am in a relationship with my partner and have been for almost 4 years. The last two years I have been plagued with anxiety to my detriment as well as our relationships and most likely hers.

It started two years ago when there was a lot of stress about money and debt in our lives. We discussed it a lot and when she didn’t get what she wanted I was bombarded with insults, ultimatums and horrible hurtful comments.

We had just purchased a house and got engaged. She wanted to get married and get married sooner rather than later whist I wanted to pay off the debt and have a level playing field in which to move our relationship on to.

Eventually the pressure she put me under made me crack and broke me as a person. However loyal as I am I didn’t want to hurt her feelings and decided to stick with her and try and make things better. Along with my loyalty I have self confidence issues so initially when I thought about leaving her I was worried about, affording my house, hurting her, would I find someone else, am I too old to start again if I want children etc…

Now it’s almost 2 years down the line. The relationship got better, she would behave badly and my doubts would creep back in out us.

I am 34, my birthday is October. I want children and I am to scared to make a decision either way about my relationship? If I leave her, I’ll be 36 before I have my children and I worry that this is to old. Am i making the right decision? How do I know if it’s the right decision? All these questions are leaving me feeling very confused.

Please help me…

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

It will be the right decision when it feels like the right decision. Decide what’s most important to you, and then decide on the best way to get there. Think about whether the path you are on at the moment will get you what you want, or whether it’s time for a redirection. There’s no easy way to make such a big decision. Be brave and listen to your heart and your head.

Reply
Dave

Thanks for the reply Karen.

Is there a cure for anxiety if so what is it? My worries as I said are about having children and being an “older” dad and whether or not leaving my other half will be a mistake or not…

Is there anything you can suggest I do? Read? Listen to that will help?

Or is it a case of man up and make a decision either way?

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Big decisions will tend to come with a degree of anxiety – that’s very normal and very understandable. Anxiety in these cases is a warning sign, not a stop sign. It means go forward carefully and make sure you’ve thought about the options. It’s there to protect you, not to stop you from taking an important step forward for you. Remember too that making no decision is still making a decision to stay where you are. There are ways to manage anxiety and there is a lot of information about that on this link https://www.heysigmund.com/category/being-human/anxiety/. It’s likely though, with such a big decision to make it might never feel easy. The main thing is that you act with courage and strength and do the thing that is right for you, not necessarily the thing that is easy for you.

Reply
Kole

Hi,
I have been with my girlfriend for about 14 months now. She is a wonderful woman and she means the world to me. She is intelligent, funny, beautiful, independent, and driven.

We met in the last semester of my freshman year of and spent nearly everyday together. We then proceeded to move in together over summer break and into the next semester.

She graduated the first semester of this past school year. We both left school and returned home to live with our parents.

It has been about 3 months since this has happened and on more than one occasion I have let my anxiety creep into our (now) long distance relationship.

I have projected my insecurities and stresses on her while we are apart, getting jealous, getting insecure, and requiring reassurance.

It doesn’t happen often, but before we left for home things were sort of rocky in our relationship. This amplified my stress and insecurities.

We almost broke up (for other reasons) and decided to take space from one another. Things got better after that and we have been rebuilding and improving things ever since.

What I am worried about is my inability to deal with my anxiety on my own.

I am currently working full time, am without a vehicle (i’m saving up money), am taking online classes, and living in a household that is very stressful.

The other day (while stressed) I noticed that she followed some attractive person on Instagram. Seeing this, while being apart really set me off. I immediately felt threatened that my girlfriend was interacting with this person this way because I am not around (it turns out that he is her manager at work).

She has been loyal in the past but the distance is really testing me. I am not a person who trusts easy. She expects me to trust her 100%, and she has not given me any reason not to.

I know it is healthy to give her to freedom to speak to whom ever she chooses and that making a big deal about it was just going to work against me. I want this dynamic in our relationship.

Well, I decided to call her and I asked about it. I wasn’t accusatory, but I ended up telling her that I don’t trust her.

She was really offended by this and she told me she was annoyed by it. She said “i don’t want to be with someone who needs to be reassured that I am going to be faithful to them all the time when I haven’t done anything to imply otherwise.”

This really made me feel bad. All of this conflict came from a place of anxiety from another part of my life that I projected onto my relationship.

When I am feeling good about things and confident with how i’m spending my time or what I am doing, something like that (the instagram thing) would not even bother me.

I just don’t want to allow my other stresses to affect my relationship. I want to be able to communicate how i’m feeling without making some big deal of it.

Things have been going really well recently between us. Now, I feel guilty about my behavior which is causing me even more anxiety!

I feel like it would be a lot easier if we weren’t long distance. But, this is sort of just where we are at right now. I am having a hard time accepting that some days, especially when I am feeling very anxious.

Our interactions are limited to social media and the occasional visits. For some reason, I just feel like when we take steps backwards like this it takes longer to rebound from them.

I just want to keep moving forward with our relationship. I want to keep things healthy and make the best out of our situation.

It doesn’t help that I just don’t like social media in general. I don’t like texting or messaging. It sucks.

I love my girlfriend to pieces. But, I hate this. I hate the long distance and the feeling of being disconnected.

I am being forced to have faith and be trusting because it is the best thing for our relationship. But, on top of everything else it is a really challenging habit to form.

Part of me, just wanted to get this off my chest. So I don’t get a reply that is all good.

I really just want to know how to prevent these things from happening. I want her to feel happy about us, and not frustrated with me for succumbing to my insecurities and anxieties.

It would break my heart if I lost her. She means everything to me.

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Long distance relationships can be tough – you’re not alone there. I hear you when you say that you’re not keen on social media, but if you can get into texting or messaging, it can be a really lovely way for you both to easily connect long distance. Your insecurity is understandable given the distance between you, but it sounds as though you have a wonderful girlfriend deserves to be trusted. Finding little ways to connect in between visits can be a great thing to help both of you feel more connected and more secure.

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Stefania

I have been struggling with anxiety for about a year and a half now. My anxiety ranges in triggers, from going too far away from my home (my house is a safety zone), to thinking too much into the future, or pains in my body that scare me.
I recently just got into a relationship a little over 2 months ago… and everything was going great, I couldn’t get enough of him, I loved him and all I wanted was more.
A week ago today, it wasn’t the same, I don’t feel the same.. I feel like an emotionless stone, there’s nothing and I can’t find it in me to even say I love him anymore. I’m so scared, I finally found someone good in my life and now I have no clue as to what happened.
I don’t want to break up with him! I don’t want to hurt him! All I want is to regain those feelings, I just want them back ):
It’s been a very hard week, and I know that might be nothing but in comparison to the rest of it… it’s just scary.

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Maria

I’ve been in a relationship with my fiancé for nearly 5 years. We’ve been so incredibly happy together, it’s been the best times of my life. He took on my son from another relationship when we got together and we had a daughter together. Last year was a difficult year for us, he got confused and felt the spark had gone from us this lead him to start messaging a girl from work, cause he felt like there was something wrong with me and him she showed him attention and he liked that. Nothing physical happened between them, after a few months of it he stopped it and he was honest with me about everything. It was a horrible time, but we stayed together. I didn’t want to lose him and I wanted us to get through this together. This past year has been difficult with ups and downs sometimes caused by what happened. I’ve been trying to work on trusting him again. A few days ago I suddenly had these fears pop into my head, that me and him weren’t gonna work, that no matter how hard we tried we weren’t gonna get through this. I love this man, previous to this I knew I wanted to spend my life without him. I’ve never doubted our relationship ever. It’s killing me that I feel this way, I just want us to get through this with him. We took a few days apart recently because I just couldn’t work out my feelings, I thought that if we were apart I’d realise what I wanted but it didn’t help. I hated being away from him, it was excruciating! I couldn’t think, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. All I kept thinking about was him and that I couldn’t lose him. We’ve come back together now, and we’ve decided we’re gonna work and get through this together. I want more than anything for us to move forward from this together. I want us to just go back to how we were. I’ve had moments where I just feel empty I don’t feel anything. I’ve had panicked moments where my worries get the better of me and I’m questioning everything. This is affecting our relationship so much. I’m currently struggling to sleep or eat. I overthink everything and I always have. I have always been a worrier too, like I worry about things that I have no control over. I love this man, I want me and him to move forwards in this relationship and get through this. I know that I don’t want to throw away our relationship, we’ve built a life together and it’s wonderful it’s always been us against everything suddenly I’m feeling like this. I’ve never felt like this in my life, I’ve never known what I’ve wanted but at the same time questioned everything. I’d be grateful if anyone could help me with this, I want more than anything to believe me and him can get through this like we have everything else that life’s thrown at us.

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katy

i just want to say that this is basically my story too. I’m really struggling with it at the moment. The anxiety has reared its ugly head and is eating me up. glad to know I am not alone when I feel so terribly alone

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Jay

I have been head over heels in love with a girl I dated previously. After about 2 years apart I finally told her how I truly felt about her, and she felt the same way back. So finally after the patience and pursuing, it appeared that our relationship was finally going to happen, so I was SO OVERJOYED. But for some weird reason, I woke up one day and just didn’t have that “spark” anymore. I actually felt really queasy just thinking about her and our relationship. And this makes no sense because I love her so much. I wasn’t sure if this was my anxiety trying to find something to latch onto (I do have an anxiety disorder), or it’s simply just my emotions dying down and me panicking for no reason because emotions can come and go. What should I do? We are long distance at the moment.

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Stefania

I feel the same way, I can’t stop freaking out. I also struggle with anxiety, and now I’m scared it’s going to jeopardize my relationship. ):

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Kenzi

I’ve decided my mental instability is negatively impacting my life and specifically my relationship with my fiancé

I intentionally devote time to dwelling on negative ideas inspired by a small reality.

When I’m spending time with Josh everything is good, but when he is away or gone for a period of time I start to develop self induced fears and worries about our relationship. During this time I have a doomed perception of my reality and express a ranging set of emotions often imposed upon those around me; specifically Josh. He is confused by my emotions.

I experience this kind of thinking as apart of a cycle. This is typically the breaking point. At first I will want to confront Josh with my worries, which he perceives as being accused. Then he pushes back, insisting that I have fabricated my emotions and shows he’s upset with me. Yet, he has the ability to snap me back to reality and convince me that I should seek help for mental instability.

Now I have taken his advice and am planning for my next dr appointment by documenting this….after smoking pot because I realized I needed to chill out. I have taken his advice to write this note to document my instability.

PS  A little part of me still wonders if I’ve been tricked. Am I really as unstable as Josh says I am? Should I trust him?

See, the Catestrophic thinking never actually goes away. There is always a tiny bit of doubt in my mind.

I DO want to be better. I am aware that this is not normal behavior.

After rereading this note, all I can say is…. WOW ANXIETY 🙁

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Ruby

Hi,

I just broke up with my boyfriend of 10 months because I was having doubts. I began questioning my feelings for him because I felt like they were not strong enough, but I was scared to continue the relationship thinking my feelings were not going to increase. When I was with him, I never felt more like myself. I felt like I could be completely myself with him and weird and he was totally accepting of me. However, I was really judgmental of him.For example, I thought he bowled weird, I hated that he ate with his mouth open, I thought he talked too much at times or sometimes his jokes were not funny and I found myself getting annoyed with him. I began to focus on these small things and they affected how I saw him or what I felt for him. Sometimes I would have a great time on the date and the next day I would doubts for the entire day.

For half the time we would be having a great time on a date, but then my doubts would surface. For the most part he has the qualities I want in a man- he knows how to have fun, he likes to try new things, open minded, incredibly intelligent. His sense of humour was also improving.

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Dan

I have recently split from a long distance, long term relationship (4years) with a girl who suffers with anxiety. I have never suffered with anxiety and would describe myself mostly as secure (with a slight avoidant attachment) I was aware that she had abusive relationships before, but didnt understand the extent to which they had affected her. I was unaware of these problems for the first few years, until i spoke to a Relate counsellor in sheer desperation. And she explained to me it sounded like anxiety attachment disorder. When i spoke to my partner, she admitted she had indeed been medically diagnosed with this condition several years before. I felt like it was something had i had known, i could have prevented myself from reacting by being cold and dismissive. Having read hours and hours of articles both here and elsewhere, its clear to me how much her anxiety has seeped into my everyday life. I now feel anxious and severely depressed as i have allowed my boundaries to be pushed for a long time. I tried to give conditions, but thats when irrational and manipulative behaviour came into play. And unfortunately for me, iv allowed this behaviour to become acceptable. And that has transformed me into an abusive, angry frustrated man. And i hate myself for that. I cant describe how much i love this girl. I have put so much energy into helping her anxieties that i have neglected to take care of my own needs. Im now left feeling empty, angry and severely depressed. I have all the symptoms of a massive depressive. I have held onto the hope that i would suddenly be treated the way in which i expected. But that never happened. I still love her and wish i had a magic wand to make everything better. I understand now why things have happened in the way they have, but im still left wanting to be with her. I cannot break the cycle. Iv now come to the conclusion that she will never help herself. She doesnt pro-actively show any signs of self management. Its like she hides from the reality. But for me its all too clear. And it affects me greatly. We have been apart since xmas, and i was truly horrible and abusive when i broke up with her. Which i feel truly awful for. I dont want to believe that there is no hope for us, but i feel like i know she could never be any different. It really breaks my heart as i know deep down she has a wonderful heart and soul. And im left feeling like iv given so much and got so little back. Im torn between my heart and my head. I apologise for the lengthy message but i could really do with some helpful advice in how i can move forward in my life (ideally with her) Thanks in advance

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Kelly

Iv been in a relationship for about half a year now. He is great. Prior to I was in & out of flings, dating guys who I knew there was no future with & that made it “safe” for me, lack of commitment I suppose. I noticed a change in myself months ago. I had a shot at a big internship for my dream job, I contemplated things that could go wrong & postponed applying for almost three weeks. I also notice I feel more isolated, more in my head. I worry about saying the wrong thing, or even what to say, if a new acquaintance likes me, if the arguement my bf & I got in early in the week makes him love me a little less; things like that. I never worried so much before, at least not enough to put a barrier between my bf & I. I want to correct it because connections as a social worker are crucial & I love my bf & miss feeling so much closer to him, not to mention this nonstop worrying about every single thing is exhausting & emotionally draining. I always feel on edge. I want him to understand & not see me as “unstable”, but I fear he won’t regardless that he’s already accepted me for who I am. He doesn’t know all this. How do I go about approaching it & what do I do in the moments of chronic worrying about our relationship?

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

It sounds as though your anxiety is creeping into different areas of your life. Your relationship is just one. If this is the case, it’s important to work on your anxiety generally. Mindfulness and exercise are both really powerful ways to manage anxiety and calm an anxious brain. Here is an article about how mindfulness can help https://www.heysigmund.com/overcoming-anxiety-mindfulness/ and here is one about exercise https://www.heysigmund.com/activity-restores-vital-neurochemical-protects-anxietyepression/.

Reply
Broken Hearted

Like so many others posting here I am in a new relationship with someone with anxiety and am realizing that, I too, have some serious anxiety issues. She was assaulted when she was young and has been abused by most of her boyfriends since so she has issues with touch and physical intimacy. I was in a marriage where my wife withheld affection for 5 years, so we are naturally having challenges. It’s been almost three months and she still won’t sleep in the same bed, kiss me with an open mouth, or even cuddle. She acknowledges there’s a problem but doesn’t seem to have any intention of doing anything about it and no matter how much I ask, she won’t do more than occasionally stroke my hair. Feeling completely taken for granted and out of control I insisted that she talk to me, threatened to have her move out in order to try to get my own needs met. (not sex, just affection, intimacy, and closeness) This was totally the wrong thing to do and she told me that she didn’t feel safe anymore and that she wanted out of the relationship. Her feeling is that she needs me to be perpetually understanding and available without any consideration of my need for affection. I don’t want her to leave, I don’t want to be this manipulative controlling person, and I don’t want to be held at a distance indefinitely. The anxiety is causing my ulcerative colitis to act up and I’m tired of crying myself to sleep. Any suggestions about how to take care of myself while still being supportive for her?

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

I can really hear how upsetting this is for you. If you feel as though your needs aren’t being met at all, the question to ask yourself is, is this about anxiety or is it about the combination of the both of you, particularly if it is also triggering your own anxiety and causing problems with your physical health at such a relatively new stage of the relationship. We all have needs and all healthy relationships are based on give and take and compromise. There will be periods where one person needs more support, and then the roles change. Even if one partner needs more support long term, the relationship can still be wonderfully healthy and connected, providing that that partner is do what they can to also invest emotionally in the relationship. When one person is receiving all of the support, and the other is unwilling to invest, the cost of compromising can become too high. Have a think about what you need – the minimum, and let your partner know what this is. It is then for her to decide whether or not she is prepared to meet you on this, and if she isn’t, then it is for you to decide whether you want to still be in the relationship on those conditions. You may or you may not, but that is something that only you can answer.

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Marie

I’ve been in a relationship for 8 months now, and during the first couple months I was convinced this was the guy I wanted to spend my life with. I never connected with any guy like I did with him. I knew he was special. However the last couple of months I’ve been anxious about our relationship. I’ve broken up with him a couple of times because the anxiety was just too overwhelming. I am asking questions in my head all the time like is he the one? Would I marry him? Should I stay with him if I am not gonna marry him? How do I know if we’re meant to be? Like I’ll get really anxious when he’s done nothing wrong but be a great boyfriend to me. I can’t tell the difference from anxiety and what my gut feeling is. I just don’t know….

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Nicole D

I have been with my boy friend for 6 years this summer, I have always been completely in love with him & spending time with him & dreaming of our future together. The last half of 2016 was extremely difficult ( financially) & I started to struggle with work, I wasn’t happy there anymore then one morning I woke up & doubt everything about my life (this was 2 weeks after being taken off the birth control pill after being on it for 6 years) I doubted that I was happy with everything including my relationship & it made me cry uncontrollable every day. My doctor put me on anti depressants & thinks I have depression & anxiety. I have been on them for 3 weeks now and my boyfriend just finished a week of nights but now that’s he is home I am just feeling sick/nervous, sweaty & afraid. I’m afraid of losing him but I’m also afraid because I feel so disconnected from him right now, my head is cloudy & it tells me I don’t love him anymore & he would be better off without me. Is this the depression mix with anxiety??

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

It may be depression and anxiety. Antidepressants can take six weeks or so to start working, so be patient. There can also be side effects so stay in close contact with your doctor if something starts not feeling right. It’s really important if you are on medication to also do the lifestyle things that will help to strengthen your brain and protect it against depression and anxiety. Exercise and mindfulness are the two big ones. Here is an article about exercise https://www.heysigmund.com/activity-restores-vital-neurochemical-protects-anxietyepression/, and here is one about why mindfulness is so powerful https://www.heysigmund.com/overcoming-anxiety-mindfulness/. Here are some ways to practice mindfulness https://www.heysigmund.com/different-ways-to-practice-mindfulness/. Here are some apps that have been developed by clinicians and which have shown great results with depression and anxiety https://www.heysigmund.com/apps-for-depression-and-anxiety/. I hope this helps you to find some comfort.

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Honestly isn’t this the way it is for all of us though?♥️

#childanxiety #parenting #separationanxiety
Big feelings can be so beautiful. And so tricky. 

We want our kids to know that all feelings are okay, and we also want to support them to handle those feelings in positive ways. This is going to take time. We were all born with feelings, but none of us were born able to regulate those feelings. That will come with time and lots (lots!) of experience. 

In the meantime, the way we respond to their big feelings and the not-so-adorable behaviour it can drive, can be key in nurturing their social and emotional growth. So let’s talk about how.

Proactive Parents is a community event hosted by @mindfullaus . I’ll be providing parents, caregivers and educators with the skills and tools to better understand big feelings and the behaviour it fuels.

Understanding how to respond when young people are overwhelmed can drive calm and connection over conflict. Ultimately, our responses have enormous potential to build important neural pathways that will strengthen them for life.

This presentation will explore the powerful ways parents and carers can, quite literally, influence the strengthening of the brain in ways that will build self-control, emotional regulation, and resilience in their children for life.♥️

When: Sunday 25 Feb 2024, 10am-2pm
Where: West Gippsland Arts Centre, Vic
Buy Tickets here: https://sales.wgac.com.au/event/379:2410/379:3923/
(Or Google: karen young young people and their big feelings west gippsland)
We have to change the way we think about school. When we prioritise academics, it's like building the walls - because that's what we see - before fortifying the foundations.

So many teachers know this, but with the increased focus on reporting and academics, they aren't being given the time and opportunity to build the relationships that will ensure those foundations are strong and steady.

This is why too many kids are falling down at school - not because they aren't capable, but because the necessary foundations for them to do well haven't been laid.

Schools are spending the resources anyway, but reactively on behaviour management, disengagement, reduced capacity to learn.

If we can steer those resources towards building relational safety, so kids feel more seen, valued, cared for, rather than less capable or clever, we'll see a decrease increased academic success, greater engagement, less social struggles, and less behaviour issues. It's just how it is.

First though, we need to value relationships and the way kids feel at school, even more than how they do at school. All kids are capable of their own versions of greatness, but unless they feel safe and cared for at school, we just won't see what they are capable of, and neither will they.❤️
We also need to make sure our teachers feel seen, safe, cared for, valued. Our kids can’t be the best they can be without them.♥️
Separation can be tough! Not just for our kiddos but also for the adults who love them. 

As brutal as separation anxiety can feel, it also comes with transformative opportunities to strengthen your child and build their brave in ways that will serve them now and for the rest of their lives. 

Of course we’d rather our young ones (or ourselves) never feel the tailwhip of separation anxiety, but so many young people are going to experience anxiety at separation from a loved one. It’s part of being human, but it doesn’t have to hurt. 

As their important adult, you have a profound capacity to support them through separation anxiety and help them feel braver, stronger, and closer to you, even when you’re not beside them. Let’s talk about how.

This is information I wish every parent could have.

We want our children to feel loved and supported, but we also want to build their brave so anxiety doesn’t stand in the way of the important, growthful things they need to do.

In this 1.5 hour webinar, I’ll be presenting practical, powerful ways to build bravery when separation feels tough - at school, at bedtime, at drop-off - any time being away from you feels tough.

A recording of the webinar will be available to all registered participants for 30 days following the ‘live’ online event.

To register or find out more, google ‘hey sigmund webinar separation anxiety’ or see here https://www.heysigmund.com/upcoming-live-webinars/ ♥️

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