By Luna Greenstein
Anxiety makes a lot of things more challenging, including romantic relationships. But you can have a successful relationship despite your anxiety. It just requires patience, honesty and open communication with your partner and with yourself. As the cliché goes: Communication is the key to any good relationship. But this saying has a new level of significance for someone living with an anxiety condition. Anxiety affects the way you think and your perspective on your relationship.
So, when your anxiety is bad, tell them. Don’t shut them out because you’re having a hard time managing your symptoms. Be responsive to your partner’s questions about how you’re doing—even if you’re too anxious to speak, you can just tell them that. Practice complete honesty. They need to know what’s going on in order to be there for you.
Anxiety will most likely affect your relationship in some capacity, but that doesn’t mean you or your relationship is weak. And you can learn to manage your condition within your relationship in a healthy way. Here are a few ways to start:
Don’t Let Anxiety Dictate Your Relationship
Don’t let anxiety stop you from showing that you care or let it force you to do things that are harmful to your relationship. Think through your actions: “Am I doing this (or preventing myself from doing this) because of my anxiety? Or is this actually what I want?” Strive to determine whether your anxiety is behind wheel.
Write Down What You Need to Say
It can be challenging to articulate how you feel when trying to cope with anxiety symptoms. They might leave you feeling as if you are incapable of speaking at all—and the natural inclination is not to say anything. If you ever feel this way, try writing a letter to your partner in order to explain your thoughts. Get it all down on paper first and then you can organize it into a way that makes sense to you.
Don’t Expect the Worst
Unfortunately, part of anxiety involves imagining all the negative scenarios and possibilities that could go wrong in your life. This “catastrophizing” is easy to do with a relationship, especially because there are many things that realistically could go wrong. Even though you can’t stop yourself from imagining these possibilities, remind yourself not to believe in them when they appear.
The more we expect something bad to happen, the more we subconsciously cause it to come true. Enjoy your relationship, remain in the moment and try not to let these thoughts scare you away from being happy.
Don’t underestimate the benefits of hugging, holding or touching your partner—especially when you’re feeling anxious. Being affectionate releases hormones that makes you feel calmer and improves your mood. Associating your partner with these positive feelings while simultaneously showing that you care has the potential to bring you closer together and strengthen your relationship.
Seek Other Forms of Support
While it’s important to share reciprocated emotional support, don’t depend on your partner for everything. If you are experiencing anxiety, seek professional mental health care and treatment. Talk with other loved ones and people you trust. If your partner is the only person you talk to, they may become overwhelmed with trying to be both your partner and your main form of mental health support.
Celebrate Small Steps
By initiating a conversation about your anxiety with your partner or seeking professional help, you have taken a step towards managing your mental health condition. Even if your symptoms affect your relationship, you didn’t let it stop you from having a relationship at all. It took courage for you to be open about your mental health—and open with your heart—and that is worth celebrating.
We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.
Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.
Find Your Local NAMI