Anxiety can be debilitating. We want to feel at ease in our own skin, and crucially, when we engage in intimate partnerships with others. It can be easy to blame ourselves for relationship anxiety: we think we’re too sensitive, too needy, too annoying, too insecure.
However, it’s not always so black and white. While it’s important to take accountability for the narratives we create in our mind that simply aren’t true, we also need time to reflect on our needs. Amanda Huggins, Anxiety and Empowerment Coach, almost brought us to tears with her insight on the matter.
“If you find yourself constantly anxious about your relationship, it’s likely that your body and mind are working overtime to get your attention. You’re being not-so-subtly nudged to examine the anxiety, seek to understand the root cause, and grow from there.
When anxiety goes unaddressed, we put ourselves at risk of getting lost in stories we’ve created, such as ‘I’m not worthy of love’ or ‘I’ll never be enough.’” Sound familiar? Don’t feel bad if this sounds like you. This is normal, common, and expected, but we can’t let this tendency run our emotions, relationships, or lives.
“Ignoring our anxiety might also lead us to ignore our emotional needs,” Amanda shares. “That was the trap I had fallen into time and time again: I knew something was off in my relationship, I knew I needed more, and yet, I did my best to ignore the anxiety because I was afraid of being alone. Knowing what I know now, I wish I could go back and tell my former self to start paying attention to my relationship anxiety sooner—because the growth I experienced once I started exploring my thoughts was monumental. Not only did I learn so much about myself and my emotional needs, but I also found out that being alone wasn’t so scary at all.”
We aren’t telling everyone to run and break up with their partner immediately if they’re feeling unfulfilled. However, it’s important to begin this conversation with your partner and establish the narrative.
“It’s time to deep-dive into your emotions. Is your relationship healthy? Is your anxiety making up stories from a place of fear, or is your anxiety asking you to reevaluate your relationship? Is the relationship reciprocal and fulfilling? Are your needs being met? Do you feel supported?
In my work, I’ve found that most people tend to dance between internally derived anxiety, such as low self-worth, lack of self-love, or fear, and externally derived anxiety, which, in this case, is typically a projection of relationships based on previous dating history or family dynamics, i.e. ‘I’m afraid my partner will leave me like my ex/parent/caregiver did.’
It’s important to take an honest look at the emotional landscape to determine the next best steps to address your anxiety and create a space for safety, intimacy, and connection.
What are some signs that your relationship is affecting your anxiety or making it worse?
• You find yourself frequently stressing out over your communication. The need for compulsive contact or frequent worried thoughts like ‘Why haven’t they responded yet?!’ indicate that something is amiss in either the communication or self-worth realms. More on this and a few quick tips here.
• The lion’s share of your thoughts are about the relationship, and you find yourself losing sight of your own goals or emotional needs. In healthy relationships, both parties are able to maintain their individuality and sense of self—when one or both people begin deprioritizing their emotional needs, something deeper needs to be looked at.
So … what do you do?
First, conduct an honest check-in with yourself. Reflect or journal on questions that will help you get to the bottom of your anxiety, such as:
• What tends to trigger my anxiety most in this relationship?
• What are my needs in this relationship?
• Am I able to work on those triggers within myself (e.g. building up my self-worth), or does it require co-creation with my partner (e.g. working on clear communication together)?
• Do I feel like I am safe to communicate my needs with my partner?
• Is there anything I’m afraid to acknowledge about my relationship?
• Do I love myself just as much as I love my partner?
An initial emotional audit like this will help you to understand your anxiety more clearly and determine your next best steps. If you find that your relationship anxiety is mostly internally derived, now’s the time to focus on filling up your self-love cup and processing any old narratives that are getting in the way of a healthy connection.
If, on the other hand, you recognize that your current relationship is consistently not meeting your emotional needs, it may be time to explore direct communication with your partner, seeking outside guidance such as therapy or coaching, and even—gulp—breaking up.
Above all, be gentle with yourself throughout the process. Relationships, anxiety, emotions … they’re all hard work! Compassion makes the journey smoother.” *Dabs eyes.*