Loving a partner who experiences anxiety
Individuals in romantic relationships may come with their fair share of personal stress and history that may impact their partnership.
Some partners may struggle to find a healthy balance that allows each to live in harmony while having their needs be met in a way that makes them feel loved, despite all the personal hardships that they may have encountered in the past.
While finding a healthy dynamic is key (and possibly a challenge) for relationships, loving someone who experiences anxiety can be a whole different ballgame.
Plans may be canceled last minute, social activities may be put in the backburner, and distribution of tasks and responsibilities may be unevenly shared.
Naturally, your anger may surface about the many changes that can come up in your relationship as a result of your partner’s anxiety. What can you do about this new set of challenges that are now a part of your life?
Here are a few tips you can start with to help you navigate those challenges:
Anxiety can be very tricky, especially if your partner seems to be perfectly “normal” while sharing with you that they are struggling. It can be hard to see it and may end up causing you to minimize your partner’s experience.
Saying things like “you’re fine” or “just relax, what is the big deal” may not be helpful or well-received by your partner. So, learn all you can.
Ask your partner questions designed to give you a better picture of what they are going through and what their needs are. Get informed through books or research on what exactly anxiety looks like, and you will notice how your empathy levels towards your partner begin to increase.
Anxiety is, fortunately, treatable, and individuals can learn skills to manage their symptoms. But, you cannot force your partner to go to therapy; instead, you can encourage them to jump on board by showing them that you’ll be by their side and that you can help them find the right therapist for them.
In fact, you can even join for a couples therapy session to get equipped with skills and tools to communicate better and help them handle anxiety-provoking situations. Instill hope that they can get better and learn how to effectively deal with situations or triggers to alleviate their anxiety.
Shift your anger
It’s very important to understand that your anger is valid, just at the situation you’re both in, not your partner.
Shifting your mindset takes a lot of effort and time, and you can start by bringing awareness to your body and your thoughts when the anger starts to come up. What’s going on through your mind in those moments? Are your thoughts centering around blame towards your partner for their shortcomings?
It’s natural for you to feel angry or even resentful at certain moments for all the times you needed them with you, and they were not able to stand by your side because of their debilitating anxiety.
Express your own feelings in a way that helps them understand that you really want them with you, not in a way that attacks their unintentional absence.
Acknowledge your needs
Practice your own self-care, and it isn’t selfish. It’s crucial and can help you build energy and capacity to continue being the supportive and loving partner that you are.
Practice compassion by recognizing that you and your partner are doing your best and know that you also can carve some time for your own needs, interests, or group of friends to recharge.
We all absorb some of the anxiety from our jobs, families, or responsibilities in life. However, learning how to handle the anxiety, especially when it affects family members and exists in our own household, can help us create the right shift in responding to it, instead of ignoring it, and meeting the needs of our partners to help them recognize that they are not alone in what they’re going through.