Relationship Anxiety

October 17, 2022 | Sharon Uthappa
Tags: Love & Relationships

Author - Sharon Uthappa 

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What is it?

Relationship anxiety is when you are constantly questioning yourself, your partner, and/or your relationship. It refers to feeling worried, insecure, and having doubts about the relationship. It is not only limited to intimate relationships, but also friendships, relationships with family members, and with colleagues at work.

Relationship anxiety can occur even when everything is going well. It’s the ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’ condition. For instance: You are having anxiety on topics such as the longevity of the relationship, if your partner is ‘the one’, if they may be cheating on you, or if you have cheated on them and there is fear of getting caught. Indicators of relationship anxiety may include having low self-esteem, poor attachment style in relationships, and having a tendency to ask many questions around the relationship.

Relationship anxiety could also be developed by poor relationship patterns within the immediate family. When our interpersonal relationships are unhealthy, we can develop the anxiety of wanting to please our intimate partner in order to seek approval. You may also be wondering and stressing over your worthiness and capability/ capacity of maintaining a healthy and committed relationship.  You could experience this kind of anxiety in different stages of the relationship. Long-term effects of relationship anxiety can cause emotional distress, lack of motivation, fatigue or emotional exhaustion, stomach upset, and other physical concerns.

Your anxiety may not necessarily originate from the current relationship but behavioural patterns learnt and practiced over time can create issues between you and your partner/friend/ colleague/family member. Here are some signs of relationship anxiety:

  • Wondering if you matter to your partner
  • How do you fare on their priority list of people
  • If they care for you as much as you care for them
  • Doubting their feelings for you
  • Worried if they will break up with you (with or without a reason/ because of a fight)
  • Deflecting from discussing important matters
  • Self-sabotaging (you sabotage the relationship by picking arguments with the other person and pushing them away while insisting that nothing is wrong, even if you are in distress)
  • Testing boundaries (doing things that either one of you has not discussed or informed the other about).
  • Having thoughts that translate to actions such as ‘If I don’t push them away, I would not know how much they love me or I love them’; ‘If we don’t fight, then there is no love’
  • Overthinking or reading too much into their actions or words.

It is important to understand when, how, and why you are feeling anxious about your relationships. There may not be a clear cause that led to your anxiety, but you can understand when and how it began by taking the time to self-explore your relationships. Identify if there have been patterns in your past relationships including being cheated on in the past, having your trust broken, being dumped unexpectedly, or were lied to or misled. These experiences are strong indicators of building relationship anxiety.

 Relationship anxiety- How to cope

Healing from relationship anxiety is a slow process and takes a lot of effort. Coping with relationship anxiety is tricky but not impossible. Tricky because one of the suggestions to cope with this type of anxiety is couple/ family counseling (depending on your relationship), and it would require both you and the other person to consent to therapy. Therapy works best when all parties involved are cognizant of the common goal from seeking therapy. If the other person is not willing to seek counseling with you, we still encourage you to pursue therapy. Maybe you have relationship anxiety or you are/ have been with a person who has it; leaving an impact on you. Therapy helps identify and change unhelpful behavioral patterns and helps in the process of making yourself better.

People with relationship anxiety may have two extreme reactions. They often seek constant reassurances from the other person because of the fear and stress that they have on the longevity of the relationship. The other is that they self-silence; which means that they internalize their fears and doubts about the relationship until they have a big outburst, which can potentially destroy the relationship. Research suggests that seeking therapy as a couple/ individual demonstrated decreasing levels of reassurance-seeking and self-silencing. Addressing relationship anxiety right at the start is another way to cope with this type of anxiety. Some helpful suggestions to manage this are-

  • Maintain your identity in the relationship- In any relationship; we do our best to accommodate the other person. Research states that maintaining your sense of self and not changing yourself to accommodate the other person is the first step to putting relationship anxiety to rest.
  • Being more mindful- Our past experiences make us who we are. When we recognize harmful or negative thoughts about our relationships, we encourage you to notice these thoughts and challenge them. In doing this, you are being mindful of yourself and your thoughts and are forcing yourself to be in the present and not judge the current relationship based on your past experiences.
  • Practice good communication- Healthy communication leads to healthy relationships. Healthy communication means you and the other person sit down and talk about your views and opinions on a particular topic with the expectation of expressing your point of view. It is not a ‘my way or the highway’ practice. We encourage you to use ‘I’ statements to make your point as these are your thoughts and feelings. Being open and vulnerable could strengthen the bond that you share with this person.
  • Avoid acting on your impulses- As mentioned before, those who have relationship anxiety require constant reassurances from the other person. This may be brushed away at the start, but constant barrages of ‘where are you?’, ‘who are you with?’, ‘do you love me?’ or ‘will you leave me?’ can make the other person feel uncomfortable and may distance themselves from yourself. So before you act on your impulses, we suggest that you recognize these thoughts and do mindful exercises to calm yourself, like deep breathing or going for a walk. The relationship may or may not work out, but how you handle certain situations will certainly remain.

Relationship anxiety is a form of anxiety that you can overcome if you choose to. It is treatable with the help of a certified or licensed therapist, and with the help of a healthy support group.  We at iDare have affordable mental health services for those looking to cope with relationship anxiety. If you are interested, book an appointment.


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