An Important Announcement from Garbo

What is Relationship Anxiety?

May 4, 2022
Emily Hamburger

Relationships can be a wonderful thing - a shared commitment and union between two people, which is built on trust, honesty, and communication.

But we may consciously (or unconsciously!) be aware of anxiety about our partnerships.

In the beginning of a new relationship, anxiety is normal and extremely common. However, relationship anxiety can sneak up on you in a long term committed relationship, and although anxiety is something everyone experiences, relationship anxiety could be detrimental to your health, the health of your partner, and the overall health of the union between the two of you.

What is relationship anxiety?

Relationship anxiety is a feeling, both physically and mentally, of uncertainty about your committed relationship with your partner.

Relationship anxiety can be confusion and fear about where your relationship is headed, how you feel about your partner, and how your partner feels about you.

The manifestation of relationship anxiety can come from unresolved commitment issues, a lack of trust between you and your partner, past traumatic experiences from previous relationships, and other unresolved issues that you may experience individually, or between you and your significant other.

Signs of relationship anxiety

Now that we know the definition of relationship anxiety, we can look at the signs.

Signs of relationship anxiety include:

  • A lack of motivation, like completing any chores, schoolwork, or finishing any other obligations
  • Experiencing emotional distress and emotional exhaustion
  • Experiencing extreme fatigue
  • Experiencing physical symptoms, such as stomach aches, or nausea, or any type of anxiety
  • Worrying about every moment of the relationship rather than enjoying your time together
  • Questioning your own feelings.
  • Wondering if you matter, if your partner is paying enough attention to you or paying enough attention to your needs
  • Doubting the compatibility between the two of you, whether that is sexually or romantically. You may even go as far as avoiding relationship milestones, such as saying ‘I love you’, and meeting friends and family because you are unsure of your feelings and the feelings of your partner
  • Wondering why they chose you.
  • Thinking that they are getting bored with the relationship, even though they may show you grand gestures and express that they love you. You may also fixate or have negative thought patterns about whether you matter.
  • Self-sabotaging is a conscious or unconscious attempt at trying to ruin your romantic relationship, because you may not feel worthy of a healthy, safe partnership.

You may be doing this unconsciously - and your self-doubt may make you second guess whether the relationship will work.Your overthinking can push you to make impulsive decisions like meet up with an ex or continuously pick fights because you feel that the partnership is too good to be true.

Your fear of abandonment can pressure you into creating conflict in your relationship, because you believe no matter what, the relationship will go sour and will lead to a breakup.

Your anxious thoughts may look for reasons to break up with your partner even if the relationship is going well. And you may even compare your current relationship to other people’s relationships, and may create an idealized relationship of what you think your partnership should look like.

Another big sign of relationship anxiety is not being able to develop trust or other relationship skills.

A lack of trust in the relationship can lead to you becoming a demanding or controlling partner, where you may feel possessive and jealous because of past experiences and past relationships. This can also lead to boundaries crossed, such as checking your partners phone and text messages.

You may be searching for issues in your intimate relationships, such as dishonesty and infidelity, and this may lead you to accusing your partner of cheating or being untruthful.

You may avoid milestones in your relationship, such as meeting their family and friends, or even saying ‘I love you’ because you don’t trust the relationship to move forward

You may have a hard time communicating - and this can lead to overreacting to certain situations, where your negative thinking may have overanalyzed something that your partner said or did. You may also over accommodate for your partner, instead of paying attention to your own needs and boundaries which can lead to other issues later on in the relationship.

All of this can lead to keeping secrets from your partner, clinging onto them, or constantly needing reassurance in the relationship.

Causes of relationship anxiety

Everyone experiences some levels of relationship anxiety - but others experience more intensely due to their own unique lived experiences.

  • Past experiences - The circumstances of a past event may trigger feelings in the present, especially if the new event exposes similar emotions and feelings you had during the original event. This can also trigger feelings of low self-worth, value or attraction, especially if these characteristics were a part of the conversation during the traumatic event. You may have experienced unexpected behavior from your previous partner that manifests into your new relationships - such as being dumped unexpectedly, being cheated on, and even creating a false idea about the direction the relationship was heading.
  • Attachment style - This can also be an important factor in the development of relationship anxiety.
  • Anxious and avoidant attachment styles - People with anxious and avoidant attachment types who were only given attention and affection sometimes by their caregivers may be more likely to experience relationship anxiety. This is in comparison to those who have a secure attachment type, and were given affection and attention consistently.
  • Communication skills - These are also a dire part of a relationship. Without communicating your shared feelings with your partner, as well as the state of your relationship, it can lead to the development of relationship anxiety.
  • Low self confidence - While in a relationship, your state of confidence and your mental health can affect the way you feel about yourself and the way you feel about your partner. A lack of confidence in handling situations can lead you to thinking:
  • Differently about how your partner sees you
  • That you don’t deserve a relationship
  • You may no longer trust your partner, and may accuse them of cheating or lying to you.
  • You may also have a tendency to question your partner - which can be a healthy part of your relationship. However, using your questioning as a way to guide yourself through the relationship may be unhealthy for your well-being and  can be causing stress. This can lead to relationship anxiety.

The effects of relationship anxiety

While normal in every relationship, intense relationship anxiety can have severe negative reactions and consequences, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating and trembling
  • Lack of focus

You may also begin to exhibit confrontational and controlling behavior towards your partner, like about where they’re going, who they’re speaking to (especially on social media), and even what they’re wearing. This can be attributed to an anxious attachment type as well.

You may give up on the relationship - and may use your lack of confidence, insecurity, and anxiety to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. This self-fulfilling prophecy can lead to the demise of your relationship, and you may believe regardless of what you do, your relationship will end in shambles.

How to manage relationship anxiety

First, you can explain your relationship anxiety to your partner in a healthy way, that includes honest communication.

You may bring up the worries and anxieties that you are facing at the moment, and may want to figure out how you can combat that together. You may also want to have a conversation about the future, and reiterate the expectations that you have for your relationship, and what you hope to accomplish in the future.

Then, it’s about your own journey healing from what causes your relationship anxiety.

There are many ways that someone can overcome relationship anxiety.

First, it would be beneficial to talk to a therapist. Talking to a therapist is one of the best ways to deal with relationship anxiety, as well as stress because you can open up about your feelings.

You may benefit from not only individual therapy, but couples therapy as well, such as CBT (or cognitive-behavioral therapy). It will help you cope with relationship anxiety and be able to move past it.

Focusing on your thoughts is also another important coping mechanism for relationship anxiety. You can manage things like negative self-talk and low self-esteem, especially when it comes to anxiety disorders. This will also help you manage assumptions that you may make about your partner or your relationship. Journaling is also another great technique to help you reflect on your feelings.

To help with the physical manifestations of relationship anxiety, you can also try deep breathing and meditation exercises. Working out can also help relieve physical signs of stress in the body and get your brain focused on something outside of itself.

The biggest thing to do is focus on your actions. Focusing on your behavior and figuring it out with your therapist for the first time is how you can change these behaviors and patterns, and create new habits.  You can also come up with creative ideas to redirect your energy, and use it in a way that is healthy and beneficial for you, your partner, and your relationship.

Sometimes relationship anxiety is a gut feeling you should listen to. If your partner makes you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, you can take our relationship anxiety quiz to dive deeper into your feelings.

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