For instance, instead of “You’re so selfish to bring germs into our home,” try “I feel really nervous whenever you go out.”
By focusing on your own fears and concerns, for yourself and your partner, it’s more likely your partner will feel empathy for you (as opposed to feeling defensive and attacked).
The other half of communication is listening, which would be very helpful in managing anxiety in relationships. After you talk, get curious about their point of view.
They might make a few good points that could help you find a middle ground in managing anxiety in a relationship.
You will probably not change your partner’s mind to the point where they do everything exactly as you do, but there’s a better chance you can find a compromise that works for both of you and combat increased anxiety.
Because the goal of communication isn’t just to get our own way, we often end up a bit frustrated. This is when it’s so important to know how to soothe and take care of your own feelings, by yourself, and continue effectively managing anxiety in relationships.
Here are some ideas for managing anxiety in relationships and feeling better about living with someone who is more cavalier about coronavirus.
1. Let go of the romanticized idea
One of the tips for managing anxiety is to let go of the romanticized idea that you can influence your partner to the point that they will do what you want them to.
2. There isn’t a perfect approach to safety
There are many different opinions and varying advice about how to approach this crisis, managing anxiety in relationships and even though your point of view seems ideal, others may have validity.
3. Reframe your interpretation
Often we take others’ actions personally, in this case feeling that their lack of anxiety over the virus means they don’t care about our fear or our health.
Instead, it’s likely that they feel their approach is the most logical and reasonable, and believe that they are in no way harming you.
4. Focus on yourself
For coping with anxiety, allow them to do things their way while you concentrate on and take care of you.
Your own hygiene habits will go a long way toward protecting you. Try to turn your thoughts from your partner’s behaviors to your own self-care, and be kinder than ever to yourself.
5. Separate from each other physically
If necessary for your health or for your anxiety, separate from them a bit more physically. If possible, ask them to wash before entering the house, shower daily, even sleep in a separate room.
6. Practice compassion
Both to you and your partner, be as loving and caring as possible.
Anxiety makes us want to be as in control as we can, but since we can’t actually control other people, this tactic often backfires, making our partners feel rebellious. Instead, take a deep breath, allow them to do things their way, and open up a space that maybe they aren’t being as (insert negative thought here) as you fear.
You don’t have to hug them or agree with them, but the more self-compassion and compassion for your partner, you allow in—knowing this is hard on both of you—the better you will feel during this difficult time.
7. Soothe your own anxiety
Whatever methods you use for managing anxiety in a relationship in everyday life, double down on them for coronavirus worries.
There are three handy categories for working on feelings.
One is physical, working on controlling the physiological responses to stress, such as rapid heartbeat and shallow breath. Use breathing techniques, meditation practices and tactile tools like worry beads or fidget toys to calm your nervous system.
The second is the connection.
Support and empathy can be just as effective at soothing our system as a Xanax. A friend who listens well or just makes you laugh truly changes your perspective.
Finally, the third group is a distraction.
Turn to pleasant activities to take your mind off your worries. A puzzle, a TV show or a great book turn the focus back to you.
For many, their gratitude for not having to face this crisis alone can go a long way. Remember to turn to your partner as much as you can, for as much comfort as you can get—and give. Hopefully, these anxiety management strategies will help you in establishing relationship harmony during these extraordinary, unprecedented times.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Vicki is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles who specializes in anxiety treatment, adolescent therapy, and couples counseling. She believes in strengthening relationships through understanding each other’s backgrounds, learning how to turn to each other as friends and partners, and adding more fun to your everyday lives together. Years of experience in private practice and as an individual and group therapy leader have inspired Vicki to work from the perspective that we all have a natural tendency toward health. She works with and writes about depression, anxiety, couples issues, parenting and adolescents to find solutions for problems that can sometimes feel insurmountable.
(Vicki Botnick is also listed in Best Marriage Therapists in Tarzana)