Having a partner who suffers from anxiety or anxiety disorder can be stressful. You might feel like you need to protect and care for them more than you thought you would. Perhaps you feel you are drifting away from what you want your relationship to be, but not sure how to help a spouse with anxiety or yourself.
If you never had to support someone with anxiety, rest assured there are ways to manage the symptoms and be happy together. We share some useful tips on how to help your partner with anxiety.
1. Understand anxiety better
Supporting a partner with anxiety is no small task.
Familiarizing yourself with what anxiety is, its types, and how it feels to live with it can help you find answers to how to help your partner with anxiety. Knowing more about it gives a frame of reference and the right questions to ask your partner so you can adjust your helpful efforts better.
Although no fear is the same, nor it’s manifestation educating yourself about anxiety in general, it is useful when helping a spouse with anxiety.
Understanding anxiety in a loved one is the first step. If you are looking for how to “help my husband with anxiety,” first comprehend more about anxiety itself and then how it is affecting him and why.
2. Communicate openly
If you want to know how to help your partner with anxiety, ask them, they might tell you. This is most likely not new to them, and they might know what makes them feel better. If you wonder how to support someone with anxiety, turn to the person you want to support.
They are the best source of information in finding the best way to help someone with anxiety. No one expects you to know how to deal with anxious people. So, don’t put too much pressure on yourself either. When unsure, don’t guess, check with them and learn together what decreases the symptoms.
3. Refrain from telling them what to do or how to think
Although living with someone with anxiety can be challenging, avoid telling them how to think or feel. If they feel scared or worried, telling them they shouldn’t feel that way and rationalizing won’t make much of a difference.
Using reasoning often will make them feel worse since they have surely tried to do so already.
Studies show guilt and shame play a role in anxiety symptomatology. They probably already feel embarrassed, so don’t add to it by sharing what they already know as it can make them feel more ashamed of their condition.
4. Make them feel accepted
In your attempts to figure out how to help your partner with anxiety, you might inadvertently make it seem like your love is conditional. They might feel they need to get or be better to keep you by their side. When dealing with how to help your partner with anxiety, be mindful of this slippery slope.
A spouse with anxiety and anger can easily think they are not good enough for you.
So, make sure to let them know otherwise. Help them understand and feel they are accepted, even when anxious. Aim to help them think you want them to feel better, not because they don’t match your idea of a good partner, but because you want them to be happier.
5. Assist them in finding help
Studies done to help uncover how to help someone with anxiety and depression show psychotherapy applied alone or together with pharmacology, can be helpful in symptom management. Therapists learn how to treat people with anxiety, and they can provide the help you can’t and shouldn’t (no one should be a therapist to people they are close with).
If your partner is not attending therapy, assist them in finding adequate help. Also, consider having separate sessions to learn how to handle people with anxiety better and take care of yourself in the process. Therapy can make the process of learning how to help your partner with anxiety much easier on both of you.
6. Be aware and set boundaries
How to help your partner with anxiety?
Provide them a safe environment, understanding, and affection, and avoid accommodating their anxiety. Facilitating your spouses’ anxiety is not the best way to help them.
If you are doing it because it is easier, it feels good to be needed, or because it feeds your ego, you are not truly helping them. In fact, you deny them the opportunity et better manage symptoms by doing things for them or shielding them too much.
Also, it will lead you to feel drained and frustrated.
Therefore, be aware of how much you can give and how much help do they need. Help them with things they tried and weren’t able to do, and do so when you are okay with it. You are a person in that relationship, too and sometimes you won’t have the capacity to help. This can be a teaching experience about boundaries you both grow from.
7. Focus on the relaxing time together
Calm and relaxing time might be a definition of happiness for people with anxiety. If you are not sure how to help a wife with anxiety or husband with depression and anxiety, ask them what helps them relax. It could be spending time in nature, watching something together, or mindfulness exercises.
People suffering from anxiety often have low levels of mindfulness. You can do a body scan exercise together and bring more peace and calm into your lives. Take a look:
8. Take care of yourself
It’s not uncommon for partners of loved ones with anxiety to feel stressed, worried, angry, or disappointed. Anxiety could be limiting how happy you feel in your relationship. Although your partner is struggling with anxiety, you shouldn’t forget to focus on your wellbeing too.
Learning how to help your partner with anxiety means learning how to take care of yourself too. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so it is important to mind both your needs and feelings.
A fulfilling life is possible.
This might not be what your ideal relationship looks like. However, learning how to help your partner with anxiety can bring you closer to it. There isn’t one way of helping them, so check in with them what helps them the most. Communicate on what brings them peace and joy. In that process, be mindful of your boundaries too.
Support them, but don’t be their crutch.
When trying to be there for them, offer help in such a way that they feel you accept them regardless. You are there to help them, not fix them. Don’t tell them what to think or why they shouldn’t feel one way or the other. Aim to provide a safe space for them to feel appreciated and where you can relax together.
To be there for them, take care of yourself too. You can’t provide for them if you are not well. It is advisable to assist them in finding professional help and rely on a therapist as well. This will make answering the question of how to help your partner with anxiety easier and symptom management more effective.
Milica Markovic has graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy with a degree in Clinical Psychology. She has 7 years (and counting) of Psychotherapy and Coaching education (both Transactional Analysis and Psychology of Personal Constructs) Read more and experience in working with clients. Throughout her career, she has had remote clients around the world facing various personal, academic, or professional challenges.
She finds her primary duty is to establish a trusting environment in which clients can feel safe enough to discuss anything that might be troubling them and grow closer to their goals. She believes that whether you are experiencing a personal, relationship related, or professional challenge, the journey to surpassing it can be made easier with the right help by your side.
Milica is also a strong advocate of lifelong learning and continuous improvement.
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