Relationships- The basis of human civilization when you think about it. But let’s not get too philosophical here. Relationships can bring us to the height of happiness or can bring us down to the depths of despair. All people in relationships, both those experiencing the very best and those experiencing the absolute worst, will experience anxiety at different points in time.
Some people can handle anxiety as if it is nothing terrible and without drama, while others handle anxiety as if it is a Richter scale 9 earthquake with the accompanying destruction.
What is important is that we all need to know how to deal with this anxiety so that it does not interfere with our daily lives.
Anxiety is part of what makes us, us
Anxiety is hard-wired into all people, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. If we did not worry about touching a hot stove, well, you know the rest. So a bit of anxiety is a positive thing.
The problem comes when there is too much anxiety, so the trick is to be able to discern when anxiety is helpful, and when anxiety is not doing you any good, and may, in fact, be harming you. Perhaps the most important area where personal anxiety can have negative effects is in our relationships.
Let’s not mince words
Before going any further, let’s define exactly what relationship anxiety is. To do that, let’s turn to one of the top professionals in the field, Dr. Karla Ivankovich.
Dr. Ivankovich defines relationship anxiety as “when one or both people in the relationship spend more time in anxious thought about the relationship than tending to the relationship itself.”
How does relationship anxiety originate?
Some people are just born anxious, and this trait extends to many other areas in their lives. They are the toddlers who scream and cry excessively when their parents are out of sight. They are the person who starts studying for an exam the minute the teacher announces an upcoming test. And so on into adulthood where anxiety can appear in many guises: getting to the airport hours before it is necessary to, working seven days a week to make sure your work is in way before a deadline, etcetera.
But, when anxiety affects a relationship it is time to deal with it, lest it interferes with your (and your partner’s) happiness.
What can anxiety do to a relationship?
The better question might be what can’t anxiety do to a relationship! Stress, doubt, duplicity, worrying, high blood pressure, ill health, eating too much or too little: this is just the start of a very long list of what can happen when anxiety enters into a relationship.
Once any of these elements are introduced in a relationship, dishonesty, guilt, mistakes, and stress can enter.
If your relationship is fairly new or weak, anxiety can doom it, usually sooner rather than later.
So what else can happen?
If you are anxious, you will view the world through a filter of anxiety. This means that your ability to discern what is important and what is unimportant will be more difficult. This can lead to more worrying, stress and insecurity. The answer to this is to recognize that the anxiety is there, and to deal with it.
How to get over relationship anxiety
As in many other aspects of life, communication is key. Tell your partner if something is bothering you. Open communication is the ideal in any relationship.
Let’s use a real-life example of Patricia and Bruno, who have planned a long weekend in Hawaii. Patricia starts, “I am not worried about missing the flight. We live thirty miles from the airport, the flight leaves at 10 in the morning, so leaving here at 7 gives us plenty of time. But Bruno! He wants to leave at 5 in the morning ostensibly so we won’t be in a rush. This is nuts.”
Patricia continued, “He is just the anxious sort regarding flights. I know this, and we have talked about it. It certainly is not a deal breaker. And he knows I am not anxious about things like this. So what did we do? We both acknowledged our operating styles and compromised at a 6 in the morning departure from home. I am sure we will be just fine.” And they did have a fabulous time in Hawaii because they both communicated about Bruno’s anxiety.
Another way how to get over relationship anxiety
Honesty. It is that simple, yet maintaining honesty with your partner can be incredibly difficult. It is important that both partners in a relationship know what triggers anxiety in each other. These can be very intimate details, which is why maintaining an honesty policy can be so very difficult.
However, if you and your partner are able to achieve honesty in your relationship, anxieties about the relationship will be greatly diminished.
It is not easy to do, but here are some ways to do it.
Relationships are dynamic- They grow and change all the time
This is not a negative thing. You want to see your relationships mature and get better and better all the time. If a relationship did not change, boredom would inevitably appear. Change and growth are signs of a healthy relationship. But for a person or a couple where anxiety exists, these changes can feel threatening.
Dr. Paul DePompo, a leading expert in relationship anxiety, addresses this and says that
“People with anxiety hold back trying new things, taking healthy risks, and letting go” but that “If this is you, make a point to try things regardless of the certainty you will like them.”
Anxiety is not necessarily a negative
It is important to remember that anxiety can be a positive factor in a relationship: it can help motivate change (anxiety about being out of shape may help the two of you design a workout routine that you can do together.) It can also bring a couple closer together as you both communicate honestly about it. In that way, anxiety can act as a catalyst for growth and positive change.