5 Ways Anxiety Ruins Relationships & How to Deal With It

relationship anxiety

Anxiety has a maddening way of robbing us of joy in any aspect of our lives, not withstanding intimate relationships. While some signs of strain and worry in relationships may indicate red flags, others are projections of our own unresolved traumas.  Here are some common examples of the latter.


1. Anxiety ruins our ability to experience happiness

Worrying about the future is a normal evolutionary response that exists to protect us from harm (think fight or flight). However, if you find yourself consistently worrying in a relationship, the relationship may seem pointless or create a mental bookmark indicating more harm than good.  As is the case with treating avoidant attachment types, when people struggle to experience joy in relationships due to anxiety and trauma, connection in smaller doses can be helpful. Anxious people are on a quest for security, and that sensation can only come from within.   

An inability to be present with all our feelings, including joy, can be a sex buzzkill.  Practicing non-sexual physical touch can offer us physical affirmation that our partner is there to celebrate life with us, and isn’t to be feared.  Remember the healing power of play & laughter.  Even if it means ‘fake it ’til you make it’ try on being silly with a partner, in the same way you may do so with your friends with ease. The idea that our intimate partner can hurt us is real, but not in any extraordinarily bigger way than in any other relationship with friends or family. This idea only exists because we place so much value on romantic partners, which can be a detriment. 

2. Anxiety pushes us to seek reassurance from outside ourselves

If you’ve ever worked with me, you know I don’t stand by downplaying our need for validation.  It isn’t a bad thing.  We are, after all, communal beings.  However, a relationship partner doesn’t exist to serve us validation all the time.  Reassurance can be tricky, as it becomes an addictive behavioral response.  A constant need for reassurance can also put pressure on our partner to be hyper alert, feeling pressured to compliment even the smallest things, which often breeds resentment in the longterm.  The trick is to see this pattern early on, and practice distress tolerance.  Consistency is key.

“Universe, remind me that I have my own back” is a mantra I like most.  So many folks I work with are incredibly resilient, but seem to lose sight of this when in new relationships.  You will survive, you always have and always will. 

3. Relationship anxiety promotes selfish behavior

Self pity is the grandest form of selfishness.  When we are consumed with fear and self doubt, we are only thinking of ourselves.  If you struggle with relationship anxiety, I encourage you to look at how often you make an attempt to quell your worries out loud.  While communication is a primary antidote to toxicity in relationships, if you are communicating your fears more often than not, you are likely over identifying with fear and actually manifesting more worries.

Likely, if you struggle with relationship anxiety, you may not be able to interrupt this pattern right away.  However, if you are able to bring some basic mindfulness into your speech, just notice yourself talking about yourself and your feelings next time.  Then, divert your attention to compassion.  Asking your partner about their lives and keeping it light isn’t an avoidance strategy, it’s basic care for another human being. 

4. Anxiety can perpetuate people pleasing

When we are in a people pleasing habit, and this pattern leaks into our intimate relationships, we ultimately become resentful.  When we people please, we tend to follow a mental map that is self created.  No one really wants a puppet, and even if it may seem that our partner will be happy with us if we bend at their every whim, eventually, this leads to codependence and then resentment.  Codependence mitigates a sense of contentment, as human beings naturally want to be autonomous, their own leaders.  People pleasing is truly a manipulation strategy to minimize anxiety.  Simply maintaining your schedule and commitments to all facets of your life is an easy start to breaking codependent tendencies.  

5. Being present is a forgotten skill when we are immersed in anxiety

My strongest sales pitch for actively working through relationship anxiety is in caution of having you actually miss living your life. Negative thought patterns, consistent worry, and people pleasing make it impossible to be present.  Sorry, there’s just no way around it- all emotions are welcome.  If we can simply sit with the discomfort of anxiety, and acknowledge it as a common human experience, it’ll lose it’s power.  In therapy, we learn that when others suffer, the best gift we can give them is simple presence.  You can also learn to give that gift to yourself.

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