Romantic relationships can provide us with so many positive feelings and experiences, but they can also fill us with feelings of worry, insecurity, and panic. If these negative feelings sound familiar, you might be experiencing relationship anxiety.
Here we’ll discuss what relationship anxiety is, what causes it, and how to overcome it so you can start enjoying all of the positive aspects your relationship has to offer.
What is relationship anxiety?
Relationship anxiety is the ongoing feeling of doubt, worry, insecurity, and fear in your relationship, even if the relationship seems to be going well.
This can cause you to act differently in your relationship, which can create tension that wasn’t there before.
What are the signs of relationship anxiety?
Relationship anxiety can manifest in different ways for everyone. However, some key behaviors often appear. Here are a few:
Sabotaging the relationship
Whether you’re picking fights with your partner, testing boundaries, or pushing them away, sabotage indicates that you’re feeling anxious in your relationship.
Consistent doubt about your partner’s feelings
We all experience doubt, but consistently questioning whether your partner is still interested in your relationship, reading into everything they do, or wondering how much you matter to them are all signs of a bigger concern.
Staying silent about your thoughts and feelings
Out of fear that your partner might reject you, or just to avoid conflict altogether, you might stay silent about how you’re feeling, leading you to feel unsatisfied in your relationship.
Overthinking your partner’s words or actions
This could be rereading messages from your partner and assigning new meaning to them, narrowing in on minor changes in their behavior, or detecting shifts in the way that they speak to you when in reality no major changes have occurred.
What causes relationship anxiety?
People experience relationship anxiety for different reasons, so it’s challenging to identify just one cause across the board. Here are a few common factors that might be the cause of your relationship anxiety:
- Low self-esteem: Those with lower self-esteem are reported to have higher rates of interpersonal conflict and lower rates of relationship satisfaction.
- Previous relationship challenges: Cheating, dishonesty, abrupt breakups, and other past relationship conflicts can all play a part in your current discomfort.
- Anxiety disorders: Those who are already living with a mental health condition, especially an anxiety disorder, are particularly at risk for experiencing relationship anxiety.
- An anxious attachment style: Developed during childhood, an anxious attachment style increases an individual's fear of abandonment, rejection, and insecurity.
3 ways to overcome relationship anxiety
With practice, it’s possible to overcome relationship anxiety and start leading a healthy relationship with your partner. Here are a few tools to help you get started:
1. Identify your triggers
Pinpointing what is triggering your anxiety can take time, but it can significantly improve your ability to self-reflect and communicate your feelings.
If you feel yourself growing anxious in your relationship, take a minute to assess.
What are you feeling? What is happening in this moment? When did you start to feel this way? Then, look back at past moments of conflict. What were you doing before you started to feel anxious? What was your partner doing before you started to feel anxious?
Taking time to understand your triggers will not only make it easier to self-regulate when you start to feel anxious, but it can also make it easier to communicate them to your partner when the time comes.
2. Be honest and communicate openly
Opening up to your partner about your feelings, especially negative ones, can feel daunting. But with practice, it can be a very freeing experience.
Take some time when there is no conflict to discuss wants, needs, and potential triggers to look out for. This way, there’s no immediate pressure to find a resolution and you can both focus on hearing and understanding one another.
3. Try talk therapy
Talk therapy is a mental health service usually done with a licensed mental health professional that helps you to identify and change the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that might be impacting your quality of life.
Connecting with a licensed mental health professional can help you overcome relationship anxiety by helping you identify your triggers, understand your attachment style and how it impacts your relationship, learn to communicate openly and effectively with your partner, and more.
If getting the ball rolling on your own feels too difficult right now, couples counseling might be a good place to start.
You can also pursue talk therapy on your own if you prefer to work through your feelings without your partner first.
Whether it’s with your partner or on your own, talk therapy is a great place to vocalize and process relationship anxiety.
If you’re ready to try out talk therapy to help your relationship anxiety, SonderMind can connect you with a therapist who can help.