Managing Expectations in Relationships with an Anxious Partner
For those impacted by it, the reality of anxiety is that many, if not most, things they do are in some way affected by anxiety. Going to the grocery store may be anxiety-inducing from the crowds. Visiting a new place for the first time can be overwhelming from uncertainty and departure from the norm. Meeting new people can be absolutely terrifying and avoided at all costs. For the forty million adults in America living with anxiety everyday, it may feel that the mental health concern has a hand and presence in everything.
What about relationships? Anxiety can impact a myriad of things in romantic relationships. For example, an anxious partner may ask (or expect without asking) more reassurance from their partner. They may be more indecisive. They may overthink conversations, texts, and scenarios after a non-anxious partner has long forgotten about them. Anxiety may lead to avoidance, too – avoidance of hard conversations, big decisions, and more.
If you don’t struggle with anxiety but have an anxious partner, what are some strategies you can do to help the relationship flourish? Check out just three from the pros at Straight Up Treatment!
Step One is Understanding
Perhaps the biggest tip we can give you – attempt to understand your partner’s anxiety. For example, imagine your partner is refusing to go to a concert with you due to their anxiety. It may feel easy to write off their behavior as overreacting or lacking adventure, but anxiety could have a large impact: they may be fearful of crowds, uneasy about visiting a new place, or are so overwhelmed with the idea of planning that they feel it would be easier simply not to go.
One way to learn more about anxiety is to research it. There are plenty of credible resources online, like from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), that can help you learn. Even better, though, would be to just ask your partner what it’s like for them. Listen to your partner and seek to understand their side without judgment.
Communicate Your Own Thoughts and Feelings
Step one was to listen, and step two is to talk! You are certainly allowed – encouraged, even! – to have your own feelings about anxiety. You likely have questions or concerns for your partner. For example, if your partner asks for continuous reassurance that you like them (which is common with relationship anxiety) and you feel devalued because of this, tell them. It’s likely you two can come up with a resolution together.
An example of a resolution may be instead of asking for reassurance, your partner can say one thing they like about you, which you can then respond to with one thing you like about them. This way, both of you are receiving positive affirmations without either feel like their motivations or feelings are being questioned.
Set Appropriate Boundaries
You may feel like you have to take extra steps to accommodate a partner with anxiety. While understanding, empathy, and acceptance is part of any relationship, free reign to disrespect partners’ boundaries is not.
Establish appropriate boundaries in your relationship. While a boundary of “I would never like to hear your thoughts” is outlandish, a boundary such as “let’s set aside time to talk about your concerns together” may be an appropriate one. Another example would be instead of “I want you to go to every event with me, regardless of how you feel,” a boundary may be “I will do my best to include and accommodate you with events without sacrificing my ability to go completely.” It’s absolutely appropriate to communicate and agree upon boundaries in any relationship, regardless if a partner is anxious or not.
We hope this blog helps you if you are in a relationship with an anxious partner! If you’re struggling to set boundaries, establish communication, or understand your partner, we’re here to help. At Straight Up Treatment, we specialize in anxiety and OCD, so we’ve been there! We offer individual counseling where you are free to talk about any relationship concerns you may have. Reach out today to meet with a counselor who can help your relationship flourish. We look forward to hearing from you!