I am often asked by clients if I can speak to their partner to explain to them how they can support my clients with their anxiety.
Anxiety can seem very complicated if you have not struggled with it yourself and the majority of my clients explain how their partners don’t understand what they are going through.
Likewise, if you have had your own experience of anxiety, it may be tempting to use your own experience to help, however everyone’s experience is different so it is important to check in with your partner and ask them what feels supportive, and what doesn't.
Dating someone with anxiety can feel challenging when your partner appears to be irrational about something you may not be able to relate to or understand.
However, it does not need to be this way. By understanding anxiety in general and how it affects both your partner and your relationship, you can continue to love and respect each other. Educating yourself on what anxiety is can also relieve a lot of the pressure.
This article explains everything you need to know and do when dating someone with anxiety including how to be a more supportive partner and how anxiety can impact your relationship.
Keep reading if you want to make sure anxiety doesn’t become a barrier in your relationship.
Create A Safe Place To Be Able To Discuss Their Anxiety
Perhaps you suspect your partner is struggling with anxiety as a result of some of their behaviours, or maybe they have told you directly. Either way, it is important to create a safe space for you both to be able to discuss their fears.
Anxiety can be scary, and this may be the first time your partner has chosen to open up about how they are feeling so it is important to listen to what they are saying and not try to project your own experiences onto them.
Be empathetic and encourage them to talk freely about how these feelings impact on their day to day life.
Allow them to feel safe expressing themselves as this will create increased trust between you.
Understand What Anxiety Is
Anxiety is the perceived fear of something that your partner thinks may happen in the future, and can also be a rumination of something that has happened in their past that they fear will be repeated again. It creates nervousness, overwhelm, fear and panic.
Everyone feels anxious at times, such as when taking a test, but anxiety becomes a real problem when it stops someone doing the things in life that non anxious people take for granted. This is then called an anxiety disorder and could lead to someone avoiding things like going to the supermarket, eating in front of others, or meeting your friends and family.
Anxiety Disorders Can Cause Hypervigilance and Sensitivity
Anxiety makes people hypervigilant, and this could come across as if your partner may not trust you, or worry about your safety when you are out of sight. They may need more reassurance from you as anxiety often makes them feel unsafe when they have a “fight or flight” response to something they are afraid of.
If you have said you will call at a certain time, they will expect you to call and could worry unnecessarily should you forget.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety is an evolutionary and instinctive response to a perceived threat.
It is not something we can turn off or stop, however it is possible to learn new strategies and beliefs that reduce the frequency and intensity of anxiety.
Anxiety is triggered in our amygdala which is within the emotional part of our brain, and results in the fight or flight response.
You can think of our amygdala a bit like a smoke alarm.
Genetically, some “smoke alarms” are more sensitive than others, and will be triggered when we have just burnt the toast, others require a fire before they are activated.
There is also a hereditary factor whereby a parent has a more sensitive “smoke alarm” and this could be passed down through families, just like the colour of someone’s eyes.
The sensitivity of ones “smoke alarm” can also be triggered by the environment they grew up in; their beliefs and behaviours can be learnt from a parent or caregiver at a young age.
Past trauma can also lead to our “smoke alarms” being more sensitive and on the look out for danger. Trauma is different for everyone, so what your partner may consider a trauma may be different for you.
Sometimes a change, including a rational and positive one, can be perceived as a threat and anxiety can cause someone to overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as a new relationship, a new job, work pressures or even traffic jams.
What Are Panic Attacks?
If your partner struggles with panic attacks, then they may be anxious about having another attack.
Panic attacks are unpleasant and can be frightening as it can feel as if they are having a heart attack.
Panic attacks are not life threatening but it is understandable that your partner wants to avoid them at all costs.
If your partner has previously had a panic attack, it is not unusual for them to want to avoid a similar situation, person or place in the future. This is when encouraging your partner to see an anxiety specialist can be really helpful.
Anxiety Is Emotional, Not Logical
It may be tempting to tell your partner not to worry about what ever it is that is concerning them, however the triggers that cause your partner to be anxious are often not logical or rational.
While your partner may acknowledge this logically, anxiety is an emotional response and therefore requires an emotional solution.
Anxiety often causes people to worry about something despite there being no evidence to suggest it is worth worrying about. Anxiety may also cause your partner to sometimes act irrationally. If your partner has been hurt before in a previous relationship, they may carry these concerns over into your relationship, even though they know it was not you who hurt them.
Encourage your partner to talk about their previous experience or past relationships so you have a better understanding of their triggers, and reassure them without judgement.
Don’t promise them something that you can not keep to.
Be Respectful Of Their Boundaries
The sole purpose of anxiety is to keep us safe, in fact, we may not have survived as a species without it.
Understand what your partners safety boundaries are. While with your support, you may be able to help them step slightly outside of their comfort zone, it is important not to push them outside of their boundaries, as this may increase their anxiety further and break the trust they have with you.
Anxiety can sometimes make us feel out of control, and this may make your partner feel even more anxious. Once your partner understands how their fears are being triggered by their anxious thoughts and behaviours, it is helpful to understand what they have control over and what is outside of their control.
You may wish to work through the Control and Influence Worksheet together. Full instructions are included, and you may be able to help them understand they have more influence over a situation than they initially realise.
Your partner is likely very fearful of something that may not make sense to you, or possibly even them. There could be a completely unrelated trauma from childhood, or a previous experience, that they have buried and now have no recollection of.
I had a client whose new partner lived in a quaint picture perfect village. The house has wisteria growing above the gate, and is on a beautiful cobbled street. He could not understand why his girlfriend refused to go to his house, and it was causing frustration within the relationship.
She was too embarrassed to tell him about her fear. She was unaware of any reason why she felt scared, she had never been to his village before and trusted her partner.
Once we established that she previously had to walk on cobble stones to get to a job where she had experienced past trauma, it was easy to eliminate this fear and rid her of anxiety related to that past incident.
They now live there happily together!
Your Partner's Anxiety Is A Reflection Of Their Past
It is worth remembering that your partners anxiety isn’t a reflection of you but a past experience or future worry that they have.
If your partner is over cautious, or overly worried you will leave them, it is just their anxiety that is trying to keep them safe. They are not broken, and with the right support and reassurance, you and your partner can build a loving relationship together.
If your partner is struggling, you may find taking a walk together in nature, or exercising together, helps distract them from their anxious thoughts.
If You Need Further Support
If you need further support with you or your partners Mental Health, a trained Anxiety Specialist can prescribe a personalised plan to understand the root cause of anxiety, as well as help develop coping strategies that are focused around their individual needs.
Taking care of your mental health is an essential part of your overall well-being. Left unresolved, anxiety can spiral out of control and have a significant impact on relationships, work, school and family life.
It is my belief that no one needs to struggle with anxiety, we just need the tools and techniques to overcome it.
So if you want to take the next steps to have a happier life where your fears no longer hold you back, click the link below and book a free no obligation consultation call.
Discover a fast way to Reduce Anxiety Right Now
Watch some Breathing Techniques to Reduce Anxiety
How to have a Supportive Conversation about Mental Health
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