Dating is hard at the best of times. Add anxiety into the mix and you are taking the struggle and pain to an altogether different level.
Does it mean loving someone with anxiety and depression is impossible? Or does it mean you should avoid dating someone with anxiety?
No, that would be taking it too far. There is no need for such extreme steps.
Moreover, you may not know that your partner is suffering from anxiety until you get to know them better. And leaving them at that point would be the most inhumane thing to do. Also, it would be similar to conceding defeat without putting up a fight.
Dating has been compared to many things – an audition, interview, investment, and addiction. But the best comparison of all is to a golf course. There are hazards everywhere. You would need all the skills of a pro to get past them all.
When you factor anxiety into the already difficult scene, it is natural to feel apprehensive about it.
The going will indeed be tough. But if you feel your relationship is worth the effort, read on. Taking a little bit of effort on your part in understanding someone with depression and dealing with the situation the right way can make your relationship as loving and enjoyable as any other.
This article offers you tips and guidance on how to navigate the choppy waters of relationships when you are dating someone living with anxiety or depression.
What You Need to Do When Dating Someone with Anxiety
If you were forewarned by your partner that they are battling anxiety problems at the onset, it would be easier to deal with. When your partner is aware and accepting of the condition, it would make things simpler.
More often, you may come to know about it after months of being together. Instead of keeping it under wraps and treading on eggshells, you can bring up the issue with a great deal of sensitivity. Take care not to judge. And be as supportive as you can.
Your partner may even deny it. If so, leave it for the time being and bring it up at a later date. Slowly try to convince your partner that they are indeed battling this invisible enemy. At the same time, offer your unconditional support to help them deal with it.
Either way, it is better to get it out in the open than ignore, deny, or hide it.
Understanding Anxiety in Relationships
Gathering more information and learning the basic facts about anxiety can help you better understand what your partner is going through and offer them the right kind of support.
Here are some basic facts about anxiety that you may find helpful to support and help a partner with anxiety.
- Anxiety is a common problem that affects everyone. Only in its severe form, it becomes a problem.
- Anxiety is a mental health problem. It is not a weakness in character. It is a real issue and not something made up.
- In its severe form, anxiety can be debilitating. It can prevent sufferers from functioning normally or living a regular life.
- High levels of stress and fight-or-flight response are common among those suffering from anxiety, even when the situation doesn’t warrant them. They often worry about whether you will abandon them or cheat in the relationship.
- There is no logic or rationale in anxiety and its symptoms. Even when they know something is alright, they would still worry about it.
- People with anxiety may have periods when they are normal.
- They are often anxious about their anxiety because they don’t want to trouble others.
- There is no cure or way to fix the anxiety problem. You can only learn to live with it. Psychotherapy can help in bringing it under control.
- People with anxiety can be happy and have healthy relationships.
How Does Anxiety Affect Relationships?
Anxiety and relationships are not compatible. This doesn’t mean they are impossible to manage together.
How anxiety affects your relationship depends on the severity of anxiety your partner is suffering from. When they have anxiety attacks, their head will be filled with anxious thoughts, doubts, and nagging questions. These are usually in the form of “what if” scenarios.
- What if they leave me?
- What if they don’t love me?
- What if they are lying to me?
- What if they are cheating on me?
- What if they are hiding something from me?
There is no end to such “what if” scenarios. Most of them are related to your relationship. If nothing is done to help ease relationship anxiety, the anxious thoughts of this kind are bound to get worse.
These thoughts will be reflected in their behavior and actions. When the doubts in their minds get too intense, they may start acting irrationally. They may even test your commitment to the relationship with dubious strategies. All these can impact the relationship.
Anxiety in your partner may manifest in diverse forms. Such as,
- Irritated and angry behavior
- Distracted and unfocused behavior
- Overly critical or passive-aggressive behavior
- Avoidant or critical behavior
- Obsessive-compulsive behavior
How to Manage Anxiety in a Relationship?
A relationship with someone with anxiety is not easy. But with the right coping strategies, you can make your relationship work as well as any other.
Here are some tips and suggestions to help you deal with anxiety in relationships.
1. Learn more about the disorder
Understand what your partner is going through. But don’t use your recently gained knowledge to educate your partner about their own affliction. They have been dealing with it for a long time and know more about it than you.
2. Be casual in your approach.
As your partner is already suffering from anxiety, you should take extra care not to make it worse. You can show that you care, offer your support and help them without stressing about their debilitating condition. Being non-judgmental and open in your interactions will help.
3. Be careful not to misinterpret their behavior as rude, uncaring, ignoring, or insensitive.
Their behavior indeed seems to be all negative. But try to understand that this is not their intention. Their behavior is just appearing like this to you. So, don’t accuse them of negative behavior. Try to see it as part of the deal.
4. Don’t view your partner and their anxiety as one entity.
Try to look at them separately. If you take the anxiety out of the equation, your partner is still the same person you fell in love with. Try to remember that anxiety is a mental affliction affecting them. That doesn’t define them.
5. Don’t take their behavior personally.
It is not directed at you. It may also look like they are accusing you personally when all you want is to help. They are not accusing you either. In their confused and muddled state of mind, their behavior is coming out like this. Try not to feel offended and show them more consideration.
6. Make sure that you don’t succumb to anxiety.
Dealing with a person suffering from anxiety is enough to make you feel stressed and anxious. Take care of your mental health so that you can stay strong for the sake of you both.
7. Don’t let go of your life.
If you set aside your needs and wants to accommodate the demands of your partner, it can seriously affect your mental health. Keep your personal life balanced with your own emotional support systems and methods of stress relief.
8. Practice Mindfulness for Anxiety
Mindfulness is an act of focusing on the present moment and bringing awareness to one’s thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations. It has been linked with improved mental health and anxiety.
Mindfulness encompasses a range of mental and physical exercises such as meditation, focusing on your breath going in and out. These techniques can help you reduce stress and deepen your connection with the present moment. For more details, see our guide on how to practice mindfulness for anxiety.
9. Don’t hesitate to consult a couples counselor.
The situation can get overwhelming and seeing a counselor is not a sign of your failure or weakness. The right kind of intervention before it gets beyond repair can help save your relationship. You may also want to take a look at our guide on six activities that help with anxiety in relationships.
We all know that anxiety ruins relationships if you are not careful and alert. To love someone with anxiety or to help someone with anxiety is hard. By being an understanding and supportive partner, you can help your partner as well as save your relationship.
If you would like more information about how to deal with relationship anxiety, check out the powerful affirmations for anxiety and fear.