*Disclaimer – I have personal experience in having anxiety and being in relationships, therefore, I don’t hold back in this post and I try and be as honest as I can*
Having anxiety and being in a relationship can be hard work for both parties. I know because I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum.
When I was first dating my now fiancee, I was still suffering from moderate anxiety. Once our son was born several years later, she was suffering from anxiety. Yes, that’s right, anxiety all round!
However, this is no laughing matter, even if I do try and make light of things sometimes. Yes, it sucks to have an anxiety disorder when you’re single but at least you don’t have to worry about explaining your daily struggles with someone else.
When it comes to anxiety disorders and relationships, you can find yourself feeling insecure about how you’re going to explain to that other person. It can be hard when you start dating someone for the first time because you want them to always see you in your best light.
Worse still, if you’ve been in a long relationship and you suddenly develop an anxiety disorder, your sudden change in behaviour can be alarming and it can cause your relationship to fall apart if you don’t become open to how you feel.
It’s a sad truth that some partners don’t understand and so it’s important that you do be open to talking about how you feel. Your partner will surely support you as long as you have the ability to stay communicating with them.
Although I am generally a disliker of list formats as I find them too ‘generic’ I feel like this type of post warrants a good old list.
1. Be Honest From The Get Go
As I said above, you gotta be honest. When I was first dating I was still shut off to the world about my anxiety disorder. Living with anxiety in a relationship was a scary thought and I didn’t know how I’d be able to function as a good boyfriend when I was still suffering inside.
In my early teens I didn’t want to tell anyone and it wasn’t until years later that I actually opened up to my now fiancee. Don’t get me wrong, she knew I took medication but I never told her the extent of how bad I was feeling.
How I got a girlfriend when I was an anxious mess is anyone’s guess!
Anyway, to this day people are still shocked at how I was when I explain to them how far I’ve come. As my relationship progressed, I would start to show more signs of my anxiety as we saw each other more. I didn’t want to go out much, I would make excuses and I was overall quite distant.
I was your typical ‘the whole world makes me anxious and down’ kinda sufferer.
It wasn’t until I explained one day to her that I had a bigger disorder than I’d let on. Maybe I was ashamed and didn’t want to be known as the guy with a disorder or maybe I thought I could just bury it.
Long story short, she supported me through the good and bad and we carried on just fine.
2. Don’t Take It Out On Them
Having anxiety in a relationship is also difficult when you start taking it out on your partner. If you don’t exercise point one, taking it out on them can cause things to go downhill even faster.
I was guilty of this and I’m not afraid to admit it. It was wrong and I don’t feel good about it. On my bad days, I would become agitated easily and grumpy as my brain fog crept in. I found it hard to be happy or at least calm and whilst my partner was upbeat and excited, I was down and anxious.
When I got grouchy because I didn’t want to do the things she did, we clashed and I took how I felt out on her because she was the nearest person to me.
You shouldn’t take anything out on the ones you love but I know that we do it from time to time when we don’t mean to.
Instead, I don’t expect you to snap out of it and get on with it. I could never do that. Realistically, you need to get out and go for a walk or drive. Clear your anxious brain and apologise. Don’t let this become a habit though because they shouldn’t suffer because of how you feel.
Anxiety disorders and relationships don’t gel well and so it’s important that you realise 99% of the time it’s likely your problem and you gotta find a way to start dealing with it. In the end, it could cost you everything. That should be motivation enough to find help.
3. Don’t Force It If You Can’t
Don’t force that good mood if you can’t.
Let’s get real for a mo’. We all have good days and bad days. Part of my anxiety recovery was understanding that. Having the open mind to not forcing every day to be perfect can ease your mind right away.
If you are anxious as shit, you know you’re gunna’ clash with your partner, take some time out. Don’t try and force a good mood. Your partner should understand because after all, they have bad days too.
Instead of pushing through your anxious mood, don’t be afraid to say no. But do it properly. Don’t be abrasive, instead, explain how you feel to your partner and that taking a bit of downtime until you feel in the mood for whatever they want to will help ease you.
Although not the anxious wreck I once was, I can recognise when I’m not feeling something and don’t want to participate. A lot of our time is spent doing things we’d rather not be doing. Sometimes we have to, and sometimes we feel bad if we say no when we have the choice.
When I try and push through I just end up feeling worse and annoyed with my partner. I don’t want to go to that kids birthday party. Heck no. So I just try and be honest about it. I will take my turn to go to these events but if I know I have to get something done, being somewhere else I don’t need to just give me a sense of anxiety.
This isn’t to say – shut yourself off when you don’t want to do anything. No. We’re not trying to get you to sit in a dark room all day like I used to. Instead, it’s about choosing what is going to make you feel less anxious all around.
All of this comes back around to explaining how you feel to your partner and being open.
4. Be Open To Suggested Treatments
If your partner suggests treatments for you, it’s easy to think they’re being patronising or suffocating. Really they’re just trying to help. Even if you’ve tried some treatments and you don’t like what your partner is suggesting, be open to discussing it.
You don’t wanna shut them down.
If you’ve got a supporting partner, which you normally will once you explain your feelings, you’re lucky. You’re lucky to have someone who cares deeply about you that’s looking out for you. We all need support, even from people who aren’t going through what we are.
It often helps to have an outside perspective on things.
Having anxiety and being in a relationship should not be a one-person game. Although you may be worried you’ll bog them down with how you feel, you should lap up that support when they give it to you.
5. Be Open To Helping Yourself
How can you support anyone else when you feel like shit yourself? I always wanna be real with my readers.
You have to be open to helping yourself through self-care and growing yourself. Without sounding cliche, you have to keep growing. Being stagnant and not open to trying new things (no, not that type of new things) it won’t only harm your relationship but yourself.
Try doing new things and activities. Doing things with your partner not only solidifies your relationship but brings you out of your shell.
If you don’t try new things, how do you know you don’t like them? Sometimes we can’t be bothered when our friends invite us out for drinks or dinner.
Saying yes every so often gets you out and about as a couple and takes your mind off your anxiety. Trying new things and being open to new things keeps your spirit playful That’s what a good relationship is all about, being playful and enjoying each others company.
Although I said ‘don’t force it if you can’t’, there are exceptions.
I think sometimes you have to push yourself to go and do things because you never know what you might enjoy. Trying a new activity could lead you into having a new passion and even a passion you can share in your relationship.
As many people know, one of the biggest things that pulled me out of my anxiety was harnessing my passions. If you’ve got something you love to do, your excitement for it can roll over into your relationship.
When Your Partner Has Anxiety
So what should you do if your partner has anxiety and you don’t? I have experienced this myself and it has not been easy. The biggest thing you need is patience. It’s the patience to work with them as they try and find things that help them. Because I’ve experienced high levels of anxiety since I was a child, I’ve had more time to become comfortable with it.
I’ve known many people who have felt fine until they’ve reached their mid-twenties. The sudden shock of anxiety has crippled them. Anxiety in a relationship can test you both. It can be tempting to let yourself get frustrated with your partner but it’s vital to be as understanding as you can be.
Overcoming anxiety is not straightforward and it can take a lot of time. So, never force someone going through anxiety to do anything that they don’t want to do or it could backfire and harm your relationship. Instead, try to encourage them gently. In the end, it is up to them to try and move past it. The only way they can do that is by knowing they have people around them who care about them. Overcoming anxiety is a marathon, not a sprint.
Having Anxiety When You’re In A Relationship – Closing Thoughts
Dating when you’re in a relationship doesn’t have to be hard work. Sure it might be sometimes, but that’s just like anything else. When you understand that anxiety is often a byproduct of being in a relationship, you can ease your mind.
Sure, if you have an anxiety disorder in a relationship it can feel like it makes things worse. Ultimately, you need to remember that your partner loves you with or without your disorder. That’s the bottom line. It can rock the relationship heavily so it’s vital you stick together.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our anxious minds that we let how we feel affect our relationships. Catching yourself and having the self-awareness that you might be starting to take it out on those you love, you can ground yourself again and quickly take a step back.
The main thing you must do is start taking action on dealing with your anxiety. Leaving it to fester and carry on will only harm your relationship in the long run. I wouldn’t expect anyone to put up with how I used to be, even if they said they were there to support me.
I truly believe you should want to help yourself first because if you don’t how can you help and be supportive of anyone else?
This post was previously published on ProjectEnergise.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
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