I’m no expert on loving someone with anxiety but I’ve learned a lot about it from my husband who I believe is quite the expert.
Anxiety and love are difficult enough to navigate on their own, so trying to figure out the two of them together can often feel impossible.
Let’s learn together!
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Having a partner with anxiety
Anxiety is more than my ~brand~ It’s very real and affects my life every day and has done since I was a little kid. I’m glad to be able to reach others who let me know that you too do some “crazy shit” under the control of the anxious monkeys in your brain.
I know, you’d never be able to tell. Not by my url or annything like that, or my previous posts. Nothing gives it away, nada.
Lets get into the list.
Validation seeking and reassurance
Dealing with feeling anxious, negative thoughts and an anxiety disorder is tough on any long term relationship. For both parties. Both the anxious and non-anxious person will have their share of troubles. Anxiety can exhibit itself as repeating questions, asking for reassurance or validation seeking.
“That looks good”
“Are you sure? Are you sure it doesn’t look like I haven’t washed it and I smell and should I go home and change?” “Does everyone here think I look stupid?” “Do you think I look stupid?”
“No, it looks good”
“Are you sure”
As you can see, it’s tedious, it’s repetitive, and for those with anxiety, it can feel like they have no choice but to ask.
Well if I don’t keep asking for reassurance, how will I know that …?
^ A common thought I have had and have heard when in group therapy.
The simple answer?
Instead of bombarding your loved ones with the same question, trust that they are being honest with you.
I’ve found that in conjunction with therapy, what’s helpful is accepting the fact that I’m I experience higher levels of anxiety than the “average” person. And that that is okay. I’ve found the book below helpful in coming to terms with my sensitive label.
Here’s a list of my favourite mental health books
Anxiety and love
Being this anxious for the majority of my life has meant that historically, I haven’t had the best track record with relationships. Due to a combination of self-defeating behaviours that are both on and off this list, I’d come to think of happy endings as a fairytale.
This reluctance to entertain the notion of anything other than darkness and panic in my life made the beginning of my relationship with my husband pretty turbulent.
I figured it didn’t matter how I acted! It’d end badly anyway, that’s just how things go..
An important point here if you notice yourself having the same self-defeating thoughts is realising you are living in the past. Especially if you’re sitting there and blaming yourself.
You are limiting your future based on your past. Be kind to yourself.
My anxiety is ruining my relationship
There’s a radio advertisement that airs occasionally in Australia for Beyond Blue. It is a layered audio of a males voice that (in my opinion) pretty accurately depicts what it’s like having the constant stream of anxious thoughts in your mind.
I hate that ad.
Something I realised though about it is how much stuff the guy manages to say in the space of about 30 seconds. Then I remembered what it’s like when my brain feels like it’s kicked into overdrive and I have an opportunity to talk it out.
The issue here is I tend to do this at 11pm, when I’m winding down to go to bed, and my anxious mind thinks it’s the perfect time to offload all of my worries onto my unsuspecting spouse.
If there’s one way of dealing with issues, it’s probably not to transfer it to your partner like it’s unused mobile data. Although that’s very generous, you sweet thing.
So how do you stop over thinking everything? Write it down!
“Breathe-An Anxiety Workbook” by Blessing Manifesting is an actionable workbook that combines CBT (cognitive behavior therapy techniques along with DBT (dialectical behavior techniques) to get to the root of anxiety and ease it on a cognitive level.
The workbook is an amazing 137 pages long and completely printable (no waiting for postage!) It contains the following worksheets:
- Wise Mind (How to combine logic and emotion)
- Bravery Records (Times you were super brave and conquered anxiety)
- Worse Case Scenario (Create a survival plan for those overwhelming fears)
- Mindreading (Your anxious perception vs reality)
- Predicting the Future (What you’re worried about and what actions you can take now)
- The Worry Jar (A place to write down your little worries)
- Ask for What You Need (How to ask others for things minus the anxiety)
How to help your partner with anxiety
Having a mental illness is incredibly tiring. Physically and emotionally. In the height of my anxiety and panic, just getting through the day was exhausting.
Mental illness can make us seem self-interested, which is incredibly hard on relationships.
Partners can help by:
– holding a non-judgemental space
This means *really* listening to your anxious partner when he/she/they are talking about their worries. Don’t attempt to rationalize their worries, just allow them to vent. Encourage them to write down their fears or follow a CBT model thought diary.
– being patient
As you already know, dating with mental illness means you have to be exceedingly patient. It’s in times of crisis, panic attacks, and heightened anxiety that your patience is even MORE tested.
-setting small goals
To support someone with gad, you might encourage them to make small steps towards anxiety-related goals that they have. This could be a graded exposure type activity of their choosing ie: working up towards going on a walk. It could also be supporting the daily goals of your anxious partner. I know that for me, tasks that seem “easy” for lots of people can be very wearing on me.
To go more in depth with CBT and for help with supporting and loving someone with anxiety see:
This Anxious Mum