When you’re single, maybe you feel confident and self-assured. But sometimes, even the most well-adjusted people can experience relationship anxiety. A relationship can bring out the most insecure, needy aspects of ourselves. Since relationships are so personal, they’re almost guaranteed to bring these issues up sooner or later. You may notice feelings of unhappiness, projection, distrust, and fear in your relationship.
Perhaps you thought you were over this stuff and the fact that it’s popping up again now is a nasty surprise. It turns out, this is fairly normal. Relationships are very close to our hearts, so they bring out some of our most deep-seated issues. If left unchecked, this anxiety can wreak havoc on our personal connections or even destroy them altogether. The good news is that once you become aware of relationship anxiety, you can work to solve it.
Looking Closer At Insecurity
In the 1960s, psychologist John Bowlby developed attachment theory. This theory of attachment suggests that all children are born pre-programmed to get attached to their caregivers. This biological tendency allows the children to survive. The theory states that the way you form these attachments early in life sets the stage for the way you’ll form later attachments.
Bowlby stated that the three main types of attachment are avoidant, secure, and anxious attachment. People who are secure wouldn’t experience enough relationship anxiety to be concerned about. A securely attached person probably had a secure and stable parent who met their needs. As a result, that person would grow up to have relatively anxiety-free relationships as an adult.
Secure people are more content and happy in their relationships because they already feel safe and complete. Coming from this secure place enables their partner to feel free and supported. A secure individual can provide honesty and openness to the people they’re close to in life. Two secure partners can easily have a healthy, mutually supportive partnership.
But what if you’re not secure? Avoidant individuals, on the other hand, avoid introspection or intimacy. If you’re avoidant, you don’t feel like you need other people and keep them at a distance. As a kid, an avoidant individual learned that their parent wouldn’t meet their needs and they learned to stop seeking comfort from others.
Avoidant people keep their partners at a distance. They think they’re better off relying on themselves, even if they do have a significant other. They live in their own inner-world and believe they don’t need a connection to find fulfillment. This type of person may turn their feelings off or fail to react when their partner seeks reassurance from them.
Anxious attachment comes from having a parent who was either physically or emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, or intrusive. People who have this issue want to form a bond but don’t believe their partner can meet their needs. This lack of trust can lead them to become critical or jealous when their partner doesn’t meet their emotional wishes. Their partner might then distance themselves from the anxiously attached person.
People who are anxiously attached seek external validation constantly. It’s like they’re still a kid seeking reassurance from their parents. This reassurance-seeking behavior can turn problematic because it isn’t their partner’s job to give this to them. The person’s partner may end up feeling exhausted or emotionally exasperated after a while.
Are You Anxiously Attached?
It’s not easy to admit that you suffer from anxious attachment issues. How can you tell if you’re anxiously attached and that’s what’s causing your relationship anxiety? Are you constantly critical of yourself? Are you always looking for reassurance and approval from other people? Do you worry a lot about what your partner is or isn’t providing you? Do you get upset when your partner doesn’t react the way you want them to react?
You may recognize yourself in some of these questions. If you constantly obsess and worry about your partner losing interest or abandoning you, you’re probably anxiously attached.
Recognizing The Signs
Maybe you already know that you suffer from anxiety in general. But trying to deal with relationship anxiety can alert you to the fact that it impacts every aspect of your behavior and thoughts. You may have grown up with a parent who left you alone a lot as a child. These memories could lead you to freak out when you feel like your partner is ignoring you. You might turn cold or seek reassurance from them. In some cases, you might even go back and forth.
You shouldn’t ignore these issues of relationship anxiety, and they won’t go away if you don’t fix them. Until you understand the root of these anxieties, it’s impossible to solve them and have healthy relationships. Let’s look at some of the results of unchecked relationship anxiety.
The Impact Of Relationship Anxiety
As you learn more about how your past impacts your present, you’ll notice that early influences shape your patterns of attachment. Early experiences also impact your critical inner voice and psychological habits of defense. Each factor can contribute to anxiety in your relationship and even lead to self-sabotage in the form of:
When you’re anxious, you might become desperate in the way you interact with your partner. You may be strong and independent as an individual and immediately get clingy and needy as a partner. These clingy feelings can lead to jealousy and feeling overly dependent on our partners for everything.
Becoming cold and rejecting our partners is another potential side effect of unchecked relationship anxiety. If you feel worried about losing your relationship or partner, you might become aloof. By rejecting your partner, you may subconsciously believe you’re beating them to the punch. And taking away their chance to reject you first.
The Need To Control
Becoming controlling is another side effect of relationship anxiety. When you feel threatened, you might try to control what your partner can or can’t do. Needless to say, acting controlling in this manner can cause your partner to resent you and feel distant.
Another potential result of anxiety in relationships is the desire to punish our partner. At times, when you feel anxious, you might take your feelings out on your partner with aggression. This aggression can lead to screaming, yelling, or the silent treatment. It’s crucial that you pay close attention to your reactions and find out what’s coming from your partner and what you’re projecting.
Sometimes, instead of rejecting our partners, we might withhold support or affection. You may retreat into yourself and become distant instead of opening up to them. Although this seems passive, withholding like this is actually very harmful and can ruin a relationship quickly.
You might begin to back off from your partner when you feel insecure or threatened in the relationship. Although on the surface, you still look like a partnership, you may put distance between yourself and your partner. By keeping the relationship on the surface, you may think you’re preserving yourself and preventing pain. But you’re just cutting yourself off from experiencing real love and growth.
How To Move Past This Anxiety
In order to get past your relationship anxiety, you have to focus your attention inward. Check out what’s going on in your internal world separate from your relationship. What is your inner voice saying that’s making your fears worse? What defensive measures are you using that might be creating problems? Committing to self-awareness like this can be truly transformative. Not only can it lead to self-discovery and self-love, but it can deepen your bonds with others.
This journey of discovering yourself can be a necessary step in figuring out your own motivations, fears, and behaviors. Since your motivations, fears, and behaviors shape every aspect of your life and relationships, it’s worth thinking about carefully. When you look at your past in an honest way, you’ll start to understand where your anxiety stems from. What originally caused you to feel these fears? How can you be gentler with yourself as you work on assuaging them?
Be Caring To Your Partner
One way to get past relationship anxiety is to show your partner love and focus on the positive. You may intend to be aware of your partner’s needs and give them the support they need. However, when anxiety shows up, it can turn off this supportive and loving energy and make you turn cold. Whenever possible, focus on your partner instead of yourself. Try to give them plenty of physical affection, gratitude, and focused attention. You may notice that focusing on love in this way takes care of or lessens your own anxiety.
Support Your Partner
Let your partner experience you as a system of support for them. They might not want to “bother” you with their anxieties, but everyone has their own struggles. Make sure your loved one knows that whatever concerns they’re dealing with at the moment, you’re there to help. Sometimes, people who are in a relationship with an anxious person put their own worries aside.
But this can lead to problems for both of you as your partner’s needs get ignored or pushed aside. Remind your partner that you’re also there to provide them with emotional support and love.
Share Your Thoughts
It can be hard to be honest with our partners sometimes since it makes us feel vulnerable. But if you want to beat relationship anxiety and become part of a healthy partnership, tell your partner what you’re thinking. Your anxious thoughts are very personal, but your partner needs to know what you’re feeling. True intimacy can only happen when you’re willing to let them in on your internal world.
You might be thinking about what could go wrong, what’s bothering you, or what you need. But this doesn’t have to be your burden to bear alone. Your partner may be able to help if you’re more honest about what you’re feeling.
Ask For Reassurance
It’s okay to ask for reassurance from your partner, but there is a limit to this. Anxiety might show up in many different aspects of your life. If you don’t stay on top of it, it can make you doubt your partner or relationship through no fault of their own. It’s alright to ask your partner to reassure you. But if you do this too often, they may feel like you don’t trust them.
It could also come off as clingy and needy and kill the attraction between you two. Love has to be spontaneous to be natural, so give them a chance to show affection on their own terms, as well.
Work On Self-Forgiveness
Anxious people often have a tendency to be hard on themselves. If you’re constantly seeking external validation and approval, it can be hard to think highly of yourself. Recognize that the approval you’re seeking can only come from within you and not your partner. If you want to have a healthy relationship and love yourself, you have to learn how to comfort yourself. This self-comfort begins with being more forgiving and going easier on yourself. Only then can you give your partner a healthy level of support and foster a good relationship.
Don’t Give Up
The most important aspect of beating relationship anxiety is completely committing to overcoming it. If you continue feeling this anxiety but don’t do anything to fix it, it will poison your partnership. You might find yourself going through relationship after relationship and repeating patterns. This patterned behavior doesn’t make you a bad person; it makes you a human with issues, just like everyone else.
Your relationship anxiety likely stems from unmet needs you had when you were a child. But it doesn’t have to impact every aspect of your adult life and relationships. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings and remember to be kind to yourself. This self-kindness is how you’ll ultimately be a great partner with a healthy relationship.