Anxiety affects over 40 million people over the age of 18 in the United States. That’s about 18% of the total population.
But what about the other 82%?
Anxiety is a crippling disorder. It interferes with day to day tasks, and sometimes it is so hard for people with anxiety to understand what it is that is even going on in their own heads. Adding another person to the mix? Adding a relationship? Well, these things can make it even more complicated, both for the person with the disorder as well as their partner in the relationship.
If you are a part of the 82%, but you love someone in the 18%, you may have experienced some problems with your partner. The biggest reason? You both just don’t understand.
Next time you feel at a loss with your partner, try and keep in mind the following:
1. Be Okay with Reassurance
Coming from someone with Anxiety, the worst thing that my partner could do is get annoyed with my constant need for reassurance. I may ask you five times a day to hear that you love me, and you may get annoyed by this. Don’t. Understand that having anxiety causes your mind to often dwell in “what if” scenarios, even when they don’t make sense. These thoughts, although they may not even cross your own mind, are prevalent in your partners mind without reason or cause. They are as real as your frustration is for having to repeat things constantly. Be patient with them. Know that even when it is frustrating to you to have to repeat these things constantly, it means the world to them.
2. Don’t Tell Them to Get Over it
If it were that easy, it wouldn’t be a problem in the first place. Anxiety isn’t just a crack in the sidewalk; Anxiety is the f*cking Grand Canyon. Simple things may cause your partner to worry and over-analyze: picking up the wrong pasta sauce for dinner, thinking about something they forgot to say to their boss at work, or even thinking about a bill that is due two months from now. A lot of things that your partner will worry about will not make sense to you, and that’s okay. Chances are it doesn’t make sense to them either. Understand that small things may be big issues to them, and there is nothing that you could say to change that. Telling them to simply “get over it” will do nothing more than make them question the situation even more. Instead, listen to their frustrations and offer them advice on how you might handle the situation at hand. Try and help them focus on the now instead of the past or future.
3. Don’t Try to Understand
This may sound counterproductive, but it isn’t. The truth is, most people with anxiety don’t even understand what is happening to them. You cannot explain something that you don’t understand. Sometimes trying to relate to your partner seems like trying to speak English in a country that only speaks Spanish: impossible and frustrating. Instead of trying to understand what your partner is going through, open up communication allowing them to share their thoughts, even the ones that don’t make sense. This will not only allow your partner to get things off of his/her chest but will allow you to better visualize what is going through their minds.
4. Communicate Your Frustrations
As important as it is to allow your partner to communicate what they are going through with their anxiety, it is just as important for you to communicate your thoughts and frustrations. At times you may feel that their anxiety is overshadowing your own needs. Know that this is not intentional. Anxiety is all-consuming, and at times they may not even notice that they are missing something that you need. Telling them what you need will ensure that anxiety does not rule your relationship. Nothing is worse than bottling up your feelings and exploding at your partner later on in your relationship. Your partner will spend hours agonizing over what they did wrong because they didn’t see it coming, and you will just be miserable. Talk to them. Your desires are just as important. Communication will also ensure that you both support each other and allow for an overall healthier relationship.
5. Establish Boundaries
You can’t help someone who can’t help themselves. One of the biggest problems with having anxiety is having the ability to comfort oneself. This is something that is important to learn though. Often times it is easy for someone with anxiety to find comfort within their partner, as this person is a steady constant to make them feel better. This is not good for you or for your partner. You cannot be responsible for their happiness, and they cannot rely on you to make everything okay. This is unhealthy, and it will ultimately cause your relationship to fail. Instead, encourage them to seek help and talk to someone. Let them know that you will always be there for what they need, but you can only handle so much responsibility. Also remind them that getting the help they need will make them a stronger person. Let them know how important to you it is that they are happy, but part of being happy is being able to make oneself happy.
6. Know that You are Loved
I can’t say it enough- Anxiety is all-consuming. At times, your partner may be so overcome by their anxiety and getting what they need that they forget to let you know that you are appreciated. Know that they value your love and support more than they could ever even say. Know that your presence in their life is so much more than just a comfort blanket. You are so important. You are so valued. And you, too, are loved. And if you ever doubt these things, tell your partner; your need to be loved is just as important as theirs. Just know that all that you do for them is so appreciated; thank you for everything.