I’m anxious, and I have been all my life.
I didn’t realize that talking about my anxiety as an adult would mean I’d eventually end up also talking about love in the same sentence.
Specifically, how to love someone who’s anxious.
I want to say it’s funny, but it’s not. We talk about neglecting your self-care during relationships, but we never talk about neglecting our mental health, including your mental illness. For someone who has an Anxiety Disorder, I’ve taken my mental health with me wherever I go.
When it comes to loving someone who’s anxious, you realize a couple of things:
1. It will be a challenge, but you have to want everything that comes with it
I’m serious. I know saying that as the first thing you should know about loving someone who’s anxious might be a little scary, but it’s not. It’s to say ”brace yourself” and ”if you aren’t ready to love someone else fully for what they’ve got, kindly bow out.” It doesn’t help the person by thinking you’re ”doing them a favor” by staying with them. Or even worse, “not wanting to trigger their anxiety” by not telling them how you feel. It’s important to be as transparent as possible with your anxious lover, expressing how you feel in your relationship—creating a safe space and dialogue with your partner is part of the challenge I’m talking about.
2. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is so, so important
In the words of the late and great Aretha Franklin, you have to respect your partner. Anxious or not, respect is an essential part of any healthy, thriving relationship. I want to emphasize this: RESPECT YOUR BOO, BAE, OR SIGNIFICANT OTHER. IT’S IMPORTANT!
3. Your words mean a lot (the good, the bad, and the unsaid)
Okay. This one gets me everytime. There will be many times your anxious partner will interpret your words (and actions) as something completely different than what you probably intended them to be. Clarity and communication are key when it comes to expressing yourself to your SO in an appropriate way that’s comfortable for both people. You can’t just leave things unsaid, because we’ll start to think you’re angry at us, hate us, or worse, want to break up, even if you do.
4. But it’s also understandable if you’re frustrated with us
Tell us! We as anxious people will jump to conclusions if we aren’t given an explanation. But we can also be overbearing, stuck in our own heads and not considerate of your feelings all the time. Know that it’s okay to be frustrated with us, we know we’re a lot (but sometimes you have to remind us). Remember that frustration isn’t a foreign feeling to us — we get frustrated most of the time, and it’s usually with ourselves, so you shouldn’t keep your frustration to yourself, even if you’re trying to spare our feelings—we need to know that you’re annoyed with us, because otherwise we’ll just keep doing the same thing and be unaware of our faults. Anxious people need to know when they just aren’t getting it, overthinking, and need a change. As long as you know we still love you, even if we do piss you off.
5. It’s important to talk to your partner
Having relationships, especially intimate ones, while dealing with anxiety can be tough. I’m not denying that, and my anxious but loving people out there need to know they deserve love, despite what you think about yourself or others. You have to feel safe, as well as loved and respected in any form of a relationship. Talking is a form of intimacy—expressing your feelings are a form of intimacy.
Loving someone who’s anxious shouldn’t be tiresome, depleting, or exhausting. You should feel just as safe, comforted, and respected as you make your partner feel. It’s a relationship, after all. What you put in, you get out. Remember that.