In this day and age where “ghosting” has become an acceptable form of breaking up (maybe not acceptable, let’s go with widely practiced instead), with endless dating apps where a guy can find someone shiny and new with a few simple swipes, a time that’s defined as a “hookup culture” when fewer and fewer people are settling down…it’s no wonder so many people are fraught with relationship anxiety.
While yes, it’s tough, it’s not impossible. It’s not the apps or the culture or the ghosting that’s messing people up most of the time; it’s their own self-generated fears and anxieties. That’s the real problem no one really addresses. We do it to ourselves.
I’ve been writing about relationships for nearly a decade now and over and over I see women driving themselves half insane with the overthinking and the analyzing. And I fully relate to all of it because I used to be the same way!
So I’m going to talk you through it and reveal the signs you have relationship anxiety and how to get that anxiety under control.
First, let’s go over a few quick signs that you have relationship anxiety.
1. You don’t trust your partner’s feelings. You constantly question if he likes you or if he’s losing interest.
2. You overanalyze. You can’t take anything at face value, you pick it apart trying to understand what he was really trying to say.
3. You are waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s not a matter of if the relationship will end and he’ll leave you, it’s when. And you are constantly on guard for that dreaded moment to come. You can’t just relax and enjoy things, you feel nervous and there is a perpetual knot in the pit of your stomach
Now let’s talk about how all this is ruining your love life.
You don’t need me to tell you that stress is bad for you. We’ve all heard the toll it takes on our physical appearance and emotional well-being. But that doesn’t stop most of us from doing it anyway.
Stress puts us into a primitive state. It activates our fears, and we can’t see beyond them. Stress completely overwhelms our minds, and we can’t access the more evolved, rational parts of our brains. It’s like a piece of paper with a black dot on it. When we’re stressed, that little dot takes over the entire page, and it’s all we see.
Being “stress-free” doesn’t mean you’re walking around like some hippy-dippy zen robot. It really is just having a feeling of being OK, of realizing there isn’t a problem you need to solve, and if there is a problem… you will be able to get through it.
This is where the majority of people go wrong in relationships. They are on the defensive waiting for something to go wrong, and they can’t relax and just be.
When you stress over your relationship, you aren’t able to be in the relationship. Instead of interacting with the person in front of you, you’re caught up in your own mind, interacting with the anxious thoughts in your head. And the guy will feel it. He’ll pick up on this negative energy and he will just feel turned off. He won’t know why he’s turned off, he thinks you’re great and he’s attracted to you … but there’s just something he can’t quite put his finger on …
Ok, now that we’ve looked at the ways stressing screws you up, let’s talk about how to get the stress under control.
1. Recognize stressing solves nothing.
Here’s the trap we fall into with stressing over things. It feels like you’re doing something productive.
It’s like running on the treadmill expecting to get to a new destination. You’re expending tons of energy… but you’re still in the exact same spot.
You feel like if you spin your wheels hard enough you’ll land on some sort of a solution. But instead, you poison your mood and your vibe, and your self-esteem.
It will not open the doors toward clarity and confidence and it will not lead to a healthy, happy relationship. Stressing multiples your problems, it doesn’t solve them. And it usually causes the very thing you’re worried about to come to fruition.
Whenever you catch yourself stressing, try to remind yourself that this is a huge waste of time and you’re essentially resigning yourself to the exact fate you’re terrified of.
2. Set a panic deadline.
A lot of us prematurely panic. We assume there’s a problem when there is none and live this whole one-sided drama, meanwhile, in boy world, he has no idea anything is amiss.
For example, you’re dating a guy and everything has been going well and then one day he doesn’t text you back and you literally lose your mind.
This happened to me very early in my relationship with my husband. We had gone on two dates and after the second he didn’t text me for a few days and I lost my mind. (Some context: we dated in high school and had a history and had been texting nonstop in the days leading up to and following the first date).
I was playing and replaying every interaction of the date wondering what I did wrong and beating myself up for pushing him away after only two dates. Here we go again with this exact same dreaded pattern…
But then I decided I wouldn’t do this to myself. Instead, I set a panic deadline. I think we went out on a Monday then I didn’t hear from him Tuesday or Wednesday so I said to myself, “OK, he hasn’t texted me, this is a little alarming but I will not panic about this and get upset until Friday. If I don’t hear from him by Friday, then I can be upset.”
I wasn’t saying I couldn’t be upset… I was just putting the upset feelings on hold and planned to revisit them at a later date.
Every time the sad feelings crept in, I just pushed them away and said, “Nope, I’m not being sad about this right now, I can feel sad about it on Friday.” And then he texted me later that day and everything was fine and normal, so I created that whole drama for nothing!
Anytime something like this would come up in our relationship, I would set a date to panic. And without fail, the problem would resolve before we reached the deadline.
Soon enough, I realized that there was nothing to ever freak out about and I learned to just be calm and deal with things and not let stress overtake me because like I said, no good ever comes of it.
And I should add, the things I wanted to “panic” over were never panic-worthy… it was really rooted in my own fears and insecurities, and tackling those made it so easy and effortless to just be present in the relationship and actually enjoy it instead of worrying about it.
3. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll be OK.
This is the most powerful mindset of all, and you can use it in relationships or any other area of your life.
If it doesn’t work out, you will be OK. You were OK before him, and you will be fine if things don’t work out. For some reason, this basic revelation feels groundbreaking when spoken out loud.
It’s hard to realize something so obvious when you’re in the thick of it because it doesn’t feel OK. It feels like you will combust if he leaves. You just can’t handle that being a reality.
And to that I say: stop attaching so much to what it will mean if things don’t work out.
Dating is a discovery process, that’s all. It’s not a means to find happiness or self-esteem or to heal your old wounds. Being in a relationship isn’t a goal to achieve. It is something that naturally happens when you’re dating someone and you both realize it just fits. It feels easy and effortless and being together is just much better than not being together. You mesh, you click, and you want the same things.
If one person doesn’t feel this way, then there isn’t much you can do. You can’t force someone to feel what you feel.
If it’s not a match… it’s not a match and that’s fine! You will find someone better suited for you. Have a little more faith in yourself!
4. Imagine other possibilities.
The reason we stress ourselves out so much is that we invest so much in this other person, oftentimes before they’ve shown any real investment in us. There’s an underlying feeling of I need this relationship to work!
Maybe it’s because we just really like him, maybe it’s because we don’t often come across guys we genuinely like and we don’t know when the next one is going to come around, maybe it’s because it just seems so meant to be….
But you can’t attach until that is where you’re at in the relationship, meaning, you’re both on the same page. When I started dating my husband, I really made a solid attempt to not make the mistakes that just seemed to be my default, primarily, stressing and letting my anxieties run rampant.
In the early stages, before we were “official,” I kept my options open, even though he was the only option worth pursuing.
I was still talking to other guys, still active on the apps… and that didn’t stop until w became official (which happened relatively quickly, I think after three weeks or something!).
The point I’m making is don’t mentally or physically cut yourself off from other options. You’ll leave much less room for stressing if you have other things to keep you occupied. And if you don’t have any back-burner dudes, just mentally keep yourself open to the possibility that it won’t work out with him … and there’s something else in store for you. When you do this, you’ll take the pressure off the situation and let things unfold more naturally, without force of agenda.
5. Realize you have control over your mind.
This is a common mistake. We think we have no control. We think our mind runs the show and we let it steer us in any which way, down even the darkest most destructive paths. We let it tell us we’re worthless and useless and unlovable and nothing will ever work out the way we want.
Why do we allow this?!
You have control over which thoughts seep in. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, send those thoughts away and replace them with something different. Your mind heavily influences the way you see the world and interact with it.
Here is an exercise: notice your thoughts throughout the day and then ask yourself: Does this thought serve me well?
If it brings up feelings of fear/anxiety/insecurity/dread then no, it doesn’t serve you well! So shift that thought to a more productive place!
When you learn how to do this, not only will your relationships transform, but your whole life will.