When it comes to relationship anxiety sometimes we don’t actually need what we think we need. What we need to do is implement some habits that some might consider toxic and detrimental to the health of your relationship…How wrong they would be.
Having lived a life of rather unsuccessful relationships (up until now, I’m pleased to say) my anxiety has managed to spill over into each and every one of them.
I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying to provide anxiety relief by figuring out how the hell we’re supposed to achieve that coveted ‘perfect’ relationship status. How do we reach our COUPLE GOALS?! (The pessimist in me cringes that I even considered writing that in one of my articles).
How can I have a relationship that’s ‘easy’?
And this, for the most part, was my biggest problem. Relationships aren’t easy. Relationships shouldn’t be easy.
Anything that is worth its salt is never easy to obtain. There has to be fight and struggle. There has to be PAIN.
With this mindset of ‘how can this be easy?’ I often found myself avoiding confrontation, leaving issues unresolved, bending to their will, and neglecting my needs.
Thankfully, with age and wisdom (if I can claim to have either) comes the realization that sometimes it’s not worth talking about how to get it ‘right’ and how to have a relationship that’s ‘easy’.
Because quite frankly there is no such thing.
So, it makes more sense to me to write about the everyday difficulties that we experience that we don’t like to talk about because it’s nicer to chat about roses and rainbows.
The daily aches and pains, decisions, fears, and worries that come from loving a person that are COMPLETELY NORMAL thoughts and feelings to experience but that no-one ever takes the time to confront.
These 10 habits need to be accepted and considered healthy for your relationship rather than something to fight against and fix. They are part of being human and part of what could help your relationship withstand the test of time.
If you can implement and get on board with these habits then you might go a long way to relieving your relationship anxiety.
For a complete starter guide to reconnecting with your partner you can download the ‘Relationship RECONNECT Toolkit’. A 30 page E-book with exercises and tools to help you find your way back to one another and gain some greater understanding about this ‘relationship’ business.
1. ALLOW SOME ARGUMENTS TO GO UNRESOLVED
John Gottman is the King of Kings when it comes to relationship research; what makes them a success, what makes us feel, and what we’re not understanding.
Well, if there is one thing John Gottman would happily say to your face without hesitation is that the common belief that all issues in a relationship must be resolved is a complete and utter MYTH!
Ok, should you try and address your issues and iron out as many as you can?
Absolutely. After all, I want this to survive the test of time for you.
HOWEVER, studies have shown that couples who have persistent on-going points of contention that can not possibly be resolved tend to have longevity in their relationships.
The couples who INSIST on hashing out every single little problem and arriving at a solid consensus and conclusion don’t tend to last as long my friends. Indeed, holding on to these problems could be a big reason for relationship anxiety.
Why is this? Because the couple from the first example understand that there are some conflicts that are inevitable, unavoidable and unsolvable. These couples may well still be fighting over this same argument in decades to come but they will do so with knowledge and acceptance of this fact.
Ultimately, I suppose this is form of compromise.
Sometimes you just have to call a truce because there is no give. There is no happy midway point and there is no final conclusion where everyone is happy.
If you can accept that you can’t and SHOULDN’T be trying to solve every itty bitty issue that arises then you might be able to make it to a ripe old age and still be with that one you love to continue the same old argument. And wouldn’t that be nice?
It’s all about being aware of which issues you need to just let go. You can’t solve everything so pick and choose those points of contention that you know you can live with and those which could be the breaking of you.
2. BE WILLING TO HURT EACH OTHER’S FEELINGS
Oh boy have I struggled with this in the past. I am a chronic people-pleaser and I certainly suffer because of it.
Throughout my past relationships I have withheld truths from my partners for fear of ‘hurting their feelings’.
Honestly, it PAINS me to know that I have caused someone upset. I have a physical gut reaction to looking into someone’s eyes and seeing that the words I have just uttered has truly hurt them.
It causes me huge relationship anxiety having these feelings I need to get off my chest but struggle with due to confrontation avoidance.
Allow me to tell you why you MUST be willing to hurt each other’s feelings…
Recently my partner told me that he had only two steps left to complete an application for a patent that he is applying for. Of course, I applauded him for being so close to his goal but then I followed it up with some brutal honesty…
I explained to him that this was brilliant but he had actually had 4 months to do 1 week’s worth of work and that he had procrastinated.
I only mentioned this to bring it to his attention that I will applaud him for his progress but I will also hold him accountable for his lack of progress in the hope to give him a push to march forth.
Of course, he was upset with me. I had the semi-silent treatment for the evening, only opening his mouth for the odd ‘yes’ or ‘no’ grunt.
But as the next day came around, we were fine. And the reason we were fine is that we consider honesty a top priority in our relationship, even when it makes one of us feel bad.
When I avoided telling my ex-partner the truth surrounding either his actions, inaction’s or behaviors that might have negatively impacted me all I was doing was hurting myself and adding to my relationship anxiety.
Telling the truth, HURTS. Honesty, HURTS. Arguments, HURT.
But they are all a means to a positive end. Only through pain can you reach a point of content and understanding. To reach a point of understanding in your relationship you need to trudge through the marshes of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and hurt.
If our top priority is for me to feel good and for him to feel good then ultimately no-one will feel good because there is no way to live this way without being dishonest.
And honesty and pain are far more valuable to a relationship than lies and superficial pleasantry. This will help you deal with your relationship anxiety
3. OPENLY TELL THEM WHAT YOU WANT
OK, so I think we can all agree that no-one considers this to be a ‘toxic’ habit.
However, what is toxic is our mindset surrounding this. If you’re an anxious type like me then you might be inclined to think that you couldn’t possibly ask your partner to meet your needs.
Perhaps you imagine it to be rude or you label it as ‘needy’ or ‘unreasonable’. It is this mindset that needs to change because we do this funny thing as humans where we convince ourselves that we are unworthy of asking for our needs to be met.
Especially when you suffer from relationship anxiety.
That voice in your head will tell you to keep quiet, that you don’t NEED what you think you need. That if you tell your partner exactly what it is that you need from them then they will stop loving you, they will leave you or think less of you.
First of all, tell your relationship anxiety to sit down and shut up.
Next, understand that your partner (no matter how great they are) is not a mind-reader and they do not know what it is you NEED unless you TELL THEM.
Understand, this is not what will cause you problems. What will cause problems is the resentment you will hold down the line when your needs haven’t been met because your partner is completely unaware of how it is they could be helping you.
Communication is key, yes. We can read that in every relationship article known to man.
‘Tell them what you want’ yes, that would be in there too.
Understand that you are doing you and your partner a disservice by keeping shtum. Don’t beat around the bush, write them a Christmas list and be as matter of fact about it as you possibly can.
4. BE WILLING TO END IT
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your relationship anxiety is to end it before it gets too toxic.
There is this romantic idealization that takes the notion of ‘relationships are HARD WORK‘ a bit too far which is of course, incredibly irritating!
Alright, so what do you want us to do? Be willing for it to be painful but not TOO painful? Accept and embrace the pain but not TOO much? Be willing to fight for your relationship but not EVERY time?
The entire ’til death do us part’ romanticism of relationships would have us believe that if death isn’t what takes us from our partner then we must have failed.
That despite inconsolable differences, miserable partnerships, and everything in the world pointing at you saying that ‘this just isn’t the one for you‘ we MUST stay together or else we will feel shame and humiliation.
There is a reason that people stay too long with partners who abuse them, manipulate them, ignore them, cheat on them and emotionally destroy them – it’s because accepting that it needs to end is bloody difficult.
And embracing the idea of ‘starting again’ may be even harder.
But if there was ever one thing that will cause you immense relationship anxiety it is staying in a relationship that is toxic and detrimental to your health and well-being.
You must be aware of the difference between being willing to fight for a good relationship that is going through a rough patch and being unable to leave a relationship that causes you only pain and distress for the most part.
Sometimes being willing to end it all is exactly what makes a relationship a success. Fighting a losing battle and suffering unnecessarily for it is not admirable, it’s counterproductive.
By separating at the right time you give both yourself and your partner the gift of focusing on yourselves and learning from any mistakes you may have made before trying to find that person who is a much better fit.
You relieve relationship anxiety and anxiety in general by being free of this toxic environment.
Download the FREE ‘Relationship RECONNECT Toolkit’ if this DOES NOT sound like the situation you’re in and you’re looking to reconnect and strengthen your relationship.
5. KEEPING SOME SECRETS FOR YOURSELF
I should probably rephrase this because in complete truth ‘SECRETS‘ is probably not the correct word to use here.
Honesty is the foundation of a strong, long lasting relationship. Intrinsically tied to honesty comes truth, respect, safety and understanding – when you have one the others tend to fall into place pretty quickly.
So, I would always encourage you not to keep ‘SECRETS‘ from your loved one because that would encroach on the number one ‘honesty is the best policy’ rule of a relationship.
What I am suggesting is that we all chill out a bit when it comes to needing to know every little thing about our partner’s actions, whereabouts, conversations, interactions, plans, etc…
And here is what I mean by this –
I have only once in my entire life asked to check a partner’s phone. Indeed, I know the password to the phone of the current human and love of my life (I feel quite certain of this…for now) but have never used it.
I have never once typed this in, never once asked to check his messages, calendar, or emails. I have never once even used his phone instead of mine to search for something on Google.
The reason I say this is because the one and only time I asked a previous partner for him to open his phone and show me his work schedule was because my relationship anxiety felt strongly that something was amiss, and I was correct.
After 3 years of being together, I moved to London without him and we tried to make it work long-distance for about 6 months. Around the Christmas period, we had hardly seen each other because he said he had been incredibly busy with work.
However, one weekend when he did visit it became increasingly clear to me that this wasn’t the case.
He was stumbling when trying to explain what he had been up to and was telling me stories and accounts of things that conflicted one another. Needless to say we ‘got into it’.
I asked him, ‘Have you actually been working a lot or did you just not want to come and see me?‘
‘Yes, I have! I have been WORKING! Look, you can check my rota if you want?!‘
Initially, I said ‘no, thank you. I believe you.’ But then a part of me grew some balls, found my spine, and followed my gut feeling…’Actually, yeah. Go on, show me.’
I’m sure you guessed that he slooooooowly got out his phone, found the rota, and with much resistance showed me his work schedule for the previous two months which contained only 2 4-hour shifts per week. Plenty of spare time to have come and see me.
If you need to check on every single thing your partner does, every interaction or text conversation then something isn’t right. There is a fundamental lack of trust missing.
You both need to have some elements of your life that remain truly yours and, if truth be told, if your relationship is good and strong the chances are you will divulge all of this information to each other without anyone even needing to ask! Because you WANT your partner to be fully integrated into your life.
If you feel the need to KNOW and QUESTION EVERYTHING, then there is the more serious matter of trust that needs to be addressed which is more likely the cause of your relationship anxiety here.
That was the one and only time in my entire life I have asked a partner to get out his phone and show me physical proof of something because it was the only time that I distrusted him, and my gut was right.
6. FEELINGS OF ATTRACTION FOR OTHER PEOPLE
There are some aspects of ourselves that are simply biological and ultimately inevitable.
We cannot fight our basic instinct to find people other than our partners to be attractive. That would be INSANE.
There are many beautiful human beings in the world and suddenly being married or committed to someone does not have you looking through ‘everyone else is now ugly‘ lenses.
This comes back to the conversation that you are not your thoughts or feelings, but your actions.
When we have this lovesick story in our heads that it is criminal to enjoy the presence of someone who we find attractive when that person is not our partner, it can actually be extremely damaging to the health of our relationship.
We should only have eyes for them. Our fantasies should only include them. We should not be allowed to recognize beauty in any other human.
Well, guess what? You can’t fight biology.
A huge cause of relationship anxiety can arise around the guilt someone might experience upon finding someone outside of the relationship to be attractive. Likewise, a partner who might be aware of this could be quick to jump into feelings of jealousy or inadequacy.
You are not your thoughts and the true crime would be if you ACTED upon these feelings.
Most of us will come into contact with someone who manages to take our breath away, catches us off guard, and has us staring like a goof into their dreamy eyes.
Accept it, embrace it and acknowledge your attraction for them. Enjoy being in their presence and then LET IT GO.
Once we have gone beyond the honeymoon phase of our relationship, the novelty of our partner wears off. This is true for us all. We will never be filled with the SAME passion and lovesick attraction for our partners as we were at the very beginning.
It’s difficult to admit but it’s true.
With this in mind, looking at another person and feeling attraction toward them is so inherently normal that suppressing these feelings is not healthy.
Suppressing these feelings of attraction is what could lead to someone feeling indifferent toward their partner. Feeling irritable and reminiscing over ‘how it used to be’ and not knowing why; leaning toward the urge to ACT upon these feelings.
The world is full of beautiful people. Open your eyes to them, feel the attraction and allow it to remind you of why it was that you chose your partner to be the one to spend your life with.
7. SPENDING TIME APART
I’ve always said that I would be really upset if I became that friend who fell in love and then disappeared from everyone’s life.
I had a friend like this once (past tense, that’s correct) who fell for men quite quickly. She had a whole pile of emotional baggage and father issue’s which she admitted made her desperate for love and attention…her words, I promise.
This proved to be very much the case.
When she was a singleton I would rarely go more than a day without seeing or at least hearing from her. She would invite me to gigs, theatre shows or dinners and for the most part, we sort of lived in each other’s pockets.
(Admittedly this was more for her sake than mine. The independent introvert in me struggled with this a lot of the time but hey, good friend award right?)
Until she found herself a boyfriend.
The problem is when you’re this way inclined and allow your relationship to be all-consuming is that you begin to sacrifice who you are. You might find yourself bending to fit into their world.
Suddenly, you’ve taken up jujitsu when you never even knew what it was, or perhaps you’ve decided to start eating meat after 10 years of vegan living.
Her relationship anxiety had her fearing that they would leave her if she was out of sight and out of mind.
It is no bad thing to integrate each other into your lives but it can be damaging to who you are as an individual if you don’t give each other time and space to breathe.
Spending every waking moment with one another could have you losing contact with friends or family, forgetting about that business project that could get you out of the 9-5, make you quit the netball team which gives you weekly exercise doing a sport you love with new friends or even trying something new altogether.
You both need your independence so that you don’t lose the essence of who you are as an individual. Down that road leads to resentment and friction.
Give each other time and space to do things that are purposefully separate so that you greater enjoy the time you do spend together.
This leads me on to…
8. PUTTING YOURSELF FIRST
In fact, this is splattered throughout most of my articles because it’s something that I don’t think I can repeat enough.
No matter how much I go on and on, no matter how many articles, videos, or books that I read surrounding self-help and personal development this just keeps popping up and I’m wondering if it’s because we are still not managing to implement it?
This ties in really neatly to the previous point – YOU SHOULD BE YOUR OWN #1 PRIORITY.
I know, I know. It feels selfish to put ourselves first.
Shouldn’t everything we do be to make our partner happy? Shouldn’t we make sure that everything is good for BOTH of us? Isn’t me choosing not to do something for the sake of our relationship just COMPROMISE?
No, no and NO.
Here’s the thing that I explain in The #1 Secret To A Happy Relationship in more depth, a little mathematical equation (kind of)…
2 happy INDIVIDUALS – 1 happy COUPLE.
Both you and your partner should consider yourselves your own top priority and focus on that. This does not mean that you can’t be supportive, that you shouldn’t compromise, that their feelings don’t matter.
What it means is that taking all of the above into account, you are still only living YOUR life. And how do you want your life to be?
What are your goals, aims and deepest desires?
Knowing your purpose and chasing after it is the ultimate road to a life of meaning and fulfillment and your partner cannot provide you with this.
That is your road to travel, hopefully, you are just lucky enough to have someone who supports you on your journey.
Sometimes we need to disappoint the ones we love and take the not-so-selfish step to do what we need, that will make us feel good even if it isn’t in the best interest for the relationship at that time.
But, if you have someone who loves you then they will support you and will be glad to see that you are taking care of yourself and doing what makes you happy.
9. ACCEPT YOUR PARTNERS FLAWS
A true testament to the strength and intimacy of a relationship is our ability to love one another despite our imperfections.
It is easy to love some who is the image of perfection, it is much harder to accept someone’s flaws and love them anyway.
Not only that but in time you may even come to love their flaws. For example, my partner is extremely self-deprecating and I have struggled with this before.
What it means is that he can think very lowly of himself with very little in the way of reason.
Even a small event or conversation can lead to sadness and I used to want to tell him to ‘snap out of it!‘ because it’s painful for me to see someone I love to think about themselves in this way but also it isn’t beneficial for them.
So, I used to love my partner despite this flaw because he has many qualities that I find admirable and sexy, however, now it is one of the reasons I love him even more.
It suggests that he is sensitive and caring. It tells me that he wants to do well but has a fundamental lack of belief in himself which I find both saddening and beautiful.
Now, I help him to work on this and his growth through this process has been inspiring. We have a way to go but this is no longer a flaw in my eyes.
You cannot find someone who is perfect, they don’t exist.
You cannot force someone to change, but you can help them if it is something they want.
Hence you must find someone whose flaws you can live with or even appreciate.
10. LOVING AND HATING THEM AT THE SAME TIME
That’s right, the old ‘love/hate’ argument.
Being intimate and close with someone illicit’s intense emotional feelings. Intense positive and intense negative feelings. And this is entirely normal.
If you are lucky enough to live a long and prosperous life together you might find that you have fallen in and out of love with your partner on numerous occasions. This does not mean you have ever stopped loving them necessarily.
The same goes for relationships and friendships across the board. Even family.
The best example I could give is between myself and my brother. I love my brother, I would be inconsolable if something ever happened to him, but I don’t like him. And perhaps this will change and is merely circumstantial (fingers crossed) but for now, I do not like him.
It hasn’t always been this way and perhaps it won’t be again and that would be just swell.
This ebb and flow can be found in our relationships too. These romantic ideas of an easy life full of fire and passion until the day we die are irrational and unachievable.
You cannot know someone so well and be with someone who knows you so well without experiencing times of hatred, resentment, bitterness, disgust, etc… These feelings can cause some pretty powerful relationship anxiety, however…
Events occur in life that causes disagreements and arguments. Suddenly you might see another side of your partner that you’ve never seen before or they do something that you know will take you longer to heal from.
Do not stop yourself from feeling this way towards them.
Feel it, express it and work toward finding the balance and equilibrium again. If you suppress your feelings they will come back in abundance and may cause irreparable damage.
It’s alright to hate your partner sometimes. It’s probably GOOD to hate your partner sometimes…don’t worry, every couple in the world experiences the same.