What is Relationship Anxiety?

What is Relationship Anxiety?

You are in a relationship with someone you love who is a great person. You have developed confidence, established boundaries, and learned the communication styles of each other.

You could find yourself constantly questioning yourself, your partner, and the relationship at the same time.

Are things going to last? How do you know if this individual really is the right person for you? And what if they conceal some dark secret?

What if you are simply unable to maintain a healthy, dedicated relationship?

There is a name for this constant worry: relationship anxiety. This relates to those emotions of anxiety, uncertainty, and doubt that may arise in a relationship, even if everything is going relatively well.

Is that normal?

Yep. “It’s extremely common to have relationship anxiety,” says Astrid Robertson, a psychotherapist who helps couples with relationship problems.

During the beginning of a relationship, some individuals experience relationship anxiety before they know their partner has an equal interest in them. Or, they may be unsure if they even want a relationship.

But in committed, long-term relationships, these sentiments can also arise.

Over time, anxiety in relationships can result in:

  • Emotional distress
  • Lack of motivation
  • Tiredness or emotional exhaustion
  • Stomach discomfort and other physical

In the relationship itself, your anxiety may not result from anything. But it can ultimately contribute to behaviors that create problems and distress for you and your partner.

What are some signs of anxiety about relationships?

In various ways, relationship anxiety can show up. At some point, most individuals feel a little insecure about their relationship, particularly in the early stages of dating and forming a committee. This is not unusual, so you don’t need to worry about passing on doubts or fears in general, particularly if they don’t affect you too much.

Sometimes, however, these anxious thoughts grow and creep into your daily life.

Here are a few potential signs of anxiety in relationships:

Wondering if your partner matters to you The most popular expression of relationship

anxiety relates to underlying questions such as ‘Do I matter?’ or ‘Are you there for me?’ explains Robertson. “In a partnership, this speaks to a fundamental need to connect, belong, and feel secure.”

You may worry, for instance, that:

  • You wouldn’t miss your partner much if you weren’t around.
  • If anything serious has arisen, they may not offer assistance or support.
  • They want to be with you just because of what you can do for them.

Doubting the feelings your partner has for you

You exchanged I love you (or maybe I really, really love you) for yourself. They seem really happy to see you and make good gestures, like walking out of their way to see you home or bringing you lunch.

But the nagging doubt you still can’t shake: “They really don’t love me.”

Perhaps they are slow to react to physical affection. Or for several hours, even a day, they do not reply to texts. You wonder if their feelings have changed when they suddenly seem a little distant.

Everyone feels this way for some time, but if you have relationship anxiety, these worries can become a fixation.

Worrying that they would like to break up

A good relationship could make you feel loved, safe, and satisfied. It’s perfectly normal to want to keep to these emotions and hope that nothing will interrupt the connection.

But sometimes, these thoughts can turn into a persistent fear of your partner leaving you.

When you modify your behavior in order to secure their continued affection, this anxiety can become problematic.

For instance, you might:

  • Avoid raising issues that are essential to you in a relationship, such as frequent lateness.
  • Ignore things that bother you when your partner does them, such as wearing shoes inside your house.
  • Even if they don’t seem angry, worry a lot about them getting mad at you.

Doubting compatibility in the long-term

Relationship anxiety can make you question whether, even when things are going great in the relationship, you and your partner are really compatible. You may also be asking yourself whether you’re actually happy or whether you just think you are.

In response, you may begin to focus your attention on minor differences – they love punk music, but you’re more of a folk-rock individual – and overemphasize their significance.

 Sabotaging the interaction

Sabotaging behaviors can have roots in relationship anxiety.

Indications of sabotage

Examples of things that a relationship might sabotage include:

  • Collecting disputes with your partner
  • Push them away by insisting that when you’re in distress, nothing is wrong
  • Testing relationship limits, such as grabbing lunch with an ex without telling your partner

You may not deliberately do these things, but the underlying objective is usually to determine how much your partner cares, whether you realize it or not.

For example, you might believe that resisting your efforts to push them away proves that they really love you.

But Robertson points out, picking up on this underlying motive is very difficult for your partner.

You are reading into their words and deeds.

A tendency to overthink the words and actions of your partner may also suggest anxiety in relationships.

They may not like holding hands. Or, they insist on keeping all their old furnishings when you take the plunge and move in together.

Sure, all of these could be signs of a potential problem. But they are more likely to have sweaty hands or just really love that set of living rooms.

Missing out on the good times

Still not sure if you’re dealing with anxiety in relationships?

Take a step back and ask yourself: “Am I spending my time worrying rather than enjoying this relationship?”

This might be the case during rough patches. But you’re probably dealing with some relationship anxiety if you feel this way more often than not.

What’s causing this?

It can take time and dedicated self-exploration to identify what’s behind your anxiety, since there is not a single clear cause. You might even have a hard time on your own identifying potential causes. “The reason for the anxiety may not be known to you,” Robertson says. “But the underlying reasons usually reflect a desire for connection, regardless of how it arises.”

These are some common considerations that could play a role:

Previous experiences in relationships. You can continue to be affected by memories of things that happened in the past, even if you think you have mostly gotten over them.

You could be more likely to experience relationship anxiety if a past partner:

  • Cheated on you
  • Unexpectedly dumped you
  • Lying about their feelings toward you
  • You have been confused about the nature of your relationship.

After you’ve been hurt, it’s not unusual to have difficulty placing trust in someone again, even if your current partner shows no signs of manipulation or dishonesty.

Some triggers can still remind you of the past, whether you’re aware of them or not, and provoke doubt and insecurity.

Low self-esteem for oneself

Low self-esteem can sometimes contribute to insecurity and anxiety in relationships.

Some older research suggests that when experiencing self-doubt, individuals with lower self- esteem are more likely to doubt the feelings of their partner. As a type of projection, this can happen.

In other words, it can be easier for you to doubt how your partner feels about you if you are feeling disappointed in yourself.

People with larger levels of self-esteem, on the other hand, when they experienced self-doubt, tended to affirm themselves through their relationship.

Style of Attachment

As an adult, the attachment style you develop in infancy can have a major impact on your relationships.

You have probably developed a secure attachment style if your parent or caregiver responded quickly to your requirements and offered love and support.

Your attachment style could be less secure if they didn’t meet your needs consistently or let you develop independently.

Insecure attachment styles can contribute in different ways to relationship anxiety:

  • Avoidant attachment may lead to anxiety about the degree of dedication you make or deepness of your intimacy.
  • On the other hand, the anxious attachment can sometimes lead to fears about your partner leaving you.

Keep in mind that possessing an insecure attachment style does not mean that you are doomed to experience anxiety in relationships at all times.

“Just as you can’t transform from one kind of character to another, you can’t change your style of attachment completely,” says Jason Wheeler, Ph.D. “But you can definitely make enough changes that you are not held back in life by an insecure attachment style.”

A tendency towards questioning

A questioning nature can also factor in anxiety in relationships.

Before deciding on a path, you may need to ask yourself about every possible outcome of a situation. Or maybe you just possess a habit of considering every decision carefully.

Even after you’ve made them, if you tend to ask yourself a lot of questions about your decisions, you’ll probably spend some time questioning your relationship, too. It’s not always a problem here. In fact, it’s generally healthy to take time to think about your choices, particularly important ones (like romantic commitment).

If you find yourself stuck in the endless pattern of questioning and self-doubt that doesn’t go anywhere productive, it could become a problem, though.

Could you overcome that?

It might not feel like it at the moment, but it may be possible to overcome relationship anxiety, though it takes some time and effort. And doing so typically involves more than just being told your relationship is all right.

“I can tell someone that their anxiety doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship has an underlying problem, and they may indeed be well loved,” says Robertson. “But until they feel [a] sense that everything is fine, that they are truly safe and secure, the anxiety is likely to persist.”

Before it becomes a problem, she promotes addressing relationship anxiety early.

You can help get the ball rolling with these tips:

Preserve your identity

You may find key parts of your identity, individuality, or even your independence shifting to make room for your partner and the relationship as you and your partner become closer.

As you and your lover become a couple, this often occurs naturally. And while some changes may not have a big impact on your sense of self, like being used to sleeping with the window open, others might.

It doesn’t help either of you to lose your sense of self in the relationship or to change to accommodate what you believe your partner wants.

Remember, the reasons your partner wants to date you probably have a whole lot to do with who you are. You might start to feel less like yourself if you start pushing down parts of yourself to hold on to the relationship. Plus, your partner may feel like they’ve lost the person with whom they fell in love.

Try to be more mindful.

Mindfulness practices involve concentrating your awareness without judgment on what’s happening in the present moment. You recognize them when negative thoughts come up and let them move on.

When you’re left in a negative thought spiral, this can be particularly useful. It can also help you to prioritize with your partner your day-to-day experiences.

After all, the relationship might end in a few months or a few years, but in the meantime, you can still appreciate it and enjoy it.

Practice successful communication

Anxiety in relationships often comes from within, so it may not have anything to do with your partner.

But if something certain is fueling your anxiety, try to bring it up in a corresponding and non- accusatory way, whether it’s playing with their phone when you talk, or not wanting to visit your family for the holidays.

Pro tip

During these conversations, using “I” statements can be a big help.

“For instance, you could rephrase it as, “I feel like there’s been some distance between the both of us, and it makes me feel like you’re withdrawing because your feelings have changed,” instead of saying, “You’re so distant recently, and I can’t take it.”

Even if you know that your partner truly loves you and that your anxiety comes from within, looping your partner in can help.

You can clarify what you think and how you try to deal with it. They may not fully relieve your anxiety with their reassurance, but it probably won’t hurt. Plus, the bond you already have can be trengthened by opening up and being vulnerable.

Avoid acting on your emotions.

Sometimes, feeling anxious about your relationship or your partner can make you want evidence that everything is OK.

Wanting to reassure yourself is natural, but resist the impulse to find this evidence in unhelpful or harmful ways.

Pay attention to the distinction between your usual habits and impulsive behaviors. In your relationship, texting regularly may be normal, and keeping up a steady conversation can help strengthen your sense of connection. But when you know they’re hanging out with friends, sending several texts in an hour asking your lover where they are and what they’re doing can lead to conflict.

Try to distract yourself with deep breathing, a walk or a jog, or a quick phone call to a close friend when you feel these impulses.

Speak with a therapist

Talking to a therapist can assist you in getting some clarity if you’re having a hard time working through relationship anxiety on your own. It’s a great way to understand how to cope with the consequences of anxiety in relationships.

A therapist who works with couples could be particularly useful for relationship anxiety.

They can assist both of you to:

  • Understand the feelings and underlying needs of yourself and each other
  • Hear the experiences of each other without judgment or defensiveness
  • Show care in ways that will alleviate or relieve anxiety

It also doesn’t have to be a long-term thing. One study from 2017 suggests that even a single therapy session can help couples deal with anxiety in relationships.