How Calm Your Relationship Anxiety
Being in a relationship is amazing, but it can also be kind of stressful when you think about it too much. Especially in the beginning, it can be hard to trust your new partner. After all, you have no guarantee that things will work out, and it’s hard to know if your partner is as invested as you are, especially if you’re a new couple.
That uncertainty is part of what makes a relationship exciting, but it can also cause some serious anxiety — and unfortunately, it’s pretty common. “When we begin a relationship, there are plenty of unknowns, and when we focus on the future and what might happen or what could happen, we allow ourselves to feel anxious,” says relationship psychologist Dr. Karin Anderson. “It’s no fun, but it’s totally normal.”
This is especially likely to happen with people who are prone to worrying or are with a partner who doesn’t communicate clearly, says licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Alicia H. Clark. “Anxiety can be just about you and be insecurities you bring to every relationship, or anxiety can reflect stresses in the relationship,” she says.
According to Clark, having anxiety about your relationship doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person — rather, it means you care. “We care deeply about securing love and keeping it safe, and we feel anxiety when love might be at risk,” she says.
But of course, anxiety kind of sucks, and you probably want to keep it to a minimum. If you’re suffering from relationship anxiety, these moves should help you keep yourself in check.
1. Don’t jump to conclusions
It’s easy to go down a bad path when your partner doesn’t answer their phone or respond to a text right away, but Clark says it’s important to press pause. “Take a moment to acknowledge and name how you’re feeling and go about the work of detangling the actual stressors from the ‘ghosts’ of your past.”
For example, maybe you were cheated on in a previous relationship and you feel nervous that something bad is happening behind your back when you can’t reach your S.O. Or maybe you’ve just read a lot of cheating stories online and are scared it could happen to you. Whatever it is, it’s important to remember that this is not the current situation.
“This can help lower your anxiety considerably again,” Clark says. “What’s left then is the stressor itself — your partner’s communication, the time you’re spending together, how you are feeling. These are the stressors that deserve focus and attention and need to be solved through discussion and different behavior.”
2. Engage in a little self-talk
Anderson suggests talking to yourself the same way you would talk to your best friend if they were going through the same situation. Try saying something like, “I know you’re freaking out, but let’s take a deep breath and calm down a bit. We have no legitimate reason to believe anything’s wrong.” It’s also important to remind yourself that just because you’re afraid of something doesn’t mean it’s true. And of course, it’s crucial to remind yourself that you’ll be OK even if things go south in your love life — even though you shouldn’t get ahead of yourself.
3. Don’t pin your anxiety on your partner if they’re not behaving suspiciously
It’s easy to assume that your anxiety is your S.O.’s fault, but it’s not fair to put your fears on them if they’re not doing anything wrong. “You’re an adult and you need to manage your own emotions and make yourself happy,” Anderson says. “It’s not your partner’s job to alleviate your anxiety — it’s yours.”
4. Remember that there’s only so much you can control
This is incredibly important to remember. You can control your thoughts and responses to situations, and that’s about it. “Ultimately, you can’t control your partner,” Anderson says. Meaning, if they’re going to cheat, they’re going to cheat. But she advises controlling what you can control. “Do everything in your power to make your relationship a great one,” she says. “If you do end up breaking up, you’ll know you did your best.”
If you’ve tried these steps and you’re still struggling, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to a mental health professional for help. Otherwise, it can impact your health — and that of your relationship.
A version of this article was originally published in August 2017.