Just as a little disclosure, I’m not an expert on anxiety or dating with anxiety at all. I can only share what I know about my own experiences. Everyone who lives with anxiety experiences it very differently.
Everyone has anxiety when it comes to certain parts of their lives, but explaining your anxiety to a person whose anxiety doesn’t affect their everyday life isn’t easy. I haven’t always had the anxiety I experience now. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I got mixed up with people and things that I shouldn’t have been a part of that my anxiety took off. Not to mention, I was diagnosed with adult ADHD, and one of the side effects of my medication is heightened anxiety. But those are stories for another day.
The two things my anxiety affects the most are my success (which I directly associate with my happiness) and my relationships with other people, namely my romantic ones. I’ve always had insecurities in relationships and have always been wary about trusting other people with my heart, but there’s a difference between that and an irrationality so deep that it stops you from seeing how great your relationship is and makes you focus on the bad things. When you have anxiety, you get that fight-or-flight stressor when it comes to things that are in no way life-threatening.
With my anxiety, I always jump to the worst possible scenario before I can talk myself off the cliff and tell myself I’m being irrational. There was one particular instance where my boyfriend hadn’t texted me for several hours, and I stopped what I was doing and wrote down a list of reasons why he wasn’t texting me back. The first two reasons were completely off the wall, worst case scenarios, and at the bottom of the list were things like his phone died or he hadn’t looked at his phone because he was in the middle of his workday. That’s just a small example of the irrationalities that come with dating with anxiety.
WHEN YOU’RE DATING WITH ANXIETY, YOU…
…never want to be the one to text first. If you’re always the person who texts first, that makes you look like you’re way too eager. If they text first, it’s a reassurance that they actually like you and want to talk to you. Then when you do send a text and they take too long to respond, you reread what you sent and wonder if they’ve taken offense to it or if it upset them in some way.
…never want to be the one to make plans in case you suggest something they don’t like. If you do that, it makes it look like you don’t know them well enough to know what they do and don’t like to do. You feel stupid for suggesting something they’re not into, and you assume they think you’re stupid, boring, etc. for suggesting it too.
…lose sleep wondering if you did something wrong that day or said something that pushes them away. You stay up at night wondering if they’re going to wake up the next day and decide they don’t want to be with you anymore.
…test your partner to see how they’ll react to certain scenarios or situations.
…don’t see the flaws of the person you’re with. You only see the flaws in yourself. If a fight happens or if you disagree on anything, even if you think you’re right in the beginning, you’ll end the fight apologizing for hurting or offending them and because you’re afraid that if you don’t take the blame, they won’t want to be with you anymore.
…go through they’re social media accounts and wonder what qualities the other people they’ve dated or had crushes on have that you don’t have and question whether or not they’d be okay with living without those qualities. You wonder if they’ll find someone else with those qualities and want to leave you to be with them.
…are constantly trying to be the best version of yourself because one little mistake could lead to a break-up. You keep your emotions and jealousy in check in fear of saying one thing wrong that immediately makes them not want to be with you anymore. You don’t let your walls down because you’re afraid of them not being able to handle it and the vulnerable version of yourself that you work so hard to keep behind closed doors.
…get excited about spending time with them, but also anxious about saying or doing something that makes them want to leave you.
…get nervous when you meet his family and friends because you want their approval so much that you overcompensate.
…constantly question whether or not you’re good enough for your partner, and you put so much time and energy into trying to prove your worth to them. But then you get worried that they’re going to become annoyed with all of that effort and you start wondering if you’re doing too much.
…make up lies and scenarios in your head about your relationship, and you listen to them no matter how irrational they are.
…wonder if your partner loves you as much as you love them, and then you wonder if your partner loves you at all, even if they tell you they do.
…are constantly on your P’s and Q’s because you think that at any moment, they’re going to leave you, even if you didn’t do anything wrong.
…don’t always believe them when they’re sharing their feelings about you because in your head you know that they’re too good for you, and you’re just waiting for them to realize it before they leave you.
…try to hide your anxiety from them as long as humanly possible because you’re afraid of your anxiety getting in the way of and ruining your relationship.
Dating with anxiety is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I’m so thankful to have found a partner that I feel comfortable enough to share my anxiety with. He’s patient with me and understanding in a way that was so unexpected. I’m comfortable enough to start a dialogue with him, and I’m able to say things like “I know I’m being irrational, but…” When I get upset, he asks me things like “What did you hear” or “How did you interpret that?”
Dating a person with anxiety is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but if you are patient and understanding enough to do it, I promise you, it’ll be worth it. It’ll make you a stronger person and less ashamed to open up about your own vulnerability.
IF YOU’RE DATING SOMEONE WITH ANXIETY, YOU SHOULD…
…create an open dialogue about it. The more you show you’re willing to talk about and work with them on their anxiety, the more at ease they’ll feel in the relationship. Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings and actively listen with an open mind.
…reach out first every once in awhile. Text them good morning, ask about their day. This doesn’t have to be every day or all the time, but every once in awhile, reach out first. It’s a little action that means so much.
…never dismiss their feelings, no matter how irrational they may seem to you. Remember that what they’re thinking and feeling has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the anxious voice in their head. Listen to their feelings and acknowledge them as best as you can.
…reassure them. I’ve told my boyfriend in the past that I need “constant reassurance.” Every once in awhile, I like for him to tell me what he likes about me and reassure me of his feelings for me because if he doesn’t, in my head that means that his feelings for me are deteriorating, which means I need to do something big to make sure he still loves and cares for me, and 9 times out of 10, that’s not the case.
…be patient. Nothing about anxiety is easy, but if you think dealing with your partner’s anxiety is tough, can you imagine how hard it must be for your partner?
Just like with any relationship, it’s a give and take. There has to be some balance. Anxiety will be a big part of your relationship, especially at the beginning, but it doesn’t need to dominate every move that either of you make in your relationship. Just because you have anxiety, you can’t use that as an excuse in every fight you have, and just because your partner has anxiety, it doesn’t mean you have to give in to every disagreement because of it. Your anxiety will be a part of your relationship, but it should be just that, a part. Your relationship and the decisions you make in it should not all be defined by your anxiety.
Being able to work together through anxiety will make you feel closer to your partner than you ever have before. There will be some tough times, but the good times will be so good that sometimes you’ll feel overwhelmed by the amount of love you have for your partner. Even though I’ve only just recently shared my anxiety with my boyfriend, opening up to him about it has helped strengthen our relationship so much and has helped him understand where my irrational and illogical thoughts come from. Anytime I’m having anxious thoughts, he asks me “What can I do to help?” and he’ll never know how much that means to me. His willingness to work with me and my anxiety is something I’ll never take for granted.
If you are dating with anxiety, I encourage you to open up to your partner about it. If they are eager to understand it and work with you on it, take the opportunity to educate them on your anxieties. Be patient with each other as you learn to grow closer and learn more about how to live with anxiety in your relationship.
Do you or your partner deal with anxiety in your relationship? What tips do you have for people dating with anxiety?