Relationship anxiety refers to feelings of doubt, insecurity, nonstop worry, and a need for constant reassurance that sometimes occurs during a relationship. Such anxiety may have roots in early childhood attachments and is often a sign of an insecure attachment style.
Picture this: it’s the start of what could be a perfect relationship. The conversation is fantastic, communication is loud and clear both ways, and everything seems set for a happily ever after—except for one or two doubts you can’t seem to shake off.
‘What do they even see in me?’, ‘Will they get bored?’ ‘How long until this one falls apart?’ In some cases, these questions linger on even after ‘I love yous’ have been exchanged in the relationship.
If you’ve ever found yourself asking these questions, there is a chance that you may be familiar with relationship anxiety.
When a person starts to feel anxious about life with a current or prospective partner, it’s an understandable worry—this is a big part of their lives. However, in certain cases, this worry becomes so crippling, it can prevent the relationship from flourishing, or even taking off, to begin with.
Causes of Relationship Anxiety
When worries start to creep in and become a familiar feature of a budding or current relationship, you might be dealing with relationship anxiety. Let’s take a look at some common causes.
An Anxious Attachment Style
When you find that you are constantly questioning the security of your relationship or the depth of feelings your partner has for you, this can sometimes be traced back to the relationship you shared with your parents or other caregivers when growing up.
In cases where their parents or guardians consistently show a child love and affection, this can form a secure attachment style to these relationships.
This can cause the child to cling to these beloved figures for attention. The child may also require the constant assurance of their love—traits that may appear in later years within romantic relationships.
People with anxious attachment styles often question their worth and are typically on guard, watching for the first signs that their partners may be losing interest in them. In addition, this attachment places them in a state of worry over losing their significant others.
Negative Past Experiences
Imagine a scenario where you get stung by a bee. Hearing a buzzing anytime after that may produce a certain amount of fear that causes you to be wary of getting stung again. The same can sometimes occur with relationships.
If this happens, a previously hurt person may remain on edge, constantly questioning the stability of the relationship and the feelings involved in it.
Living with a poor estimation of your self-worth and value can strongly affect your quality of life.
In cases where a person struggles with low self-esteem, this can raise constant doubt about the authenticity of a partner’s feelings for them or whether they are deserving of their partner’s love. It may also encourage assumptions of unfaithfulness and other questions that can put the future of the relationship in jeopardy.
In some cases, experiencing worry about your partner’s affection or the future of your relationship may be tied to the fact that honest conversations about shared feelings, the state of the relationship, or plans together are lacking with your partner.
Failing to speak on these matters can leave a vacuum in the relationship, encouraging feelings of anxiety.
Different Ways Relationship Anxiety Presents Itself
Here are some ways to tell that anxiety is manifesting itself in your relationship:
- Wondering if your partner truly has feelings for you
- Looking for constant reassurance from your partner
- Aiming to please your significant other at any cost, sometimes to your detriment
- Acting controlling towards your partner’s movements or interactions
- Consistently wanting to be around your partner and being clingy in most situations
- Holding doubts about romantic compatibility
- Over-analyzing simple words and actions for signs of trouble
- Constantly feeling like your partner intends to call off the relationship
- Spending more time worrying about the relationship than enjoying it
In other cases, relationship anxiety may take the form of deliberately sabotaging things with your partner. This can be seen where slight issues are blown out of proportion or where traps are laid for your partner to test fidelity.
It may also appear in instances where you purposely stay aloof and guarded with your partner, all to steel yourself against hurt and pre-empt difficulties.
Effects of Relationship Anxiety
Before placing a magnifying glass on the way you act within your relationship, it’s important to note that not every demonstration of worry is a sign of relationship anxiety.
In fact, taking stock of what is working, changes in communication, and feelings shared within the relationship is healthy and encouraged. However, when the energy you expend in keeping tabs on your partner and their attitude within the relationship constantly leaves you feeling on edge, that could be problematic.
Constantly worrying about the relationship can also affect the quality of love and intimacy you enjoy. In some cases, experiencing persistent feelings of anxiety within the relationship can produce the most feared result—an end to the union.
If you realize that you frequently experience relationship anxiety, this can negatively affect your well-being and the chances of experiencing a future with your partner.
Overcoming Relationship Anxiety
While feeling anxious is uncomfortable, there are ways to help cope with those feelings.
Communicate Your Feelings
To get ahead of anxiety, it’s important to have honest conversations with your partner about your worries, expectations, or dreams for the future.
By speaking clearly with your partner, uncertainties that can encourage anxiety are avoided, leaving room for a healthy appreciation of the relationship.
Enjoy the Present
When you catch your mind starting to wonder about the fate of your relationship in years to come, it is always advisable to nip that in the bud and enjoy the present moment.
Considering whether or not your partner will even be in your life in five years, or if they’ll still find you desirable in months to come, only takes away from cherishing your current joy. Instead, it saddles you with worry over future events that may not even occur.
Confront Your Anxiety
It may sound counterproductive to embrace your anxieties while attempting to get over them, but this is one of the most effective ways to get your emotions under control.
Are you anxious because of a past failed relationship? Perhaps you worry about not being good enough for love because you struggle with how you view yourself.
Questioning the reasons for your anxiety in relationships can help you recognize these issues and tackle them clearly.
In certain situations, getting professional help to manage your anxiety may be the best option for getting it under control.
Through therapy, you can receive the proper guidance to change negative and dysfunctional thoughts about yourself, your self-worth, and your attitude towards your partner.
Therapy can also teach appropriate methods to manage your anxiety to prevent lasting damage to the relationship.
When you care very deeply about something, it’s understandable to worry about it from time to time—relationships are no different.
However, while concerns about your partner and their feelings towards you are valid, this can quickly become unhealthy and injurious to your personal health. This is especially seen where you constantly obsess about who your partner is speaking with, whether the relationship will stand the test of time, and other signs of relationship anxiety.
Thankfully, there are ways to get anxiety in a relationship under control, and one of the most potent forms is simply communicating worries, challenges, hopes, etc., truthfully with your partner.
You may also bravely face the reasons you experience relationship fears. However, if additional help is required to get things under control, therapy can help change negative thinking and ideas of self-worth.