Whether you’ve just started dating someone or have been with your forever person for quite some time now, you’ll feel butterflies in your stomach. Sometimes it’s fun and exciting, but there will be times that the fluttering will feel ominous. That feeling? It’s relationship anxiety, and it’s normal no matter what stage of the relationship you’re in. It might not happen as often when you’re in a long-term relationship, but it does happen.
Having relationship anxiety is not necessarily a reflection of your current relationship. It could be caused by your experiences in past relationships. However, having these nagging concerns about your relationship can spill over and cause you to self-sabotage.
There are ways to avoid the downward spiral. Learning to spot the signs of relationship anxiety is an important one. Hand in hand with that is equipping yourself with healthy ways of coping with your anxiety.
What is relationship anxiety?
Relationship anxiety is anxiety that arises in intimate relationships – whether romantic or platonic. It’s not a medical condition, but it is a reportedly common problem. So in case you’re feeling alone, relationship anxiety is normal.
It has some features of social anxiety disorder where you can feel extreme levels of discomfort about rejection, or even just the possibility of it. While fear of rejection is normal, with relationship anxiety, it can get to the point where you cause the stunting or end of your own happy relationship. It can also stop you from exploring romantic relationships at all.
Signs and Symptoms of Unhealthy Levels of Relationship Anxiety
We weren’t lying when we said relationship anxiety is normal and even to be expected in any relationship. However, there comes a point when all the overthinking becomes unhealthy. Here are a few things to look out for.
1You question your significance.
You doubt your significance in your partner’s life even though they are meeting your needs, making you feel loved, and respecting your time. Ask yourself why you feel this way when things are going great in your relationship. Most likely your worry is unrelated to the state of your relationship and has more to do with your own self-esteem. Addressing your self-worth issues is the only way to get your relationship back in shape. While self-confidence concerns can be challenging to deal with, having your partner’s support can make it easier.
2You question your partner’s feelings.
In a committed relationship, you shouldn’t doubt your partner’s feelings for you. Understand and remind yourself that your partner chose you and is in a relationship with you. It’s a testament to their care and regard for you.
3You need constant reassurance.
There are times that you need your partner to re-affirm their feelings for you. Every now and then is fine, on bad days, it’s expected. But constantly needing them to reassure you of their affection, and your worth can take a toll on your partner. It’s isn’t about them, it’s your low self-esteem manifesting itself. Take the time to work on those issues to help cope with this type of relationship anxiety.
4You start to question your compatibility.
At the start of every relationship, your partner can do no wrong. They are the perfect person. But as the relationship progress, you get to know them better and you start to realize that they are a human with flaws. Yes, there are some things you learn about your partner that mean that you’re incompatible. But, more often than not, the initial compatibility outlasts the honeymoon phase of your relationship and you’ll be happy together.
5You’re always waiting for something to go wrong.
You think your relationship is “too good to be true” so you’re constantly on the lookout for something to prove you right. No relationship is going to be perfect all the time, and constantly waiting for something to go wrong will most likely be the cause of something actually going wrong. Your anxiety might stem from a bad past relationship (when something went wrong out of the blue), and if that’s the case, deal with those issues so that it doesn’t wreck a truly good thing.
6You compare your relationship.
Relationship anxiety can cause you to compare your relationship with your friend’s relationships, your past relationships, or even fictional relationships. This is a formula for destruction. Every relationship is different and measuring your current partner or situation against others makes it impossible for either of you to be truly happy. Focus on your relationship and your significant other instead of needless comparisons.
7You sabotage your own relationship.
Not only can relationship anxiety cause you to look for problems in your relationship, but it may also push you to cause the problems. You pre-empt the break-up that you believe is inevitable by picking fights and creating situations that leave both of you with a bad taste in your mouth. Ask yourself why you’re doing this. Are you feeling insecure? Are you questioning your compatibility? Do you want to end your relationship?
8You constantly check your partner’s texts.
This can be a result of not being able to trust your partner. Your need to snoop may have started when a past partner had a tendency to sneak around, but you’re not in that relationship anymore. Invading your partner’s privacy actually makes you the untrustworthy one. Instead of playing the spy as you stealthily go through their phone, have an open conversation with your partner about trust and honesty.
9You overanalyze their words.
You pick apart every conversation, every word, and every verbal exchange. While your partner should always be held accountable for things they say, you don’t have to nitpick at offhand comments. If you’re ever confused or feel like there’s a hidden meaning to what they’ve said, instead of wracking your brain, be honest. Ask them what they actually meant. A straightforward conversation is the only way to settle your anxious mind.
10You overanalyze their actions.
A slammed door, an emoji-less text message, a call answered a few seconds too late. We’ve all read into our partner’s actions at some point, but constantly doing so is unhealthy. The easiest way to understand what your partner’s actions mean is to ask. Sometimes a slammed door is just a gust of wind, and an emoji-less text message is because they didn’t want to take too long to reply looking for the perfect emoji.
11You look for reasons to break up.
Even when the relationship is going well, you look for reasons to break up. The fact that the relationship is going well becomes suspicious and starts to seem like a logical reason for you to break up with your significant other. Stop that. You’re self-sabotaging. Reflect on all the things you’re grateful for in the relationship and why you’re happy with your partner. You deserve happiness. Accept that and stay positive to help ease the anxiety you feel.
12You think they want to break up.
There are usually clear indications of your partner being unhappy in the relationship and wanting to end things. If they aren’t exhibiting signs of discontent, then they most likely do not want to break up with you. Constantly thinking your partner is looking for a reason to break up puts unnecessary and unfounded stress on your relationship. Trust that your partner wants to be in the relationship with you.
13You become too clingy.
Everyone has different love languages and attachment styles, and a disconnect can cause relationship anxiety. Attachment styles can range from secure to extremely insecure. If you have a more insecure attachment style, your relationship anxiety may cause you to cling to your partner for fear that they’ll leave you. Get to the root of why you feel this insecurity of your relationships, whether it’s because of your past, or perhaps it’s something your partner doesn’t realize they’re doing.
You’re so scared that any little thing will shake your relationship that you don’t speak up. Whether it’s a different opinion, preference, or even just voicing your needs, you won’t share it with your partner because you’re scared that it differs for their own. This isn’t good for either of you. No matter how compatible you are, your thoughts and opinions will differ every now and again just because you’re unique people. For a relationship to succeed, you should be able to share your thoughts freely so start getting comfortable communicating with your partner.
15You become controlling and demanding.
Your relationship anxiety causes you to become controlling of your partner. You’re so paranoid about the state of your relationship that you become possessive and start to micro-manage your partner’s life. Take a breath and look into yourself. Has your partner ever caused you to doubt them or given you cause to doubt them? This unfounded jealousy can cause a rift in your relationship that wasn’t there in the first place. Before it gets out of hand, figure out why you feel this way, if it’s because of personal insecurities, get a handle on that. Talk to a therapist or your partner.
16You become overly-accomodating to your partner.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is when you accommodate your partner at the expense of your comfort. Compromise is an important part of every relationship, but it’s a two-way street. By letting them get their way all the time, you start to neglect your own needs and that can lead to a whole other set of problems. Equality is necessary for a successful relationship so make sure you’re both being attentive and giving way to accommodate each other’s needs.
17You start to keep secrets.
Keeping important parts of your life a secret from your partner is a sign of relationship anxiety. Whether it’s because you don’t think your partner can handle that side of you, or you don’t trust them, hiding things from your partner will hurt more than it helps. Trust and honesty are very important parts of all relationships so find a way to establish and maintain that with your partner.
18You focus on the rough patches instead of the bright spots.
Relationship anxiety can take you away from all the happy moments in your relationship. You tend to fixate on the fights and are constantly anticipating the next thing that could go wrong. The thing is, relationships will have bumps, and by constantly focusing on those, you miss the beautiful parts. Stay present in your relationship and stop worrying about the what if’s and you’ll feel the anxiety slowly float away.
19You’re worried about sex.
Sex and intimacy can cause anxiety in any relationship, especially new ones. But the more comfortable you become with exploring and having sex with each other will usually ease those fears. However, if time and experience aren’t helping, you may be experiencing relationship anxiety. Be open and honest with your partner about your concerns so that you can tackle them together and make sure that sex is fun for both of you.
20You avoid relationship milestones.
Relationship anxiety can stem from a deep fear of rejection. It can make you avoid taking forward steps in the relationship like having sex, saying ‘I love you,’ or meeting your partner’s friends and family. You stunt the growth and natural progression of your relationship, and that can end up hurting your partner’s feelings. Instead of dreading those milestones, look forward to them! Each milestone should give you confidence and comfort in the progress of your relationship.
21You experience anxiety symptoms.
You have no clue why but just thinking about your relationship gives you cold sweats, tension, difficulty sleeping, or irritability. These are signs of not just anxiety, but relationship anxiety, specifically. If you aren’t an anxious person, but your partner has you constantly on the edge of a mental cliff, it might be time to sit them down and have a talk. Tell them how you’ve been feeling and maybe you can take on the mental monster together, or maybe it’s time for therapy.
22You’re constantly testing your partner.
We’ve heard of people asking friends or strangers to flirt with their partners to see how they respond, and you may not have gone that far, but you’re thinking about it. You’ve pushed your partner away multiple times to see if they’d fight for you. You’ve made things hard for them on purpose because you just aren’t confident in their feelings for you. You’re making it hard for your relationship to work because you have low self-esteem. Stop creating obstacles for your relationship because you will end up ending your relationship, and it won’t be because they didn’t like or even love you enough, but because you didn’t love yourself.
23You want to end the relationship because it’s becoming too serious.
You’re basically the couple that everyone looks up to. Things are stable, and your partner is ready to take steps forward in your relationship. Your mental response: ‘We need to break up.’ Shoo those thoughts away! It’s your relationship anxiety kicking in. Your fear of getting hurt is causing you to keep happiness and good relationships at bay. Take life’s gift at face value. It’s offering you a happily ever right now, so take it!
24You’re scared of the relationship ending.
You’re constantly thinking of the end of the relationship. You don’t know who’ll end it or why it’ll end, all you can feel is that you’ll be unable to cope with the end of your relationship. So you do your very best to give them no reason to break up – even at the cost of your own happiness. You’ve become so dependent on them that even the thought of the relationship ending has you hyperventilating. The fixation on the end of the relationship is a concern on its own but add to that the feelings of dependency and you’ve got a lethal combo. Try to be present in your relationship instead of imagining endings that might never come to be.
25You hide your true self.
Instead of being comfortable around your partner, you put up a facade to fit what you think is their ideal. It’ll wear you out and will give your partner unrealistic expectations, or worse, they’ll know you’re faking it and make them question themselves. It allows you to keep your walls up, allowing a level of detachment from your partner. Ask yourself why you feel the need to do this. Your partner has already seen your true self and has stuck around this long. Your partner should be a safe space where you feel like you can be yourself, so let them be that.
Causes of Relationship Anxiety
Your childhood is the prototype of how you deal with life in general. Your interactions with your caregivers during childhood establish how you deal with your relationships as an adult. How caregivers respond teaches the child how they much express or suppress their needs. The way they communicate as an adult, romantic relationship is a testament to the effectiveness and accuracy of how they were raised.
Having an enmeshed relationship as a child can result in a person becoming an intrusive and controlling partner. On the other side, they may feel easily suffocated in a healthy relationship and that might be because they were neglected as children. They may feel the need to keep an emotional wall up to protect themselves and avoid relationships.
If any of these strike a chord with you, look into attachment theory to help you figure out how you can avoid relationship anxiety. It can also help you take steps forward in becoming a healthier you.
2Blame it on your ex.
Past relationships play a role in how you act in succeeding relationships. Fears about being cheated on, lacking trust in your new partner can all stem from previous relationships. Your brain has been conditioned to connect certain traits, actions, and feelings with your past relationship – good and bad experiences. Sometimes that circuitry can be difficult to rewire even when you’ve found someone new.
Understanding that your new partner is not your ex is integral in overcoming your relationship anxiety. Also, be aware that the addictive qualities of a new relationship and the heightened feelings of passion can cause you to get a little bit obsessive. It can trigger fears of rejection and any time apart can make you feel like you’re going through addiction withdrawal which can result in unhealthy anxiety.
Relationship anxiety may have nothing to do with your partner and everything to do with how you see yourself. Not believing in yourself can cause you to doubt your partner’s reasons for being with you and how they feel about you. Lacking self-esteem is not only detrimental to your relationship, but to your life as a whole. Self-confidence is an integral part of successful existence. If you feel an extreme lack of confidence in yourself, talking to someone you trust, reading self-help books, or even seeking therapy are options. Loving yourself makes you a better person and a better partner.
Ways to Overcome Relationship Anxiety
Relationship anxiety can be intimidating and seem like a dark hole you’ve fallen into, but you can climb out of it.
Remind yourself of your self-worth, and also of all the bright spots in your relationship and your life. You can recruit a friend to help you do this, or write good things down in a journal that you can look back upon when you’re having a rough one.
Push the anxiety out of your head by pushing some iron. Or running. Or yoga. Exercising increases serotonin production, which can help keep the bad thoughts at bay. Besides, when you’re focusing on your form, you can’t hyper-fixate on non-existent problems.
3Face your anxiety head on.
The best way to get over your anxiety is to confront it. Get to the root of your fears and paranoia. Is it rooted in your past relationship? Do you suffer from anxiety in general and have just added another cause to your list? Figuring out why you’re having anxiety can help you tackle the issues.
4Communicate your feelings with your partner.
Have honest open communication with your partner. Not just about your anxiety, but about your expectation, dreams, and worries. This helps get ahead of worries and uncertainties or allows you to talk them all out when they do occur. This will also help you feel supported and understood by your partner, giving you a new appreciation for your relationship.
Sometimes your relationship anxiety can be more than you can deal with on your own. It may be time to seek help. Whether it be from your friends or from a therapist is completely up to you. Therapy can help you manage the negative thoughts you have about yourself and your relationship. It can also offer you methods that can help manage anxiety and prevent any long-term damage to the relationship.
When you feel the bad feelings crowding in, take a breath. Slowly count to 10, distract yourself by cooking, or think about all the good experiences you’ve had in your relationship. When you’re calm, think of things that soothe you when you’re stressed, and every time you feel that downward spiral coming, apply those self-soothing techniques. Learning to talk yourself off that relationship anxiety ledge is one of the healthiest ways to deal with it. This can take a little practice and a lot of self-awareness, but it’s all worth it in the long run.
7Take a step back.
When you start to doubt your relationship, take a step back. Look at the bigger picture and realize that you’re both happy. It can take a lot to assuage your worries, but understanding that aside from the minor concern you’re fixating on, you and your significant other are in a happy and healthy partnership may help you get a grip on your thoughts.
8Work on building healthy relationships with other people.
Your relationship anxiety mostly likely isn’t exclusive to your romantic relationship but applies to your platonic relationships, too. Working on building healthy relationships in your life, in general, will make you more confident and equipped when you do find someone you want to have as a life partner. With practice and determination, you’ll be able to maintain calm confidence about your interactions with the meaningful people in your life.
9Feelings aren’t always facts.
All feelings are valid, but not all feelings are facts. Understanding the truth in this is a great place to start. By realizing that your worries are not always fact-based (or at least not based on your current relationship), it makes it easier to analyze the root of your unhealthy thoughts.
10Express your appreciation to your support system.
You’ve voiced your worries to your close friends and family, and maybe even your significant other. Show them how much you appreciate their patience in talking you down from all your worries. Expressing your appreciation reinforces your belief in the things they’ve advised you about. It tones down the frequency of negative thoughts because you acknowledge that the things your support system has told you about why your worries are unnecessary are true. Not to mention, showing them how much they mean to you encourages them to show the same appreciation for your existence in their lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Relationships are tricky – especially when you have relationship anxiety. It’s no surprise that you’ll have a couple of concerns.
1I can’t tell if my concerns are valid or if it’s just relationship anxiety.
Sit down and actually think about the concerns you’re having. Are you overanalyzing your partner and that’s what caused your worrying? Is it just a nagging gut feeling? You’re the only one who will be able to figure out if it’s relationship anxiety or not. Regardless though, you should be able to talk to your partner about it. It can help shed light on your doubts and ease that stress.
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2I don’t want to go to therapy, is there anything else I can do?
Communicate with your partner about all your concerns. They can help you talk things out and clarify things, that way you never have to doubt them or their feelings. Having a trusted friend who can help ease your worries can help, as well. But there’s not shame in therapy and everyone needs a little professional help sometimes, so don’t shut that door.
3Is it okay to be in a relationship when I have relationship anxiety?
Relationship anxiety is normal, no matter how healthy you are or how healthy your relationship is. So yes, it is okay to be in a relationship when you have relationship anxiety. The only time this becomes an issue is when your doubts and worries make it impossible for you to take forward steps in your relationship or when it starts to negatively impact your interactions with your partner.
4My partner has relationship anxiety. What can I do?
Talk to them. Ask them why they have anxiety about your relationship and if there’s anything you can do to help with that. But make sure you’re not projecting your own anxieties on them.
5We’ve talked, and I’m still anxious, what else can I do?
Aside from seeking therapy, you might have to consider a few things. One, you’re not in the right relationship, and two, you’re not ready for a romantic relationship at all. If you’ve done all you can to try to soothe the monster in your head and it still won’t go to rest, you just might not be in the mental space to be in a relationship and it’s healthier for you and your partner if you take the space you need and work on yourself.
Relationship anxiety is a normal part of any relationship. It can be dealt with by honest, open communication with your partner, and learning to value yourself as an individual. Unhealthy levels of relationship anxiety can cause you to miss out on all the joy and happiness that exists in your relationship, and that can make your anxiety even worse. Know that a relationship is a partnership and you’re there to support each other, but you also have to support yourselves. So being happy and healthy (mentally and physically) as an individual will allow you to be the best partner you can be.