When it comes to dating someone with anxiety, things might feel overwhelming and challenging at times. When your partner is anxious, you need to be a strong support system for them, and for that, you need to know what to do when your partner is anxious.
Dating Someone Who Is Anxious
Anxiety is a very common problem. Although everyone at times becomes anxious, some people spend a good part of each day in this mental state. Because anxiety pushes a person to be on guard and react defensively it often creates relationship difficulties.
Fortunately, there are many effective ways to reduce or even eliminate anxiety. It need not be a lifelong sentence to living in fear. But what if you are currently in a relationship with someone who struggles with anxiety and you can’t wait around for them to ‘win that battle.’ What can you do right here and now to help make the relationship work out?
I’ll answer this by looking at three questions.
1. What are some of the relationship challenges that arise when dating someone with anxiety?
The challenges will depend upon the type of anxiety. Someone who is OCD will present with different challenges than someone with social anxiety.
Even so, the main theme that many will find difficult to work with is unreasonable fear getting in the way of enjoying activities that most would find appealing.
Using the above examples, the OCD person may find a spontaneous romantic evening uncomfortable because he/she becomes anxious when order and predictability are missing. The socially anxious person will want to avoid going to gatherings where he/she is expected to mingle with unfamiliar people.
When first dating someone with anxiety it may seem as though your anxious love interest is simply being selfish in his/her avoidance of engaging in certain activities. This misinterpretation of motives can lead to conflict that kills an otherwise promising relationship.
2. What is required to have a successful relationship with someone who is anxious?
Successful relationships with an anxious individual require three components:
- Good communication regarding the source or underlying thinking that gives rise to fears. The anxious person needs to be open about his/her concerns.
- Be understanding. You need to make an attempt to ‘see things’ through the anxious person’s perspective while at the same time not buying into that fear-based view.
- Accommodation (or compromise) is essential… but within limits. The anxious person will need to push him/herself to face those fears so as to engage their partner in a healthier way, and the partner will need to be patient while the anxiety slowly lessens. In time the fear will diminish if the anxious individual persists in fighting his/her fears. The degree to which you need to accommodate unrealistic anxiety will greatly diminish.
3. What can you do to make a relationship work with someone who is anxious?
Clear-eyed empathy is important. It arises from the ability to see the world from another’s perspective. So a good start is to recognize that everyone has certain unreasonable fears. It’s part of the human condition.
When dating someone with anxiety think about some of your own ungrounded fears. Imagine if those fears were magnified, and how difficult that would be to overcome. This will give you a better idea of what your love interest is experiencing. In turn, this will help you be patient and less irritated by how they respond to their anxiety.
Next, show curiosity about the fears that challenge your partner. Don’t dismiss them (don’t validate them either, but dismissing them as “silly” or “stupid” will not encourage change… nor does it do much for increasing the odds of another date).