When someone loves their partner a lot and feels scared of losing them, that fear can sometimes manifest as relationship anxiety.
Every relationship is a little schizophrenic. There is a natural tendency to want to grow closer to the person with whom you have some bond. A desire to draw nearer by sharing one’s thoughts, enjoyments, hopes, and passions.
At the same time, there is a natural tendency to want to maintain distance from that same person. The desire to be independent, avoid vulnerability, remain unburdened, and free.
Both of these inclinations are normal and, when acted on in mature ways, they create a healthy ebb and flow that allows relationships to mature in a steady sure-footed manner.
The push and pull of these forces create something of an interpersonal dance. No, not a congo line, or the macarena.
More like what is seen in paired figure skating where the man and woman are together one moment, hand in hand, and in the next moment they are far apart but still connected by a mutual rhythm. Although at opposite ends of the rink they remain connected in moving to the music guided by the same choreographed routine.
What would happen, however, if one of the figure skaters could not maintain that rhythm? What if one member of the team refused to come close to the other? Or on the other hand, refused to be separated from the other? Their performance would suffer. Badly. It might be called “Awkward On Ice.”
Anxiety can easily inject itself into our relationships and create this same sort of problem. For some of us, the fear of being close to others makes emotional intimacy challenging. Such anxieties often centered around feelings of vulnerability, inadequacy, or fears related to taking on responsibility. Very often the response to such feelings is to find ways to gain emotional distance.
These relationships often fail to gain momentum. They falter, lose direction, and eventually die from a lack of deep connection.
A different type of relationship anxiety, that of being abandoned has the opposite effect. This fear may lead one to cling too tightly to others. The independence of their spouse, friend, or even their child, may feel threatening.
Such fears frequently lead one to make intense demands for a partner’s attention, affection, and time. An addiction to constant reassurance develops. The person on the receiving end of these demands can quickly become exhausted. No matter how much effort is put into showing genuine love and commitment, it is never enough.
These sort of relationships break apart under the strain.
Anxiety has the capacity to crush relationships. What’s more, even when a relationship survives this stress, you can count on it not being as full and rewarding as it would be were anxiety out of the picture.
Keep in mind, the sort of anxiety that we are focused on is specifically related to fears of commitment and emotional intimacy. This is different than social anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, and other anxiety disorders.
Each of those anxieties can have a major impact on relationships, but none of them are specifically in response to fears arising from emotional intimacy. That distinction makes a difference in how anxiety is overcome.
Signs That Anxiety Is Affecting Your Life
You may be wondering whether relational anxiety is creating problems in your life. It can be difficult to know. After all, everyone experiences anxiety to some degree, so how can you know whether it has gotten to the point of impacting your relationships with family and friends.
The following questions may shed some light on whether this is a problem:
1. Do you often worry that your partner will leave you for someone else?
2. Do you trust your partner when he or she is out with friends?
3. Do you frequently require reassurance of your partner’s love and devotion?
4. Do you become extremely anxious at how your partner will respond to a mistake you have made?
5. Are there certain conversations that you avoid having with your partner because you worry that he or she will become angry with you?
6. Are you frequently worried that your partner is being unfaithful?
7. Are you someone who easily becomes jealous?
8. Are you controlling of your partner’s time, needing to know in detail where he or she has been and with whom?
9. Do you resist relying on your partner?
10. Do you feel uncomfortable when you partner emotionally relies upon you?
11. Have a number of individuals said that you are difficult to get to know?
It would be good to have a very honest talk with your partner if you answered ‘Yes’ to five or more of these questions. Discuss your anxieties candidly. Try to understand how your attempts to cope with these fears may be influencing your relationship. After that, work as a team to see how you can make repairs, change how you interact, and strengthen the relationship.