7 ways to be in a relationship with someone who has anxiety

We often think of it as a burden on a relationship, but instead we should think of it as an opportunity for the couple to grow together.

We all want to be with someone, but sometimes there are factors out of both people’s control that push them apart from each other. One of these factors is anxiety. To no fault of the person with anxiety, it does hurt relationship. But it doesn’t have to. If the other partner knows how to help, then anxiety can actually bring the couple closer together.

We often think of flaws or mistakes as a burden on a relationship. Instead we should think of them as an opportunity for the couple to grow together. They can achieve healing, health and happiness as they work to understand or build each other up.

Here are seven ways to help your sweetheart if they are dealing with anxiety.

1. Stop asking them if they are OK

They need to get through this and they need your support and action instead of you waiting on them to come up with answers. Part of the reason they are having the attack is they are feeling unsure of what to do – give them options. Offer to take them on a walk, give them water, go out to eat or simply stay home and talk.

Show them you care and are willing to talk it through without making them feel like they are in a corner and forced to tell their insecurities.

2. Understand they get tired

This probably happens more often than they (and you) want it to. Jake Mcspirit says, “Anxiety causes people to live in hyper-tense states. They are always on alert, their mind is very rarely settled, and their body is always ready to fight or flight. With the hypertension comes fatigue.”

Go to bed with them or hold them in your arms and watch a show together. You can still do things together at home instead of going out.

3. Encourage them to share their feelings

Part of helping someone with anxiety is getting them out of their head and talking out loud. Stop and really listen. Make eye contact. Take a walk. Focus on getting them to talk it out instead of keeping it bottled up inside.

4. Embrace them

In their mind they are facing this by themselves. Reach out to them literally – let them know that you are there and that you care. Give them hugs and hold their hand as they experience anxiety.

5. Work with them, not against them

Don’t fall into the trap of generalization – if they bring up that you “always” do something, don’t throw that back at them. Instead, stop and apologize or ask them to tell you when you last made that mistake. Try to get specific. The more specific you get, you can find out what is actually bothering them, and sometimes it won’t even be your fault.

“Sometimes anxious thoughts motivate your partner to act in ways that stress you out and strain the relationship. For example, people with anxiety sometimes test their partner’s commitment by using insecure strategies,” said psychologist Jennifer Rhodes. “These strategies usually address one of the anxious beliefs they have.”

They act based on their anxiety, not because they want to hurt you. Be willing to work through it with them instead of fighting with them.

6. Understand change is hard

Change is hard for everyone but especially for people with anxiety. Remember “everything is the end of the world” to them. Instead of telling them to quit stressing or telling them you don’t understand why they feel that way, seek to understand.

More importantly give them reassurance again (and possibly again and again), talk to them about their fears and make plans to address those fears.

7. Tell them you love them

Anxiety can be limiting, but they are not anxiety, they are people. We all have different things we need to work on to be better, happier and healthier. They still love you despite your flaws. Remind them that you still love them despite their flaws.

Anxiety can be hard not only on the person who has it, but also on their partner. As their sweetheart, learn to work with them and help them through their anxiety. They might not overcome it, but you can learn to make it a strength in your relationship instead of a separator.

Christa Cutler

Christa is a part time photographer, part time writer and full time lover of life. She loves eating chocolate chip cookies and singing (but not at the same time). She has her degree in political science.