A while back, a younger friend of mine told me how catching her boyfriend having a conversation with an ex stressed her out to the point of triggering a prolonged period of anxiety and depression.
This reminded me of a particularly rough patch in my own relationship when someone suggested that maybe my husband wasn’t the right person for me.
And just the thought of losing him totally freaked me out. I couldn’t possibly live without him! This wasn’t an option that I was even remotely willing to consider. It’s like my entire life depended on him.
At first pass, this may sound like a relationship that’s based on deep commitment and love, but I have since come to realize that all it was based on at the time was fear.
My fear of abandonment, my fear of rejection, my fear of being alone.
Without realizing it, I was suffering from a major case of relationship anxiety.
There are countless potential problems with a fear-based relationship, but here are a few of the biggies:
- If you are constantly doubting your relationship and afraid of losing it, you are unable to relax and actually enjoy your partner.
- When you “can’t live without” your partner, you might become willing to do just about anything to maintain the relationship, including molding yourself into the kind of person you think your partner wants and ignoring your own needs.
- Or paradoxically, “since it’s probably not gonna work out anyway” you rip the band-aid and just call it quits.
Not good, right?
So, how can you overcome relationship anxiety?
Well, I can tell you what didn’t work for me. Trying to convince myself that I was crazy and nothing bad was ever going to happen and I should just stop worrying. Did. Not. Work.
But here’s what did work.
How To Overcome Relationship Anxiety
Instead of giving in to “I can’t live without him”, I started asking “How could I live without him?” And I quite literally came up with a plan.
What if he does fall in love with someone else?
What if he does die before I do?
What then? What could I do? How could I comfort myself? Who could I go to for support? What could I do to build a satisfying life as a single person?
I answered every one of these questions in detail. I let myself imagine exactly how horrible I would feel and then brainstormed ways to alleviate my inevitable suffering.
And I realized that I would be fine.
I realized that, yes, I would be devastated.
Yes, I would grieve.
Yes, it would be hard.
But eventually I would pick up the pieces of my broken heart and build a new life.
For my kids.
For the people it’s my purpose in life to serve.
And let me qualify that when I first tried this thinking exercise, I wasn’t that convinced. Like all mindset changes, easing my relationship anxiety has required a lot of repetition.
But every time those doubts would arise, I would answer the questions again. And again.
Until the knowledge that I would be okay became entrenched as the truth and I was no longer afraid.