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Five Things Your Partner With Anxiety Wants You To Know

If your partner has anxiety, sometimes it can be hard to understand. Things that wouldn’t stress you out make them feel overwhelmed, and your efforts to help, while well-intentioned, might not accomplish what you’re hoping. The most important thing is to talk about these issues, and ask your partner what works for them and what they need from you. Read this list together and see if they agree — in our experience, remembering these suggestions help couples with anxiety connect and heal together, but it’s not always the same for everyone. Go over these together and see what resonates.

  1. Remember: They really want to do that thing you want to do — whether it’s go to a concert, on vacation, or even out to dinner. But sometimes they just can’t, because they’re mentally or emotionally exhausted or overwhelmed. Anxiety takes a lot out of people. This is the time to be compassionate, not frustrated; it’s not just a feeling they’re facing but an emotional wall they can’t get through, and need your support and understanding.

  2. The anxiety is NOT about you. Seriously. It really isn’t. That thing you want to do that they’re avoiding? It’s not because they don’t want to spend time with you. It’s not because they’re irritated at you. You didn’t trigger this or cause this; let them know you’re not upset or irritated, because they’re not upset at you. They’re just anxious. They need you to know it’s not about you.

  3. They are well aware that their anxiety is irrational; there’s no need to reiterate. They feel bad enough about not being able to control this anxiety; their brain can logically tell them they don’t need to be stressed, but they feel stressed anyway. It’s not based on logic, but it’s still a very real experience. They need deep understanding and connection. Hear them and be there with them. Love them. Do not criticize them.

  4. They can actually communicate about how they feel — if you actually ask them. AND: if you actually listen, without being dismissive. Don’t speak for them. Allow them to speak for themselves. Encourage them to share with you and with others. When they speak, nod and listen. Make eye contact. Show them you’re present and believe them when they tell you how they’re feeling. If they tell you what they need, as long as you’re comfortable with it, make your best effort to do that, even if you don’t quite understand it. The more you listen and support, the more they’ll know you’re a safe haven — and anxiety is constantly trying to tell them that you’re not.

  5. They don’t need a constant stream of ‘Are you okay?’ But they do need specific and helpful reminders. Don’t constantly ask; rather, tell them that this is anxiety and they’re not alone. Once you know what helps them, remind them gently to do those things. This could be reminding them to slow their breath, use tapping methods, foam rollers, a weighted blanket, or other coping strategies. Ask if they’d like to be in a quieter place, or if physical touch from you would help. Perhaps talk about this sort of thing ahead of time, so you can be sure to remind and offer strategies that you know will be helpful.

The most important thing in this process is to empathize. Empathy means carrying something together — and if one of you has anxiety, as a couple it’s essential to carry that together, as one. Show them you’re there for them, reassure them through it all, and most of all — know that neither of you are alone in this.

If you want to talk to anyone at Core Values Counseling about dealing with anxiety alone or together, don’t hesitate to reach out — you can even just reply to this email.