Relationship anxiety describes feelings of insecurity, worry, and doubt regarding your relationship or compatibility with a partner. Relationship anxiety may stem from attachment difficulties in early childhood, emotional neglect, or from general anxiety that manifests as worry in your relationships. Although these feelings are difficult to experience, therapy and stress management techniques can help reduce them and improve relationships.
Is Relationship Anxiety Normal?
It’s perfectly normal to have some level of anxiety about relationships. However, relationship anxiety becomes a problem when its severe enough or lasts long enough to impede growth in the relationship, or affect other areas of your life. Relationship insecurity can increase stress and impact how you interpret your feelings and emotions, and can sometimes lead to separation anxiety, or potentially relationship burnout for you or your partner.1,2
7 Signs of Relationship Anxiety
Relationship anxiety can plague anyone, and experiencing it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in a bad relationship. Oftentimes, fear and worry stem from not wanting to go through a breakup or being reluctant to be vulnerable due to previous hurts, like if you’ve been cheated on in the past.
Here are seven signs you may be experiencing relationship anxiety :
1. Fear of Commitment & Vulnerability
Commitment issues can occur due to a previous negative experience, or because you may not feel comfortable expressing your feelings. For some, relationships feel confining and putting a label on them increases their level of anxiety.
2. Ending Relationships Before They Become Serious
If you find yourself cutting people off before the relationship becomes more serious, keeping potential friends at arms-length, or engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors, you might have relationship anxiety.
3. Not Expressing Your Needs & Desires Because You’re Fearful That They Will Leave
Healthy relationships need to be built on trust and honesty, and feeling reluctant to share your thoughts can indicate anxiety about the relationship.
4. Questioning Your Partner’s Motives
Many people with relationship anxiety will continuously worry their partner will “find someone better,” doubt whether their partner truly cares for them, or constantly be concerned that their partner will break up with them over insignificant or non-existent reasons.
5. Doubting You & Your Partner’s Compatibility
You may start to put more emphasis than necessary on the differences between you and your partner—like having different taste in music or movies—to the point where you’re spending more time worrying about those small differences than appreciating where you are compatible.
6. Overthinking Your Partner’s Words & Actions
Maybe your partner prefers to limit public displays of affection or makes a joke about a quirky part of your personality; this may lead you to spend a lot of time reading into their actions and assuming that they don’t actually like you, when they probably just have slightly different preferences than you or are just trying to engage or flirt with you.
7. Spending More Time Worrying Than Enjoying the Relationship
It’s perfectly normal to have times of worry or doubt, but if you look back and see that you’re spending more time feeling insecure than happy or fulfilled, this is a clear sign of relationship anxiety.
If you like to learn more about the signs of relationship anxiety and ways you might cope, check out Gabrielle Juliano-Villani’s video:
What Causes Relationship Anxiety?
There can be many underlying causes behind doubts and insecurity in relationships, including:
- Emotional neglect or abuse, causing low self-esteem or low self-worth due to past trauma
- Attachment difficulties stemming from relationships with your parents or caregivers at a young age
- Having parents who were significantly intrusive or disengaged
- General anxiety that manifests as worry about relationships
8 Ways to Deal With Anxiety in a Relationship
Effectively coping with your relationship anxiety often begins with understanding any underlying anxiety you may have by working with a licensed therapist as a guide. It’s also important to be open and honest with your partner, who may be able to help calm your anxiety and make you feel more secure.
Here are eight tips for dealing with relationship anxiety in a healthy way:
1. Identify What Is Driving Your Anxiety
Is it fear? Low self-esteem? Lack of confidence? Shame? Assessing the root of your anxiety and drawing connections to previous experiences or how you were raised can increase your awareness. Sometimes, we feel insecure because we lack confidence in the ability to choose healthy relationships for ourselves.3
2. Be Honest About What You’re Feeling
While you may not want to express your feelings at the height of anxiety, expressing yourself is important. Lack of communication can hurt your relationship, whereas healthy communication enhances and deepens your relationship. It also keeps the lines of communication open. Let the supportive people in your life into your inner world.
3. Use Self-Soothing Techniques When Anxiety Levels Rise
Many times, anxiety can be accompanied by physical reactions, including rapid heart rate, chest tightness, or lightheadedness.4 Practice body scanning techniques to increase your self-awareness. Deep breathing, guided meditation, yoga, or doing an activity that focuses on one of your five senses are ways to self-soothe. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when looking for anxiety remedies that work for you. There are new modalities like havening being developed to help people deal with the body’s stress response that happens during moments of anxiety.
4. Work on Building Trust With Supportive People
While it may be difficult, building trust in relationships is essential for maintaining healthy connections. Make time for the people in your life who love you. Trust isn’t built overnight, and it comes through time and experiences as well as consistent, practiced behaviors.5
5. Address Conflict or Differences of Opinion
Not addressing relationship conflict can lead to resentment and the breakdown of the relationship. While conflict is unavoidable, it’s important to manage and deal with it in a healthy way. It may be difficult to express yourself, but start by focusing on using “I” statements and taking responsibility for your part in the conflict.
6. Recognize That Your Feelings Are Valid, but Feelings Aren’t Always Facts
Emotions come and go without warning and it can be easy to jump to a negative conclusion.6 Practice giving your relationships the benefit of the doubt and reframing your negative thoughts in a more positive light. Instead of saying, “I always push people away and nobody loves me,” say “I attract love and people are drawn to my warmth and energy.”
7. Express Appreciation to the Supportive People in Your Life
Affirm the people who have shown that they genuinely care about you. Gratitude can improve positivity and increase your emotional connection. Write down the positive aspects of your relationships and what you’re grateful for, acknowledging the role that others have had in your story.
8. Go to Therapy to Process Your Thoughts & Feelings
Therapy for anxiety is a great way to dig deeper and uncover some of the negative thought patterns and experiences that could be contributing to your relationship anxiety.7 Whether you’re dealing with relationship anxiety or your partner has anxiety, therapy can be highly beneficial, as it give you a safe space to work through your anxious feelings and gain more clarity on how to identify and maintain a healthy relationship.
To find a therapist in your area, use an online therapist directory to connect with a therapist you feel comfortable talking to and can build a trusting relationship with. Remember, there is no shame in experiencing this kind of anxiety, and sometimes, the first step to healing is simply telling your truth and asking for help.
If you are struggling with the effects of anxiety in a relationship, remember, you are not alone. While your experiences are unique, there are people who understand or want to help. Start by educating yourself on the triggers, signs, and coping mechanisms of relationship anxiety, and then consider letting those people in.
For Further Reading
Relationship Anxiety Infographics