The heart wants what the heart wants. At times, you can’t choose who you fall in love with. Part of being in love means accepting and loving that person because of their positive qualities and despite their flaws. As much as you want to be loved for who you are, your partner with anxiety would also like to feel the same way.
Anxiety is like the third person in your relationship. It’s lurking around, waiting to attack. Anxiety in your partner can either make or break your relationship. It may put a strain on your relationship, or you can both come out of this stronger than ever.
If you’re dating someone struggling with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, or other emotional disorder, this quick-read article can help you know the dos and don’ts. Educate yourself on how you can relate with your (potential) partner and understand that anxiety is real.
Understanding Anxiety Disorders
If you’re dating someone with anxiety and want to have a healthy relationship, the first thing you need to do is to educate yourself on what anxiety disorder is all about.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, anxiety disorder is a mental health condition where a person responds to particular things or situations with fear, unhealthy stress, nervousness, or too much worrying.
A person with anxiety may experience physical symptoms like a fast heartbeat, sweating, rapid breathing, trouble concentrating, and many more. This is not a made-up mental issue. A person with a debilitating anxiety disorder finds it hard to function normally every day because of anxiety attacks or too much worrying.
Do you think your partner who has anxiety chose this life? Of course, they didn’t. No one wants to have anxiety attacks, including your partner.
But you know what? There are millions of people with anxiety who have happy and healthy relationships because their partners try to make it work. You can do the same for the person you’re dating.
Anxiety disorder can be treated. With the proper methods of communication, knowing the triggers, and being supportive, you can overcome this together. Here are the dos and don’ts when dating someone with anxiety.
The Dos: How to Cope with It
It may seem to be a new situation for you to be in a relationship with a person with anxiety disorder. But if you love someone, you will do everything it takes to make it work. How do you do that? Do these coping strategies:
1. Encourage Your Partner to Seek Therapy
If your partner has anxiety, of course, you want to be there for them. You want to give them support and be there for them all the time because you worry for them, and that’s normal. But there’s one thing you have to remember: you are not their therapist.
Even though your profession may be a counselor or therapist, you can’t be your partner’s mental health counselor. Why? Because you may have biased advice, and every issue will boil down to being personal. Also, it may be emotionally draining for you and your partner, which may result in both of you resenting each other.
All you have to do is be supportive and make sure they’re not alone when they need it. Encourage them to seek professional help. Do not force them, but slowly introduce the idea. Tell your partner that a therapist can help them how to deal with anxiety.
If needed, you can go on a couple’s therapy. This is a great way to make your partner feel that you want to make this relationship work and have a healthy relationship with them.
2. Go to Therapy Yourself
Whether your loved one resists or accepts the idea of therapy, you should also take care of yourself and seek counseling. A counselor can help you better understand your partner’s behavior, how to cope with it, and how to support your partner.
At the same time, your counselor can help you understand your feelings and how you can take care of yourself. As much as you’re trying to take care of your loved one, prioritize self-care as well.
3. Learn to Communication Better
If you’re in a relationship with someone who has anxiety, you should learn the proper way of communication. Every word that comes out of your mouth, or a word that you choose not to speak, and every action you do can affect your partner.
Learn how to communicate better if you’re dating someone who is anxious all the time. As part of your partner’s anxiety treatment, accept their illness. Talk honestly and openly about what they’re going through.
It would be helpful to encourage your partner to open up about what they’re going through: how they feel, what they’re thinking at the moment, etc. Listen openly without judgment. If you’re mad, try to control of yourself and do not shout at your date.
4. Manage Your Reactions to the Anxiety or Panic Attack
When you’re dating someone with anxiety, during their breaking point, you may think that it’s a personal attack on you or it’s an act of rejection or selfishness toward you. But it’s not. It’s not an attempt to create a distance to break your relationship.
Make sure you know how to manage your reactions in front of your partner. It will be helpful to avoid shouting and what triggers your partner’s anxious state. It helps if you could sit down and talk about supporting them the next time they get panic attacks. You need to be on the same page to make this relationship work.
5. Set Boundaries
Yes, you have to be patient and extra understanding in a partner who has anxiety, but you also need to set boundaries. That’s why it’s important to understand how anxiety goes and if it differs from their behavior.
Do not allow your partner to use their anxiety as an excuse for their bad behavior. It would be unfair to you, and you may feel resentment toward your partner. This will not make the relationship work.
Set boundaries on hurtful language, cruel words, accusations, insults, or threats. Always set boundaries at the early stage of your relationship so you can work things out.
6. Take a Mental Health Break Together
It is healthy for partners to do things together to cope with mental health decline. Take a mental health break together as a couple. For example, you can go on date nights, short trips, exercise together, or even just a movie night.
Rather than focusing and stressing about the anxiety issue at hand, do things as a couple that will make you both happy. Avoid events or circumstances that may cause you both to stress out. Focus on what can make both of you happy.
The Don’ts: What to Avoid
Whether you like it or not, you are part of your partner’s treatment. As a partner of someone with anxiety, your goal is not to make the anxiety worse, to avoid panic attacks, control the symptoms, and keep the anxiety from leading to depression.
You do these things because of love, because you also know that if the tables were turned, your partner would do the same for you. Here are some tips you could follow on what to avoid if your partner has anxiety.
1. Never Assume That All Negative Things Happening in Their Life Is Because of Their Anxiety
Yes, anxiety plays a significant role in a person’s life. There are times they can’t personally control their symptoms. But do not assume that the negative things happening in your partner’s life comes from their anxiety alone.
Your partner may be going through stress, and all you need to do is be there for them. That’s why open communication is very important in a relationship like yours.
2. Don’t Try to Explain They Should Not Be Afraid
As much as you want to be there for your partner, avoid convincing them that they should not be afraid. Your partner already knows that their fears are irrational. They are aware that what they’re worried about might not happen.
However, trying to convince them not to be afraid can make them feel like an irrational idiot. This isn’t going to help.
Most importantly, never make fun of their fears or the things they’re afraid of. These fears are real; if this sounds silly to you, it’s better to keep your mouth closed. Just be there for your partner and hold their hand. If you’re not sure if what you’re going to say isn’t doing any good, it’s better to keep quiet.
3. Don’t Act Like You Know Everything
It’s good that you researched anxiety to understand better what your partner is going through. But don’t act like you know everything about anxiety and everything your partner is feeling.
No one understands better the anxiety of your partner but themself. You have to respect that, and you have to be there to listen, not to judge. Respect your partner on how they deal with their emotions, offer your support, and don’t force on them what you believe is right.
Also, remember not to take everything personally. If your partner is not in the mood to talk, don’t think it’s your fault. Don’t add fuel to the fire and react anxiously or angrily because this isn’t healthy. Give your partner some space and wait for things to calm down before talking.
People with anxiety do not like change, so do not force your partner to change. In any case, that change is needed, but it must be done slowly and with support. Take little steps and always seek the help of mental health professionals.
Seek Mental Health Support
If you’re confused about this illness and want to understand your partner more, the best step at this point is to consult with a mental health professional. Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) can help you if this is your goal. After going for individual therapy or couple’s therapy, you and your partner can come out of this stronger and happier.