7 Weird Ways Anxiety Can Benefit Your Relationship

by Teresa Newsome

We typically talk about anxiety and relationships in terms of how the former can ruin the latter. And with good reason, don't get me wrong. But there are some weird ways anxiety can be good for your relationship.

I'm both a chronic, long-term anxiety sufferer, and a serious relationship participant. I also used to work with couples, as both a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and a Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, so I feel like I'm uniquely qualified to speak on this kind of weird topic.

I've mostly seen and helped couples deal with the ways anxiety causes problems. It tends to go hand-in-hand with low self-esteem. It makes communication difficult. It can affect normal couple social lives. If it's bad enough, anxiety can even make it hard or impossible for a person to work, go to school or leave the house, which strains relationships.

But amidst all this struggle, there is also some strength. There are some ways anxiety makes couples stronger. I wanted to recognize these strengths so the couples out there dealing with this serious disorder could take a moment to celebrate their victories instead of always approaching anxiety from a negative space. I hope some of these points below apply to you, in a healthy, loving way.

1. It Makes You Better Communicators (Sometimes)

Sure, anxiety can leave you choked up and afraid (or unable) to say what's on your mind, but it can also lead to strong communication. For example, when we're out in public and I begin to feel overwhelmed with social anxiety, I can use my anxiety code phrase, and my partner knows that it's time to start thinking of an exit strategy. Even my body language communicates the state of my anxiety to my partner, who is excellent at paying attention to my needs, anxiety has caused us to pay closer attention to each other, and to form our own special communication methods.

2. It Makes You Closer (Sometimes)

Anxiety, for the serious sufferers, is not just nervousness. It's a debilitating and unpredictable disease. When you have a partner who loves you, takes the time to understand your anxiety, works with you to meet your needs, helps you overcome obstacles, and nurturers you through your setbacks, it creates a pretty strong bond. Witnessing my partner's patience and understanding has made me love her even more. And knowing she doesn't want to change me (just wants me to be well) is comforting.

3. It Makes You Feel Loved (Sometimes)

Last week my wife came home from work late after facing down an icy snowpocalypse. Of course, I was a wreck, worried that she was dead in a ditch somewhere, with parts of her body lost in the snow. But she made it home safely. And she said to me "even though I hate that you have anxiety, knowing that you're always thinking of me and worrying about my safety makes me feel very loved." And she is very loved.

4. It Makes You Good At Couple Stuff (Sometimes)

For me, part of my constant, often uncontrollable worry means that I'm forever worried if my partner is happy. It makes me try extra hard to be considerate. To remember every special occasion. To give plenty of love and compliments. To be affectionate. To do little thoughtful things throughout the day. It makes me awesome at being a wife. It also leads to people pleasing, sometimes. People pleasing is a common, negative consequence of anxiety for some sufferers. It's when you put the needs and desires of other people ahead of your own, often to your detriment. But because we have good communication, my partner can often spot when I'm people pleasing and remind me to consider my own wants and needs.

5. It Makes You Good At Household Stuff (Sometimes)

I have a friend who channels her anxiety into cleaning. Her home always looks amazing. And I have another friend whose anxiety motivates her to be super organized and on top of her schedule. Yet another friend with anxiety (particularly bad money anxiety) has complex spreadsheets to track income and expenses, and she always pays her bills on time and saves money. Their partners would tell you that these are some definite anxiety perks. On good days, they totally are. On bad days, these types of habits can be the source of overwhelm, feelings of failure if not done perfectly, and ways to avoid coping with feelings, but on the good days, they make for strong households.

6. It Makes You Good At Problem Solving (Sometimes)

Since I've been dealing with anxiety my whole life, and since I've been in serious relationships most of my adult life, there is rarely a problem that comes up that I haven't encountered, thought about, thought about some more, worried over, re-thought about, then lived through. This constant overthinking is sometimes debilitating, but it's also sometimes like having a super brain. The worries my partner has... haha, those are beginner worries. Minor league stuff. I eat regular people's worries for breakfast. So my brain is often the home of complex solutions to complex problems, even if I don't feel that way.

7. It Keeps Us Out Of Trouble (Sometimes)

Since part of my anxiety is social, it keeps us out of trouble. I'm never really out drinking or engaging in party shenanigans. Sometimes this is a downer, because sometime I wish I was going out, but being a homebody saves money. And you can't get a DUI if you're watching Netflix. This might seem like a negative, and often it is, especially when we're invited to places and I can't make myself go, but it's also comforting to know that the most danger we're likely to get into is burning our apartment down by forgetting the oven is on. Plus, my partner is free to socialize without me, which makes for some awesome, underwear-dancing alone time. Oh, and we have lots of time for sex.

Anxiety for the win. I hope that, at least once in awhile, you're able to see your unique anxiety brain as a strength instead of something that hold you and your relationship back.

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