Because relationships always drag you out of your comfort zone, dating with anxiety can be really tough. You're getting used to being with a new person, you're making yourself vulnerable to them, and a very basic level you're mixing up your routine. For me personally, exercise is the only way I can feel balanced and mentally healthy, and when I started my relationship I found it really difficult to fit it into my suddenly topsy-turvy schedule. But as soon as I started feeling weirdly restless— always a precursor to bad anxiety— I know I have to get out and run to keep myself, and my relationship, happy.
But sometimes relationships have an even stronger pull and make anxiety worse. Ideally you nip it in the bud, but if you find yourself having anxiety attacks, or just an anxiety flare up that's messing with your life, something needs to change.
"In the world of dating, relationships and love, anxiety can be an all too common bedfellow, pun intended," Chris Armstrong, relationship coach and founder of Maze of Love, tells Bustle. "Anxiety will generally show up in these spaces for one or all of three reasons: lack of self-confidence, lack of knowledge of what they other person wants or is thinking, and lack of control. When we have anxiety, whether dating or in a full blown relationship, it will make the relationship worse. Why? We will scrutinize and question things that do not require scrutiny or questioning. We will tell ourselves stories about what is 'really' going on in the relationship or with our partner." Here are some ways to manage:
1. Gather Your Thoughts
Before you do anything, think things through. I know it can be easier said than done when your anxiety is acting up. Is there something you can pinpoint about the relationship making you anxious? Can those things be improved on? Or are you just not in a place where you're ready for a relationship?
Armstrong tells Bustle a good way to get a handle on your thoughts. "Learn to W.A.I.T. as in, What Am I Thinking, What Am I Typing (e-mailing or texting) and Why Am I Talking? We must control our desire to talk with our hearts without consulting our heads," he says. Pause what you're doing, then find the source of the anxiety. Taking a moment to find out what's actually going on can be a huge help.
2. Talk To Your Partner
If it's something your partner can change, talk to them. And even if it's not, talk to them. It's important to open up and share if you're going to keep the relationship moving forward. Your partner won't always know how to help unless you tell them. Building up all the anxiety and letting it seep out at inappropriate times is going to make it harder on both of you.
3. Be Willing To Admit What's Irrational
Anxiety can make you irrational — and that's not your fault, it's the nature of the beast. But if you and your partner are going to work on it together you need to do your best to admit and identify when you're being irrational— even if you can't help it. Blaming everything on them or the relationship isn't productive or fair.
4. Remember Your Strategies
What helps you cope with your anxiety? When anxiety flares up, it can become easy to forget your basic coping mechanisms. Remember what works for you — yoga, talking to a friend, going for a walk, your favorite music. Whatever it is, make sure that you have a way to deal when times get tough.
5. Get Help If You Need It
Don't be afraid to get help. Whether it's just talking to your friends and family or talking to a counselor, outside perspectives can be exactly what you need to gain some control on the situation.
6. Be Realistic
If you're in a new relationship and a few of your partner's habits make you anxious, but they can be remedied, then that's great. But if you're with someone who just isn't good for you— and that's the source of the anxiety— then that's something different. It may be time to admit that the relationship isn't working. If you're willing to be realistic about when you're not being fair to your partner, you have to be able to admit when they're not being fair to you. If it doesn't work, then it doesn't work.
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