You’ve finally met “the one!” So why is your stomach in knots and your mind filled with thoughts like “does he or she really like me?” or “will this work out?” Pretty common during early stages of a relationship, worries such as these often subside as time progresses in a relationship where there are mutual feelings of attraction and eventually love. If self-doubt, worry, or fear continue to grow despite being well-matched, you might be dealing with relationship anxiety.
What causes relationship anxiety? On the conscious and subconscious level, the cause can be linked to life experiences that have shaped our views on romantic relationships, our psychological defenses, and our critical inner voice. Perhaps you’ve had your heart broken in the past, feared physical intimacy for any number of reasons or thought you were not “good enough” to attract a loving partner. All generalized examples, it could also be a combination of many thoughts and/or experiences. Still mystified? A skilled and licensed marriage and couples therapist can help you tap into the cause of your worries and fears, spot emotional responses that could be sabotaging your relationship and guide you toward healthy ways to resolve your anxiety.
What are the responses to ongoing relationship anxiety? Some people (perhaps seeking reassurance that they are loved) could become clingy or extremely emotional. Others (who may fear they are inadequate) might become suspicious and/or jealous. Others (who expect rejection) can become aloof or withhold affection to essentially beat their partner “to the punch.” Relationship anxiety can also turn into anger, cause fights and eventual breakups. If any of these responses sound familiar, consider taking a deep look inward to see if you can identify what might be causing your discontent. As an important step to understanding the feelings that drive your behavior and shape your relationships, you can then embrace coping skills to manage your feelings. Still not sure of the cause? Professional assistance, whether on an individual basis or as part of couple’s therapy, is recommended.
What if it’s not me? If your partner is consumed with worry or anxiety, ask them what is troubling them and really listen to their words. Please remember not to criticize your partner for having anxiety or dismiss their worries. Offer reassurance if you can and perhaps find an activity (like a leisurely walk or dinner out) to help reduce your partner’s stress and enjoy time spent together. If you feel anxiety is an ongoing cause of concern, couple’s therapy is a supportive way to help your partner as well as your overall relationship.
Susan Block is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in marriage, family and individual therapy. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University in 1997 and completed her Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Nova Southeastern University in 2004. Also an active member of The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), Susan Block practices in South Florida