Relationship Anxiety = Relationship Killer

Relationship Rules
29 Aug 2023
12 min read
Relationship Anxiety: 3 Most Common Issues and What to Do

When you have relationship anxiety, you know what it is. All the same negative thinking that “dogs” all of your previous relationships, including questions like:

  • “Am I really good enough?”
  • “Does he have strong feelings for me, or is he just using me?”
  • “Can I believe my new partner’s words when they say they want to be with me?”
  • “They are looking at someone else – they probably think that might be a better choice than me.”

As all these negative thoughts are rolling around in your head, the whole range of physical symptoms appears: getting an upset stomach, labored breathing, and a pounding heart. And when you get better, you think: “Where does it come from? And how can I stop this from happening?”. If this sounds like you, read on. You’ll get your answers here.

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Relationship Anxiety – What Is It?

The simple definition of relationship anxiety is having doubt, worry, and insecurity during a relationship. A person who experiences this will often exhibit symptoms of being clingy, needy, and jealous, even though there may be no real need for these insecurities.

Sometimes, professional therapists call relationship anxiety a disorder. If so, relationship anxiety disorder negatively impacts all your relationship approaches and keeps you from establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship with a significant other.

We all want intimacy, but once we have relationship anxiety, we make our partners drive away, achieving the exact opposite of what is wanted. When that happens, all the insecurities and doubts are just reinforced. As a result, the person moves into the next relationship with the same doubts and insecurities.

Causes for relationship anxiety, or Why people run away from relationships

3 Main Causes of Relationship Anxiety

The specific reasons you may be experiencing relationship anxiety are different. Still, the most common factors can be summarized into three major groups: unattentive parents, unloving exes, and generally low self-esteem. Let’s see if any or all these causes of relationship anxiety fit you.

1. Attachment Issues from Early Childhood

Dealing with relationship anxiety from childhood doesn’t necessarily mean you had bad parents or other primary caregivers. Although bad parenting may be the case, relationship anxiety disorders rather comes from unmet needs for love and support.

There are two types of childhood attachment styles:

  • Secure attachment style: Children who grow up with loving, caring parents or caregivers. Their love and care were consistent, so these children became secure adults. They know who they are, have strong self-esteem, and expect their adult relationship to reflect that attachment style. They exhibit self-assurance in romantic relationships.
  • Insecure attachment style: If a child grows up with inconsistent or low levels of love and affection from their caregivers, they become insecure. Sometimes this can happen when parents are busy and don’t always have the time to provide love and affection consistently. If this happens too often, a child can begin to feel insecure, as if love and affection are being withheld because they somehow are not “worthy” of it.

Related reading: Disorganized Attachment Style & Romantic Relationships

A child with an anxious attachment style may become clingy and require continual reassurance that they are loved. And out of fear that love may be withheld, they may watch for signs that loved ones are losing interest. This puts them in a state of relationship anxiety as they go into adulthood.

2. Previous Romantic Relationships Gone Bad

“A traumatic experience in an earlier romantic relationship, such as betrayal, infidelity [or] loss, could also be a cause for relationship anxiety later in life.”

Deborah Courtney, Ph.D. a licensed psychotherapist and clinical social worker

Negative experience from a previous relationship is one of the most common reasons for relationship anxiety, causing people to have anxious feelings about any new relationship they develop. Past trauma causes projections that a new partner will treat us the same way, and we look for signs they will break up with us.

It’s relatively easy to get hurt so deeply by a breakup. Suppose you were in a committed relationship and looking forward to a great future with your partner. Over time, though, your relationship dynamics made you less self-assured – especially if you feel your partner losing interest and drawing away from you. Or, to make things more traumatic, you discovered they were cheating on you.

No surprise that after this story, you become clingy, suspicious, and constantly worrying about things your partners do when not with you. But once your rational doubts grow into a disorder, this relationship-based anxiety becomes a true “killer” – chances that your new partner won’t stand your suspicions and escape too are high.

Related reading: Ex Still Renting Space in Your Head? 11 Tools to Break Free

3. Low Self-Esteem

Not sure you have this problem? Check out these most common signs of low self-esteem:

  • Not having a strong sense of self-worth
  • Being constantly worried you are not attractive
  • Believing that you are not enough: smart, outgoing, witty etc.

If you recognize yourself in any of these mental health issues, it would be a good idea to seek out a mental health pro to help you work this through. There is no quick fix, but overcoming relationship anxiety and having successful intimate relationships is necessary.

Related reading: How To Maintain Your Individuality While In a Relationship

Every case is different, but past experiences usually bring us low self-esteem. They are not always romantic, but they make you feel anxious in your current relationships, doubt somebody loves you, and take every little negative thing to heart. You become jealous easily and worry that they are just using you until they find someone better.

Ultimately, your behaviors result in frequent breakups. And that just reinforces your poor sense of self. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that continues to repeat itself with any relationship you get into.

How Do You Know If You Have Relationship Anxiety?

“The most common expression of relationship anxiety relates to underlying questions of ‘Do I matter?’ or ‘Are you there for me?’…This speaks to a fundamental need to connect, belong, and feel secure in a partnership.”

Astrid Robertson, psychotherapist

Here is your checklist of the most common (although there can be more) signs of relationship anxiety:

  • You need constant reassurance from your partner that they love you
  • You are clingy, especially when you and your partner are out together
  • You worry that your partner feels you are not good enough and will end the relationship
  • You overthink little things that might indicate your partner is tiring of you, and you have anxious thoughts about this regularly.
  • Your anxiety levels are keeping you from really enjoying your relationship. Intrusive thoughts about your partner’s feelings prevent you from feeling the present moment of fun or intimacy.
  • You tell yourself that your partner’s feelings for you are only temporary and that long-term relationships are beyond your reach.
  • To feel better, you need extreme measures – constantly getting into their phone, installing GPS tracking on their car, and constantly questioning your partner about their whereabouts. This is a clear sign you need therapy.

Sometimes, such self-esteem issues can lead you to sabotage things in a loving relationship out of a self-fulfilling prophecy or as a type of controlling behavior to force “proving” love. Many unconscious things, like losing phones, occasionally setting up a lunch with an ex, or deliberately picking fights, may happen in intimate relationships. Individual and couples therapy can help you if that happens frequently.

Related reading: Setting Healthy and Fair Expectations in a Relationship

What happens when a person experiences anxiety

5 Effects of Relationship Insecurity

Once you have an anxious attachment to your relationship, you may feel discomfort in all the spheres of your life. Here are 5 typical effects of relationship anxiety:

  1. Major physical reactions: Stomach and digestive issues, headaches, and fatigue
  2. Stress-like symptoms: Dizziness, insomnia, changes in blood pressure, and hair loss
  3. Tiredness: Your productivity at work may suffer, along with normal daily life activities
  4. Concentration on your partner: You turn down invitations to go out and socialize with co-workers and even a close friend because you must be with your current partner as much as possible.
  5. Constant conflicts: Your anxiety will inevitably impact your romantic relationship with your partner. If you don’t find a way to deal with and overcome your anxiety disorders, that partner may call it quits.

These are prime signs of relationship anxiety caused by insecure attachment styles. Ultimately, you feel increased anxiety, become isolated from a normal social life, and close yourself to building a trusting relationship with any other romantic partners.

10 Strategies to Overcome Relationship Anxiety

Once you decide you don’t want your anxiety disorders to ruin your relationship, the best approach is to attend couples therapy. This way, you can work on your problem together with your partner and have a reality check on your situation. However, if you’re not ready for couples therapy but still want to stop relationship anxiety from affecting every aspect of your life, here are some strategies you can try on your own.

1. Conduct Some Research on Relationship Anxiety

In addition to this read, access peer-reviewed studies and other research verified by medical reviewers. Identify the specific causes that relate to your relationship anxiety disorder. Once you know the causes, you can begin to work on addressing them.

2. Access Online Therapy Resources

Find a therapist who works specifically with a person with relationship anxiety and stick with it. It’s a process, not a quick fix. If it’s hard, that’s perfectly normal, especially if you’re at the early stages of dealing with constantly feeling insecure.

Breathing is helpful when dealing with anxiety

3. Do Something That Reduces Your Anxiety

The list of activities you can pick from to stop spending your time worrying about your partner and look inward is long, so choose what works best for you. This can be a workout, yoga class, or meditation. When you feel anxiety rearing, try deep breathing and place yourself in a peaceful place.

4. Do Something to Detract Thought

In addition to finding inner peace, seek a hobby outside your current relationship:

  • Enroll in a course that interests you
  • Make plans to get together with friends for social outings
  • Pursue a new activity that has always interested you
  • Get involved in some volunteer work where you can be of service to others

5. Be Honest With Your Partner About Your Feelings

Having honest conversations is a must because your relationship partner has a right to know what you are going through. Perhaps they can reassure you that your feelings are unfounded. At the very least, they can take steps to help reduce your anxiety (e.g., keep in touch and let you know where they are at regular intervals – even a short text will help). Don’t hide your vulnerability from them if you’re in a trusting relationship.

Related reading: How to Build Trust in a Relationship: 15 Tips

6. Try Individual Therapy

If your partner doesn’t want to join couples therapy with you, you can still attend the individual therapy alone. Building a relationship will become easier once you work your problems out.

7. Avoid Acting Impulsively When Anxiety Kicks In

Don’t start blowing up your phone with calls or texts whenever your anxiety begins and grows. Try to catch yourself before you do that. Have a list of things you can do instead posted on your frig. Run to that frig, choose something appealing, and dig into it. Your partner will thank you, and your relationship will take a step forward.

8. Engage in Self-Talk

Everyone has some things in their life that are praise-worthy. What about you? Create a list of all the good things about yourself:

  • You are a good person who cares about others
  • You are really good at your job, and others praise your work
  • You have saved and invested toward your retirement
  • You have great writing skills
  • You can whip up a gourmet meal in no time.

Make your list and add each new achievement. And when you doubt your self-worth, read it.

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9. Reclaim Your Identity

Who were you before you entered into this relationship with your partner? You had a life as a highly functioning adult. Go back to that time in your mind and recall what you did in those days and nights.

Start doing those things again. The more you do, the more your feelings about yourself will change. In short, you are not in a relationship with your partner.

10. Actively Practice Living in the Moment

When you are with your partner, embrace the time with them. Put your anxiety on the back burner and focus on how you enjoy your time together. Nothing in life is promised, so, as the saying goes, “carpe diem,” or seize the day. Let your feelings of enjoyment take over.

Relationship Anxiety Is Real, But It Can be Addressed

“Just as you can’t change from one kind of personality to another, you can’t completely change your attachment style…But you can certainly make enough changes that an insecure attachment style doesn’t hold you back in life.”

Jason Wheeler, psychotherapist

Regarding relationship anxiety, you should embrace your past but take responsibility to change your future:

  • You can’t change the anxiety that an insecure attachment style from childhood affected you, but you can acknowledge it’s one of your traumas and work on that.
  • You can’t change the pain of a past relationship that left you with feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, but you can try to build a trusting relationship again.
  • You cannot change the anxiety you feel with each new relationship and partner, but you can practice yoga and living in the moment to stay alert.

You cannot change any of your experiences that have brought you to relationship anxiety, but you can change your attitude to them. Recognize that your anxiety is impacting your mental health, and you must do something about it.

Dealing with relationship anxiety is not easy and is not a “quick fix.” You will have to be committed and honest about your anxiety triggers with yourself and your partner and seek professional help if you cannot overcome it on your own.

You’ll start changing your situation once you realize that living with relationship anxiety doesn’t have to be your fate.

Love&Sex Expert
Cherie Hamilton
I’ve always been inspired by women who are outgoing, very sure of themselves, and not afraid to be who they were, including their sex lives. Under their tutelage, I gradually shed my old self, hung out and socialized with them, and, over time, became the empowered, self-confident, and sexual woman I am today. Happy to share my insights with other women today!
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