Relationships, whether old or young, can be stressful. But when do the natural feelings of worry become obsessive, and the fears you experience become full-blown relationship anxiety?
For a condition that is so common and has such a profound effect on your mental health, relationship anxiety’s symptoms and coping mechanisms are not talked about nearly enough.
If you feel worried, anxious, or experience other negative emotions regarding your relationships, this article can help you understand why and what you can do to stop your spiraling fears.
- Relationship anxiety is a seldom spoken about condition that causes excessive feelings of fear and worries regarding intimate or other relationships.
- The condition can manifest in various ways, such as sabotage, distrust, and controlling behavior.
- The causes of relationship anxiety range from upbringing and attachment styles to past negative experiences.
- Treating or coping with relationship anxiety may involve therapy, meditation, or open communication.
- One of the major causes of relationship anxiety is low self-esteem, which is connected to other mental health issues like depression and suicidal thoughts.
What Is Relationship Anxiety?
Relationship anxiety refers to feelings of fear, doubt, and worry surrounding intimacy and bonds between you and the people you care about.
Although relationship anxiety can affect anyone and any type of bond, whether friends or romantic partners, the condition most commonly appears in intimate relationships. Often these negative thoughts and worries don’t have any natural cause. Yet, you still find yourself questioning their loyalty or whether they love you as much as they say they do.
Effects of Relationship Anxiety
Relationship anxiety is a widespread occurrence in couples of any orientation and could lead to various long-term effects like:
- Deteriorating mental health
- Poor relationship quality, or no longer deriving happiness from your relationship 
- Breakups or divorce
- General unhappiness
- Depression 
Relationship anxiety in a couple should be addressed by both the person experiencing the condition and their partner.
If you’re looking for more information to help your partner with relationships or any kind of anxiety, check out our guidelines on how to help someone with anxiety.
New Relationship Anxiety
Anxious thoughts or feelings at the start of a relationship are entirely normal. Whether you’re unsure of your feelings, those of your partner’s, or even just confused by all the different emotions you’re experiencing at once, a new relationship can be frustratingly stressful, especially when everyone expects you to be euphorically happy.
Many people don’t realize their partners are experiencing these anxious emotions because, although it’s not a medical diagnosis, some people are capable of hiding and functioning despite their condition, known as high functioning anxiety. Others experience crippling anxiety, making them unable to participate in life as actively as they did before.
What percentage of US adults do you think suffer from severe anxiety symptoms?
To better understand the difference between the two, our article on high functioning anxiety vs. crippling anxiety provides a comprehensive look at both.
Signs of Relationship Anxiety to Watch Out For
There are many different signs that you may be suffering from relationship anxiety. The majority of the symptoms and signs are psychological and include:
1. Worrying About Breaking Up
A significant indicator you may have relationship anxiety is if you regularly worry about breaking up with your partner. Whether it’s after every argument or whenever they don’t seem to be in a good mood, constantly choosing to believe you’re about to break up is as strong an indicator as any that you’re experiencing the condition.
2. Questioning If Your Partner Still Loves You
If you always feel like your partner may fall out of love with you at a moment’s notice, you may also have relationship anxiety. Feelings of doubt can ruin even the best relationships, and they should be addressed quickly.
3. Being Unsure of Your Compatibility
If you’re the type of person who usually worries about long-term commitment, this may be normal. However, if you suddenly begin to feel unsure about your compatibility, especially if there’s no reason for your thoughts, you may have anxiety too.
4. Attempting to Sabotage Your Relationship
Trying to sabotage your relationship is another significant sign you may have relationship anxiety. Symptoms of sabotage in an intimate relationship could include:
- Always looking for a way out or a reason to leave
- Gaslighting or making fun of your partner’s feelings towards you
- Being excessively jealous and suspicious of your partner's behavior
- Projecting your low self-esteem on your partner, usually by asking why they are with you based on your perceived intelligence, appearance, or a range of other factors
Sabotage can be highly damaging to any relationship, none more so than romantic or intimate relationships. Without a strong sense of self, therapy may be the only way to deal with these tendencies and is essential if you want to maintain a healthy commitment.
5. Avoiding Growth and Intimacy
If you feel hesitant to take steps forward in your relationship despite everything going well, you may also have relationship anxiety.
This could include fears about emotional intimacy, introducing your partner to your family or friends, having sex, or even saying ‘I love you’ at the moment it is said to you.
6. Worrying You’ve Lost Your Spark
Constantly obsessing over or needing reassurance you haven’t lost your spark can also be a good indicator. Whether you’ve become dissatisfied with your sex life or don’t spend as much time together, the highs and lows are natural and healthy. However, spending all your time worrying about them is not.
Over-analyzing your partner’s every word or action can be another vital sign.
Overthinking things often lead to unnecessary arguments and could be more detrimental to the health of your relationship than it could help you feel reassured.
8. Doubting Their Loyalty
Experiencing doubt over whether your partner is seeing someone else can be worrisome. Although there are cases in which this may be justified, if you feel this way without reason and cannot calm your anxious thoughts, it may be an indicator you have relationship-related anxiety.
9. No Longer Enjoying Your Time Together
If you’re not sure you have relationship anxiety, another sign may be you no longer enjoy spending time together. If your dates, visits, or sex life is flooded with worries and fears, it’s usually an indicator something may be wrong.
10. Wondering If You Matter
If you need repetitive reassurance that your partner cares about you and that your thoughts and feelings matter, regardless of how sensitive your partner is to your needs, you may also have anxiety about your relationship.
11. Needing Constant Reassurance
The desire for constant reassurance can take many forms, like asking your partner whether they love you daily or needing them to tell you they care despite their actions showing you they do.
This sign is prevalent if you’ve had previous relationships go sour and are worrying that the same might happen to your current one.
12. No Longer Trusting Your Partner
This sign branches off from worrying about infidelity. Not only does it include worrying your partner may be cheating, but it could involve even the smallest things like assuming they won’t remember your anniversary or will speak badly of you with their friends.
13. Lying to Your Partner and Loved Ones
Feeling anxious and having no way to cope with your emotions can be stressful. Often this will lead you to tell the most common lie of all, ‘I’m fine.’
Hiding your discomfort or fears because you’re scared your partner may think less of you or leave you if you open up is another symptom of relationship anxiety.
14. Trying to Control Your Partner’s Words and Actions
Mistrust and anxiety in a relationship commonly result in one or both partners trying to exert complete control over each other’s actions.
Unfortunately, this can very quickly ruin a relationship and destroy any trust built up over time.
15. Not Communicating
Not saying what’s on your mind because you’re worried your partner may leave or become angry is another symptom of relationship-based anxiety. A breakdown of communication between partners can quickly lead to even worse anxiety and fear over the relationship’s future.
16. Having Trouble Sleeping
Negative thoughts and the stress accompanying them can keep you up at night. If you find it difficult to sleep because your mind is racing with scenarios of your partner leaving or that you’re moving too fast, you may have relationship-related anxiety.
If you or your partner experiences these episodes, our article on how to calm anxiety at night can help you cope.
What Triggers Relationship Anxiety?
A range of factors could trigger anxiety in a relationship, including childhood traumas or previous experiences. The most common triggers are explained below.
1. Low Self Esteem
Low self-esteem is a key factor responsible for various mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts .
Having low self-esteem could cause you to feel like your partner doesn’t love you or has found something wrong with you, and ties in to needing constant reassurance and wondering if you matter enough for your partner to stay loyal .
Changing your thought pattern and estimate of your self-worth can be challenging but not impossible if provided with the proper support and therapy .
2. Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorder includes a varied group of conditions that affect your mental health. A person with an anxiety disorder may suffer from a generalized condition, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or social phobia .
Anxiety disorders must be medically diagnosed and treated. Symptoms may include :
- Excessive worry
- Muscle tension and aches
- Trouble sleeping
A past or current, unrelated anxiety disorder may make you more prone to developing relationship anxiety, causing you to feel worry or concern over the health of your relationship.
What percentage of US adults do you think experience anxiety disorder symptoms?
3. Past Relationship Experience
Negative experiences in past relationships may significantly impact the severity and extent of your relationship anxiety.
Personal experiences of being in an intimate relationship with a person who cheated, lied, or left without reason could leave you with the fear that it may happen again and result in the development of relationship anxiety.
4. Your Attachment Style
Your past may have a lasting impact on your relationship-related fear or worry. One of the most critical factors influencing relationship anxiety is your attachment style which is typically developed during childhood.
Although there are four main attachment styles, they fall into two categories: secure and insecure.
If you grew up with loving parents, guardians, or caregivers who responded to your needs for care and affection positively, it is likely you developed one of the two secure styles.
However, if you experienced the opposite during childhood, you may exhibit one of the following insecure attachment styles, which could encourage the development of relationship anxiety:
- Anxious attachment: This attachment style may leave you needing constant reassurance that you are loved and cause you to overthink your past and present relationships regularly.
- Avoidant attachment: This could make it difficult for you to trust or depend on your partner. It could also cause substantial anxiety when reaching relationship milestones, becoming intimate, or considering a long-term, committed relationship .
How To Deal With Relationship Anxiety
The tips below may help you find a way to cope with the condition and improve your quality of life and level of intimacy with your partner.
1. Identify Your Triggers
Identifying your triggers could be as simple as recognizing anxious thoughts and consciously choosing to address them internally.
Anxious or negative thoughts and fears can become overwhelming if left unchecked. Realizing when the thoughts start while choosing to find support or remove yourself from the situation that is causing them may help you cope with them over time.
If you notice any of the signs of relationship anxiety listed above, take a calm approach to these thoughts and remind yourself they are not real and that the condition simply causes them.
Avoid acting on these feelings until you have become calm enough to assess them rationally and with a clear head.
2. Practice Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness runs side by side with avoiding triggers. One of the simplest ways to be more mindful is to acknowledge your anxious thoughts, not avoid or deny them, but refuse to let them affect your mental health or overall happiness.
Other mindfulness practices a person with relationship anxiety can include meditation, journaling, or seeking therapy to help you with the process .
3. Preserve Your Identity
One source of anxious thoughts could be the loss of your sense of self. As your relationship develops, you may find some of your previous independence, everyday activities, personal opinions change.
Although this change isn't inherently wrong, setting up the right boundaries, choosing to participate in activities alone, and practicing regular self-care can make a world of difference in anxiety caused by triggers related to your avoidant attachment style or fears of the future.
4. Communicate With Your Partner
Although it may seem daunting, talking to your partner about your feelings and fears can help ease your stress and worry. If your partner’s words or actions hurt you, communicate your feelings. An honest, open conversation can provide you with the clarity and support you need to cope with the anxiety you experience.
Open communication about boundaries and expectations can also help allay your fears about the future and your compatibility with your partner.
How Do I Talk to My Partner About My Relationship Anxiety?
Talking to your partner about what is causing your anxiety can often lead to even more anxiety. The best way to communicate with them is to choose a time where you are feeling calm and rational.
If you or your partner is having an anxiety-induced panic attack, our guide on how to stop a panic attack can help.
Once you and your partner are in a non-stressful environment, approach the subject in a non-judgmental, caring way. Accusations and emotional outbursts may only worsen the situation, and discussing your feelings calmly is the only right way to begin the conversation.
If you can’t imagine bringing up the subject yourself, consider couple’s therapy and allow a therapist to guide the conversation in the right direction.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Therapy
Finding support can help you deal with your relationship anxiety in a healthy way. If you’re not comfortable sharing your thoughts with your partner yet, consider finding a therapist specializing in anxiety disorders.
Whether individual or aimed at couples, therapy can help guide the introspection necessary to start acknowledging your relationship-based fears and facing them without becoming crippled by anxiety.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding relationship anxiety.
Can Dating Someone With Anxiety Give You Anxiety?
Dating, or having an intimate relationship with an anxious person could cause you to develop unusual worry and stress .
Whether they are projecting their fears onto you or you care deeply enough about them to worry about their anxiety, they may cause your mental health to deteriorate to a point where you experience the same condition as them.
Why Does My Relationship Give Me Anxiety?
Many factors may trigger relationship anxiety, including feeling as though you’re losing independence or simply childhood experiences or past relationships that didn’t work out and left you in constant need of reassurance.
Projecting these memories onto your current relationship could cause anxiety regardless of whether your fears are founded or not.
Can Anxiety Cause Relationship Doubts?
Some of the main symptoms of relationship anxiety include relationship doubts like wondering if you matter to your partner, if they still love you and whether you are compatible.
Why Do I Have Anxiety Over Relationships for No Reason?
Anxiety and fear related to dating are common. It can be caused by various factors, including your upbringing, previous relationship experiences, or feelings of losing your identity, all of which are in no way related to your partner or relationship.
Is Anxiety at the Beginning of a Relationship Normal?
Feelings of anxiety when you just start dating are normal. However, once they start interfering with an otherwise healthy relationship you should look at finding coping mechanisms or someone to talk to about how you feel.
Relationship anxiety is a complex condition that requires more than someone just telling you to get over it. Thankfully, identifying the causes of anxiety in your relationship and implementing a range of coping mechanisms or visiting a therapist can help you and your partner feel better and strengthen the bond you share.
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