“Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.” ― Anaïs Nin
My wife and I got married almost one year ago. Even through the ups and downs, I wouldn’t trade this past year for anything. I love her with all my heart, and I want the best for her, but my anxiety has been hurting our relationship.
There was a disconnect between what I felt was best for her and what in reality was best for both her and our relationship.
I thought that by hiding my feelings, fears, and anxious moments I was protecting her. Protecting her from having to see my in distress. Protecting her from feeling obligated to carry the burden alongside me.
As good as my intentions were, I was actually achieving the exact opposite of what I wanted. I was not protecting her, but hurting her. She wants to take on some of those burdens, she wants me to trust her enough to confide in her, and she wants to be the person I can go to when I need help or a shoulder to cry on.
I was not giving her those opportunities. I was keeping everything inside and pushing us further and further apart.
Over the past several weeks we have had some great discussions and she let me know exactly how she feels. In the moment it was not something I wanted to hear, but it was something I needed to hear, and I’m glad we were able to express ourselves.
I’m now working extremely hard to not let my anxiety come between us. I working on being a better husband, a better friend, and a better companion through the journey of life.
Here are 5 things we should all do, to stop letting fear and anxiety hurt our relationships.
1. Make the sacrifices.
How many times has your significant other, friends, or family members made sacrifices for you? How often do they need to alter plans, change what they are doing, or accommodate you because fear or anxiety is preventing you from participating?
While I appreciate when they do this, it should not be the norm. They should not be the only ones sacrificing. Yes, dealing with anxiety is a struggle and not easy to overcome, but it’s not fair if we are only taking and not willing to give.
Relationships are give and take, and if we only take, people will begin to resent us for it and I don’t blame them. I would feel like I was being taken advance of if I was in their shoes.
We need to do the things they want to do, even if we don’t feel comfortable. We need to put them first over ourselves and show them how much we care.
Start small, it’s not always going to be easy, but making sacrifices will show how much you care about the relationship. It will show that you don’t always need to take, but also that you are willing to give.
2. Stop saying “I’m fine”.
“I’m fine”, “I’m good”, “it was fine”. These are the things I say to shut people up in a hope that they stop asking questions. Things I say to keep people from diving deeper into my life and finding things that I don’t want them to see.
Sometimes they are said because I’m embarrassed how I felt or reacted to a situation. Sometimes to protect others from being exposed to the burden I am carrying. Or sometimes they are said for the simple reason that I don’t want to talk. All these reasons are selfish and not fair to the person asking.
We have a responsibility to be honest with the people around us and especially the people we have personal relationships with. Not only will using these answers cause distrust, but they will also keep everything inside you and you will eventually blow up.
When we blow up and let everything out we usually hurt the people we love most. All that pent up stress, fear, struggles come out at once and we lash out at those who care about us.
It is so much better to be honest when asked and tell them what is really going on. They will trust you more and appreciate the fact that you confide and share with them.
3. Voluntarily share what is going on.
Being honest when asked is great, but do you know what is even better? Openly sharing your thoughts and feelings without be prompted to by somebody else.
Nobody wants to feel like they are picking teeth when it comes to knowing what is going on in your life. They don’t want to feel like the only reason you talk to them is because you feel you “have” to. They want you to want to share with them.
This might be one of the sacrifices you need to make. Maybe sharing openly with others is difficult for you, I know it is for me, but it is necessary to strengthen and save our relationships.
It will give you the opportunity to vent and relieve the burden you have been carrying, but it will also make others feel involved and know what is going on in your life.
4. Ask for help.
The fight against anxiety is not meant to be fought alone. We need to humble ourselves, and ask for help. Being independent is great and there is a place for it, but helping each other is what relationships are all about.
You shouldn’t feel nervous or embarrassed to ask for a helping hand, and if the person we ask truly cares about us, there will be no judgment, only support.
Help is not always physical and they might not always have a tangible answer or solution to your problem or situation, but even just words of encouragement go a long way.
You need to be open to receive advice and help. If you are reluctantly listening to what they are saying, you are not giving yourself the opportunity to take anything from it. Even if you feel you have it under control, get some perspective from somebody else.
Our loved ones, family, and friends want the best for us, and they want to help. You need to put your pride aside and ask for it.
5. Accept the help.
Now that you have put your insecurities aside and asked for help, you need to accept the help and put in into practice.
Not all the advice or help you receive will be practical, make sense, or even work, but you need to make an effort to accept the help and give it a try.
Nobody likes giving advice and having the other person ignore it. This makes us feel worthless and useless, and can prevent us from wanting to give advice or help people out again.
Your friends and family cared enough to put thought into your problem. Not only that, they came back with advice, kind words, and a possible solution. What are you going to do with that feedback? Are you going to take it, try it, and learn from it or are you going to ignore it, shrug it off, and forget it completely?
You owe it to them. Try what they suggest and be open to what they say. You never know what is going to work.
If your relationships are going to survive, you have to show the other person you are making an effort to make it work. You don’t want them feeling that you are drowning them, suffocating them, or just ignoring them.
You need to show them that you are willing to change your old ways and habits and form new habits that will benefit the relationship.
They have stuck with you till this point, you owe it to them to make some sacrifices.
Has anxiety affected your relationships? What have you done, or need to do to make positive changes?
Photo by Shanon Wise