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How to Spot and Break Up with Relationship Anxiety

So, you have relationship anxiety.

Now, that’s just silly.

Relationships only demand a high level of effort to keep them alive and open you up to be the most vulnerable you can ever be in life, putting immense pressure on your day-to-day life.

What’s so worrisome about that?


The worry often comes from the reality that everyone’s day-to-day life is actually all about relationships. In fact, life is relationships and relationships are life.

How to Spot and Break Up with Relationship Anxiety - Maison Vie New Orleans Therapy and Counseling Louisiana - Susan Harrington
While relationship anxiety is a natural part of life, it doesn’t make it any easier to confront or manage. Image by John Hain on Pixabay.

Humans are social creatures who absolutely require relationships to survive. It’s at the very core of our existence, which makes relationship anxiety as normal as breathing.

While relationship anxiety is a natural part of life, it doesn’t make it any easier to confront or manage. People often do not know the signs indicating someone is suffering from the condition or, even when they do, how best to deal with it.

Fortunately, countless people throughout history have experienced situations just like yours so we know what works to manage and overcome these types of stresses.

Does relationship anxiety feel like your one and only?

Anxiety can be overwhelming — when there is too much of it, it can be completely debilitating. In a close relationship, a partner’s job is to be mindful of the other person’s actions and attitude.

Knowing the signs of relationship anxiety can be a tremendous help to a partner who may not be verbally expressing their thoughts and feelings or minimizing their communication.

Are there specific behaviors that we might see when our partner or spouse is experiencing too much anxiety?

Yes. Anxiety shows up as clear behavior for most people.

  1. Pacing
  2. Sleeplessness
  3. Trembling hands or quivering voice
  4. Quick speech pattern
  5. Crying
  6. Argumentativeness
  7. Grouchy
  8. Expressing dissatisfaction
  9. Isolating
  10. A change in eating habits, and
  11. The most telling sign of too much anxiety is persistent “what if” thinking.

These behaviors are normal and common occurrences when we experience distress, fear, and overwhelm. Frequency, pervasiveness, and negative impacts on your ability to function are important factors to consider when determining if there is “too much” anxiety.

NOTE: If you are experiencing your pulse or heartbeat racing or chest pains, please go to the emergency room as soon as possible. Medical professionals can tell you if there is a concern with your respiratory system or if you are experiencing a panic attack.

Relationship anxiety can be overwhelming — when there is too much of it, it can be completely debilitating. In a close relationship, a partner’s job is to be mindful of the other person’s actions and attitude. Image by Juba’s Jang on Rawpixel.

How does “too much” anxiety show up in my marriage/adult relationship?

One person’s distress in a relationship is felt by everyone in the family, no matter their age. The difference is how the anxiety changes the dance between them, especially the couple system.

For example, if I blame you for a problem, we may argue or we may avoid one another, or we may do both. If I criticize you for always being so negative, you may isolate yourself from social events or redirect the blame back towards you. These interactions typically result in couples growing further apart, which only results in more distress for everyone in the home.

As a marriage and family therapist, I have worked with adult relationships that talk about “too much” anxiety that has presented with complaints about “poor communication” to infidelity.

The specifics of how emotional distress, in this case, moderate to high levels of anxiety, shows in a couple’s interactions are unique to each person’s way of being with others. The joining of adults in a relationship, the dance referred to earlier, means you are also joining ways of being with others. In family therapy, we call these ways of being with others “attachment styles.”

There are four basic styles:

  1. Anxious,
  2. Avoidant,
  3. Fearful, and
  4. Securely attached.

The most common sign of “too much” anxiety in an adult relationship is the pairing of a pursuer with a distancer. Specifically, this looks like one partner often needing the other partner to respond while the other partner does anything they can think of to avoid engaging, like sleep, ignore texts or calls, leave the situation, or stonewall.

(4 Warning Signs That Can Predict Divorce + What To Do About It)

No adult relationship has a consistent pairing of attachment styles. It is normal to present with any of these attachment styles at varying moments and in varying combinations. But distress, in the case of this discussion, “too much” anxiety, individually and interpersonally forms when we become rigid, i.e., overly reliant upon one style of interacting over another.

To experience the healthiest style, securely attached, we need to experience our relationship with our partner as accessible, responsive, and emotionally engaged.

Any suggestions on how couples can get started with changing the way they talk with one another so that they feel securely attached?

Parents teach their children a very important tool to encourage safety when they repeat the phrase “Stop. Look both ways before you cross the street.” The essence of this message focuses on the importance of paying attention. It is valuable in all aspects of adult life as well. Apply the essence of this phrase when you are talking with your spouse or partner. Simply put, be mindful of your message, its impact on others, and how you say it before you say it.

Securely attached relationships are generally less distressed and more content. Each partner trusts that when one partner reaches out to the other partner they will receive a response, big or small, that ultimately says “You matter to me, period.”

Decades of research on securely attached relationships have shown to have a significantly higher chance of being a long-term happy marriage because of how they respond when they reach out to each other, even if “too much” anxiety is present.

Let me help

You can also contact Maison Vie to see how Susan can help address relationship anxiety by guiding you through counseling sessions.

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