“It’s fine…you can do this.”
“There’s nothing to worry about.”
“Relax–everything will work out in the end.”
Or maybe you have given up on trying to reassure your partner that worrying is not helpful, and are now using statements such as:
“Enough already! Stop obsessing!”
“You are driving me crazy with your worries!”
“How old are you? Grow up…it’s just a [snake, spider, dog, etc.]”
Depending on the approach you take, you may have figured out that anxiety can be a tenacious beast, and doesn’t usually respond well to gentle encouragement or harsh criticism. Trying to find the right balance, though, can be tricky.
So what can you do if you have an anxious partner?
- Learn about the type of anxiety your partner is dealing with. There are six types of diagnosable anxiety disorders, and then there’s plain “everyday anxiety” that everyone experiences. Different approaches and techniques work differently, depending on what type of anxiety you are trying to neutralize. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to handle it.
- Stop accommodating your partner.If you have children, you know that sometimes it is easier to give in to the crying and whining than to listen to it for one more minute. Although I do not mean to compare your partner’s anxieties to the demands of children, the urge to just take care of whatever it is that is generating anxiety for your partner can also seem like the easy way out. For example, if your partner has a fear of flying, driving to your destination might seem like a reasonable compromise, but it does nothing to help your partner overcome the fear. Until your partner gets the message that you will not jump in to save them, they will have little incentive to face the fear. It’s an act of love to say “no.”
- Limit your reassurances. Being a supportive partner means that you want your partner to feel safe, secure, and loved. Anxious partners, however, can get caught in a cycle of needing continual reassurance, and that can wear you down quickly, especially when you realize that you are constantly telling your partner that everything is fine, yet they still don’t believe you enough to stop asking. It’s okay to reassure your partner once that yes, the stove was off when you left for work in the morning, but if they call you five more times at work to “just make sure,” you need to be gentle, but firm with your response: “I hear you are concerned, but we’ve already talked about this.” Repeat as necessary.
- Encourage your partner to distract with pleasurable activities. It is hard to feel anxious when you are out for a bike ride or run, engaged in a hobby, watching a funny movie, or reading a good book. Sometimes all that is needed is a distraction to allow your partner’s brain enough time to reset from the frenzy anxiety can whip up.
- Practice your own self care. If you are frazzled, stressed, and anxious yourself, you are no good in helping your partner reduce their anxiety. Therapy, support groups, and online forums are all good sources of support, and you can try these tips as well.