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December 21, 2022

Love Recon White Couple arguing by car

Supporting Your Partner Living With Anxiety

If you are in love with someone who suffers from anxiety, you have no doubt wondered how to help them deal with their fears and angst. It might even be that you have tried to help them only to have your efforts backfire on you and the relationship. Following are some suggestions to help you support your partner as they live and deal with anxiety.

HAVE CONVERSATIONS ABOUT ITStop Sabotaging Your Relationship body.jpg

Please don’t make assumptions about your partner or their anxiety! Having an open conversation, free of judgment can strengthen your relationship. It could be that they don’t mention their anxiety, so you assume they don’t want to talk about it. Then, not wanting to upset them, you don’t bring up the subject either. This is a mistake! Read the next suggestion below. 

ASK WHAT THEY NEED

Ask them how you can best support them. Do they want advice? (Probably not!) Do they need you to listen and validate their feelings? What makes them most comfortable in living with anxiety? What makes them most uncomfortable? Some people don’t want to discuss their struggle in front of others, even family or close friends. They may not need you to ask them how they are doing every morning. Instead, they may wish to share their feelings only as they arise.

LEARN THE SIGNS

Anxiety conditions are similar in that they usually involve persistent fear and worry. However, the manifestation of these symptoms can be very different. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety:

  • Physical Symptoms

Digestive distress, insomnia, headaches, and muscle pain may be present.

  • Panic Attacks
  • Unfounded Worries About Health
  • Pandemic Anxiety – COVID-19 has created anxiety for many people.

DON’T EXPLAIN THAT THEIR FEAR IS IRRATIONAL

First, they probably know that their fear is not rational and that what they are worried about will never happen. Your explanation will likely make them feel stupid. You should ask them why this particular fear upsets them. Bringing the fear into the light will often neutralize or dissipate it. Let them tell you out loud how silly it is. Don’t ever make that statement to them!

DON’T TRY TO FIX OR RESCUE THEM

You are their partner, their lover, not their therapist. They can’t heal from this for you. It’s only natural to want to do everything possible to heal your partner’s pain and improve their life. As a general rule, however, mental health conditions don’t disappear. This means that your partner’s anxiety may never completely go away.

In helping your partner through their feelings of anxiety, you might consider doing daily meditations together. In addition, make regular physical activity with them a habit. Walk, jog or cycle with them, for example. Exercise has been shown to boost serotonin levels in the brain, and serotonin may help ease anxiety and depression.

VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS

Validating your partner lets them know that you “value” them, no matter their feelings. By its very nature, anxiety is not logical; therefore, your partner’s fears may not seem logical to you. They probably know that their fear isn’t rational. Telling them, “That doesn’t make sense,” or “That will never happen,” only makes them feel frustrated or, worse, ashamed. Instead, try saying things like,

  • “I understand that you are feeling frightened and overwhelmed.”
  • “That sounds very upsetting. What can I do to help?”
  • “I get why you are so worried.”
  • “I hear that you are afraid that we will break up. I don’t want to lose you, either. “

Validation is not agreeing with or encouraging their anxiety. It is acknowledging their feelings without reinforcing them. Remember, validation is valuing them as a person.

MAKE THEM FEEL SAFE

Please don’t make them feel that your love is conditional on them getting better. Of course, you want them to feel better, not so it will benefit you, but because you love them and want the best for them. Communicate that your love is constant. Instead of a mindset like, “Let’s beat this!”, it could be more supportive to approach anxiety from the perspective of, “I’m here to walk through this with you, and I’m not going anywhere.”

DON’T STOP YOUR LIFE

It is essential that you practice good self-care and encourage your partner to do the same. Keep hobbies that you enjoy. Nurture your relationships with family and friends. Take the time to unwind and relax before bed. Get enough sleep. Eat regular meals, avoid fast foods, and stay hydrated.

Don’t skip a friend’s birthday party or your nephew’s graduation because your partner is experiencing whatever phobia is gripping them now. Yes, they are in pain, but chances are they will feel guilty for keeping you from special events when they are better. Also, you need to avoid drowning in their whirlpool of emotions. Let them know your agenda and schedule. Check in on them and let them know you are thinking of them and will be home soon.

SET BOUNDARIES AND EXPECTATIONS

Boundaries set limits and clarify the expectations of what you will and will not do for someone else. Boundaries protect you physically and emotionally in a relationship. You might consider boundaries like:

  • Receiving texts from them when you are working, but not taking phone calls.
  • Going out with friends as planned instead of staying home because of their anxiety, yet promising to check in and to be home at 11:00 PM.
  • Designating a set amount of money to help them get professional help.
  • Being honest about your feelings and challenges that arise and not trying to shield or protect your partner from realities. They are still adults, not invalids, who need to participate in all aspects of your relationship.

GO TO COUPLES COACHING OR COUNSELING

Anything that affects one of you affects both of you. Anxiety can have a significant impact on your relationships. Often, one side effect of anxiety is irritability which can lead to more disagreements and an eventual pulling away from each other. The partner of someone with anxiety also may feel overwhelmed and begin to distance themselves to get relief. It is not at all unusual for anxiety to be accompanied by depression which can be detrimental to the relationship as well.

Relationship counseling or coaching can help a couple learn to communicate and resolve conflict more effectively. It can help relieve tension and increase each partner’s validation. Working on your relationship with a skilled professional is a healthy choice. Love Recon is an excellent and proven marriage help experience that has helped many break free from past baggage and damage, including anxiety and fear.

SUGGEST THEY CONSIDER THERAPY

In almost every instance, therapy can be beneficial for anxiety. If anxiety is disrupting everyday life and routines, beginning to affect sleep or physical health, and negatively affecting relationships, then it could be time to suggest therapy.

Be tactful and wise in how you approach your partner. For therapy to be successful, the person must agree to it and connect with a therapist themselves. You can’t do it for them. You can research therapists in your area and offer the best ones as suggestions. Once they have agreed to do therapy, you can offer to attend with them at the therapist’s discretion. If you have loved ones or friends who have had good experiences with treatment, they could share their experiences with your partner. This is assuming, of course, that your partner is okay with them knowing.

Hope for the future

The good news is that anxiety often improves with treatment, and there’s much you can do to support your partner in the meantime. Don’t forget, however, to take care of your own needs also!

If you want to discuss how we can help you and your relationship, don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected] or call 866-218-1716. You may also visit our website, www.LoveRecon.org, for testimonials and information.

About the author 

Cliff Poe

Cliff Poe is Founder and Lead Coach for Recon Coaching. He and his wife, Jeani, are Master Coaches and their passion is to help individuals and couples form healthy, lasting and satisfying relationships. Cliff has a M.Div. in pastoral counseling and ministry. He enjoys writing and coaching as well as his family which includes 2 adult kids and their spouses, 6 grandchildren and a fur family composed of a Golden Retriever and a Mackerel Tabby.


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