Anxiety plagues many of us, stealing our peace of mind, but also inserting itself into our marriages.
And that can cause some real problems.
I received this guest post from Amy, the awesome co-founder of Two Drifters, and thought many of you could relate to it–and that it seemed especially timely right now, given what we’re all going through. Amy and I do a lot together on Pinterest and social media, so it’s great to get a window into her marriage, and how God has helped her. Here’s Amy!
There’s no better way to put it. Unfortunately, the statistics don’t lie (and neither do my anxious friends and family members): a huge percentage of us suffer from anxiety.
While that is unfortunate, it does make for one blessing in disguise; the frequency of anxiety means that we are all far from alone. Many of us understand. Lots of us have been there. Quite a few of us are there right now. And we can connect, commiserate, and encourage one another who are dealing with the same things.
It is often said that anxiety attacks the things that matter most to us. It comes as no surprise to me, then, that my anxiety has frequently centered around my relationship with my husband.
Despite the fact that we have a wonderful, happy marriage and a downright beautiful relationship, anxiety has played a big role throughout our 8 years together. While anxiety has tried to pull us apart, it has never been successful. There are many reasons for that: love, faith, and action. I want to share all the ways in which anxiety has plagued my marriage and how my husband and I were able to deal with it.
By far the worst type of anxiety I’ve dealt with in my relationship is my need for excessive reassurance. For the first several years of our relationship, I dealt with tremendous insecurity. Despite the fact that Nathan was an honest, loving, and open partner, I was wracked with fears that he would leave me and obsessing over every interaction we had.
This was at its worst when we were dating but not yet engaged. Although Nathan told me readily that he wanted the relationship to work out and was invested in staying together, my anxiety focused largely on this lack of an “official” commitment. I found myself constantly questioning his feelings for me and asking him for reassurance of what they were.
I’d ask things like: Do you love me? How much? Are you sure you’ll never leave me? What if your feelings change? Have you ever loved anyone this much? Are you annoyed with me? Are you thinking of leaving me? Are you sure?
And even though Nathan gave me lots of reassurance and some really loving, honest answers, I still never felt quite convinced. Something inside me could not relax and accept the love that was right in front of me. It may have been a lack of self-love, some deep-seated abandonment fears from my past, or a particularly awful breakup I’d endured a few years prior.
Whatever it was, it manifested itself as a nonstop quest for reassurance from Nathan. I am amazed sometimes that we made it through that time, because I know how agonizing it was for me and I can only imagine how taxing it was on Nathan. It’s not easy to feel responsible for someone else’s feelings and try to give them an endless stream of reassurance. And when they don’t believe what you’re saying, it can feel hopeless.
Fortunately, we DID get through this. I was committed to sorting through this issue and with the health of therapy, journaling, and lots of practice and patience, this anxiety did not get the opportunity to steal away my marriage.
You can read my whole story of needing reassurance in a relationship to learn how I worked through it and all the specific ways I tackled this type of anxiety.
Another kind of anxiety went after our relationship, too. This one tended to be endured by Nathan. He experienced some anxiety specifically focused on relationships.
While I was worried about Nathan’s feelings for me and his commitment, it turns out, he was kind of worried about these things, too. He is the type of person who takes every decision into immense consideration, and he acts carefully and deliberately. In terms of relationships, this meant he didn’t jump all in with his feelings right away (the way someone like me did). He was much more guarded with his heart.
As we got closer, Nathan started to experience anxiety about our growing relationship. What if he hurt me? What if it didn’t work out?
He felt that he could not even be sure of his own feelings at times.
What does it mean to be in love? What if he didn’t have that “head over heels” feeling? Weren’t people supposed to?
Together, we learned that this type of relationship anxiety is very common, but it is not often talked about! In fact, we live in a society that tends to emphasize the importance of “being certain”, a world in which “doubt means don’t.” We also live in a society that has long held onto a fairy-tale idea of relationships. The concepts of soulmates and “the one” are prevalent everywhere we look.
But these concepts can be harmful. They are especially damaging for people with anxiety—particularly if they tend to question their own feelings or look for certainty.
Again, time, patience, and lots of love and understanding helped my husband and I navigate through this anxiety. It really helped to find that other people had the same experience. It is downright terrifying to be in an intimate relationship with someone where we are fully vulnerable to another person. It’s harder for some of us than others, but it’s good to know you’re not alone if you face a similar kind of relationship anxiety.
Together, we learned what real love looks like. We found that it is not something that is always full of intense emotions and passion. We learned that feelings ebb and flow and that this is totally normal. We learned that love is an action and not a feeling, and so what we choose to DO matters more in our relationship than the state of our transient feelings. This made all the difference and really shifted the way we perceived our relationship and the way we would come to view our marriage a few years down the line.
Ultimately, for each of our flavors of anxiety, Nathan and I both had to learn how to become comfortable with uncertainty, too. That was a challenge! We found that having 100% certainty about anything is generally not possible, but that does not mean that we can’t have security. It doesn’t mean we can’t depend on our partner’s love and commitment. This served as a great reminder us that love is always a choice.
Anxiety wasn’t done with me yet. I have also suffered from some adult separation anxiety over the course of my relationship. When Nathan and I had to be apart for any amount of time, I experienced a great deal of grief and even panic beforehand. It was exacerbated I am sure by the fact that we were long distance for more than a year of our relationship.
Luckily, we came up with ways to handle that together, and it made each separation much easier. Also, time really helped. Now I can go away for a week with hardly any separation anxiety. Well…maybe just a little.
I know that there will always be anxiety in my life, and in my husband’s. We are just anxious people. Aside from the three specific anxieties I wrote about above, we both experience general anxiety of other types. Luckily, being two anxious souls allows us to be strong supporters of one another. And we’ve definitely developed some ways to deal with all this anxiety, both together and on our own. Here they are:
3 Ways to Fight It in Your Marriage (or just life in general!)
1. Turn to God.
We haven’t always had a strong faith during our journey together. But in recent years, we’ve both grown so much closer to God, rekindling the Christian faiths we grew up in. That’s been an amazing journey for both of us (and really deserves an entire blog post in itself) and it’s been a good thing for our anxiety.
We strive to turn over all our cares and anxieties to God, just as He instructs us to (1 Peter 5:7). This is very hard, but it is something that gives us a great deal of comfort and reminds us that we are far from alone in our worries. God is always there for us, and he wants us to trust in Him and rest in Him. There is so much peace in the idea and it’s something we’re working really hard to cling to.
2. Keep connecting.
Nathan and I are extremely affectionate, and we think this is one of the things that has always helped us a great deal in our relationship. It keeps us feeling close and connected every day. It also allows us a real release; there’s nothing so comforting as lying curled up in your partner’s arms. Plus, according to science, cuddling may actually help your anxiety in a biological sense.
However works best for you, really make an effort to connect daily with your partner. It will remind you that you’re in this together and that you can handle anything life throws at you. We’ve got some simple ideas for that here: Relationship Rituals that Can Help Love Last
3. Take practical action.
Finally, you have to be prepared to DO something to help your anxiety. There are so many ways that anxiety can be reduced and assuaged but you have to take practical action.
- Read highly-rated relevant books.
Try what they suggest. Try different ideas like yoga, meditation, etc. Commit to trying all kinds of things and give them a real chance to see if they help.
Get your feelings and thoughts out on paper so you can try to work through them. This has so many benefits.
- See a professional therapist.
Talking to someone who can equip you with tools to manage your anxiety is priceless. If the anxiety is affecting your marriage, you may choose to see a couple’s counselor also.
And no matter what or how you choose to do so, be sure work together with your spouse on the journey to healing. Not only will they be your best support, you just might find that going through something like this together draws you closer.
Amy Hartle is the co-founder and owner of Two Drifters, where she blogs about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. With a Master’s in English and a BA in Musical Theatre, Amy loves to write quality content as well as to entertain, and she hopes to do a bit of both! Amy is happily married to her husband Nathan, and when not working on their sites, Amy & Nathan can be found cuddling, reading, and enjoying delicious lattes.