Trauma can take on many forms and if I’m writing this today, it is because I actually underestimated how anxiety and even some types of Relationship OCD (ROCD) can affect the lives of many people who just judge themselves « hard to live with ».
I am not saying, by any stretch of the mind, that people who are easily triggered in their relationships are traumatized or even have anxiety but it has come to my attention that it can happen and this is why I wanted to talk about it.
My Story with Anxiety
I would like to point out that I have been affected by an anxiety quite debilitating in 2018. Why? Because I lost my business, with the money that I lost went also almost every trace of my self-esteem. I started to doubt myself on every level and I simply couldn’t control my everyday thoughts! Of course, my behavior was following my thoughts. I would wake up, not do anything particularly productive and wait for the day to pass.
At this point in my life, I have been with my wife for 19 years. We had good years, we had bad years (yes, years!) but ultimately anxiety crawled into my couple also. Had I not been blessed with the kindest wife ever by my side, I don’t think I would have got my shit together in a year and a half!
What is Relationship Anxiety?
Before talking about relationship anxiety, I’d like to define what « anxiety » really is for me!
Anxiety is a disorder of the doubt! It messes up your clarity to a point where you could start doubting each and every daily decisions in your life. Thing is, we take north of 200 decisions per day! Imagine a life where each of those decisions become difficult to take.
Relationship Anxiety is doubting your partner, your couple, your relationships, your intimacy. Some people experience it on a narrow spectrum, some others, it can affect every aspect of their relationship.
How can you recognize it?
I’d like to share with you some behaviors that can be associated with relationship anxiety. Tell me if you recognize yourself:
- Over-checking with friends , « is it normal to find other people attractive? », « is it normal to think about ex? »
- Constantly asking for reassurance, « do you REALLY find me attractive? » « prettier than other girls? » « do you still love me? »
- Comparing your relationship to others
- Excessive list making (Pros VS Cons of your partner)
- Excessive doubts « Do I really love my partner? », « is s/he lying about liking/loving me? »
- Excessive reverse doubts « Am I really a good partner? »
- Over researching relationship articles to make sure you’re in a good relationship
Of course, some people can have most of these behaviors, some others it’s just some of those traits but the point is how debilitating do you find your anxiety when it comes to your relationship?
How Can You Help Yourself When You Feel Anxious?
First off, there’s something crucial to understand about yourself. The mind that created the problem can not be the one who’s going to solve the problem. Whatever you are going to do, it will start with self-awareness. Why? Because you can’t correct thinking and emotional patterns that you are not aware of.
This is the first and foremost behavior you should adopt. Thing is, so much of our daily habits just slip right under our level of consciousness. We think, say and do things on a continual basis, without being aware that we do them.
Journaling is very effective when it comes to notice our triggers and usual responses.
It doesn’t have to be particularly long or boring, you can take the habit to just write a few words in your phone. I personally use Google Keep in order to find my notes on all of my devices.
There are so many parts to compulsive anxiety but two things are always present (pun intended). It is the over-analyzing of the past and the over-apprehension of the future. Both these thinking patterns can be quieted with a simple but very effective exercice.
For the next 10 to 15 minutes, you are going to name whatever action you are doing
- I am typing on my computer
- I am worried about my relationship with my neighbors
- I am looking at my feet because I don’t know what to write
And so on…
It is forcing your consciousness to stay in the present and not revisit the past or try to predict the future. By doing this exercice often, you rewire your brain. It’s like giving a lesson to your brain: this is what I want you to do.
The Gratitude Journal
Anxiety makes you focus on what’s wrong or what could go wrong or why it’s wrong or any variations of those three…
Looking at the glass half empty is a decision! It is not agreeable, it is not useful and it is not even conscious but it is a decision! You can actually help your brain by using it’s amazing plasticity properties by helping it notice what is going well in your relationship.
Gratitude is almost miraculous! My kids, my wife and I made it a habit to tell our top 3 blessings of the day each and every night before bed. It takes 3/4 minutes and every one has the right to choose their blessings and nobody judges the blessings of someone else. If it felt good, it felt good, period!
Take the habit to write what is going well with your partner.
- My wife cooked something amazing today.
- My husband looked at me with envy, I felt it!
- My wife brought my cell to my car before I leave.
- My husband took care of the dishes.
If it felt good, write it down, try to find back the emotion you felt at the moment. With time (not long actually), this habit of reviewing your day and looking for the good stuff will spread during the day and you will catch yourself being grateful while the thing is happening. You’ll know that you are on the right track!
The right track
I find the following idea fascinating…
As long as you trend in the right direction, it is what’s most important.
Anxiety makes us be very harsh with ourselves. Actual Self-Compassion is the true healer. The inner critic will always be there and it will always have something stupid and mean to say about our progress but that’s not important. We can choose to be compassionate even to the inner critic.
The most important aspect of you leaving your relationship anxiety behind is this idea: as long as you are trending in the direction of gratefulness, of appreciation and awareness, you are certainly doing some things right. Keep at it!