Every relationship comes with its share of challenges. And when your significant other has anxiety, one challenge could be that you feel like you’re riding a rollercoaster with unpredictable highs and lows.
Anxiety is tough, isn’t it? Not just for the people that have it, but for you – the people that stick with them – while they’re going through it. It’s emotionally taxing on both ends, it’s physically demanding at times, and of course mentally demanding most of the time.
The road ahead will be tough, but it doesn’t mean it will be absent of love. In fact, it will be filled with it.
Here are some tips for you to remember, when someone you love has anxiety:
• Educate yourself.
The first thing you need to do before anything else is to educate yourself on anxiety. Why? Because this is something so easy to disregard. Yet, it can be so damaging to someone you love.
For that reason alone, you need to be equipped to handle it.
You’ve probably encountered quite a few myths about anxiety. Learning to distinguish myth from reality can make a big difference in how you show up for your partner.
You can offer better support when you have a more accurate understanding of how it affects your partner.
• The best thing you can do is listen.
The most difficult thing about loving someone with anxiety is the feeling of helplessness. It’s easy to feel like you can’t really do anything to take their suffering away. But the truth is, being there is enough. Simply listening helps. A lot.
You don’t have to have the answers. It can’t be fixed even though you want to fix it. Just listen. Let them know that you’re there. Let them have space if they need it, or if they need a hug, please indulge.
• Don’t tell them to just ‘calm down’ or that they’re being irrational.
One of the worst things about anxiety is how aware of the irrationality they can be. Pointing out that it’s irrational doesn’t help – they already know this.
What they need is compassion, understanding, and support – very rarely do they need advice on how irrational and pointless their anxiety it (because that’s not even advice.)
Being aware of the irrationality does not stop the thoughts from racing. It does not stop the thinking of hundreds of different worst-case scenarios.
If it was as easy as saying “okay, that’s irrational – no point worrying about it,” the majority of those living with anxiety would not have problems with it anymore.
• It’s not about you.
Don’t take your partner’s anxiety personally. If they are exhibiting behavior that might seem careless or thoughtless to you, remember that it’s their anxiety that gets the better of them.
Anxiety doesn’t give anyone the right to hurt you, but you should be able to know when to take things personally and when not to.
Ask if there’s anything you can do to help. For some people, airing out the issue (rather than sweeping it under the rug) can even help alleviate the accompanying anxiety.
• They are more than their anxiety.
If you truly want to be supportive of someone with anxiety, remind them that you appreciate the individual behind the anxiety.
Recognise that they are more than their anxiety. At the end of the day, the partner that you love is still there. They’re still the same person who makes you laugh and love.
It’s just that sometimes, they might feel buried beneath their anxiety. It can help to remind yourself, and them, that they are not their anxiety.
The anxiety is just an intense experience that can overwhelm your partner at times and affect how they behave.
Try to be patient and compassionate; this means being gentle with yourself as well as your partner.
• They appreciate you sticking by them.
Anxiety is rough on everyone involved, which means you too. They understand that; they understand their irrationality; they understand you’ve not done some things you would’ve liked to because they couldn’t. They’re not oblivious to what it takes to support them.
Your support doesn’t go unmissed – no matter how subtle you may think it’s been.