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Relationship Anxiety: The Reason Why You Have Unhappy Relationships

Relationship Anxiety: The Reason Why You Have Unhappy Relationships

Relationship anxiety might be something you’re struggling with, but chances are, you don’t know much about it. It is a type of anxiety that gets in the way of having a healthy and fulfilling bond with another person.

If you suffer from relationship anxiety, it’s important to become aware of it. Without self-awareness, you will fail to commit to someone and your relationships will be short-lived.

In this article, we will look into the reasons why relationship anxiety occurs, and how you can begin addressing this issue. It is your responsibility to deal with your anxiety to ensure that you don’t start building a family on negative emotions like fear.

What is relationship anxiety

If someone’s parents did not provide them with the love and care they needed as a child, they grew up confused and insecure.

Moreover, if both parents were dealing with their own mental health issues and were not able to met their children’s needs, these children took on the false belief that they were undeserving of love, support and care.

In addition to feeling undeserving and insecure, they might also struggle with trusting people. They grow up expecting others to hurt them or break their boundaries like their own parents did.

If these people avoid conflict and distance themselves from their loved one when they should be intimate, they are probably anxious in a relationship.

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The cause of relationship anxiety: Your attachment style

This anxiety manifests itself through attachment behaviors. According to Lisa Firestone, Ph.D, there are four types of attachment behaviors.[1]

Knowing some things about each attachment style might shed a light on your fears and relationship phobias. Here is a attachment style matrix illustrated by Riskology:[2]

    Let’s look at each of the attachment styles in detail:

    Secure attachment

    People who were safe and comforted by their mother as a child would have a secure attachment with others. These people’s needs were met as soon as they expressed them. They felt acknowledgment from their parents for who they were growing up. This acknowledgment created an inner safety and comfort about who they are.

    In romantic relationships, they feel safe and trust the other person to be there for them in times of need. They acknowledge their partner’s individuality and independence but, at the same time, are able to say ‘I need you to pick me up from work’ or ‘I feel so sad about your cat dying. This reminds me of a dog I had growing up who got sick. I miss her a lot.’

    Anxious preoccupied attachment

    In this case, people were made to believe that their needs as a child were not important. Perhaps, whenever they were angry or hurt, their mother walked away from them instead of comforting them.[3]

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    This made them feel unsafe growing up. They weren’t ever shown how to cope with emotions, which threw them in the cycle of fight or flight. When they are taught that emotions do not matter, they become fearful of them.

    Thus, when these people get hit by a wave of anger and they don’t know how to express it or communicate it to others, they stuff it. That leads to an overwhelming sense of anxiety because the mind thinks that they are trying to escape a very dangerous emotion.

    Dismissive avoidant attachment

    A person who has a dismissive avoidant attachment style might be emotionally unavailable. Folks in this category deny the importance of their loved ones and make them feel unloved by ignoring them.

    They also brush conflicts off like they were not essential to the relationship’s growth.[4]

    Fearful avoidant attachment

    Those who have a fearful avoidant attachment style are stuck with ambivalent feelings: they crave for love and attention from their beaux but are afraid to let him/her get too close.

    They certainly want their partner but they are scared of getting too close to the core of the intimacy. They think that the core will burn them and they will end up disappointed and hurt. They try to avoid this disappointment by ‘running away’ from the person they love. Avoiding feelings, thoughts and relationship problems is what they do.

    If you’re this type, you’re not alone. I too am sometimes fearful of getting attached to people, especially men. The idea that I will be disappointed by them like my own mother disappointed me is heartbreaking. However, you should know that there are ways to manage these crushing feelings.

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    How to get over relationship anxiety (and create happy relationships)

    Even if you do get disappointed by someone you love and trust, you can get over this. It is not the end of the world if your partner does something hurtful. You will live!

    You can follow the tips below to get better at keeping your relationship anxiety at bay and even cultivating happiness and fulfillment.

    1. Know that you have a problem.

    You have relationship anxiety and, by acknowledging this fact, you will shed the confusion you have been carrying around for years. You will no longer be asking yourself Why am I so bad at relationships?

    2. Find out what your attachment style is.

    If you are a fearful avoidant, you might want to think of ways of confronting your relationship fears.

    Go back mentally to your childhood time and remember how your relationship with your mom was. Were you excited to be with her? Did you play a lot with her? Did she care for you when you were angry, fearful or sad or punished you for showing natural, human emotions? Keep a journal to document these memories.

    3. Challenge yourself.

    If you are brave enough, challenge your attachment style by seeking emotionally healthy partners and friends.

    Go where these folks usually hang out and try to connect with them. Can you do that? Why? Why not? How did you feel during this challenge?

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    4. Practice mindfulness.

    When you have relationship anxiety, you shift your focus from your body, needs and emotions to your partner’s needs, thoughts and emotions. You worry about what he/she might think of you or you try to not upset them so they will not leave you for someone else.

    Instead of being codependent, spend more time alone to become independent. Seek out support groups that deal with unhealthy behaviors like codependency (if you have relationship anxiety, you are probably a codependent)[5] and toxic or narcissistic relationships.[6]

    Learn how to practice mindfulness from this guide: A Simple Guide to Mindfulness for Beginners

    5. Make a habit of asking yourself daily ‘How am I feeling today?’

    Are you angry, excited or sad about a current event in your life? If you are in a toxic relationship, ask yourself how does the body react to your partner? What is your intuition telling you about him/her? Are you happy with him? Would you feel better if you were alone?

    Use your journal to mark down your feelings and build a more positive relationship with your thoughts. You can also incorporate meditation in your daily schedule to get more comfortable with difficult feelings.

    6. Even better, seek help from a therapist

    Seek help from a therapist who is experienced in family relationships and trauma. He/she will know the best way to move forward from where you are now.

    Muster your courage to face relationship anxiety

    It’s not easy to deal with relationship anxiety each time you find yourself dating someone new. But knowing that you learned this anxiety from your connection with your parents or caretakers will take a load off your chest. You can turn your life around by starting a healthy relationship with your own self so you can be in healthier, happier relationships with others.

    Don’t be afraid to seek professional help for your worries. Everyone struggles with personal issues when it comes to relationships. Getting help is a sign that you take your issues seriously and want to improve the quality of your life.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Marlena Bontas

    Mental Health Freelance Writer with a passion for Movies and Popcorn

    How I Calm Anxiety and Start to Feel Happier and Secure with Myself Relationship Anxiety: The Reason Why You Have Unhappy Relationships

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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