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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

    More by this author

    Marlena Bontas

    Mental Health Freelance Writer with a passion for Movies and Popcorn

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    Last Updated on August 6, 2020

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

    “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

    Are we speaking the same language?

    My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

    When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

    Am I being lazy?

    When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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    Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

    Early in the relationship:

    “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

    When the relationship is established:

    “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

    It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

    Have I actually got anything to say?

    When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

    A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

    When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

    Am I painting an accurate picture?

    One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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    How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

    Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

    What words am I using?

    It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

    Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

    Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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    Is the map really the territory?

    Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

    A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

    I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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