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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

    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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    Published on April 7, 2021

    6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

    6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

    Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

    While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

    1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

    Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

    If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

    In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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    2. They Make Everything Transactional

    Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

    For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

    Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

    A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

    Some statements to be wary of include:

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    • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
    • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
    • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
    • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

    3. They Criticize Everything

    One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

    However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

    Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

    • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
    • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
    • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
    • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

    4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

    We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

    For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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    This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

    5. They Socially Isolate You

    Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

    Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

    This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

    In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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    6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

    It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

    Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

    Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

    • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
    • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
    • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
    • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

    Final Thoughts

    It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

    More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

    Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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