And there, I’ve pretty much admitted it. I’m in a relationship. Although if you have ever checked me out on Instagram, you’d already know this as I’ve referred to The Boy a few times. Not too much though, I wouldn’t want him getting ideas. Overall, I try to keep my relationship quite private as there are some things that I want to keep just to myself and not share with the whole entire world. I’ve made that mistake before and it always backfires.
Two years ago, I came out of a long-term relationship, in fact a 10 year marriage, which wasn’t without its difficulties. Suffice to say, I have found starting a new relationship challenging. Mostly, because I am finally used to being on my own and doing what I please and it is strange to now have to remember to cater to someone else’s needs, and not at all because as The Boy jokingly reminds me that I am ‘high maintenance’ – a flippant remark that I will never let him forget…
But it’s not just the fact that I am used to being single that makes a new relationship hard. It’s my anxiety. I’ve written before about struggling with and managing anxiety. It’s not always the easiest journey, but I’m luckier than most and have it under control for the majority of the time. But having spoken to lots of others around me, and through monitoring my own circumstances, I realise that anxiety can play a huge part in relationships, at times causing a strain on established relationships, and irrevocably damaging new relationships. I don’t want that to happen.
I’m no expert, let’s be honest, I’m divorced, but I am happy and settled in my current relationship, so I decided to share 6 tips that I have discovered help to safeguard your new relationship from the damage that anxiety can cause. And of course, (in case The Boy is reading) all anecdotal information is purely coincidental…
1: Accept Compliments
I have to say, this is definitely something that I struggle with, so much so that my daughter pointed this out to me. She’s 5. She always tells me I’m beautiful. I always reply ‘not as beautiful as you’. It’s an automatic response because frankly, she’s my mini-me.
Last week, she pulled me up on this and asked me why I never let her say nice things to me. I couldn’t answer. The Boy says the exactly same. He compliments, I deflect with sarcasm or roll my eyes. He laughs about how predictable it is now, but what he doesn’t realise is that compliments make me anxious. In my anxious mind, if he has noticed my hair this week, it must have looked a state last week. I then obviously catastrophise, and run back through the previous week getting even more concerned about things that actually do not matter.
Honestly, he probably didn’t even notice my hair last week. Or today in fact, and is giving a compliment to make me smile and happy. Accept it graciously, smile and don’t worry about it I now tell myself that a compliment must be genuine and I never give false compliments so why would others?
2: Remember you are not the centre of the world
This sounds harsh but bear with me… Suffering with anxiety often means a battle with your own mind. Your thoughts, hopes, dreams and worries are at the forefront of your mind. Every. Single. Day. But you aren’t the centre of everybody else’s world. Not even your partner. You can’t expect to be. But would you want to be?
When I’m feeling particularly anxious, and The Boy is quiet, I automatically assume straightaway that the reason is because of some fault on my part. That I must be inadequate in some way. In my more rational times, I realise that I am not the centre of his world any more than he is mine. And the reason that he might not be there is not necessarily because of a failure on my part, but because of a necessity elsewhere – usually work but again, I’m digressing… If you’re feeling anxious, focus on your life, hobbies and all the things that made you who you were when you fell in love in the first place and when your partner can be more present, they will be.
3: Keep going when it’s tough
And by that I mean, don’t end thing every other week because you’re scared. Healthy relationships have ups and downs. Normal couples bicker and row occasionally. As long as your disagreements are done healthily, keep going and keep working through things. Anxiety can turn a minor issue into a huge one. You end the relationship, because you are scared that it will happen anyway and in doing so, prove yourself right. The trouble with this approach is that you will eventually calm down, rationalise your thoughts and realise that splitting up isn’t actually what you wanted but one day you’ll end it on a whim to get validation or vindication and one day he won’t put up a fight.
4: Let your partner take the lead
I am an utter nightmare to surprise because I hate a break in routine. It makes me anxious. I like order and I quite possibly ruin any attempt at any surprise because I need to know what’s going on around me. This means that The Boy finds it hard to plan any sort of date night or treat for me because I inevitably have my life planned weeks in advance to avoid a change in routine. A way around this is to keep a date free, and let your partner make the plans for a change. That way, you know your schedule but your partner gets the chance to spoil you, and that’s what you deserve.
5: Stop the overthinking
This is probably the hardest step and the one that runs through all of the others but anxiety can cause us to overthink and obsess over every little thing, every message, every remark. I’m not going to lie, this is hard. Can you tell I’m still bothered by the ‘high maintenance’ comment which I’m pretty sure was in relation to the amount of time it takes me to get ready for date night but even so it stings. Distraction is a good technique to avoid overthinking. Read a book, watch a film or go for a walk. Do anything to avoid obsessing over a throwaway remark that your partner probably doesn’t remember saying.
6: Talk about your anxiety
I’m not saying that you have to blog about it, or tell everyone about it, but at least tell your partner. Be honest. That way, they will understand why you feel and react the way you do in certain situations. Often, you will find that your partner will offer a new way of looking at things and this will help you to realise whether it’s your anxiety or an actual issue that is causing you problems. And by talking, I mean actually face to face conversations. Nowadays so much is done via text message or social media – it’s much easier to read someone’s tone and thoughts when you can see their facial expressions and hear their tone clearly. It’s always good to talk!
There you have it, my six steps to stopping anxiety from spoiling your relationship. Honestly, there are probably loads of other steps that I could include, but for now these feel the most important. Anxiety is quite a hard thing to understand, but I promise that it is more than manageable and whilst it will almost certainly never leave you, it doesn’t have to be a dark looming shadow over your whole life.
Do you live with anxiety? How do you stop it from having an impact on your relationship?