I’m sitting on a couch in our living room. Book in my hand, hot green tea on the table, and my cat murmuring nearby. It’s so peaceful. A moment later, you come in. I smile. You smile. You kiss me, and I return the kiss. Then, there’s a warm hug.
I couldn’t be happier.
In this very moment, you tell me that your friends invited us to a party this weekend. I freeze. My heart starts beating faster. You continue talking about the details and let me know that not only you want to go, but also, you want me to accompany you. I start sweating.
There are a million thoughts popping up in my head right now. All at the same time. Before you finish your monologue, my anxiety manages to convince me that going to that party is the worst possible idea.
“It’ll be fine,” you say. “We’ll be there together. Don’t worry.”
I swallow saliva and agree to go. What else can I do?
Next, I suffer the whole week worrying about the weekend. My brain manages to come up with numerous plans on how to cope in various situations, which can happen at the party. It also creates several backup plans in case the first plans fail. Still, I feel half-prepared to go.
The judgment day comes. We’re going to the party. I don’t want to bring you shame, but I know I will. No matter how hard I try, my anxiety is going to win.
Eventually, I disappear into the bathroom for hours. When you find me, you’re mad I didn’t ask you for help. You’re also upset I didn’t tell you I didn’t want to go to the party in the first place.
We’re coming back home in silence. I failed you. Again. You’re angry, and I’m depressed. “Why are you doing this to me?” I ask myself.
If you’d like to ask now, “Doing what?” then you came to the right place.
It’s Not Helping; It’s Actually Making Things Worse
When I told my partner I had anxiety, he thought that it’s nothing to worry about. After all, everyone feels anxious, scared or worried now and then. So, it’s nothing serious, right?
Anxiety isn’t the same as being worried once for a while. It’s a state of worry, negativity, and fear that never goes away. It paralyzes you and hinders doing even the simplest things, such as shopping, meeting your friends or going to a cinema. When you have it, you’re not living your life. You’re surviving it.
The things get even more complicated when you fall in love. For a person with anxiety, it’s the utmost happiness and the worst curse at the same time. For their partner, it’s a torture.
What waits for both of them is a lifetime of misunderstandings, endless quarrels and sleepless nights.
Is there anything you can do to make things better? Yes, there is. First of all, you need to realize that anxiety is a real issue. You have to accept it, talk about it and find ways to fight it together. That means you need more insight into the actual problem.
To help you understand your partner, I’ve come up with four things that you should never tell them. When you do, you might have the best intentions and think it’ll help, but in reality, your words do more damage than good.
Let’s take a look at them:
#1 “Don’t worry about it.”
Imagine that you broke your leg. It wouldn’t be so terrible if not for the fact that you’re a marathon runner and you can’t imagine your life without running. What’s worse, doctors can’t promise you that you’d walk without a limp, let alone run.
Now, I come to you and tell you not to worry about it. After all, there are treatments, and the most important thing is that you’ll be able to walk again – with or without a limp doesn’t really matter. It could be worse.
How do you feel now? Misunderstood, frustrated, scared, depressed, distraught? I can imagine. It’s exactly how I feel when you tell me not to worry about my anxiety.
Anxiety is an illness that affects my entire life. I can’t ignore it, forget about it or get over it. It’s always on my mind. So, don’t tell me not to worry about it. It’s impossible. Also, it hurts me, because it is a sign that you don’t treat me or my problem seriously. So, don’t say that. Instead, reassure me that you’re always there for me and tell me you love me no matter what.
#2 “Other people have worse problems.”
The fact that other people suffer from serious illnesses doesn’t mean that my problem is less serious or real. I sympathize with them, but when you tell me to compare myself to them, I begin to think you take me for a stupid and ungrateful person. Also, it makes me feel diminished and not worthy of help.
As a result of your “consoling words,” I will most likely withdraw, start hating myself and never speak to you about my anxiety again. Thus, my symptoms will get worse. Also, since I will start feeling worthless, I’ll probably have not only to strive to overcome anxiety on my own but also fight depression. You couldn’t hurt me more.
I’d like you to know that I speak about my anxiety and behave the way I do, not because I need attention, but because I have a problem I can’t deal with. Attention is the last thing I need. What I really need is understanding and acceptance.
#3 “Let’s go to a doctor. They’ll give you treatment, and you’ll feel better.”
When I tell you about my problems, I don’t want you to try to fix me. All I want is that you listen to me and understand me.
I also want you to know that I don’t want to take any pills. They aren’t a solution. They can shut some parts of my brain and thus, make me more sociable, relaxed and extroverted, but, deep inside, I’ll still be the same person I was before. Medicines won’t make my problem magically disappear for good. They’ll just hide it. So, don’t suggest me to take them.
I don’t want to feel like a burden to you. And, I don’t want to hurt you. I want you to know that you’re not the one to blame. It’s not your fault I’m the way I am.
Know that I have a number of coping mechanisms and methods to use in various situations, so I don’t always require anyone’s help. What you can do for me, however, is to simply offer your help. Ask me what you can do to help me. Sometimes, all I need is a walk in a park, a weekend at a lake or a cup of hot tea to feel better. That’s it.
#4 “I don’t want to go…” I say. “Oh, come on! It’ll be fine!” you answer.
Most of us know their limits. People with anxiety are especially conscious about what they can do and can’t do as well as what they want to do and what they don’t want to do. So, when they say “No,” it means No. Don’t push it and don’t force them to do things that make them feel uncomfortable. They know it won’t end well.
If you think that your loved one isn’t trying hard enough to overcome anxiety, you’re wrong. They’ve already tried everything and do their best to be a great partner for you. However, they still feel frightened about some situations. Exposing them to their fears might seem like a good strategy, but it can make them feel overwhelmed and, in the end, they’ll run away or have to go through trauma. Next, they’ll need weeks to heal.
Thus, be patient and understanding. Your partner will let you know when they feel comfortable to do something. If you want to help, though, there is something you can do: you can try to make a situation that scares your loved one become less scary.
For example, when they worry about going to a restaurant with your friends, you can suggest that you’ll be starting all conversations, the restaurant will be one that you both know very well, and the meeting will last no longer than an hour. Then, allow your partner to decide if that’s okay with them.
If they say “No,” don’t push it further.
Here’s What You Can Do To Make My Life Easier
Sometimes you might not even realize that I have a hard time only because you failed to do something.
Things that seem small and irrelevant to you are actually very important to me. So, take a look at the list below and follow the tips, please. It’ll help me more than you can imagine.
- Educate yourself: it hurts me when you say you want to help, but don’t care about expanding your knowledge.
- Don’t freak out when I disappear: I need to be alone for a while to calm myself down.
- Respond to my messages: when you fail to answer my text messages, I start worrying that I hurt you, offended you or that something’s happened to you. So, don’t keep me in the dark.
- Don’t be upset when I cancel plans: support me and tell me that we can do something we planned another time and it’s not a huge issue. When you get mad, I feel I’m a burden to you. So, be forgiving.
- Be patient and understanding: because I have anxiety, I’m a perfectionist and overcheck things. Let me do it in peace.
- Assure me that you’re always there for me: I probably have few or no friends, which means I’m lonely. Don’t try to force me to make new acquaintances, though. Instead, let me know I can always count on you.
Will Your Loved One Ever Recover From Anxiety?
Anxiety is an illness for which, unfortunately, there is no magical cure. Most people learn to live with it. However, although you can’t really recover from anxiety, you can alleviate its symptoms. It takes time, patience and lots of failures, but it’s possible to start living normally again.
Stay positive and open towards your partner. Be loving, understanding and accepting. Your support means a lot to them, so remind them that you’re there for them whenever they need you. And, above all, stay positive!
Remember, many of us have some degree of anxiety, and yet, we find happiness in life. So, don’t think that because of anxiety your partner will never be able to do a number of things. It’s all up to your attitude, help and whether you both find common ground and working coping methods.
Were These Tips Helpful?
Let us know in the comments below if this article was helpful to you. If you know of any other ways to help somebody with anxiety, share them with us! We’d love to learn more about your experiences.
Also, share this post with your friends. The more people learn about anxiety, the more they’ll be able to help those who suffer from it. So, help us educate others by sharing this article! We count on your help.