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Overcoming relationship anxiety: Here's what to do when love gives you lemons!

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Relationship anxiety is something that pops up for many people at some point in their lives. You've probably noticed that it's particularly prevalent in the early stages of a new romance, when you're trying to make sure you impress your partner and don't say anything stupid. But social media has also made it hard to avoid seeing other people's relationships, which can cause anxiety about "comparing" yourself to them or not being good enough for your significant other. And of course, there are those times when your anxiety is understandable and warranted — like when you have a big fight with your partner or suspect they might be cheating.

No matter the cause, anxiety in a relationship can definitely bring you down. It's difficult to feel present or happy when you're worrying about whether or not your boyfriend really loves you, or what someone else might think of you. You may even start to feel like it's too much work to maintain this relationship — especially if your partner doesn't seem to be doing as much as you are. And that can lead to a dangerous spiral where you just want out of this partnership before things get worse (and the anxiety gets worse).

Here are some ways to deal with relationship anxiety and accept your relationship for what it is. These strategies may not work for everybody, but they're worth a try if you're having a hard time letting go of the things that don't matter.

1. Cut out the distractions. As we mentioned above, social media can be super anxiety-provoking — and it isn't just because you're comparing yourself to other people, either. If you see your friends going on trips together or posting about how much fun they had at the movies, it might make you feel like your relationship isn't exciting enough (or working out as well as others' relationships are). But these things aren't about you, so stop looking at them! Go to your phone's settings and disable all "push notifications," because they're probably triggering your anxiety by reminding you that you're missing out on something.

2. Disconnect from toxic people. If your friends or family members are constantly criticizing your relationship or always arguing with each other, that negativity is going to rub off on you and make it even harder to enjoy yourself. You might start thinking that all relationships are doomed, which leads us to our next point…

3. Don't feel like what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. If your anxiety is stemming from feeling like you're not in a good enough relationship, don't let it make you think that being in a bad one will make things get better. When you've made the choice to be with this person, that's exactly what you signed up for. If anyone's relationship is worth it to them, it's yours.

4. Change the blame game. If your anxiety is related to someone else's actions and not your own, start blaming yourself instead of making excuses for what they're doing or why they're acting in ways that are causing anxiety for you and others. Guilt can sometimes overwhelm us and keep us from making healthier decisions. We can feel bad about ourselves and what we do, and that guilt can cause us to passively accept the unhealthy things that are going on in our relationships.

5. Distance yourself from the situation. Take a break if it helps you clear your head and focus on something else — whether it's going for a walk or running an errand nearby. You don't have to stay away for longer than an hour or so, but if you're in a place where you don't think social media will be distracting (such as when you're home), then give yourself the space and time to separate from your anxiety by leaving the room until it passes.

6. Take a deep breath and realize that you're a good person. If you feel like your relationship isn't going to work out, it's not because your partner isn't good enough for you — it's because of choices they're making (see #5). Remember that there are plenty of other nice people out there, so chances are the right person is (or will be) out there for you too.

7. Be okay with it being slow. Relationships take time to develop and evolve, and if you expect that things will magically turn into a relationship that's perfect in a week or a month, then you're setting yourself up for an even more anxiety-filled experience. If your boyfriend wants to be dating you for years and years, then he can do that — but if he just wants to be casually hanging out with you without any sort of commitment, then you have to accept that too. You can't expect someone who's not ready for anything long-term (and it could be him!) to suddenly change his mind about wanting nothing serious all of a sudden (and it could be you!).

8. Stop comparing. There's nothing wrong with wanting to find someone who you think is more likable or more attractive than the last one. It's perfectly natural to want to be in a relationship with someone who's better overall, and it can make you feel better on some level. But if you get too caught up in this mindset, it can actually perpetuate your anxiety. You're going to be comparing yourself constantly even when you don't realize it — and that'll just make things worse for you overall.

9. Ask yourself questions. Ask yourself what makes your relationship work and why those things are important for you — then keep an open mind about the answers. For example, if there are specific things that are key for you to be happy in a relationship, then you can ask yourself what those things are and then see if your partner is capable of doing those things. You might be surprised by the answers to these questions, or you might remember once again why this relationship is the right one for you.

A last word

If you're experiencing anxiety in a relationship and feel like it's getting worse or harder to make sense of everything, feel free to talk to a professional about your feelings. Often, couples' counselors and therapists can help you learn new ways to cope with stress and anxiety, and help you and your partner learn to be happier together.

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