If you’ve never been the anxious type, dating someone with anxiety can be a tricky challenge to navigate. Often anxiety can show up in a relationship in many ways. At times it can show through your partner’s insecurities and in other times, it can show up through the ‘games’ they play or in their seemingly immature behaviour. Knowing what to recognise and how to cope will help you better understand your partner and form a closer bond.
When anxiety shows up in dating, it’s often a result of an unmet need
Look back at all the men/women you’ve dated. Is it true that there were a few partners who absolutely brought out the worse in you? I’m talking about the partners that made you go ‘crazy’, the ones who created another version of you that you didn’t recognise… Those people activated your anxiety levels because of your unmet needs. In dating, anxious people tend to look for affirmation and security but when they don’t receive it, it’s not always easy for them to express their needs.
Instead of saying:
‘Hey, it makes me a little uneasy when you are out all night with your guy friends and I don’t hear from you till 48 hours later. I want you to have a good time but can you shoot me a text when you get home?”
They may say something like:
“You always go out with your guy friends. I don’t know why you’d rather spend Saturday night out with them. I don’t care if you go. I’ll go out with my girlfriends too and talk to strangers”.
It’s not that they mean to attack the other person or retaliate, it’s that they don’t know how to communicate their needs. If you are dating an anxious person, understanding their behaviour and needs can keep a lot of communication issues at bay.
How to respond the next time your partner ‘acts out’:
“I love spending time with you but I also love spending time with my guy friends. I want to make it known that you are a priority in my life. How about we set aside some time and go on a [insert date idea here] tomorrow?”
9 times out of 10, an anxious person just wants to be heard, understood and acknowledged.
When we feel like we’re being attacked by an anxious person, the natural thing to do is get defensive but if you can distance yourself from the situation and understand your partner beyond their surface behaviour, you’ll feel a lot more empowered over the situation.
Here are a few ways to help you cope with dating an anxious partner:
- Don’t dismiss their feelings. Their needs are valid. [Read: It’s ok to be needy]
- If they lash out or ‘attack you’, distance yourself from the situation and determine if their behaviour is a result of their anxiety.
- Do not take it personally. As mentioned, often anxiety shows up because of an unmet need. Focus on their needs and try to help fulfil them.
- Note: Your partner’s anxiety levels in a relationship is not solely dependent on you (he/she needs to do their inner work) but if you can help them find ways to cope, it can help you form a closer bond.
- Don’t absorb your partner’s feelings. My husband gets stressed driving in city traffic. As a result, there are times where he can get a little short and impatient. When we first started dating, it made me anxious to see him stressed and there were times where I took it personally when in reality, it was never about me. Don’t let your partner’s stress project onto you. When you distance yourself from emotions that are not your own, you will handle the situation a lot better with a clear head.
At the end of the day, relationships are all about communication and understanding each other. A lot of problems rise when we don’t know how to read and respond to each other’s behaviour. It really is as simple as that.
Whether you’r single or in a relationship, anxiety in dating is very real and more common than you think. In the next article, I’ll talk about how singles can deal with anxiety when dating.
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Iona is a Wellness Coach specialising in relationships and dating. She works with single women to write their own love stories.