10 Ways to be Less Anxious in your Relationship

If you’re anxiously attached, you may fear abandonment and rejection, crave excessive amounts of attention, and act out in negative ways when you feel threatened. Consequently, you may drive away the very person who has professed their love for you: your intimate partner. How can you decrease your anxiety and fears? Here are several tips and resources.

Voice your needs. You may have difficulty asking for what you need from your partner, leaving them with the difficult task of sifting through conflicting cues and the impossibility of reading your mind. Don’t be afraid to voice your needs and desires, both immediate and long-term. Practice using your voice and speaking your mind by asking for one thing every day, whether it be a request to pick up the dry cleaning or a wish for greater physical connection. Read this article about “How to Identify and Express Your needs in a Relationship,” by humanitarian Deepak Chopra.

Develop your independence. To avoid being clingy or overly dependent, foster your independence and autonomy by expressing your thoughts and ideas, sharing your hopes and dreams, and nurturing your social support network. You and your partner need a healthy amount of time together and time spent with others, keeping your connection balanced. When you find yourself needing excessive amounts of reassurance from your partner, try using positive self-talk to remind yourself that you are worthy of being loved and that you have control over your emotional needs.

Respect your partner’s boundaries and set your own. Healthy boundaries are key in any relationship, especially an intimate one. Boundaries help you retain your sense of self and clearly articulate when you say “yes” and why you say “no.” By respecting your partner’s boundaries, you show them you trust them and respect their limits; and by setting your own, they know you can be trusted in return. Don’t take their boundaries as ways to block you out or reject you; they are simply maintaining a secure level of intimacy with you. Read this article about “10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries” by Psych Central and try setting one actionable boundary today. Boundaries by Henry Cloud also discusses this topic.

Maintain your sense of self. Our boundaries are concrete expressions of where we stand and are vital to preserving our individual identities. Don’t give up important parts of yourself for the sake of maintaining your relationship; trust your partner to give you the space and time you need to be yourself. When you reciprocate this support, your partner will also feel empowered to be themselves, further developing your intimacy.

Face your fears. If you are anxiously attached, you probably fear rejection and abandonment. When we play into these fears, fissures in our relationships start to crack open, leaving both partners feeling drained and resentful. Turn around and face your fears. Work through your feelings by calmly opening up to your partner when you feel the threat of abandonment, or gain resolution about past relationships by talking with a therapist. Check your baggage at the door. Your current partner is not your past partner; give them the respect and trust needed to strengthen your bond and keep the relationship deep and meaningful.

Regulate your emotions. Emotions come and go; try not to hang onto any one emotion and let it run away with. When we let our negative emotions control us, we tend to act on them in unhealthy ways and this may drive a wedge between you and your partner. Regulating your emotions is key to a solid relationship, and developing that skill takes time. When you feel anxious or angry, it may be helpful to recognize the fear that’s underneath these emotions. Practice mindfulness and self-care to calm yourself down and give you time to let the emotion go; then you’ll be able to respond instead of reacting. To learn more about this, listen to this TEDTalk by psychologist Susan David about “The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage.”

Boost your self-esteem/worth. Anxiously attached partners are often self-critical and insecure, and this causes difficulties in an intimate relationship because the other partner’s reassurance never seems to be enough. It’s important to understand your insecurities and fears, talk openly about them, and repeat positive self-talk to yourself when you’re feeling like judging yourself. Instead of, “I’m not good enough, try “I am worthy of unconditional love.”

Practice mindfulness. Staying grounded in the present moment and being present in your body are key to emotional and physical wellbeing. Mindfulness brings unjudgmental awareness to your current state by shedding light on sensations without attaching to them. Mindfulness practices help with emotional regulation by allowing you to breathe, calm down, and stay in the here and now. Check out these “5 Simple Mindfulness Practices for Daily Life” by Mindful.

Reign in the irrationality. When we feel anxious or uncertain, we tend to act on irrational thoughts, and this may drive your partner away. Challenge those negative thoughts by changing the story you’re telling yourself; you do not have to give air time to your irrational thoughts. Instead of acting on the thought, “He’s late for dinner and doesn’t care about me,” try thinking, “He’s late for dinner and I’m sure there’s a reason for it.” Don’t automatically jump to conclusions; openly communicate your thoughts and make sure you listen instead of just react.

Self-soothe with self-care. Everybody needs to rest and recharge. Take time to take care of yourself, physically and emotionally, by engaging in soothing activities you enjoy. This could be a brisk walk to let off some restless energy, a steaming bath to calm your senses, or a phone call with a friend. Try these additional “12 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself” by Psychology Today.

About Michael Hilgers, M.MFT

I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor working remotely with clients around the world. I believe that everyone has the potential to change; to create new paths, to go in new directions. Life is hard. Counseling can help.

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