5 Ways You Can Support Your Partner With Their Anxiety

With nearly 40 million adults in the United States affected by an anxiety disorder, it is easy to imagine that there are several million relationships also being affected by anxiety disorders.  Those annoying behaviors that you consider controlling, worrisome, highly irritable, or overly anxious may be manifestations of an anxiety disorder in your partner.  That said, an anxiety disorder does not have to be a compromising factor or the reason to end a relationship.  In fact, it can be a way to bring you and your partner closer together.  Below are 5 ways that you can support your partner with an anxiety disorder.

  1. Don’t try to fix your partner – Often-times when a partner steps in to become an ad hoc therapist, they expect quick results, typically after only a few conversations.  Anxiety, however, is a real illness that may require long-term in-depth professional treatment.  What may seem like a simple mental excise for you of, turn off your thoughts, or just stop thinking, is immensely difficult for a person with anxiety.  Although coming from a place of good, directives from you to your partner on how to stop the anxiety can easily turn into frustration and comments such as, if you would only do this, which then quickly turn into blame and shame towards the partner with anxiety.  Furthermore, the supporting partner can become emotionally drained.
  2. Listen, learn, and validate – Be a friend and a partner.  Educate yourself about anxiety disorder.  There are several useful resources that can be found online, which provide a clinical definition and insight on symptoms, causes, and triggers related to anxiety disorders.  Most importantly, learn how anxiety specifically affects your partner.  Listen, learn, and validate their experience.  Building a connection with the one you love around something as burdensome as anxiety can be healing. 
  3. Seek out help for your partner, your relationship, and yourself – Therapy can provide your partner with skills to understand, address, better control, and alleviate anxiety.  They will become more self-aware of personal triggers, learn strategies to reframe thoughts, practice mindfulness, and exercise coping methods. Couples therapy may also be beneficial.  Couples therapy can be a conduit for connecting you and your partner and a means for you to strengthen your relationship around anxiety.  You can develop better communication skills, learn to resolve conflicts, and most importantly, create a stronger partnership.  Moreover, individual therapy may help you as a supportive partner to process your relationship, develop coping skills, and establish appropriate boundaries.
  4. Prioritize appropriate boundaries and self-care for the both of you – Boundaries and self-care are integral to any successful relationship.  It is important that support for a partner does not morph into co-dependency.  Healthy couples should strive to set appropriate boundaries and maintain interdependence, which is the ability to value your relationship and intimacy while maintaining a true sense of self, including your own wants and needs.  Those needs should include time for self-care.  Yoga, running, listening to music, spending time with friends and family are all productive means of self-care that are necessary in healthy relationships.
  5. Use this experience to become more connected – Every day is an opportunity to connect with your partner.  Every day is an opportunity to allow your partner to feel safe with you.  Anxiety disorders come with a heavy burden.  Too often, those affected feel as though they must carry the burden alone.  Help your partner shoulder the load by following these tips.  In doing so, you and your partner can connect and build a loving and long-lasting relationship.    

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