Love is a very complicated thing.
Because it can be our reason for living and our cause for hopelessness. It’s a pure, universal emotion that can turn us from lovers to bitter, jaded people.
And for many, the double-edged sword of love causes something else:
What exactly is it?
It’s a form of anxiety concerning romantic relationships. Instead of being happy, one constantly doubts the strength of their love.
According to Karla Ivankovich, Ph.D., a clinical counselor at OnePatient Global Health in Chicago, it’s “when one or both people in the relationship spend more time in anxious thought about the relationship than tending to the relationship itself.”
But if it’s normal to have concerns about one’s relationship, how can you be so sure that what you’re experiencing is relationship anxiety?
Well, there are several notable signs to take note of:
1) You Can’t Help But Overanalyze All the Time
Look, here’s the thing:
Being skeptical or critical isn’t necessarily bad.
In fact, the ability to think thoroughly before believing in something helps you discern reality from fiction — what’s fact and what’s a mere delusion.
So what’s the issue?
Well, the problem is when you seem to never get satisfied with the answers you get, even when every bit of information has already been presented and cross-examined multiple times.
According to Dr. Smerling in Bustle, “a perfect example is when the overthinker starts to create scenarios in [their] own mind and they base their actions on events that haven’t happened yet.”
You’re on a date. You leave a good first impression of how well-dressed you are. You also know how to pique your date’s attention with a variety of interesting topics and geeky jokes.
But then you do this once your dinner arrives:
First, you ask if they have a previous partner.
Your date says ‘yes’ — and your eyebrows are raised at this point.
You ask how many exes they have. How intimate they’ve gone. How they broke up. Who initiated the breakup. Whether there was cheating involved or not. How likely they will cheat on you.
And a bazillion other questions.
Do you know why you’re doing this?
Because you’re trying to avoid failure. You’re very afraid of it. You want to know as many things as possible to determine whether someone is likely to break your heart or not.
And you know what?
It’s totally fine to express your worries about being hurt in love.
What isn’t alright is when you disrespect another person by asking questions that are way too personal.
You simply don’t force them to recall things that might be painful for them, especially if you two just met.
But here’s the worst thing about this dilemma:
You can’t stop yourself from being so inquisitive.
That’s relationship anxiety — you have no control over your negative thoughts about your partner, or even just a potential love interest.
2) You’re Afraid to Be in a Serious Relationship
How long do you think should it take for two people dating to talk about getting serious?
For some, it should be after the third date. Some take weeks. Others, months or even years. The time depends on how well they’ve come to know the other person.
If you have relationship anxiety, this will be your answer:
No matter if you’re already in love with someone, you can’t commit to a relationship.
Because in the back of your mind, there’s that deep-seated fear:
That you’re going to be alone in the end — that you’re once again putting yourself up for betrayal and disappointment.
After all, according to Lisa Firestone in Psychology Today, love can make us feel vulnerable:
“Letting ourselves fall in love means taking a real risk. We are placing a great amount of trust in another person, allowing them to affect us whuch makes us feel exposed and vulnerable.”
If you cannot be certain that this person is the one for you, what’s the point of getting serious?
You think it makes perfect sense:
“If you don’t commit, you don’t get hurt.”
But that’s the illusion brought to you by relationship anxiety.
In reality, this is what happens:
Your reluctance to be in a committed romantic relationship prevents you from learning by experience.
If you always refuse a new chance at love, how will you know genuine love, which in turn helps get rid of your relationship anxiety?
3) You’re Too Clingy (But Here’s What To Do)
Getting aggravated most of the time doesn’t mean you’re not a clingy partner.
Here’s the truth:
Relationship anxiety not only makes you ill-tempered but also very needy.
Because you’re paranoid.
You’re afraid that even a few minutes of silence between you two can snowball into a painful breakup. That’s unlikely to happen, but your mind says the opposite.
So how attached can you be if you have relationship anxiety?
According to Susan Krauss Ph.D. in Psychology Today:
“If you are anxiously attached, you are overly sensitive to cues that your partner will abandon you. As a result, you become overly dependent on your romantic partners.”
Look, here’s the thing:
It’s sweet when you ask for hugs or tell how much you love your partner.
But doing so all the time can be downright annoying — up to the point that it makes your gestures of affection feel less genuine.
In saying this, it’s still important to make your partner feel essential. That you genuinely want to have them around and you appreciate everything they do to you.
The key is doing it in the right way.
I’ve recently been introduced to a fascinating new concept in relationship psychology. Relationship expert James Bauer calls it the hero instinct.
Watch his excellent video explaining the hero instinct.
James argues that a man wants to see himself as a hero. As someone his partner genuinely wants and needs to have around. Not as a mere accessory, ‘best friend’, or ‘partner in crime’.
I know it sounds a bit silly. In this day and age, women don’t need someone to rescue them. They don’t need a ‘hero’ in their lives.
And I couldn’t agree more.
But here’s the ironic truth. Men do still need to feel like a hero. Because it’s built into their DNA to seek out relationships that allow them to feel like a protector.
How do you trigger his hero instinct without coming across as clingy and needy?
James Bauer’s new video shows you exactly how to do this. Here’s a link to this video again.
I don’t normally get sucked in to popular new concepts in psychology or recommend videos. But I think the hero instinct is a fascinating take on what men need from a relationship.
4) You Have a Bad Temper
Do you know what makes relationship anxiety awful?
There are several reasons why, but this one is a major factor:
You hurt not only yourself but also the people you hold dearly — even if they don’t deserve it at all.
No matter how much they express their love and affection, you can’t help but make them feel terrible.
Why do you get angry so easily?
It’s because your mind never gives you time to rest from your dark thoughts. You know it’s irrational, but the fear of losing the one you love ruins your mood again and again.
In other words:
You become so mentally exhausted that all it takes to go berserk is a minor inconvenience.
If your partner comes home late due to work or school, you think it’s the end of the world — that you are no longer important in their life.
If they fail to reply to you within a day, you shout and accuse them of cheating or being an ungrateful partner.
Therapist Kayce Hodos told Bustle that “anger is rooted in fear and fear is just another word for anxiety.”
Relationship anxiety fools you into thinking that things must always go according to plan. You think only in ideal terms instead of being realistic.
Once your partner says or does something that fails to meet your high expectations, you feel that your relationship has become strained.
And once you feel bad, you say painful things— or lay a hand on your lover.
They might forgive you, but remember this:
There will be a time when your partner gets fed up of your raging temper. They will leave, and you will develop more relationship anxiety.
(I have recently come across a new dating guide I think can be valuable for anyone wanting to understand male psychology better, including the hero instinct. Check out my no-nonsense His Secret Obsession review to find out more).
5) You Always Go the Extra Mile to Please Your Partner
Love is about wholeheartedly offering your time and attention to another person.
After all, isn’t it romantic when you go out of your way to prepare a surprise dinner or visit your lover at work?
But if you have relationship anxiety, this can become a terrible thing.
Well, because you’re so afraid that your partner might lose interest in you, you do whatever you can to maintain an ideal image of yourself.
Even if it’s clear with a single gesture that you love your partner, you think it’s not enough. Your lover might be content with you, but you don’t think so.
Again, it’s all in your mind — but it’s enough to affect your reality.
Instead of balancing things such as career, love, and family, you place all your attention on the relationship.
You no longer have time for yourself, to pursue your hobbies and interests.
You don’t even spend time with your friends anymore.
It’s all about impressing your lover.
And that can backfire in a big way:
If you focus on spoiling your partner all the time, you fail to improve yourself, which can make them feel that you’re not mature or ready enough to be in a serious, long-term relationship.
If you’re trying too hard to please your partner, then you might want to have an honest discussion with your partner to reassure yourself how they feel, according to Susan Krauss Ph.D. in Psychology Today:
“Discussing your feelings, rather than acting on them, will not only reassure you that your partner really does care about you—it will also help your partner gain insight into what sets you off.”
6) You Beat Yourself Up
You might be with the most amazing partner in the world who does everything for you, but you feel like it’s not enough.
Instead of seeing the silver lining in front of you, you choose to make yourself feel bad for not being grateful for what you have already.
It would be easier for you to just be happy, but that’s not how the world works.
It’s kind of like a vicious cycle that you can’t get out of – the more amazing your partner is, the more anxiety you have.
It’s not that your relationship is flawed, it’s that you see things as flawed in yourself because you aren’t letting yourself be happy.
The problem is, the insecurities can start to push the partner away, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Lisa Firestone Ph.D. in Psychology Today says that it’s important to deal with our insecurities without distorting or dragging our partner into them.
Firestone says you can do this by “uncovering the real roots of our insecurity” and “challenging the iner critic that sabotages our relationship.”
(To learn how to take control of your life and achieve your goals, check out Hack Spirit’s eBook on how to be your own life coach here)
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7) You Lack Confidence
In some cases, people who experience a lot of anxiety in a relationship feel that way because they lack confidence.
Unsurprisingly, studies have found that people with low self-esteem have more relationship insecurity.
In order to be in a healthy relationship that is full of trust and joy, partners need to come together in a way that shows they are confident in the arrangement and partnership.
If you lack confidence and worry that your partner will see how afraid you really are of losing them or of being hurt, it might stir the pot the wrong way.
Sometimes, we are afraid of what might be instead of what is right in front of us.
What is usually right in front of us is proof that the relationship is doing well, but we insist that we aren’t worthy.
8) You Try to Control Things
If you suffer from anxiety related to your relationship, you may find yourself doing everything in your power to make sure that things look just so, and are just so.
Perfection is a difficult goal for people to attain, but it is not always clear that it is unreachable for some people.
If you are trying to keep your ducks in a row so that you don’t have to face facts, it might have the opposite effect and cause you to have even more anxiety than if the whole thing were to fall apart.
According to relationship counseler Orly Kataz in Bustle, controlling things tends to come about to reduce the uncertainty:
“Usually when challenges arise, the anxiety stems from uncertainty and not being able to predict or manage the outcome…In their attempt to take charge and reduce the uncertainty and anxiety, the [person with anxiety is] perceived as controlling, imposing, and demanding.”
9) You Hide From Things.
When anxiety is a part of your relationship, or you think it is, you will find that you hide from things and hide things from people in your life.
You may not realize how much you are holding back at first, but with time, you’ll see how you are making yourself anxious about the relationship you have, and not the other way around.
A good litmus test for determining if you are causing yourself the grief you are feeling is to take stock of your other relationships.
If your relationships with friends, family, and even coworkers are strained, it might be a good indication that you are the cause of your own stress and unhappiness.
Don’t fret if you make this discovery because it means you can turn things around.
According to Bustle, your anxiety may affect you, but it isn’t who you are as a person:
“Your anxiety may affect you, but it isn’t who you are as a person. It may impact your relationship, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have one, or that you and your partner won’t be healthier in the future.”
How to Overcome Relationship Anxiety
If you find that you are anxious because of your thoughts, feelings, and assumptions about your relationship, the first thing to do is to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings to your partner and take responsibility for how you are feeling.
According to Lisa Firestone Ph.D. in Psychology Today, we need to make an effort to take actions that go against our critical inner voice:
“As we start to challenge these negative attitudes toward ourselves, we must also make an effort to take actions that go against the directives of our critical inner voice. In terms of a relationship, that means not acting out based on unwarranted insecurities or acting in ways we don’t respect.”
Here is a strategy that may help you out:
When your positive and negative thoughts are wrestling with each other, do this:
Stop what you’re doing and sit or stand straight.
Breathe. Deeply, slowly. Do this 10 times.
It’s not going to flush out your relationship anxiety, but it will lessen its impact — if only for a brief moment.
But that’s fine! What’s important is that you calm yourself enough to allow feelings of hope and love to enter your mind as well.
And even if you experience heartbreak again, ask this to yourself:
The world is not ending. You’re still loved by your family and your friends. You still have a lot of love to give.
And lastly, remember:
Your life is so much more than the sum of your romantic relationships.
You are not doomed to repeat your past failures.
You will become a better person through experience, so much so that your relationship anxiety will eventually crumble.
In conclusion: What does he really want?
I think the best way to truly overcome relationship anxiety is to bulletproof the relationship so there is nothing to be anxious about.
Relationships are hard work and confusing. For women, trying to understand what men are really thinking can seem like an impossible task.
Common wisdom says that men only fall for exceptional women.
That we love someone for who she is. Maybe this woman has a captivating personality or she’s a firecracker in bed…
As a man I can tell you that this way of thinking is dead wrong.
None of those things actually matter when it comes to men falling for a woman. In fact, it’s not the attributes of the woman that matter at all.
The truth is this:
A man falls for women because of how those women make him feel about himself.
This is because a romantic relationship satisfies a man’s craving for companionship to the extent that it fits with his identity... the sort of man he wants to be.
How do you make your guy feel about himself? Is the relationship giving him a sense of meaning and purpose in his life?
As I mentioned above, the one thing men crave more than anything else in a relationship is to see himself as a hero. Not an action hero like Thor, but a hero to you. As someone who provides you something no other man can.
He wants to be there for you, protect you, and to be appreciated for his efforts.
There’s a biological basis to all this. Relationship expert James Bauer calls it the hero instinct.
In this video, James Bauer reveals the exact phrases you can say, texts you can send, and little requests you can make to trigger his hero instinct.
By triggering this instinct, you’ll rocket your relationship to the next level. Because you’ll be unlocking a version of himself that he has always longed for.