How to Stop Worrying About Relationships: 6 Simple Steps
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You probably agree that we all want worry-free relationships, where we don’t have to be anxious about what’s really going on in our partners’ minds.
Unfortunately, it does not matter if you and your partner have just celebrated your 50th anniversary or if you’re on your first date—anxious thoughts about your relationship will certainly appear sooner or later.
In this article, we’ll look at six effective strategies on how to stop worrying about relationships.
As it turns out, experiencing unease about your relationship is common—it is called relationship anxiety. An NBC article discusses this phenomenon here. Whether you doubt your partner’s fidelity, are worried if your feelings will be reciprocated, or wonder if the relationship will last, these are all valid and common concerns.
This anxiety might stem from a painful experience in the past, whether in your childhood or in previous relationships. Symptoms of relationship anxiety include the following:
- You fear that the relationship will go badly, and especially that your partner will leave you.
- You fail to see what is actually happening because you’re more focused on what could possibly happen.
- You do things that test how committed or in love your partner is with you.
- You tend to focus most of your time on your partner, to the exclusion of family, friends, and others who are close to you.
When your worrying gets out of control, you tend to behave in ways that harm your relationship by pushing your partner away.
Before going into the strategies to deal with relationship anxiety, let’s look at the benefits of being free from these troubling thoughts.
The Benefits of Being Free From Relationship Anxiety
You will live longer.
You've probably heard the phrase "worried to death." This saying actually has some truth to it. Researchers have found that overreacting, worrying all the time, and living with constant anxiety can reduce your life expectancy. This is because stress has a negative impact on your health. By being free from relationship anxiety, you can lower your risk of various ailments, including heart disease.
When you become stressed, your body produces oxidative chemicals that speed up the aging process, increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, and make you more prone to a variety of chronic and acute illnesses, as well as more benign health problems such as colds. Your level of oxidative stress can be measured by the number of chemicals called "isoprostanes" that are present in your blood and urine. Isoprostanes are a product of the impact that free radicals have on fatty acids. These chemicals are mainly associated with your risk of atherosclerosis, and their levels are elevated with stress.
While our bodies have developed ways to deal with oxidation so it has less of an impact on our health, we still do things that increase the oxidative process—we eat processed foods, we smoke cigarettes, we sit at desks all day, and we worry about things we can't control or change. The body’s reaction to oxidative stress is directly tied to aging and longevity.
Your academic performance and/or productivity increase.
Without constantly worrying about your relationship, you can focus and are able to do other things. Relationship anxiety takes a toll on every aspect of your life, including work. Studies have found that 72% of people surveyed reported that they have some type of daily stress that interferes with their work. But not only can it impact your job performance, it can also have a negative impact on your relationships with your colleagues.
One of the most common results that anxiety can have on your professional performance is missing deadlines. Additionally, people who are stressed out in their personal lives are more likely to avoid contact with their coworkers, in hopes of avoiding additional interpersonal conflicts. Because work is a collaborative environment, it’s easy to see how personal anxiety can have an impact on the performance of the whole company.
Also, your enthusiasm about your work will suffer if your mind is using all of its energy to worry about your relationship. You will not be able to separate your work life and your home life and become a fully present employee.
Other employees will begin to pick up on this because you will never be able to give your work your undivided attention—whether that means you're always checking your phone during meetings to see if your partner has texted you, or you're often late to work because you spent too much time in the morning making sure you had your partner's plans for the day set in stone.
You build a stronger social network.
When you don’t have a desire to constantly monitor your partner’s whereabouts, you are free to see other friends and strengthen your bonds. Alternatively, if you're always worried about what your partner is doing, any time your friends ask you to do something social, you will spend that time staring at your phone, texting your partner, or rushing through the activity in order to get home to your partner. Eventually, your friends will stop inviting you places because you're not very fun to be around anymore.
Additionally, you may be hesitant to create new friendships with people because you don't want the time obligation of having new friends. While they may be eager to hang out with you and get to know you, you would rather spend your time at home with your partner so you can be sure of what they are doing. You likely find it easier to keep your social circle small to limit the number of social obligations you have in the future.
You fight off illness better.
If you are in a healthy relationship, you tend to have a stronger immune system. Simply knowing you’re not alone in this world and that you have a supportive partner can be extremely stress reducing. And being able to feel more relaxed benefits your microbiome, which is the helpful bacteria in and on your body that work alongside your cells and immune system to maintain your health by blocking bad bacteria from entering your gut.
Because your brain and immune system are in constant contact with each another, psychological upsets such as relationship anxiety can result in physical symptoms. Your immunity is innately linked to your stress levels, so, as your stress increases, your ability to fight off illness decreases.
The chemical reactions that occur in your body when you are feeling relationship anxiety result in a flood of the stress hormone cortisol being pumped into your system. Cortisol is helpful in emergency situations, but it can interfere with your immune system, resulting in inflammation, a reduced white blood cell count, and an increased susceptibility to infections.
Cortisol helps prepare your body to flee from anything it perceives as a threat. In order to do this, it weakens your immune system by decreasing the amount of a protein that your body requires in order to signal other immune cells. This then reduces the number of lymphocytes in your body, which are important immune cells.
Lymphocytes recognize harmful pathogens and kill disease-causing bacteria. When you have fewer lymphocytes, your body is at a higher risk of contracting disease and acute illnesses. Your body also takes longer to heal after being sick. Ultimately, when you are experiencing the chronic stress of relationship anxiety, your immune system is considerably weakened, which may result in an increased number of infections and potentially more serious illnesses.
Now that you know all of these benefits of living without relationship anxiety, how can you get to that place? Let's look at some concrete steps to take to get rid of your relationship anxiety.
6 Steps to Stop Worrying About Relationships
1. Realize that being overly anxious gets you nowhere, and only hurts the relationship.
If you spend five minutes worrying about something that may or may not happen—or you spend five hours analyzing the situation—it won't impact whether or not the "thing" actually happens. However, the next time you talk to your partner, it will probably show that you have something on your mind that you can't release.
Rather than ruminating on potential issues in your relationship, one thing you can do is to try to challenge your insecurities as they arise. Catch your critical inner voice when it starts to act up. For example, if you have just met someone new that you are interested in, you may think to yourself, “Just stay cool. Don’t show any feelings, that way you won’t get hurt.” Or, the voice could be more aggressive if you have been in the relationship for a while by saying, “Don't trust your partner—they're cheating on you!"
If you are able to identify this inner voice, then you will be able to challenge it and prevent it from impacting your relationship. Consider this: If you don't show that you have feelings when you meet someone new, they might assume that you don't, and just move on to the next person. At that point you have lost your chance of being in a relationship with them.
Or, if you are thinking that you shouldn't trust your partner, then what is the point of the relationship? Realize that this anxious thought will be detrimental to your relationship, as you will be wary of your partner's every move, or even act out based on unwarranted insecurities, eventually driving them away.
2. Practice mindful listening.
Mindful listening deepens relationships and helps you become less anxious. When you are listening mindfully, you are doing so on purpose, in the moment, and without judgment. This means that you are able to process what your partner is saying with empathy while being open to their point of view and understanding things how they see them.
Mindfulness can help you resolve potential conflicts easily, improve your relationship, and reduce your overall stress. In fact, one study showed that couples who underwent mindfulness training reported themselves as having higher relationship satisfaction, more closeness with their partners, and an increased level of acceptance of their partners than couples who did not participate in this training.
There are several things you can do to work on mindful listening in your relationship. First, envision your relationship in the future with no anxiety attached to it. What would need to change? When thinking about this, we often turn to things the other person has done or said to cause feelings of insecurity. Instead, consider the communication choices that you have made, and how they have played a role in your relationship conflicts.
Rather than trying to change the situation itself with your relationship, come up with some intentional behaviors that you can change about yourself to help the relationship reach its full potential. For example, when your partner is speaking, practice understanding while exhibiting compassion.
This mindfulness activity will help improve your communication with your partner because it will give you a chance to slow down and absorb what he or she is saying, and take a minute to see their perspective. Once you feel like you can understand your partner better, you will have less anxiety regarding their intentions.
3. Be willing to be vulnerable.
Often, people struggle to be vulnerable in relationships because it requires them to reveal their true selves, which makes them prone to rejection or ridicule. However, if you don't allow yourself to be vulnerable with your partner, you will miss out on the deep, personal connection that you could potentially have. If the person truly loves you, he or she will stay when you expose the more complicated, less “prettified” parts of yourself.
By combatting your fears and opening up to your partner, you can teach yourself how to be vulnerable and achieve a deeper connection in your relationship. First, focus on the positive things that can be a result of your vulnerability. There's a lot to gain once you allow yourself to become vulnerable with your partner, such as a deeper sense of trust, connection, and greater satisfaction. When you think about these possible outcomes, it can help you move past any fears that you have about being vulnerable.
Once you are willing to be vulnerable, it is ok to do so gradually. Choose just one thing to share with your partner at first. You don't have to try to share all of your innermost feelings right away, as this can overwhelm both of you.
Start with something small, like a concern you have about your professional life, or share something you worry about regarding your friends or family. Or, show your partner something that you have been working on in your free time that very few people know about, like a painting or a poem you have been writing.
For some people, it is beneficial to come out and admit to being hesitant about being vulnerable. Help your partner understand why you tend to try to hide your feelings, whether you had a bad experience in the past when you were being open with someone or you are simply nervous that your partner will judge you. If they love you, they will accept you with any vulnerabilities or shortcomings you may have.
4. Stop comparing your relationship to those of other people.
It's common for people to measure their relationships against how they perceive someone else's relationship to be. If you tend to do this, you may use these perceptions to question the lasting power of your own relationship. But it doesn't matter whether you use your comparisons to make yourself feel better or worse, because making comparisons between your relationship and the one you think someone else is in is always a bad idea.
Making comparisons is toxic, as it makes you unhappy and can lead to the end of your relationship. First, not everything is as it seems. You may think that your coworker has a perfect marriage because you see the couple together at work events and they seem so happy. Additionally, you know they have a house in a great neighborhood, and children who are attending the best school in town.
But the truth is, you have no idea what actually goes on in their house behind closed doors. You can't judge their happiness by the vacation pictures you see on social media or the type of cars they drive. People only put the positive aspects of their lives on display. You can't know anyone's happiness but your own, so don't make assumptions.
Also, simply because your relationship is different than someone else's doesn't make it any better or worse. Your relationship can only be healthy once you recognize that there are variables that play a part in each and every unique relationship that you have.
And, as they say, the grass isn't always greener on the other side. If you are wrapped up with wishing your relationship was more like someone else's, you won't be able to fully enjoy and learn from the relationship that you're in.
5. Accept that you cannot control your partner’s actions.
Controlling behavior prevents a relationship from thriving. To be truly happy, you need to accept that you cannot control others, and that trying to do so can result in damage to your relationship. The issue with trying to control your partner is that the only person you can control is yourself. Your partner will make their own decisions. While you might have an impact on their decision-making process, you are not the one in control.
Controlling behavior is most often met with resistance, and it can easily push your partner in the opposite direction from what you want. In fact, your partner may even start to do things that you won't "allow" them to do just to show you that they are independent and you can't be in control.
There are a few things you can do to manage your controlling tendencies. First, find other ways to deal with your anxiety, such as meditation, exercise, or therapy. Secondly, stop being a detective and wasting your time trying to find ways in which your partner is lying to you.
If you have no concrete reason to believe they're lying, just let them be. Lastly, take responsibility for your feelings, and communicate them to your partner. Your partner may be able to ease some of your anxiety if you just talk about it.
6. See the relationship for what it truly is.
Some partners are just not meant to be together. This is why some relationships work out and some don’t. Face the truth about your own relationship and do something about it. Sometimes the only option is to move on.
Give yourself some time to adjust to this reality. Moving on from a loved one is a process, and it certainly won't happen overnight. Give yourself the time that you need to grieve the loss so you can get used to your new reality that doesn't include this person.
There are a few things you can do during this difficult process to help ease the pain. First, talk to an unbiased, trusted third party. Find someone who is objective and not a part of your life to help talk you through the situation. Also, make sure to keep yourself busy, and even find a new hobby or something to fill up your time that you can look forward to. As time passes, you will ultimately feel better.
Today, we learned that worrying about our relationships is a normal tendency. However, it is when the worrying spirals out of control that the relationships become damaged.
I hope these tips on how to stop worrying about relationships can help you have a healthier relationship with the person you love.
Our relationships should not involve mind games or be based on fear. They should be a celebration of the beauty of life and love. I hope you find bliss in your current relationship. A healthy dose of self-love can do so much to improve our capacity to love others.
Check out our tips on how to love yourself to change your life’s potential.