Do you have a case of relationship anxiety?

Do you have a case of relationship anxiety?

When searching “relationship” in my Tik Tok search bar, the first suggestion that pops up is a search for “relationship anxiety.” This hashtag consists of thousands of videos like “Is it my intuition or is it relationship anxiety,” “Why you feel anxious and triggered in a healthy relationship,” “What to do if you’re second guessing your relationship,” and “How not to sabotage your relationship.” With hours of clips from relationship coaches, therapists, and tearful storytimes, Tik Tok is basically host to a college class on what to do when you’re feeling anxious or unsure in your relationship. But what is relationship anxiety, and why are so. many. people. talking about it? 

Relationship anxiety can show up as rumination, worry, insecurity, replaying scenarios, or incessant texting. It might manifest as a fear your partner is going to leave, or as a fear that they’re not the right person for you. As one of the many relationship coaches said, “Is it normal to have the thought? Yes. Is it normal for the thought to start consuming your life? No.” 

But don’t fret, relationship anxiety is actually very common. 

Want to guess the reason? While social media can be a place where we seek comfort, feel seen, and learn about managing said relationship anxiety– it is also a big part of what’s causing it. I can’t be the only one watching Jett and Pookie’s videos, wondering why my boyfriend isn’t also waking up early to bring me chick-fil-a breakfast in bed accompanied by a bouquet of flowers. The constant exposure to other relationships makes it so easy to compare. But remember, all you’re seeing in a thirty second video is a highlight reel. Not included: fights about dishes in the sink and who’s waking up to walk the dog. 

Before we talk through coping with and healing your relationship anxiety, we need to address the elephant in the room. Is it relationship anxiety or is the person just straight up wrong for you?

A note: we’re discussing safe relationships that are not abusive. If you are experiencing emotional or physical abuse please reach out to someone. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 800-799-7233.

How can you decipher the difference between relationship anxiety and being with the wrong person? A good way to start out is by asking yourself some questions (we also recommend journaling through these thoughts):

  • Do I want this person in my life in 10 years?
  • Would I be happy with how my life would look if I ended up with this person?
  • Would I feel relieved of this anxiety if we broke up, or would I just be sad?

Anxiety is our body’s response to danger or a perceived threat. We have anxiety for a reason– to finish our work so we can keep our job, study for the test so we pass our class, and sometimes to leave a relationship that you are unhappy in. If you feel like this anxiety would be relieved if you were to break up, it may be a signal this is not the right relationship. If your concerns are steeped in reality, and not your imagination, this may be another sign to leave. 

A little anecdote– In 2021 I was in a years-long relationship with my high school sweetheart. We were long distance post-grad, and I started to develop what I thought was relationship anxiety. I was ruminating on the fractures in our foundation, contemplating moving farther away, and considering the fact that our lives may not permanently align. For over a year I sat with this feeling, hoping it would go away. It was only when I started therapy that I realized there were a slew of very good reasons I was feeling this way. My body and brain were telling me to get out, that this was not my person or the future I wanted. And all that time I had spent thinking this was a normal phase of a relationship. 

However, if these anxious feelings seem to creep up on you in every relationship, you’ve likely got a case of relationship anxiety. Unlike normal anxiety (which has a purpose,) relationship anxiety is displaced worry– a feeling that isn’t supposed to be there. For example, your partner tells you that they love you, but you’re constantly wondering if they really mean it and asking them to reassure you. Or, you may spend hours worrying about your partner cheating, even though you know realistically they would never do that. You might even spontaneously wonder if you should just break up. 

Once it’s determined that what you’re feeling is in fact relationship anxiety, there are a number of steps you can take to start feeling better. 

First, let’s understand where this anxiety comes from. These feelings are often due to an insecure attachment style that may reveal itself in other relationships as well. Psychologists explain, “During a critical period in our lives — the first two years — when we develop attachments, separation from a primary caregiver could negatively affect our emotional and social development and lead to attachment and anxiety issues.” Previous romantic and platonic relationship experiences are also factors that impact our attachment style. 

There are four different types of attachment: 

  • Secure attachment
  • Insecure attachment
  • Avoidant attachment
  • Disorganized attachment

The latter three styles are all forms of insecure attachment. Any of these styles can create an increase in relationship anxiety. Once you understand your attachment style, you can take action to feel more secure in your attachment and ease the anxiety. 

Determine your love language
There are five different ways that we give and receive love, also known as love languages. They include words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. Most of us have one or two of these ways that we prefer to express and accept love– our love language. Oftentimes, in a relationship partners have different love languages, which can lead to frustration, confusion, and disappointment. Take the quiz and learn your language, then have your partner do the same! Sit down and chat through the ways you favor, and suggest trying new ways of sharing love. For example, if your girlfriend’s love language is words of affirmation, maybe leave her a little note in the morning or buy a couple’s card game to play on date night. 

Communicate with your partner– can’t emphasize this enough
Communication is key, literally. While it can feel uncomfortable, like ripping a bandaid, 9.9 times out of 10 it’s beneficial to communicate with your partner. Share with them what you’re feeling, and any ideas to navigate this together. None of us are mind readers– chances are if you don’t tell them then they will never know. And if they don’t know then they can’t work with you to improve the situation. 

Take a break from doom scrolling
We said it once and we’ll say it again– Tik Tok is not alleviating your mental health stress, and quite frankly it may be adding to it. When we go down the rabbit hole of video after video on relationship anxiety, it’s hard to think about anything else. Take a day to disconnect. Put your phone down and go for a walk outside, read a book, chat with a friend, try a new coffee shop. What’s going on IRL around you can be far more healing than a social media therapist (although some days we need them too!). 

Podcasts/ books
For sources beyond socials, we recommend picking up a book or listening to a pod on attachment theory. Try reading Attached, a book about the science of adult attachment. If nothing else, this will help you understand your relationship anxiety on a scientific and psychological level. Podcasts like The Mel Robbins Podcast and The Psychology of your 20s, as well as Huberman Lab and Call Her Daddy have worked with psychologists and therapists to unpack attachment- give one of these a listen!  

And if all else fails, August founder Nadya Okamoto shared some golden advice with us: “get a dog.” 

This article was written in partnership with Togeth3r

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