Karen Fratti
December 25, 2017 8:00 am
Getty Images/Peter Thom

Managing anxiety is sometimes hard enough to do on your own, but when you’re involved romantically with someone, it can become an even greater task. As much as we adore them, there are just some ways your partner shouldn’t be acting when you have anxiety. It almost doesn’t matter how close you are or how much your partner tried to understand it, if they’ve never dealt with an anxiety disorder — even generalized anxiety — they’re pretty much bound to mess up sometimes.

Often, people just want to help you when you have anxiety, but they end up making it worse. It doesn’t help that romantic relationships can often enhance our anxiety just by default. Since anxiety always wants us to assume the worst about ourselves and well, everything, having to trust an intimate partner can be hard. According to TalkSpace, “Anxiety is not logical or rational. It causes people to worry about something despite there being no evidence to suggest it is worth worrying about. It also causes them to sometimes act irrationally.” Which is precisely why it’s so important to talk to your partner about your anxiety and disclose your condition.

Remember that anxiety is totally normal and millions of people live with it every day. It’s also possible to have a healthy, happy relationship and live with anxiety, but you do need to set some ground rules and and keep the lines of communication open. Here are a few things your partner should never do if you have anxiety that are worth bringing up and hashing out.

1They shouldn’t make you feel “crazy.”

Anxiety can often manifest itself as totally irrational thoughts. But you’re not irrational or unreasonable. Which is why your partner should never, ever tell you to “calm down” or act like you’re crazy.

You know best when your anxiety hits and what it looks like, which is why it’s best to disclose your anxiety to your partner. Maybe it means you need more contact with them throughout the day and you can compromise on how to make that happen. Or discuss social settings, outings, and have a plan of attack for when anxiety strikes so that they’re not wondering why you’re reacting to things they way you are. Being prepared will help you for sure, but it will also help them through the situation so that they don’t make you feel like this is all coming out of nowhere.

2They shouldn’t ignore it, either.

Just because anxiety can feel irrational doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Your should never just wave it away and say “you just have anxiety.” Like, yeah, you already know that! Dealing with it and managing it is the hard work. Acting like your anxiety is NBD can be just as hurtful as someone acting like your anxiety means you’re “insane.” A partner should support you and allow you to explain how you’re feeling and listen to what you need. You’d do the same, right?

Most of the time, there are simple, straightforward ways to manage anxiety together. So if your partner knows smoking weed or drinking coffee makes your anxiety worse, they shouldn’t peer pressure you into “just one” hit or sip. Or get upset because they sprung huge plans on you at the last minute and you’re anxious about it. That’s not fair at all. Likewise, if you’re mid-panic attack, you call the shots about what goes down. Anxiety is normal, but if you don’t address it for whatever reason, it will only get worse.

3They make you apologize for it.

We’ll admit that sometimes anxiety can make us snap or pull away from our partners. And that must be really hard for them, as it would be for anyone. So you should show compassion and not take your anxiety out on your partner, but they should also work on realizing that your anxiety is not about them. (Well, most of the time, at least.) If a partner is consistently sulking about your anxiety or using your anxiety as a bargaining tool in the relationship, that can sometimes be a sign of emotional abuse. You should never, ever feel guilty for having anxiety or asking for the support you need.

4They can’t compare your anxiety.

Anxiety is different for everyone! Your partner might very well have their own sort of anxiety, or have a person in their lives that manages an anxiety disorder, too.  But just because they know what their experience with anxiety is does not mean that they are experts in YOUR anxiety.

Your partner should never be playing some “Whose Anxiety Is More Important” game with you, by belittling your triggers or comparing them in some other way to other types of anxiety. That’s just not nice. You both should be empathetic to each others’ experiences, not trying to change the other person’s experience.

5They shouldn’t “play doctor” with you.

Sometimes your partner will, with the best intentions hopefully, try to “explain” your anxiety to you and seem to have all the answers. They don’t — and just like telling someone with depression that they should “get out more” is not helpful at all, telling someone with anxiety that they should meditate, do yoga, or just “chill out” is counterproductive.

While those things might work for some people with anxiety, they might not work for you. Or at the very least, you don’t need someone to remind you to keep up with your self care when you’re going through a rough patch. Sometimes not being able to manage or control your anxiety in certain moments will only give you something else to be anxious about. You know that little voice in your head that tells you how you bad and stupid you are for feeling this way that needs to just keep quiet? You don’t need a romantic partner or friend adding to the chorus.

6Your partner should never have an opinion about your meds.

A partner should never make you feel bad for taking medications that help your anxiety or complain about any of its side effects. You’re the one (along with your doctor) who knows what’s best for your body and what side effects are worth it and no one else can make that decision for you. Even if you don’t take meds, you likely have some other way of caring for yourself, like having regular “me time.” A partner who judges you for adhering to your medicine or your self care routine obviously just does not seem to think your mental health is a priority or that anxiety is a not a choice. They should be cheering you for taking care of yourself.

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They should really have no opinion at all about your mental health, TBH.[/listheader

Obviously, in a relationship, your partner can have an opinion. But when it comes to your anxiety, they need to let you make the decisions and take their cues from you. Sometimes a partner might tell you that you “should” just go on medications that you know you already don’t want to take. In the heat of a moment, someone complaining that you need to be medicated is just a mean thing to say and if you’re wrapped up into the relationship and unsure of yourself, this can easily slip into a form of gaslighting.

Who among us with anxiety hasn’t thought at some point that there’s something “wrong” with us? There’s nothing wrong with you, of course, but when a partner explains  your anxiety to you and makes you second guess yourself is what your anxiety thrives on. You deserve a partner who supports and trusts you and makes you feel safe. Dating with anxiety is no easy task, but talking about it with your partner and listening to each others’ needs will go a long way in managing anxiety in the long run.

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