There’s no shame in relationship anxiety
A pet hate of mine is when people shame others for having relationship anxiety.
I’ve heard partners shame their partners for feeling anxious in their relationship, for example:
“Babe, stop being so high maintenance” in response to their partner asking for more time together or closeness.
And, “I was late out with my friends because I was having fun, please stop keeping tabs on me”
I’ve also heard friends shame their friends for being “needy” with their partners, for example:
“I think you’re coming across as too keen, you’ll put him off and he’ll lose interest in you”
And, “You don’t stop talking about [insert romantic partner], you’re obsessed!”
And I’ve also read online articles that state you’ll “destroy your relationship” if you’re anxious in it.
If you’ve ever been subject to comments like this or worried you’re “crazy” or “too needy” in your relationship, then please let it be known:
Relationship anxiety is not your fault. You’re not “crazy” or “too needy”; in fact you’re a human with emotional needs that are not being met.
You’re only as needy as your unmet needs.
If you’re experiencing relationship anxiety, you’re not to blame, it’s because your relationship is not meeting your needs.
Getting your needs met is a two way street: You need to ask for your needs to be met in a direct way, and your partner needs to meet them as best as possible.
Here are some examples of common situations that cause relationship anxiety and the underlying unmet needs fuelling the anxiety:
- Example 1. Sally is feeling anxious because her partner, Tom, hasn’t arrived home yet from a night-out. Sally is worried that Tom is cheating on her. This is because Sally fears on a deeper level that Tom is not overly invested in her. Tom hasn’t introduced her to his friends or family, makes last minute plans with her on the weekend and doesn’t talk about a future together. What Sally is needing is increased closeness in her relationship to feel secure with Tom. Perhaps then, she would feel relaxed about Tom’s night-out.
- Example 2. Ben is checking his phone frequently to see if he’s received a text from his girlfriend, Lisa. Ben feels anxious because Lisa hasn’t replied to his text he sent 2 hours ago. He reprimands himself for not being “cooler” or more relaxed, knowing she is probably just tied up at work. However, Ben feels unease because he feels an overall insecurity in the relationship. This is because Lisa is not affectionate and spends lots of her free time without him. She also avoids calling Ben her “boyfriend” as she doesn’t like the term. In order for Ben to feel relaxed and at ease, Lisa needs to become more affectionate and committed in the relationship. Until this happens, it’s inevitable that Ben will continue to feel anxious.
- Example 3. Mia is madly in love with Rachel. They have been dating for over one year. Mia is constantly talking about the future, including sharing fantasies of moving in together and planning holidays. She notices Rachel doesn’t join in on these conversations and tends to change the topic. Mia starts to feel insecure in her relationship with Rachel. She finds herself trying to seek reassurance from Rachel by obsessively raising the topic of moving in together to see her reaction. Mia feels insecurity in her relationship because there is no certainty in her future with Rachel. Unfortunately, Mia will continue to feel this way if Rachel continues to show a lack of planning and investment in their future together.
If you find yourself anxious in your relationship, you’re not alone: It’s estimated that about 30% of people feel insecure in their relationships¹.
Feeling anxious in your relationship does not mean something is wrong with you – you’re not “crazy”, “needy” or “high maintenance”.
And you certainly don’t have anything to feel ashamed of. In fact, experiencing anxiety is a healthy alarm in your body, which if experienced in relationships, means your core needs are not being met.
And even better, my favourite book on the topic of anxiety in relationships is Attached by Levine and Heller, which you can order from Amazon for just $13. This book will reshape how you look at dating and how you approach your relationships. Enjoy!