Healthy relationships require trust, intimacy, effective communication, and understanding. However, if you suffer from chronic anxiety you may have trouble dealing with everyday conflicts and tensions that can arise in relationships.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to change the way you react to triggers and stress,” says Carolyn Daitch, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders. Daitch is the co-author of “Anxious in Love“, a relationship guide for partners who have an anxiety disorder. The book offers readers skills for calming their anxieties and communicating with their partners.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. For those couples wishing to enhance their sense of connection, Carolyn Daitch has five easy tips to recommend – C.U.P.I.D:
- Communication requires de-escalation: successful communication requires deescalating your own heightened emotion before engaging your partner.
- Understanding is NOT automatic: you and your partner are not always going to share the same perspective—so the assumption that your partner should, by default, understand your perspective can cause frustration and alienation for both of you.
- Practice makes permanent: repeated practice, not just good intentions or a single instance of success, brings about the change in your relationship that you want to see.
- Interdependence is the key: a good balance of dependence and independence is the key to healthy relationships.
- Deescalate whenever needed: when you are in conflict with your partner and emotions start to escalate, take an immediate cease-fire, or “time-out” to calm down before reengaging. Heightened emotion, whether it’s anxiety, fear, anger, or sadness, only heightens disconnect in an interaction. You need to deescalate your own heightened emotion before you’re going to experience connection in any communication.
Forty million Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder, so if you have anxiety you are not alone. But anxiety doesn’t live in a vacuum, it affects your partner as well as you.
Here are the some more steps to get you on the path to renewed intimacy.
1. Recognize common dynamics and the blocks.
The first way to reduce anxiety interfering with your love life is to recognize some common dynamics between people who love each other when one of you is anxious. When you share your anxieties with your partner, does s/he try to “fix” you with some logic-based solution? At this stage of your relationship, has your partner also become anxious, or perhaps frustrated, even angry? Or does your partner protect you from his own worries?
If you recognize these issues, chances are anxiety is getting between you and your partner. The good news is that there is a tried and tested roadmap for getting back on track.
2. Recognize your type of anxiety and your triggers.
It is essential to understand that you can become empowered. Your second step is to recognize what type of anxiety you have. Triggers will vary for different types of anxiety. If you have generalized anxiety, you might may have a lot of “what ifs.” These are worst case scenarios running through your mind all day. Anxiety can manifest in the body as well. It might show up as frequent stomach upsets, headaches, backaches, or exhaustion.
You may have had panic attacks, phobias or suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. You may feel extremely edgy in social settings or avoid working outside the home. Perhaps you experience the most well-known type of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder.
3. Take a time out for self care.
Yes, time outs are not just for kids. Pausing to give yourself an opportunity, on a regular basis, to calm down and self soothe is essential.
Knowledge alone is not enough—you have to have a clear plan that you put into action. For the sake of your loved one, get started. Take that first step now.
Dr. Carolyn Daitch is a fully licensed psychologist and director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders. She is an elected Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and Michigan Psychological Association. The book, “Anxious in Love” is written by Carolyn Daitch and Lissah Lorberbaum (New Harbinger Publications, 2012). Read reviews of the book, “Anxious in Love”. Watch a video about the book, “Anxious in Love”. View the book atAmazon.