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Relationship Anxiety: How to Stop Stressing About Your Relationship

by | Jun 25, 2021 | ATTACHMENT, MENTAL HEALTH, RELATIONSHIPS, SEXUALITY

A couple navigates relationship anxiety.

For many, the moment they enter into a romantic relationship things seem to shift. The sense of ease and calm disappears and they’re left with intrusive, negative thoughts and seemingly unrealistic worries. People with anxious attachment styles and those diagnosed with anxiety disorders tend to experience this shift early and often.

3 Signs of Relationship Anxiety 

  1. You want to wait to have sex but you’re feeling anxious they’ll leave (or you don’t want to wait and you’re still worried they’ll leave). 

Deciding when to have sex is a personal choice and anxiety caused by hookup culture can be highly frustrating.  Learning to understand your attachment style and noticing the styles of others can be useful in determining what kind of relationship you can have with people and how to feel more secure.

If you tend to have sex and immediately worry about what your new partner is thinking, who they are with, and require a lot of reassurance, you may have more of an anxious attachment. If someone sleeps with you quickly, craves the intimacy, but doesn’t want to commit, that could indicate a fearful-avoidant attachment style. If someone says they like you, keeps you at arms length and then quickly shifts gears, this may be a sign of dismissive avoidant attachment.

People with a secure attachment style exhibit and gravitate toward healthy boundaries and respect with partners. Think of someone being honest and asking you about your needs after sleeping with you. For example, they may says something like, “Hey, I wanted to let you know I’m going to be busy for the next week, but what do you need from me to feel good about our relationship?”

Whichever your style, using sex as a tool for quick validation is likely to leave you feeling hungry for more, questioning your partner’s intentions, or feeling empty and alone. Worrying about losing someone plays into anxious and avoidant attachment styles through the lens of abandonment.

Decide what you want from each sexual encounter before you get busy, so you set yourself (and your sexual partner) up to feel empowered and emotionally safe. If you discuss expectations beforehand, it’s less likely you’ll feel abandoned, angry, general anxiety, or confused if things don’t go as planned.

  1. You thought the date went well and they didn’t call.

Women in particular have a tendency to internalize blame. They may have thoughts like:

  • “It must have been something I said.”
  • “He probably didn’t like my body.”
  • “It’s because I didn’t sleep with him.”
  • “Maybe I’m not pretty enough.”
  • “They said they had a girlfriend before, so what’s wrong with me?”

Truthfully, people are complex and allowing your anxiety to step in to figure it out will leave you more flustered and can lead to sabotaging the relationship. Personalizing each rejection can cause you to build up a narrative that isn’t grounded in reality. Learning to let people go is essential for practicing the art of detachment. What you do or don’t do when dating or in a relationship isn’t always the issue.

Unfortunately, society tends to victim blame and slut shame women for prurient behavior. If you have sex you might be labeled a slut, if you don’t have sex you’re labeled a prude, and if something happened you didn’t want to happen, according to harmful messages in society, it must be your fault somehow.  The messages reflected back to women in society are often unfairly anchored in sexism.

No wonder so many women struggle with experiencing relationship anxiety, it’s impossible to win! Cultural morays deems women valuable for their beauty. As such, it’s easy to live in constant comparison to supermodels and instagram filters.

Rejection after dating can hurt and can cause the brain to spiral in endless directions. This spiraling is a calming mechanism for the anxious brain. When we don’t know the end of the story we tend to fill in the blanks to create a sense of safety and control, checking all of the possible blueprints for hurt. Many people’s brains lean towards a negativity bias.

Instead of going down the rabbit hole, start training yourself to switch your thinking from, “It must have been my fault.” to “Not everyone is a good fit, but I still rock!”

  1. They don’t want to have sex as much as I do, but they said they love me?

There are many motivations for sexual activity, and for people who struggle with anxiety and depression, pleasure isn’t always one of them. Sex can provide emotional regulation, reassurance, safety, and the ability to caretake for a partner. These motivations can lead people who feels insecure about their relationship to want more sex.

Those with avoidant attachment styles, who often pair up with folks with anxiety, tend to be the opposite. They learned that their early attachment figures didn’t reliably meet their needs for connection and reassurance in childhood, so they don’t seek out sex for these objectives in adulthood.

Overcoming Relationship Anxiety

If you are feeling unsure about the status of your relationship, or your partner’s feelings, try two things before going for the goods.

  1. Practice emotional regulation strategies on your own:
    1. Meditate
    2. Breathe
    3. Go for a walk
    4. Have solo sex
    5. Phone a friend
  2. Talk to your partner and express your feelings. Let them know you’re having a day and ask for an extra hug or shoulder rub.

Using sex as a tool to achieve intimacy and closeness isn’t necessarily bad, but it may struggle to serve you long term. Learning to cultivate self-esteem and reassurance from within is paramount in moving towards a secure attachment style and reducing relationship anxiety.

Healthy relationships take time, effort, and a lot of communication. Anxiety and mental health/mental illness can create a host of unwanted thoughts and feelings, that are relationally focused, and can cause failed bids at connection. Continue increasing your self-awareness and learning to manage your anxiety so you can have the relationship you want!

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.

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Author Bio

Heather Mazzei, ASW

Heather Mazzei is a Clinical Associate at Triune Therapy Group, in Los Angeles, An Associate Clinical Social Worker, supervised by Dr. Kate Balestrieri, Heather is passionate about healthy relationships and helping the people she works with to develop relationships that thrive.

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