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Relationship Anxiety – Can’t Be Yourself in Love?

by Andrea M. Darcy

Relationship anxiety can see us thinking and behaving in ways we are so uncomfortable with, we sabotage the very relationship we actually want.

Do you have relationship anxiety?

[Anxiety off the charts? Feel you need support, fast? Our booking platform provides affordable Online therapy as soon as tomorrow.]

What is relationship anxiety?

Anxiety is the mind throwing us into a state of irrational thinking about the past (what has happened) and the future (what will happen) until we feel fearful. It robs us of the one place we can relax and be ourselves – the present moment.

Anxiety in relationships happens when the more we like someone and they like us back, the more we feel stressed and unable to be ourselves. A simple date can send us into a sleepless night worried about each little thing we said and did. And the more the relationship continues, the more we can be caught up in irrational doubt and fear.

Symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety is physical as well as emotional. It often causes things like sleep problems, changes in eating patterns and stomach upsets, a racing heart, headaches, and muscle tension. You can read about the signs of anxiety in our article, ‘When is it Time to Deal with Your Anxiety?’.

But what we want to focus on here is the behaviours that show you have relationship anxiety. They can be things that are so second nature to you you think you are just ‘doomed’. You don’t realise that actually, you are anxious.  And anxiety can be treated. We CAN change. 

Am I in a healthy relationship quiz

Look what relationship anxiety made you do…

Do these behaviours driven by relationship anxiety sound familiar? 

  • Doubts – you really like someone but then when they like you back you start to doubt if you do.
  • Different energy – you get oddly excitable and buzzy around your partner, or go quiet. Either way, it’s not the normal you.
  • Blathering – you find you say a lot of stupid things around him/her, or can’t stop talking.
  • Tension and sabotage – before a date you feel more and more tense until you can’t find

    something for your outfit, spill something, are running late.

  • Being horrible – you act annoyed or angry with the other person when you really aren’t. Maybe you even do or say really mean things you regret.
  • Clinging – you want to be around them all the time.
  • Pestering – you question them non-stop about what they want from the relationship and you.
  • Worry – you worry they might not like you as much as you like them, they might cheat, they might leave the relationship, and on and on.
  • Monitoring – you check their social media, read their phone, go through their things.
  • Controlling – giving them rules, making them check in with you.
  • Bad habits – you turn to an old habit, like bingeing, porn use, self-harm, drugs.
  • Withholding – you can start to deny affection, sex, refuse to talk about things.
  • Running away -you feel so terrible you just want to get away, but then you miss them.
  • Rejecting – you start to push them away. Reject first is your rule.
  • Drifting – you are always thinking about other things. You don’t even really try to connect any more. You might even cheat.
  • Retreating – or you end up deciding to give up as it seems easier to be alone, but the thing is that you feel sad about that and know you do like them. You retreat anyway.

Why am I so anxious in relationships?

Falling in love is scary for the best of us. There are always nerves at first. But if we had a healthy upbringing, we tend to relax and become more ourselves the more we fall in love.

So yes, if you become less yourself the more you like someone, then the truth is somewhere along the line in childhood things went wrong.

What might this be?

1. You didn’t learn healthy ‘attachment’.

Attachment theory’ proposes we all need at least one caregiver that we can totally trust to be there for us from minimum birth to aged seven. This adult gives us the love and safety we need, no matter we do or say.

If you don’t get this sort of unconditional support as a child, you end up with ‘attachment issues‘ as an adult.

One of these is called ‘anxious attachment’. This means that your caregiver was inconsistent with their love and care.

You never knew when love and affection would be given or withdrawn, and learned to be on guard for signs. Or perhaps you had to be a ‘good, quiet’ child to get any attention or avoid punishment. You could never relax and be yourself.

2. You experienced trauma.

Anxiety in relationships can also come from childhood trauma. Traumatic experiences change the way we see ourselves, others, and the world.

They give us negative ‘core beliefs’, assumptions we hold to be true and live our life by. Popular core beliefs that lead to anxiety in relationships include ‘the world is a dangerous place’, ‘I don’t deserve to be loved‘, ‘there is something wrong with me‘.

Trauma also destroys our self-esteem. We develop an inner critic always telling us the ways we don’t measure up. And this voice ratchets up when someone else dares to like us, and prove the opposite. We are left anxious.

3. You were taught to be anxious in relationships.

Another factor can be the way relationships were modelled to you when you were growing up. A mother who had experienced childhood sexual abuse, for example, might teach her daughters to be scared of men.

How can I get over my relationship anxiety?

*Sign up to our blog now to be sent an alert when we run the next piece in this series, ‘How to handle anxiety from relationships’.

Or why not take the big step of booking a session with a therapist? Anxiety is really hard to overcome alone, especially if it relates to childhood trauma. A therapist creates a safe, non-judgemental, and totally supportive environment for you to heal the past and have calmer, happier relationships.

Harley therapy runs London’s busiest and highly trusted psychotherapy practices. Not in London or even the UK? Our therapy booking platform means you can do therapy from wherever you are, at a price you can afford. 

Still have a question about relationship anxiety? Post below. 

Andrea M. Darcy therapy coachAndrea M. Darcy is a writer, author, and mentor who often writes about relationships. Find her on instagram @am_darcy

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Blog Topics: Anxiety & Stress, Relationships

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