Dating is usually a challenging task in many aspects, but dating someone with anxiety has its own set of unique challenges. It is hard to love someone who has a hard time loving themselves or dealing with their disorder. However, if you are willing to stick around for the ride, it will be well worth it. Likewise, there are a few things you should keep in mind when you are willing to fight this battle together.
- It has nothing to do with you. If you are dating someone with anxiety, you may not be aware or fully understand what the disorder entails. Therefore, the blame game is typically something you may start to play. You may think the problem is you and the reason your significant other does not want to leave bed today. You may blame yourself for them not wanting to go on the date you planned or meet your friends. However, this is absolutely not the case. You could be the greatest person on the planet and it may feel like your loved one is still giving you the cold shoulder. It is not fair to you or your relationship to believe you are the problem. Your loved one has an anxiety disorder and may not be equipped emotionally to move at the pace you feel is normal or be game for everything you have planned. That is OK. Most people who have an anxiety disorder truly do want to do all of those things but feel as though they mentally and physically can’t. Move at a pace more appropriate for them and try to meet in the middle until your loved one is ready for the plans you have waiting for them.
- Learn as much as you can about the disorder. Doing your own research will greatly increase the chances of your relationship surviving. Knowing what type of anxiety your partner has and the side effects that come with it, will only help you and your partner to be in a more understanding and conflict-free relationship. Each anxiety disorder is different but it is important to note that most who suffer from anxiety have a much larger frontal cortex of the brain which typically results in extreme running and reflective thought as well as an easily excited nervous system. Their disorder is not just “in their head” metaphorically but literally due to many physical differences to the normal brain. Understanding things such as this will help you to be a better partner to your loved one and your loved one will greatly appreciate the efforts you have taken to understand them.
- Allow them to be anxious in your presence. This is an extremely important part in establishing a healthy relationship with an anxiety sufferer. Your partner is most likely ashamed and embarrassed when their anxiety is uncontrollable, and feeling as though they cannot express that to you will make you another monster in their disorder. Not only will they have to deal with being anxious about whatever may cause it, but they will also create more anxiety stemming from the fact that they are afraid to show you. Letting your partner know it is OK to share that aspect of their life with you will extremely help alleviate their anxiety and tremendously strengthen the relationship.
- Have a backup plan. As you and your partner grow closer, they will typically be more for doing things out of their comfort zone. However, it is always important to establish a backup plan and be OK if it must be used. If your partner starts experiencing anxiety in a public event or outing, have a keyword in place. Something your partner can say to you if they are feeling too overwhelmed and need to take a step away. Be your partner’s support and never publically shame them for expressing to you how they are feeling. They are just as upset as you are because they are embarrassed for their own sake and do not want to let you down. Therefore, it’s important to remember this and not make the situation more violate than it needs to be.
- They appreciate you sticking by them. It is very hard for people with anxiety disorders to be involved in close, loving relationships. Therefore, they truly do appreciate all your efforts, even if they have a hard time showing it. They understand it takes a strong person to put up with their demons and they most likely wish they could be there for you as much as you are for them. However, do not see this as a limitation in the relationship and seek out the positives. Make note of all the subtle changes they are making to help you to be happy. Even something as simple as going bowling or meeting a sibling. This is something that may be easy for you but is very difficult for them. Realizing this will help display the fact that they are choosing to defy their disorder and go out of their way for you. Celebrate their baby steps and try your best to not focus on their limitations.
Dating someone with an anxiety disorder can be a challenging task if you let it be. However, keeping in mind these things and changing your perspective will be a breath of fresh air to the relationship. However, if at any point the relationship becomes unhealthy to you and the sufferer, it is important to seek outside help and resources.