6 Techniques to Help Cope with Relationship Anxiety

A woman who's feeling relationship anxiety, holding her head in frustration.

Pistanthrophobia is the fancy name for relationship anxiety, and nearly 20 percent of people suffer from it. Pistanthrophobia is fear of trusting new people who come into your life due to past failed experiences, and it can seriously affect your relationships with others.

Relationship anxiety is having continuous anxious thoughts about the relationship. These thoughts and concerns can come in overwhelming waves, and can constantly make you relive traumatizing events of your past dating life.

Anxiety about a relationship can rear its head in many ways, including always being concerned with monitoring your partner’s phone, habitually checking their email and social media accounts, regularly checking in to know where they are and what they’re doing, feeling the need to test your partner in order to make them prove their love to you, or constantly jumping to conclusions and accusing them of wrong doing.

Now that you know what relationship anxiety is and what it can look like, here are some actionable steps for coping with these uncomfortable and consuming thoughts.

1. Communicate
Communication is complicated, especially for those affected by relationship anxiety.  Often times individuals with anxiety have a hard time expressing their feelings and may feel misunderstood. Even when it seems easier to shy away from situations that require addressing your anxiety, it’s important to not push others away or put up walls. You must be honest with yourself and your partner and not shut down.

If you do, let your partner know the distance they’re feeling is due to anxiety and not because of them. Communicate if you need space, and let them know when you’re ready to talk. And of course, ask your partner to communicate back, and acknowledge their struggles too.

2. Self Discovery
Even when we strive to be at our best and reach our full potential, we’re not always there.  In fact, we rarely ever are.  Your potential is something you continuously strive for. It’s a process, not a destination. Keeping this in mind, acknowledge that you can’t start every relationship at your very best. At the same time, don’t search for a partner in hopes they will fill the tender places in your life.

Self discovery is important because it allows us to mindfully listen to what is going on inside of ourselves in order to come to accept ourselves as we are. Building confidence in who you are is a great way to overcome anxiety.

The process of self discovery can be lengthy. If you’re not sure where to start, a few steps include writing down your talents and acknowledging your uniqueness, finding a support buddy to help walk you through this journey, and envisioning your future self while including all of your aspirations and goals.

3. Therapy
If you’re struggling to discover or accept who you are, seeking individual or group therapy is a great way to begin finding understanding. Speaking with a counselor can help you examine your struggles and shortcomings in a different way than with someone you can trust. Therapy not only helps you work through stuff, but it also supplies you with the tools to deal with future stuff. Verbalizing your feelings with a counselor can reshape your coping mechanisms and leads to better emotional wellness in your daily life.

4. Change Your Inner Dialogue
What we choose to pay attention to shapes our mentality and forms our reality. Some may feel they are a victim of anxiety, and internalize this mentality. But, there is a way to perceive your reality a different way that can lead to inner peace.

First you must become aware of what you internally say to yourself. Meditation is a good way to become aware of your thoughts, and whether you think positively or negatively. Once you have become aware of your thinking, and if you find yourself thinking of something negative, purposefully shift your thinking to something positive. You might also practice living in the present, by concentrating on what’s happening now. Focusing on what you have to be grateful for and your skills and talents is also beneficial on changing negative patterns into more positive ones.

5. Self Care
Taking care of yourself is an important and powerful management strategy. Beyond eating right and exercising (which is paramount), taking care of yourself also includes relaxation, meditation, spending time with family and friends, getting enough sleep, or keeping a journal. These strategies are tools to manage anxiety and should not be considered a cure-all. They can be very useful in trying to make a fundamental change in your life.

6. Set Boundaries
Establishing a sense of boundaries and limits helps give you a clearer picture of your personal needs, feelings, and decisions. Boundaries help you feel safe, empowered, and able to relax, leading to less anxiety and less compulsive damaging behaviors.

You may need to adjust your boundaries if you:

  • Feel unable to say no.
  • Avoid intimate relationships.
  • Aren’t sure how you really feel.
  • Have trouble communicating your needs and feelings.
  • Are unable to stop compulsive urges.

If this sounds familiar, there are ways to build your own personal boundaries. But keep in mind that setting boundaries can be tricky and takes time. If you choose to seek therapy, boundary setting would be an excellent goal to make with your counselor.  Mostly, in order to set limits and decide what’s acceptable or unacceptable behavior for yourself, you first need to know your limits.

What are your emotional and intellectual limits with other people? If you aren’t sure, think about past experiences that led to you feeling anger, rage, fatigue, frustration, or discomfort. From here you can determine where your limit might be with your partner, co-worker, family members, or friends. Considering and being mindful of triggers from past relationships can help you set boundaries for future ones.

Anxiety does not need to infiltrate your mind and your relationships forever. There are strategies and professionals to help you heal and reshape your thought processes. Instead of being caught up in your own mind, navigate your thoughts towards healthy, positive thinking and actions.

Although relationship anxiety can make you want to control the actions, thoughts, and whereabouts of your partner, you simply can’t.  The only person you can control is yourself. So when Pistanthrophobia hits and you have the urge to jump to conclusions or secretly check your partner’s phone, hit pause. Mindfully consider your emotions and their origin. Take control of the process and navigate a different path. Be patient with yourself in this practice. Overcoming relationship anxiety includes sorting through the layers of your emotions and thoughts, and these layers often run deep. The best thing you can do to start the process of healing is to take the first steps, and to reach out for help if needed.

Christie McConnell

Freelance Writer

Christie McConnell is a recent graduate of Arizona State University where she studied fitness and nutrition. She has two children and lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband of 12 years. Christie is very passionate about healthy lifestyles. In her spare time she enjoys Olympic Weightlifting and works hard to make balance in life a priority. You can follow her and her fitness journey on Instagram.

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