When Your Partner Has Anxiety, Here Are 9 Ways You Can Help
Supporting a partner with anxiety can be a challenging proposition. Barriers are put up, resentment is often present and both partners sometimes feel it can be too much work to make a relationship succeed. Patience and understanding go a long way. Here are some ways to help your anxious partner feel calm again.
First, be compassionate
One of the most pivotal pieces of advice is to be compassionate when working through relationship issues with an anxious partner. “Try compassion first instead of yelling or, the reverse, giving the silent treatment,” says Tara Dixon, a mental health therapist based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. When compassion is used first; you are able to express your negative feelings in an effective manner. “Remember that words can’t be taken back,” Dixon adds. “A person suffering from anxiety will play your words over and over in his head. You can’t undo that damage.” Here are 14 phrases that can help instantly calm anxiety.
Don’t take her reaction personally
Your partner’s thought process is different from yours if she is anxious, so don’t compare what your reaction may be with hers. It’s important to take a moment and understand where she is coming from. “People without anxiety don’t think about all the ‘what ifs’ connected to a simple situation,” clarifies Dixon. “When you are anxious, one bad thought turns into a hundred thoughts, your thoughts get louder and louder, until they are the only voice you hear. When you partner seems grumpy or impatient, or tired, it’s not you. Her mood is being directly affected by an avalanche of negative thoughts.” (Related: Find out how naturally calm people avoid stress.)
Don’t point the finger
Dixon advises avoiding insensitive phrases that make your partner feel like he is to blame. Some examples are: “Just have confidence,” “This is all in your head,” and “Why can’t you just calm down?” “Your loved one understands that this doesn’t make sense,” Dixon says. Giving advice or questioning his reality is a good way to push him away. Instead, Dixon says, “Let him know he is loved and that you are there. And it’s always great to hear that you are perfect just the way you are.” (Related: Suggest one of these home remedies for anxiety.)
Find ways to comfort your partner
“When we routinely provide our partners with the emotional support they need, we can create a new depth of love in the relationships,” Tony Robbins, best-selling author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, said in his blog. When your partner is distant or argumentative, that’s often when she needs you the most. Dig deep and offer your partner love and support, even when it’s difficult.
Ask what would make the situation better
Allow your partner to be the one to come up with most of the ideas because then it is more likely he will take ownership of them and move forward with the plan, suggests Helen Chalmers, MS, LPC, a licensed professional counselor in Dallas. “If there isn’t a way to change the situation, it can help to change the thoughts your partner has about the anxiety,” she advises.
Be a good listener
Listening to your partner is paramount to understanding her situation. “Remember that the anxiety comes from the person’s appraisal of the situation…not the situation itself,” says Cara Itule, a marriage and family therapist based in the Los Angeles area. “Challenge your partner to look at things from a different angle once they’ve vented their angst.”
Create a code word to indicate a situation is escalating
It may be a good idea to create a code word to say for when the anxiety becomes too intense, Itule says. If you notice your partner is slipping away from himself, use the code word, something like “apple” or “pearl”—just anything the two of you came up with together. “That way your partner knows he is not alone and the two of you can regroup, take a break from the situation, breath, and return to the task at hand,” Itule adds. Don’t miss these tricks for calming social anxiety.
Remember that you are a partner—not a therapist
You share an equal and loving and intimate bond—not a professional one, says Itule. “It’s important that your partner doesn’t feel as if she is always broken and you are the perfect one. You walk side by side,” she adds. “You stand in each other’s light, and hold hands when in the dark. Love, listen, and support your partner but if her anxiety grows increasingly concerning, encourage your partner to talk to a therapist.” Check out these ways to treat anxiety without medication.
“Therapy may be the answer,” says Ana Aluisy, a couple’s therapist in Tampa, Florida. “A professional can help you communicate your feeling in a non-threatening way, by focusing on the consequences of their action and the effect they have in others around them.”