How Can Anxiety Affect A Relationship?
As you may or may not know, my husband and I have been together for 9 years. We started dating freshman year of high school, did long distance in college, and are now currently married in our first home. Just like any other relationship, things weren't always easy. However, we were never an 'on and off again' couple. We have been together since day one. No matter how big or small the fight was, we stayed with each other. That doesn’t mean things were always rainbows and sunshine. Especially before I was diagnosed with anxiety. Let me tell ya why
Part of my anxiety is that I do not like when plans change or when I am told of an event last minute. For some reason, until a year ago, my brain needed like at least a week to process what I was going to be doing. This was a problem because life is always changing. However, my anxiety was telling me life and plans shouldn't change. Ever.
In high school, if Kirk changed plans, canceled plans, or threw on some last minute plans, that was usually not okay with me. It made me feel uncomfortable and it felt like he was the one that was trying to hurt me. The problem was that I wasn't aware that it was actually my anxiety trying to hurt me. I wasn't aware of this because I didn't know I had anxiety.
Since I thought it was a problem between Kirk and I this would cause a lot of unnecessary fights. I would feel like he didn't love me or that I couldn't trust him. I remember after one of our fights, he told me that I seem to be two different people. He told me that when I'm upset I seem like a totally different person and he doesn't feel like it's really me. Well, how do you think this made me feel?
SCARED. I think this was my first awareness of me being different. Later that night, I just sat in my room and cried because I thought there was something wrong with me. I remember me questioning if I would turn out to be a crazy person. I didn't know what was wrong with me. In a way, I kind of felt like there was a monster sitting inside of me waiting to come out.
After this moment, I started to become more aware of when my personality seemed to flip. This made me try to regroup and calm down. Kirk also told me that he noticed patterns of when I would act different and tried to not let that happen. I didn't want this monster taking over and ruining our relationship. This awareness seemed to make those fights less frequent, but it didn't make them go away. I couldn’t push my unknown anxiety down forever.
In college, we were an 8 hour bus ride away from each other. This was hard for many reasons. I seemed to always have to know where Kirk was and who he was with. Not because I didn't trust him, but because I felt a pit in my stomach when I didn't know... ahem anxiety. However, I couldn't explain the way I was feeling because I didn't know what I was feeling. It still felt foreign to me, so I just assumed it was because I didn't trust him. This frustrated him.
Trust issues in a relationship are major red flags. I started to sometimes question if there was something wrong with our relationship or if we weren't supposed to be together. This caused problems in our relationship. However, that made us discuss more about what the problem was. I remember I kept on telling him that I trusted him, but I didn’t know why I got scared if I didn’t know who he was with or where he was. It just made me feel uncomfortable.
We got a better understanding of what the problem might be, but we didn’t have a name for it. Fast forward a couple years... I was officially diagnosed with anxiety when I was hospitalized for it. The more I learned about my anxiety, the more I understood what those feelings actually were. It also made our previous fights make a lot more sense. In fact, it made my whole life make a lot more sense.
After learning about my anxiety, my husband started to learn about it too. I’ve learned different ways to cope with my anxiety while he has learned different ways he can help with my anxiety. He has come to many of my therapy sessions and has even learned where my anxiety stems from. This has led him to also learn things about my past that I was always trying to avoid.
So, to answer the initial question. Anxiety can affect a relationship in good ways and also bad ways. However, believe it or not, I’m grateful for the effects that anxiety has put on our relationship. Sure, it’s made our relationship a little harder, but it’s made it deeper and more raw. There are obviously other aspects to my anxiety that affects our relationship, but that's for a later post!