You don’t see it on our faces when we meet for our first date. It’s not something we wear on our sleeve when you take us home for the first time. On the surface, we seem cool, calm and collected when you lean in for our first kiss. When we text at night, there’s no trace of it through our words. Our voice doesn’t shake when you call to ask how our day is going. You can’t even see it when we pack for our first trip together. Slowly, but surely as time passes through our relationship, it creeps out in bits and pieces–asking to be addressed.
We begin to ask you things over and over, wanting reassurance in where we are. We start to overanalyze and knit-pick at our relationship, even when nothing’s wrong. We begin to worry about things that, to you seem irrational, but to us, seem normal. We lose sleep. We can’t eat. We start to change. Slowly, but surely, a third person enters our relationship uninvited.
Living with anxiety isn’t something that we sign up for. It’s not something we wanted to brand ourselves with, like getting a piercing or a tattoo. We didn’t ask to be diagnosed with a condition that hinders our everyday lives. But the reality of the situation is, our anxiety isn’t something that is going to go away overnight. Some days, we hardly even know it’s there. But there are other days that are bad–really bad. We can’t get out of bed. We can’t stop the worry. We hyperventilate just to make it through the day.
Dating a girl with anxiety isn’t easy.
It’s not going to be the same kind of relationship you’ve had with other women in the past. Nothing is going to be “simple.” But, that doesn’t mean that everything has to be all doom and gloom. Girls with anxiety love hard, and they live fiercely. They will protect you and stand by you through the storm at all costs. They will always, always support you because they know firsthand how much support truly matters. There are a lot of things you’re going to have to do differently when you date someone with anxiety.
1. You’ll need to practice patience.
When anxiety strikes, it’s important to know that we’re scared, unhappy, and feel incredibly embarrassed sometimes. Anxiety can hit us at any time, anywhere. We could be having a great time and all of the sudden–bam–we’re hit with a wave of anxiety and it feels as though we’re struggling to get to the surface of the water we’re drowning in.
It’s not ideal for us to get anxiety when we’re out on a date, having fun. It’s a burden when we’re with friends and we need to leave early. And, it totally sucks when we get hit with an anxiety attack while we’re on a trip together. Instead of getting annoyed and frustrated with us–practice patience. Katharina Star, PhD says that:
When dating a person with panic disorder, it is best to remain patient when your partner is faced with panic attacks and anxiety. Let them know that you are there for them and that you have their safety and welfare in mind.
Giving us time to regather ourselves, our thoughts, and our minds is always appreciated.
2. You can’t tell her to just “calm down.”
Telling someone with anxiety to just “calm down” is something that universally is looked down on. By saying this when your partner’s anxiety is really bad, you give them the notion that you’re belittling their disorder and downplaying it. It shows her that you don’t realy care that they’re going through something this hard and, that you think it’s preventable. In reality, it’s just not. Jennifer Rollin MSW, LCSW-C points out that telling someone with anxiety to calm down is amongst four things you should never say to them.
Telling someone with an anxiety disorder to “calm down,” is akin to telling someone with allergies to “stop sneezing.” Mental illnesses are not a choice. No one would choose to feel paralyzing levels of anxiety, and if the person was able to control their anxiety, they would. Telling someone to “calm down” is invalidating to the person who is struggling and insinuates that they are deciding to have their anxiety disorder. Instead, try asking the person what you can do to support them. It could be beneficial to ask the person this question when they are relaxed, rather than waiting until they are in a state of heightened anxiety.
3. She’s going to need reassurance. Give it to her.
Many women who have anxiety experience moments of overthinking and stress. We wonder if you’re still all-in with us, even when we’re at our worst. When our anxiety gets really bad, we think that you’re going to run for the hills–even if you’ve never dropped hints of this at all. It will become annoying and be aggravating for you when she asks question after question, but understand she’s looking for some sense of control. She wants to feel as though she has control over her own life and what is happening and, giving her the answers she’s seeking can help her regain that control and confidence.
4. Listen. Listen. Listen.
No matter how much you think you know about your partner, there may be things you have no idea about. Certain times, they may look as though they’re completely fine but on the inside, they’re going through a war. The best thing you can do in a relationship when your partner has anxiety is always listen to what they have to say. And, don’t just half-listen, trying to prove to her or anyone else that you are doing the right thing–really listen. And, when she’s ready, asking the right questions to understand her anxiety better will help you both in the long run. Joel L. Young M.D. points out that by asking the right questions, you’ll be able to truly understand your partner and her relationship to her condition better.
If you want to know something, ask your loved one first, and then be sure to intently listen to his or her answer. Some questions to ask include:
-Is there anything I can do to help you with this diagnosis?
-What’s it like for you to have this condition?
-How do you feel about the treatment options available to you?
-Does having a diagnosis make you feel better or worse?
-Is there anything you think I need to understand about the challenges you face?
5. You can’t get angry at her because of her anxiety.
Sometimes, your partner’s anxiety will make you angry and upset because there’s no way you can truly stop it and make it disappear. But, no matter how upset or angry you get–you can’t get mad at her for having anxiety. You can be mad at the situation, but you can’t attack her based on your desire to make her better. Barbara Markway Ph.D. points out:
This can be a difficult distinction to make, but it’s important. Attacking a person’s character or personhood can further damage shaky self-esteem. Perhaps you’re angry that once again, you’re attending the employee picnic alone, or not going at all. Your partner is fearful around large crowds of people and is not far enough along in treatment to go even for a little while. It’s natural for you to feel angry or even resentful. After all, you’re missing out on a lot of fun and the company of someone you care about.
Instead of getting angry, experts say communicating with your partner is best and addressing how the situation makes you feel–after you’ve had time to cool off.
6. You should remember it’s not personal.
When your partner constantly asks you questions over and over and looks at the relationship for reassurance and comfort, it can feel as though you’re the cause of the anxiety. Other times, your partner may be angry and frustrated at the situation in general–having anxiety all of the time can become exhausting. Realize, first and foremost, it’s nothing personal. Licensed therapist, Kayce Hodos says that it’s never personal.
“Anxiety can [also] often manifest as anger or frustration, but don’t assume he or she is upset with you. The biggest challenge you’re likely to face is feeling frustrated that you can’t fix it. You can offer support, but your partner is responsible for managing their symptoms, which can range from emotional responses, such as intense worrying and fear, to physical sensations, such as headaches or nausea. Hopefully, your partner has a good therapist, and you may need to find one, too. After all, you both need to be taking care of yourselves for your relationship to be healthy.”
7. It’ll help if you do some research.
The best thing someone can do if they don’t experience or have anxiety themselves is do their own research about the disorder. There are thousands of online articles, books, and resources that you can look over just to get an idea. According to Barbara Markway Ph.D.:
Anxiety disorders can be tricky because your partner may “look” perfectly normal at the same time they’re telling you they’re having a panic attack. This might cause you to minimize what your partner is going through. “Oh, you’re fine,” or “Just relax,” won’t be particularly helpful or well-received comments. Reading reputable books or information on the Internet can help you realize that anxiety disorders are very real, and fortunately, also treatable. See the Resources at the end of this post for places to get started.
8. But, you should know not all anxiety is the same.
While there is a ton of information on anxiety available to you online and in stores, it’s important to remember that no two people are exactly the same. While some anxiety symptoms are pretty universal and many people go through similar struggles–your partner’s anxiety may be completely unique and different for her. She may experience panic attacks differently than someone else, her triggers may vary, and she may have different ways of coping that work more so than others.
Although you should do some research online and know the signs, symptoms, and ways to help, realize that if it doesn’t work right away it’s not because of you, but maybe your partner just needs something different.
9. You should support her, but don’t suffocate her.
Showing support is important in terms of your relationship and helping your partner through her anxiety. However, don’t push her to talk and communicate if she’s not ready. Experts say that when your partner feels comfortable enough, she will come to you. Katharina Star, PhD points out:
Communicate to your partner that you are available to listen, but that you will not push them into discussing it until they feel ready. Additionally, do not bring up their disorder in front of others. Many panic sufferers chose to only tell trusted friends and family about their condition. It can cause embarrassment or other conflicts if you mention their struggle in a group setting.
Remember to be there, but not to put a label on your partner that she is only her anxiety.
10. You have to embrace solutions.
While you cannot necessarily “cure” your partner’s anxiety, you can help embrace positive solutions and suggestions to help make it better. This can mean a multitude of things. Doing things together that help her anxiety is one–like going to yoga or meditating together. Another is pushing her to go to therapy and speak to someone about her situation and condition. You can even suggest going to therapy together so that she sees you’re on board with supporting her and helping her through her anxiety. Experts say that couples therapy helps you both:
Don’t be afraid to seek outside help for your relationship if warranted. This can be a good adjunct to the individual’s therapy for the anxiety disorder. Couples therapy promotes better communication skills, which can allow people to feel more at ease in a variety of typically anxiety-provoking situations. In addition, less stress at home creates a better environment in which to work on the treatment of an anxiety disorder.
Dating a girl with anxiety is hard, but here’s why it’s worth it.
Girls with anxiety are fierce, triumphant and cunning. They are unstoppable. They don’t accept failure as an option – they push themselves to reach every single goal they set. They are never truly at ease, they are never truly the calm that comes before the storm – they are the storm. They are the raging, thundering, fiery storm that rips through towns and leave their mark.