Thankfully, I’m in a relationship now where my partner is non-judgmental, supportive, and makes me feel safe, but I wasn’t always this lucky in the past, and I know many people out there with anxiety have experienced or are experiencing similar issues. On behalf of those like me, there are some things we wish the people we dated would understand about us and our mental health in an effort to build better, stronger relationships.
No two people with anxiety are alike, but here are 10 helpful tips to keep in mind if you’re currently dating someone with anxiety and want to be a more compassionate partner or you want to be prepared for when the time comes that you potentially date someone with anxiety in the future.
- Give them reassurance on a regular basis
- Understand their triggers and anxious reactions
- Plan thoughtful dates
- Be patient with them
- Respect their need for space
- Readily volunteer information about your day
- Try not to ignore their texts or calls
- Ask what they need or want instead of making assumptions
- Don’t dismiss their anxiety
- If you can’t be a partner to provide what they need, tell them
1. Give them reassurance on a regular basis
It’s natural for people who are anxious to overthink and assume the worst of everything. That’s why it’s always appreciated when you regularly provide reassurance that you’re happy with them and within the relationship. This could be achieved through something as simple as a text every couple of days about how much you care for and appreciate them – anything that lets them know they’re valued and secure in the relationship with you. Also, don’t get upset if they ask for reassurance “too often.” That’ll only make their anxiety worse.
2. Understand their triggers and anxious reactions
Getting into an argument with a boss or coworker. Seeing a certain person. The “we need to talk” text. Not picking up the phone when they call you. Although everyone’s triggers are different, these are all examples of things that may spike someone’s anxiety and cause them to react a certain way. Become accustomed to what behaviors or situations trigger your partner and do your best in limiting their exposure to them.
3. Plan thoughtful dates
A “thoughtful date” is unique to each person, of course. But keep those triggers in mind when you’re planning a day or night out with them. For example, they probably don’t want to be cooped up in a nightclub or go on a quadruple date with your coworkers who don’t know they experience social anxiety. Considering their preferences and what makes them anxious will help you plan activities that both of you will enjoy.
4. Be patient with them
Anxiety may be underlying and ready to surface at any time, but anxious bouts always tend to come and go. Patience is a real virtue. Calmly ride the waves with them and know that everything will be better and “back to normal” sooner than later.
5. Respect their need for space
Needing time alone has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. That’s because folks with anxiety tend to navigate relationships with a pretty heavy emphasis on self-care and introversion. When they ask for space, let them have it. No questions asked. Sometimes they just need 20 minutes or a full day alone to recharge. No matter the length of time it takes, once they’re feeling refreshed, rest assured that they’ll be back around and feeling much better than before.
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6. Readily volunteer information about your day
Wanting to know what you’re doing (likely) has nothing to do with them being controlling. It’s actually really comforting to know that you’re safe and when you’ll be back around, especially if you don’t live together. Rather than having them beg for information about your plans, try to willingly offer it to them. Little, kind gestures like this help to reduce anxiety more than you know.
7. Try not to ignore their texts or calls
A person who doesn’t experience anxiety may not think twice about a delayed response. However, someone with anxiety will probably assume the worst of it. Whether you’re actually ignoring them or not, they may think you are or that you’re not OK, mad at them, or up to no good. If you’re out or busy, which is totally normal, maybe send them a quick text like “I’m busy right now but I’ll call/text you/respond to this as soon as I can.” That way they’ll know you’re fine, all is well, and they can anticipate a reply whenever you get around to it.
8. Ask what they need or want instead of making assumptions
Never assume what your partner needs or wants. Instead, ask them what you can do to help (if anything at all), and then truly listen to their answer. You’re not a mindreader. Open communication will help you to better understand each other and what you two require personally and within your relationship.
9. Don’t dismiss their anxiety
The last thing someone who’s anxious wants you to do is brush off their anxiety like it’s no big deal. To them, their anxiety is real and a big deal. Don’t belittle their anxiety attacks, overthinking habits, or anxious reactions, and NEVER call them “crazy” or claim that what they’re experiencing is “all in their head.”
10. If you can’t be a partner to provide what they need, tell them
Dating someone with anxiety is no different than dating anyone else in that you must take their emotional and mental wellbeing into account in order to establish a healthier relationship with them. If you feel that they’re asking too much of you or you’re unable to give them what they need, it’s up to you to be respectful, honest, and open about it. Be careful not to tell them that they’re “too much” to be with but make it a point to acknowledge that you’re just not the right match for them.
The right fit is out there who will love them the way they need to be loved, whether that’s you or someone else. If it’s not you, do both of you a favor by setting yourselves free to ensure you both find what you want and need in a romantic partnership.