Last time we talked about coping with a partner who has an anxiety disorder. Even the most supportive person will find challenges when he lives with someone suffering from anxiety.
- If your partner is nervous around crowds, and you like a good party, you may find yourself declining invitations, leaving you feeling isolated and lonely.
- Big decisions, and even small ones, become a calculation. Should you bring up the issue requiring a decision and thus, possibly triggering an anxiety attack in your partner? Or should you take on the burden of making the decision on your own?
- When your anxious spouse’s behavior makes it hard for him to keep a well-paying job, do you feel financial pressure? Do you feel compelled to push yourself to earn more? Or maybe your spouse is threatened by a move that would advance your career?
- Parenting is a trial when your partner is overly worried about every move your kids make, resulting in constant conflict and disagreement. Your spouse may also be worried about every move you make, rendering you restricted and confined.
Basically, if you live with someone with an anxiety disorder, you spend much of your time walking on eggshells. You are constantly on red alert to keep your partner calm, your relationship smooth, and yourself sane.
Cut It Off at the Pass
Over time, you’ll learn to identify what triggers your partner’s anxiety. Once you know this, you can plan ahead, and cut off anxiety attacks at the pass. When your partner shows the beginning signs of anxiety, you can help him. Ask him what issue is making him anxious, and then talk to him about it rationally. What aspects of his fear are accurate and what are not? Gently explain why his inaccurate fears are unfounded in a calm deliberate way until his anxiety begins to subside.
No matter how good you are at anticipating your partner’s anxiety, things will happen outside your control to trigger him. The key is to remain flexible and be able to change plans at a moment’s notice. Keep your antennae up when it comes to his feelings, which is a tall order on a constant basis. You can only do your best. You might also agree in advance to a word or phrase he can say that will be a signal to you that he needs help calming his fears.
The unexpected will happen, and you can simply remind your spouse that you are steadfast in your support. You can say, “Everything’s okay, I’m here for you.” Let him know you understand he’s suffering and tell him he’s in a safe place. Use a soothing, reassuring tone. But don’t try to fix him, or tell him to stop, or tell him he shouldn’t feel how he feels. Hopefully, you’ll learn when to talk to him and when to back off. If it serves him well, you can explore with him the sources of his behavior and talk about what you can do together to help him through his anxiety.
Talk and Listen
As in every marriage, communication is paramount. Make regular talking and listening sessions an essential part of your relationship. This is an ideal time to tackle tough subjects while he is not at his most anxious. Talk about finances, sharing household duties, raising children, work issues—anything that might be difficult to discuss when he’s feeling anxious.
Time, patience, and good communication will serve you well.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact