‘Do you still love me?’ The challenges of relationship anxiety

4 days ago 29
By La Keita D. Carter

September 19, 2023 — 5.00am

Most of america person a emotion bucket that gets filled by, among different things, words of affirmation, carnal acts of affection and meaningful clip with our loved ones. Sometimes, though, it feels similar the bucket has a spread successful it. That’s the world for radical with narration anxiety.

Relationship anxiousness isn’t officially recognised arsenic a upset oregon a grounds of a intelligence wellness condition, and there’s been small probe connected the subject.

Relationship anxiousness  is the persistent fearfulness  of being rejected by your partner.

Relationship anxiousness is the persistent fearfulness of being rejected by your partner.Credit: iStock

Some of my patients, though, endure from it. Relationship anxiousness affects their intelligence wellness and causes them to conflict with gathering steadfast connections. It can, however, beryllium reduced with therapy, affectional enactment and constructive enactment from partners.

An excessive fearfulness of rejection

Relationship anxiousness is the persistent, pervasive and excessive fearfulness of rejection oregon unexpected abandonment successful a relationship, adjacent erstwhile it has historically been unchangeable and loving, according to probe by psychologists Rainer Romero-Canyas and Geraldine Downey.


Ironically, this anxiousness tin pb to problems that whitethorn jeopardise the relationship. It’s a classical lawsuit of “I make what I fear”.

So wherefore bash immoderate radical make narration anxiousness portion others consciousness unafraid successful their partnerships?

One mentation relates to attachment style. During a captious play successful our lives – the archetypal 2 years – erstwhile we make attachments, separation from a superior caregiver could negatively impact our affectional and societal improvement and pb to attachment and anxiousness issues, scientist John Bowlby’s enactment showed.

Many researchers person studied this mentation to recognize what this anxiousness looks similar successful relationships. Psychologist Mary Ainsworth noticed patterns successful children that are associated with their “attachment styles”.

The unafraid attachment benignant is the healthiest and results from a kid having a predictable, lukewarm and accordant superior caregiver who attends to their carnal and affectional needs.

Another attachment style, however, is known arsenic anxious ambivalent attachment. A kid with this benignant of attachment has an inconsistent superior caregiver who vacillates betwixt warmth and distance, and behaves unpredictably. The kid feels insecure and often struggles to find erstwhile and however they volition get affection and warmth from their caregiver.

Many children with anxious ambivalent attachment turn up to beryllium needy oregon clingy adults with a fearfulness of rejection and abandonment, and debased self-confidence and self-esteem. They thin to task those aboriginal puerility experiences onto their partners and necessitate them to fulfil the needs that were not met by superior caregivers.

The signs of narration anxiety

These are immoderate signs of narration anxiety:

  • Frantic efforts to debar existent oregon imagined abandonment. Those struggling with narration anxiousness are truthful disquieted astir being near that they effort not to disagree, dissent oregon origin hostility successful the relationship. For instance, 1 of my patients said they engaged successful unwanted intersexual activities astatine the petition of their spouse to support them “satisfied capable to stay”.
  • Recurrent, accordant request for reassurance. They person an insatiable request for information and often necessitate continued verbal affirmations that they are loved and that the narration volition not extremity soon. For example, they whitethorn inquire their partner, “Would you inactive emotion maine if I gained weight?”
  • Emotional outbursts astir insignificant struggles. When the narration experiences a unsmooth spot (no substance however small), they person aggravated affectional reactions disproportionate to the situation.
  • Trouble making decisions. People with narration anxiousness deficiency self-confidence, not motivation. They person ideas and plans, but often request to tally those by their partners to guarantee they won’t beryllium rejected if they proceed.
  • Fear of being left. They typically ruminate connected however to past without their spouse and what they would bash if the narration ended. This preoccupation tin pb to racing thoughts, a cognitive grounds of anxiety.
  • Misreading feedback arsenic a rejection. They thin to spot astir feedback, adjacent affirmative comments, arsenic rejection oregon grounds that their spouse is unsatisfied with the relationship. For example, if their spouse says, “I similar your garment today,” they mightiness respond with, “Does that mean you don’t similar the mode I usually dress?”

Relationship anxiousness tin beryllium crippling

It’s mean to acquisition anxiousness successful high-stress situations successful a narration specified arsenic erstwhile 1 spouse wants to determination to a municipality 3 hours distant from household and friends.

When idiosyncratic has narration anxiety, though, the superior stressor is simply a fearfulness of abandonment, adjacent erstwhile determination is nary pressing grounds that the narration is headed toward splitsville.


Relationship anxiousness and the fearfulness of abandonment underlying it tin beryllium crippling. Those who conflict with it tendency closeness, but their symptoms thin to propulsion distant others, who spot them arsenic needy and draining. Many times, they person penetration into their behaviour. They tin typically admit, “I cognize I’m a lot” oregon “I cognize you get bushed of maine being truthful needy”.

They, however, look to person small to nary quality to halt their behaviour. The longer they spell without reassurance, the much hopeless they go for a changeable of assurance.

How to heal narration anxiety

Healing from narration anxiousness is tough, but it tin hap with effort. Here are immoderate steps to explore:

  • Stop venting to friends. Venting whitethorn consciousness cathartic, but it won’t assistance you due to the fact that we thin to vent to like-minded people. You besides whitethorn beryllium venting to idiosyncratic with akin concerns and could transportation anxiousness betwixt the 2 of you.
  • Study yourself. When is the anxiousness heaviest? Is it close aft an argument? While your spouse is travelling for work? When they are moving late? Once you fig retired the patterns, you tin usage coping strategies to power your anxiety.
  • Don’t marque your spouse your therapist. They don’t person an nonsubjective presumption of you, and their past with you makes them susceptible to biases that an nonsubjective enactment wouldn’t have. Even if your spouse is simply a nonrecreational therapist, they aren’t your therapist.
  • Seek nonrecreational therapy. The fearfulness of abandonment and the anxiousness it produces has been with you since your childhood. A trusted nonrecreational tin assistance you research your trauma, process those aboriginal puerility experiences and larn coping skills for your anxiety.
  • Consider pausing your relationship. There’s lone 1 look for a steadfast narration – 1 steadfast idiosyncratic + 1 steadfast person. It’s overmuch amended to intermission your relationship, get the assistance you request and re-engage.

Advice for partners

Being the spouse of idiosyncratic with narration anxiousness tin beryllium draining. The changeless requests to marque your spouse consciousness unafraid tin beryllium daunting and suffocating. You whitethorn beryllium subjected to crying spells and aggravated outbursts related to your partner’s fearfulness of abandonment.

Many well-meaning radical deliberation if they halt feeding their partner’s request for assurance, the spouse volition halt asking for it. Withholding emotions and affection does the opposite. It diminishes the different person’s self-confidence, which was debased to start, and is often received arsenic mean and uncaring. It besides puts you successful the relation of the unpredictable caregiver.

Do enactment your spouse successful getting therapy and trying different ways of managing their fearfulness of abandonment and anxiety. This whitethorn consciousness uncomfortable astatine first, but it’s the healthiest move.

Washington Post

La Keita D. Carter, PhD, is simply a objective scientist specialising successful relationships, intimacy, intersexual wellness and wellness, trauma and women’s issues.

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