Having anxiety disorder can make things really, really difficult. A lot of people sadly don’t understand the extremes going on in an anxiety sufferers head when it comes to their relationships.
So I decided to put this post out as a bit of a helpful guide (maybe) on some advice on making it work both ways.
Quick FYI before we dive in, this post is NOT about just doing everything to suit an anxious person. A relationship is always about both people, this post is just a helpful insight into how to make it work better.
I know that as a single person I will probably have people rolling their eyes at me and thinking I’m not one to talk but I hate that rule. Why is a single person not allowed to say what’s right and wrong? We all have our own views and these things are what I’ve learned from past mistakes both by myself and from how ex boyfriends handled this.
I’m not here to bad mouth any former partners or start ranting about how things should be. These are just things I’ve learned about my own battles in relationships and the things I wish some people understood when they were with me.
First things first. A little background of an anxious mind.
Us anxious folk, we don’t know how or why it happens, but our brains just go into overdrive a little bit with thoughts that aren’t entirely logical. People have different types of anxieties and triggers for it, but most people I’ve spoken to with this condition say the same thing ‘we know we’re not being logical, but we can’t control it’.
An example of just how OTT my mind can be, would be when I stayed home alone for a week for the first time when I was 16. My parents and siblings were away on the family holiday (that I chose not to attend because I’m cool) and on the day they were due back I knew they’d be back by about 5/6ish. When it got passed the expected time, instead of a logical thought of ‘oh they’re stuck in traffic’ or ‘you know Mum always goes to M&S to grab some bits on the way back from a holiday’, no no, I basically decided my family had died. Dramatic right? Before they pulled up on the drive I had a whole scenario in my head of an accident and me having to live with my Grandparents and lose my home and all sorts. (Spoiler alert; my family are all still alive.)
You probably laughed a little at that last paragraph, or related entirely but that is the realism of anxiety disorder. I do not know how to think logically.
Now I’m going to go through the various steps of understanding all the tips and the way it all works using examples of my own life lessons with dating with mental health problems.
Routine for anxiety sufferers is both the best and worst thing. I personally like having a certain routine with things but, if the routine suddenly changes a bit (and it always will happen time to time), my mind cannot cope. A lot of this, sadly comes down to: historical bad luck with men. Sometimes it’s my own fault because I get too anxious about it but other times it’s just: I date the wrong guy for me. But here is the thing with routine… we get used to it, then if you suddenly go quiet for 4 hours – I am going to be sitting there convinced that you’ve randomly blinked and thought ‘she’s not hot anymore’ or this random hot girl I’ve invented in my head has slid into your DM’s and you’re now engaging with her.
It’s important to understand this: I can’t control this thought. Until such a point where I’ve got to the level with a guy that I am in a serious relationship with them, I will always be paranoid about the regularity of conversations: how short they are compared to the day before, how much time they don’t talk to me, whether they’re online talking to someone else etc.
If you are a non-anxious individual dating someone with this sort of problem, or you’re dating someone who has similar triggers, the best thing you can do is:
Pre-warn if you’re going off the radar for a bit.
It sounds really petty, and silly. But it makes a massive difference to somebody when you’re in the early stages of dating in particular that you just give a heads up that you’ll be quiet for a bit. Even if it’s just a: “I’m going to be in meetings all afternoon so will reply properly later”. It makes so much difference to an anxious persons mind that you made the effort to do so.
The principle here is – if you’ve got five minutes to start sharing memes or posting on Facebook etc, you have a second to message and say ‘I’ll reply to you a bit later just got some bits to do’. (This is an argument that will be used against you!)
Which brings me to my next point…
Now don’t take this the wrong way. I am not saying you have to say to someone every hour ‘Still into you’.
But every now and again, things can get questioned in our heads. If you don’t specifically tell us you like us or find us attractive, how are we meant to know?! I have dated guys in the past where we were spending every damn day together, affectionate, always acting like we were together but I still questioned if they actually fancied me. You’d think kissing me and telling me I look hot would be enough. Nope. Sometimes just a gentle reassurance here and there goes a long way. If you have a boyfriend/girlfriend with self-esteem issues then remind them every so often that you like them as they are and that you’re not interested in any one else.
Honestly, the amount of arguments I have had in the past with men over this and the lack of understanding on how my brain works hurt me so much. I used to get a lot of “I’m messaging now aren’t I?” Or “I was with you all night the other night though”, but that’s not indicating you like someone.
Here’s a fun fact too about anxiety: it makes you think you’re not enough. I always overthink the fact that I’m not good enough and I don’t deserve happy endings. Once I have that idea set in my mind it is hard to shake. You don’t have to confess you’re undying love for someone or rush things with someone with anxiety. But if you genuinely like someone who has trusted you enough to tell you about their condition, respect the condition. People with anxiety disorder do deserve love. Just as much as anyone else.
Never let anxiety put you off someone. It’s just about getting the right factors in place to make it work.
Which brings me to another vital point, similar to my above statements:
This is vital in any relationship. Not just anxious party ones. But with someone with anxiety you need to communicate how you are and the way you do things, so that there’s no misunderstandings.
You see, the problem is, if you send someone a chatty message and then don’t talk again for about 7 hours.. the person is going to have a bad idea in their head about what’s happened. It’s just how it is. I had genuinely had episodes in the past where an ex did a 12-hour drinking session and passed out, my logic was that he’s found someone else. It’s just the irrational burdens of my mind.
You need to respect each other, respect the boundaries, understand how you both tick. If you know you have issues remembering to text people when you’re in meetings all day, tell them that. It’s so much better that way. We would rather know that you’re just clumsy minded with texting then think all these scenarios about you being a player.
And also – if you ever say to a girl or guy “if I have an issue with you or change my mind I’ll tell you” then make sure you do that. I have lost count of the amount of men who’ve told me they’d be upfront and still took the coward way out.
Just be honest in your communication as well. If you are struggling to understand anxiety and how it works tell them that. There’s nothing worse then someone making out they ‘get’ something and then ridiculing you every time you react anxiously. That being said, anxious people can be unreasonable at times. We do have a habit of getting wound up over nothing, we’ll snap sometimes and argue. This doesn’t mean you can’t say that when we act like that it hurts you, but it’s important you iron these sorts of things out in a proper mature way.
Don’t use phrases like ‘take a chill pill’ or ‘what are you so worried for?’ Those phrases don’t help. Any relationship or dating scenario will work ten times better if you level things out from the start and understand how both of you work and meet somewhere in the middle.
Anxiety doesn’t go away. Even though it might be better and worse in some scenarios. It’s always something that we constantly battle.
My last point I wanna make here, which is something that I have constantly had issues with but I feel like the most important is…
Take it slowly. Not so slow that you’re unofficial for five years or still bonking your mate on the side for six months. But at a level pace where things aren’t too deep too quickly. See, for me personally – having anxiety and ADHD makes me an overly loving person when it comes to dating. I get into people super fast, when I start dating someone, I’m only focused on that person and I become very attached.
But one of the main reasons my relationships in the past went wrong, was because the people I met were either in rebound and desperate for something or they also didn’t know what slow meant.
Infatuation is a feeling that gets regularly confused with love. We all have the honey moon phase where we date someone new and we get excited when they text us, they say and do the cutest things, act sensible and we’re completely unaware that they have flaws or that they do the worst farts known to man. It’s easy to be really into someone. But it’s important that you know where the line is. Make sure there is regular space. Don’t start saying ‘I’ve got such strong feelings for you’ to an anxious person within weeks of dating them. It just makes it sting more when you realise those infatuated feelings have fizzled out, two months later when they text you one too many times while drunk.
Every one is different, and there may be some anxiety sufferers out there who say they want someone to say the L word as soon as possible, and there are genuine relationships out there that have got deep within months and still last.
I’m not saying that you can’t know you’ve met the one within weeks of spending time with them. I actually quite like that idea, it must be a nice feeling and I’d love to feel that one day. But it’s really important that you know the boundaries and enter things with an anxious person at a steady pace.
Trust me, whether it works out or not, we’ll appreciate it later.
Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go back to pondering why I am always single while I write posts about how needy I am. 😉