How to Handle Generalized Anxiety Disorder in a Relationship

Relationships are tricky beasts as it is. Navigating two people’s mental health takes dedication, teamwork, patience, and love. Navigating life with another person when you neither of you process stress well and get easily overwhelmed is tricky, especially when your coping strategies, symptoms, & triggers look different from the other person’s.

How do we do it?

We speak up when someone crosses a line or to voice irrational fears. We both know sometimes naming the worry is part of overcoming it, so we speak freely.

More questions, less judgment
Both our brains are prone to jump to conclusions (that are usually wrong). So instead we ask a lot of queries like, “What did you mean when you said X?” or “Did you hear how that sounded?” And when we’re on the receiving end, we listen instead of getting defensive.

Respecting differences
Our anxiety disorders present differently and we handle them in different ways. I take medication, but that didn’t work for Iain. I need to stay on a routine, but schedules make Iain‘s anxiety worse. And we both need a good amount of alone time. Because we know what the other needs, we’re better able to check in when someone seems to be off, which brings me to the last tip.

Relentless check ins
A few weeks ago, I had a breakdown and after letting me cry and comforting me for a good half hour, Iain started probing me on whether I was sticking to a routine and engaging in self-care. I wasn’t. He couldn’t have done that if he didn’t know my needs.

Similarly, Iain was getting stressed the other day, and I asked when the last time he left the house was. I realized he had been working too hard at writing his thesis and syllabus for the upcoming semester and told him to get out of the house and explore. If I didn’t know that he needed time for spontaneity, I would have recommended the wrong solution thinking that because it works for me that it would work for him, too.

Lots of forgiveness and NO GRUDGES
Pointing out patterns is different, but grudges are cancerous. Once something is settled, it’s put to bed. No one pretends they’re fine when they’re not. If it takes an hour to resolve, it takes an hour. And choosing battles is a big part of that, too.

Did I miss anything? What do you do to navigate your relationship?


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