“You just don’t get it,” I explained to my wife once. “I know you’re not leaving. You’ve told me ten thousand times. I know it in my head. But I don’t know it in my heart.”
You see, I grew up with this huge fear of abandonment. My mother left when I was very young, and until well into adulthood, I didn’t know how to handle it. I was convinced I was going to be left behind. This may be a familiar feeling to you, or your situation may be completely different. But regardless, you’re likely here because you’re suffering from anxiety in your relationship, or from a relationship you’re considering.
According to PsycheAlive, “Relationship anxiety can arise at pretty much any stage of courtship. For many single people, just the thought of being in a relationship can stir up stress. If and when people do start dating, the early stages can present them with endless worries: ‘Does he/she really like me?’, ‘Will this work out?’, ‘How serious is this?’ Unfortunately, these worries don’t tend to subside in the later stages of a romantic union.”
What causes relationship anxiety?
Meeting someone and falling in love challenges us in a lot of ways we don’t expect. From changing to find compromise with someone else, or understanding the other person’s special quirks, these challenges can cause stress.
Then, throw in the lies Satan tries to tell us:
- “You’re too ugly, fat, or boring to keep his or her interest.”
- “You’ll never meet anybody. Why do you even try?”
- “You can’t trust him. You know he’s going to cheat on you.”
- “She doesn’t really love you. Get out before she hurts you.”
When we believe these lies, it causes separation from those we want to be closest with. We may begin to argue and fight with our significant other, or we may withdraw completely. Instead of enjoying your time together, it becomes a time of stress and anger.
What thoughts lead to relationship anxiety?
These lies, Satan’s way of creating a wedge between us and others, lead to anxiety in our relationships. Stereotyping, poor attitudes and false beliefs can all create barriers in our relationships that keep us from enjoying those we care about the most.
Sometimes, we brush these lies off as our “inner voice” or “inner critic”. Do any of these sound like you?
Lies about the relationship:
- People just wind up getting hurt. I have to keep them out to survive.
- Relationships never really work out. Nobody can be truly happy.
Lies about the other person:
- Men are so insensitive, unreliable and selfish.
- Women are so needy and indirect.
- He only cares about hanging out with his friends.
- You can’t trust her.
- He’s probably cheating on you.
- He just can’t get anything right. Why do men have to be so bone-headed?
Lies about yourself:
- You’re never going to find anybody who understands you.
- You’re not worth loving or being cared about.
- He doesn’t really care about you.
- She’s too good for you.
- You’re better off on your own.
- You’ve got to be in control.
- If he really knew you, he wouldn’t want to be around you.
- It’s your fault he gets upset.
- Don’t be too vulnerable or you’ll just wind up getting hurt.
How are we affected?
Do me a favor. Look at all the traumas you’ve experienced over the course of your life: parents who abandoned you, or neglected you, or who were addicted to drugs – perhaps it was someone who abused you – physically, emotionally or sexually. Maybe it was some combination of all of these things – or maybe it was something else. Regardless of what happened, we carry these issues from our past into our present. Those issues come forward as harmful in our present relationships.
We see things like:
- Being clingy
- Being controlling
- Rejecting the other person
- Withholding affection from the other person
- Punishing the other person unfairly
- Retreating or withdrawing away from the other person
How do we overcome relationship anxiety?
Without trying to sound too much like a Sunday School answer, it really is simple: Jesus. Jesus wants to be at the center of everything we are and everything we do. Until we fully learn to trust and accept the love of Jesus, we can’t give that love to others. You can’t give something away if you don’t have it yourself.
If you’re struggling with traumas and setbacks from your past, Jesus is asking you to give those to Him. He’s asking you to pray, to share your hurt with Him. He knows and understands exactly what you’re going through and exactly what you are. He is ready to help you through the hurt, but you have to be willing to give it up to Him.