Explaining Anxiety to a New Partner to Help Them Understand

Published June 22, 2022
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Starting a new relationship can be intense. During the first few weeks or months, you may experience feelings ranging from quiet happiness to joyful excitement to anxiety and nervousness. It can be difficult to understand exactly which emotion you are feeling and why. Are these butterflies or nerves? Am I experiencing genuine relationship anxiety or a gut feeling? Is this excitement or worry?

It's normal to experience some kind of anxiety when dating someone new. Your regular day-to-day life now includes a new relationship and a new partner. This can be a big change. If you experience anxious feelings as a result, they may be difficult for you to understand and challenging to explain to your new partner. In order to navigate new partner anxiety, you can talk to them about what you are feeling and move forward together. What's important is that you and your partner are on the same page.

New Relationship Anxiety: Causes and Effects

New relationship anxiety is a feeling of nervousness or worry surrounding the start of a new relationship. For example, you may be worried about whether the timing is right for this new beginning. Or you might be concerned about whether or not the partner you've chosen is a good fit. You might be concerned about how your friends or family are going to react to this new person.

When you find someone that you connect with romantically, it can feel amazing. However, it can also make people feel nervous about the future or about protecting their feelings. It's normal to want to look out for yourself, but relationship anxiety can take a heavy toll if it starts to impact your overall happiness and leads to self-sabotaging behaviors.

Negative Effects

Studies have found that relationships can be negatively impacted when at least one partner is experiencing some form of anxiety. For example, having anxiety can cause a person to be nervous, on edge, or aggressive. These aspects can create damaging barriers between partners if they aren't addressed. Some negative effects of anxiety in relationships include:

Young man sitting in his living room and stressing while his girlfriend comforts him

Causes

Do you have some idea about what is causing your anxiety? If you do, that's great. If you don't, you're not alone. The source of your anxiety is a million-dollar question that is likely to have an answer that is unique and multi-faceted.

To investigate the cause and contributing factors you may to explore your feelings about your current situation and your relationship. Some questions you may want to ask yourself include:

  • Stress - Are you experiencing any kind of stress from work, family, etc. in your life that may be adding to your anxiety? Is your relationship adding stress to your life? How do you feel before/after interacting with your partner?
  • Stability - Does your relationship feel stable? Does your partner help you feel secure in the relationship? What did/did not contribute to feelings of stability in past relationships?
  • Trust - Do you feel like a sense of trust has been established in the relationship? Do you find yourself worrying about what your partner is doing when you aren't together? Did you experience any relationships in the past that harmed your ability to trust
  • Vulnerability - Do you usually allow yourself to be vulnerable with others? Do you find it easier to be vulnerable with friends than with intimate partners? When was the last time you were vulnerable in a relationship and how did you feel about it?

By exploring these topics you may be able to dial into the reasons for your anxiety. This internal investigation may help you to avoid self-sabotaging behaviors that can result from new relationship anxiety.

What Is Self-Sabotaging Behavior and How Do I Avoid It?

Self-sabotage is when someone deliberately tries to hinder their own growth or opportunities. It can occur in many aspects of life from relationships to the workplace. You may even experience self-sabotage when trying out a new hobby.

For example, imagine that you have an important meeting and you need to be on time. However, five minutes before the meeting you stop at a coffee shop knowing that it might make you late. After you arrive late, you tell yourself that you probably weren't going to make a good impression in the meeting, anyway. Self-sabotage is when a person deliberately compromises their chances of success.

Types of Self-Sabotaging Behavior

Self-sabotaging behavior can take on many forms in a relationship. Often, people will not recognize their behavior immediately, making it hard to understand their actions, to take responsibility, or to apologize.

People who experience relationship anxiety may be at higher risk for self-sabotaging behavior due to the stress and worry in their new relationship. You might experience self-sabotage in your relationship when you:

  • Are late to/cancel dates with your partner at the last minute
  • Break up with your partner prematurely because you are convinced you have a bad gut feeling
  • Constantly bring up issues from the past that have already been discussed
  • Convince yourself that you aren't ready for a relationship right after it has started
  • Start fights with your partner over small issues that turn into arguments

How to Avoid Self-Sabotaging Behavior

Staying away from the clutches of self-sabotage is hard. Really hard. Particularly because new relationship anxiety can feel self-protective. However, if you put up barriers, you may end up feeling isolated. But there are ways to avoid self-sabotage and isolation.

  • Slow down. Anxiety can become overwhelming quickly. Especially if you start to help it out by sabotaging yourself. Try not to make any big decisions before you sit with your emotions and try to understand them better.
  • Practice mindfulness. Dive deeper into your thoughts. Discover what you are feeling about your life/relationship in the present moment. Take time to practice meditation or start a mindfulness journal.
  • Monitor your mood and thinking patterns. Notice any thought patterns that you experience throughout the day that may be affecting your mood. Try not to let your thoughts ruminate about the past or worry about the future.

How to Explain Anxiety to a New Partner

Talking to your partner about your anxiety is important. It may make you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable, but your partner is not a mind reader. At the end of the day, the only way that your partner can understand how you are feeling is if you tell them. There are some steps you can take to help make this conversation easier.

Girlfriends drinking coffee in kitchen at home and talking about serious things

Be Gentle With Yourself

First, if you are experiencing anxiety in your relationship, know that it's okay. Having those feelings at the start of a relationship can be a major downer but it is within your power to manage the emotions. You may find yourself constantly comparing it to how others experience relationships and how happy and carefree they seem to be. Every person and relationship is different. It's okay if the start of your relationship doesn't look exactly like someone else's.

Don't Jump to Conclusions

Whether you experience anxiety constantly in your life or in relationships, it's important to not jump to conclusions. Experiencing anxiety doesn't mean that there is something wrong with you. Also, it doesn't mean that your intuition is trying to send you a signal to get out of the relationship as soon as you can. There is a long list of issues that can be causing your anxiety. Of course, one of them may be a potential red flag from a partner, but there are likely other contributing factors as well. Don't give up on your relationship before you know you should.

Tell Them What You Have Been Feeling

Let your partner know that you are experiencing some kind of anxiety around your relationship. Explain the thoughts that are going through your head and the physical sensations you are feeling in your body. Paint them as clear a picture as possible to help them better understand what you are feeling. Do you notice any patterns in your anxiety? For example, whether you feel more anxious when they take a long time to respond to your texts. If so, share it with them.

Ask Them How They Have Been Feeling

Odds are that you may not be the only person experiencing anxiety in your relationship. Maybe your partner has, too. After you start the conversation, give them a chance to respond and share their thoughts and feelings as well. Even if they can't empathize with your feelings from first-hand experiences, they will most likely be able to understand them. Remember that your partner wants to provide support to the person they care about, you.

Make Plans for Moving Forward

How long does relationship anxiety last? The truth is that there is no set date or magic number. No one knows when your anxieties will to turn to dust and your comfort in your relationship will bloom in full. After you and your partner are on the same page about understanding each other's emotions, it can be helpful to make a plan for how to best support each other and your relationship moving forward. Consider trying one of these approaches:

  • Provide your partner with more reassurance
  • Give your partner space when they ask for it
  • Seek out therapy/support options as individuals or together as a couple

Ways to Cope with New Relationship Anxiety

If you are struggling with anxiety during your new relationship, it may be a good idea to seek out support to allow you to share your feelings openly and help you cope with your experience. There's no one size fits all coping strategy, but there are some things you may be able to do in order to help yourself, your partner, and your relationship.

Lean on Family and Friends

Turning to family members and friends for support is a great way to share thoughts that you may have bottled up. Find people that you know well and feel comfortable opening up to. Depending on what you share, they may be able to give you some perspective to help you decide if something is really off in the relationship.

Turn to a Support Group

A support group connects you with other people that are experiencing anxiety in their lives and in their intimate relationships. It will allow you to come together with others and can also create a sense of community and support. You can attend a support group near you in person or attend online. Some support group resources include:

Seek Professional Help

If you are feeling overwhelmed by new relationship anxiety, it can beneficial to seek out the help of a mental health professional. There are many different ways to find a professional that fits your unique needs and comfort level. Some ways to seek professional help are:

Husband and wife with marriage counselor
  • Talk to a counselor
  • Attend a therapy session alone
  • Try couples therapy with your partner

Tend to Your Mental (and Physical) Health

Both yourself and your partner should monitor your mental and physical health needs. Especially since experiencing new relationship anxiety can increase stress which has been associated with negative health outcomes. Even if only one person in the relationship is experiencing anxiety, it can take a toll on both parties. Some ways to tend to your health are:

  • Schedule a check-up with your healthcare provider, especially if you're feeling sick
  • Practice self-care by hanging out with friends or watching your favorite movie
  • Maintain a nighttime routine and make sure you are getting enough sleep

You don't have to work through experiencing anxiety in a new relationship on your own. Lean on family members and friends for support. And, of course, lean on your partner. It's normal to be cautious when starting a new relationship. Be gentle with yourself as you navigate the challenge, but be aware of potential self-sabotaging behaviors that may arise. Through talking with your partner, you can cultivate a sense of support and stability that will help you and your relationship jump over this hurdle together.

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Explaining Anxiety to a New Partner to Help Them Understand