How Much Anxiety Is Normal in a Relationship?
People are always saying that when you find the right person, everything makes sense and all the doubts simply fade away. People also say that relationships take work and are not all sunshine and rainbows shooting out the butts of unicorns.
Where do these two ideas meet? If you're questioning your relationship, in any capacity, is that always a bad sign?
At the risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw, I have to wonder: When it comes to long-term relationships, how do you know if it's just nerves or if something is really wrong?
We all have doubts
I'll admit that I sometimes question my entire life and wonder if I've made some egregious mistake and I'm not where I ought to be, or doing what I should be. I love my partner more than anything in the world, but I am not immune to letting my anxiety get the best of me. When we're crippled by self-doubt, how can you know if something is wrong or if you're just being a neurotic head case?
Barbie Adler, relationship expert and founder of Selective Search, North America's leading boutique matchmaking firm, assures us doubts are perfectly normal. "Don't stress!" she says. "Doubt in relationships, particularly after being with your partner for a long period of time, is a common feeling we all may undergo at some point. It's normal to have fear or uncertainty about the person you are with."
It's part of the human condition. Something is going well for you for a prolonged period of time, and therefore you start to question whether it's real or what you truly want. Yay.
You never get over the nerves entirely
Bouts of nerves, even up to your wedding day and after, are totally normal. "Many people have feelings of nerves and stress leading up to a wedding and it is important to not confuse those with doubts," says Emmalee Bierly, MFT and co-owner of the West Chester Therapy Group. "When your relationship is getting serious, or you're engaged, [it's important to] start having the big conversations to either increase or check in on your bigger picture of marriage."
Communication is key. I can say this until I'm blue in the face, but when we're really serious with someone, we don't want to question it.
Maybe we're not talking about our anxieties because we're terrified of scaring a partner off or damaging the relationship in unrecoverable ways. Well, calm down!
Bierly says you're not the only one questioning your life choices. "Especially in a society with such a high divorce rate, everyone knows the reality of marriage -- which is that 40% to 50% of marriages end in divorce. It actually makes sense to have nerves."
This did not make me feel better, but it did help me feel less alone.
Knowing whether you've got nerves or actual problems is a question of the gut
Unfortunately and ultimately, you're going to have to trust your heart (and gut) when it comes to your nerves.
Bierly says negative feelings mostly stem from self-doubt and personal insecurity. "If we don't truly know ourselves, it's difficult to say who is a good life partner for us. If you aren't sure if it's feelings of wedding stress or doubts? Try to get in tune with yourself. [Ask], 'Do I typically overthink things and doubt things?' Yes? Well, maybe that's just how you process things. It doesn't mean that your marriage is headed straight for divorce, but do take the time to sit down and have a one-to-one with yourself and be really sure about the decision."
You don't have to feel guilty about having questions. But you do need to allow yourself the time to fully consider your feelings. I have a tendency to push people away because somewhere deep inside, I don't know if I deserve to be loved. Dark, right? Could this be the case for you?
"It's no secret that as human beings we all want to be loved, and fear can sometimes get in the way by allowing us to assume the worst," Adler says. "At the point when anxiety gets in the way of you and your partner's overall happiness, your heart may be sending the red flags you are trying to avoid. Relationships are meant to bring out the best of people and provide health, love, laughter, and content for both sides."
As usual, communication is key
In every aspect of life, from career to love, we put pressure on ourselves and strive to be better.
Yet when we vocalize any doubts about a relationship, we're immediately labeled as doomed. Why is there so much pressure to have a perfect relationship? How can a relationship be normal and have no bumps?
We want to find a love worth fighting for, one we deserve, but that doesn't mean the love will be perfect. "We cannot let things go unaddressed because we are afraid to bring them up to our partners," says Caitlyn King, MFT and co-owner of the West Chester Therapy Group. "A wall of resentment will begin immediately to grow smack dab in the middle of your relationship. This wall starts being built one teensy-tiny brick at a time, yet all of these bricks multiply, and unfortunately, some walls can get so big and solid that they do not come down."
At the end of the day, you're still in a relationship with a human being who is susceptible to error.
And sorry, but you're just a human too: filled with neurosis and internal crises. It should be OK to talk about your misgivings, fears, and anxieties -- even at the risk of sounding unsure about your relationship.
You know the drill: If you can't talk through your worries, you can't fix them.
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