Anxiety and Relationships: Building Confidence and Comfort When in Love

CBT couples therapy

For many people, finding that one special person is at the top of their goal list: approximately 47% of adults are in a committed relationship, and 61% say they’d like to get married sometime in the future. 

Finding love is hard for anyone, but it can become especially difficult for those who suffer from any form of mental illness, such as Borderline Personality Disorder – and many of these mental illnesses have comorbid anxiety. The most prevalent mental illness, depression, has a comorbidity with anxiety of over 45%, with some estimates being even higher.

Anxiety can make much of everyday life challenging, and it also deeply impacts the key ingredient of a healthy relationship: trust. Thus, it’s critical to understand exactly how anxiety can contribute to relationship problems and to find healthy ways to manage this issue so that you can build a happy, loving relationship.

What Causes Anxiety in Relationships

Anxiety, in general, can be caused by many things, but often it stems back to childhood issues, particularly when exploring relationship anxiety. 

When a child grows up without a sense of stability, they may feel that love and affection are not guaranteed, and they develop an uneasiness around any conflict. These core beliefs about the world, called schemas, may teach the person to predict and pacify others to maintain affection, or it may make them believe that they need to be perfect to not be abandoned, which leads to burnout and a lack of true intimacy. They may also feel unable to truly connect with another person as they believe that no matter what they do, everyone will leave them in the end. 

Another potential concern is previous infidelity in a past relationship, which may teach the person that they cannot fully trust anyone. This is a particularly pernicious issue, as any missed plan, innocent conversation with a coworker, or change in routine may spur accusations of cheating, even when there is little proof. 

Any of these problems may cause a person to either withdraw whenever there is a problem or to cling harder to their partner, which only exacerbates the issue. The anxiety may be subtle – an especially common issue with men – or it may be very blatant, but either way, it can indicate an underlying lack of trust, whether justified or otherwise.

How Anxiety Contributes to Lack of Trust

It’s difficult to trust another person when you have developed these maladaptive schemas, which can lead to withdrawal or behaviors that only push the partner away. The anxious person feels incapable of truly trusting that their partner will still care about them if there’s an issue, and so they act in ways that prove that conclusion, triggering a self-fulfilling prophecy and cycle of distrust.

On the other side, the partner may find themselves walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting the partner and spurring further anxiety, which makes them incapable of being truly vulnerable: an essential component of trust. They may also feel that they cannot be their authentic self around the other person because their emotions will trigger an unwanted response, such as accusations of infidelity or withdrawal. 

Both parties must be willing to confront their own problems, as well as the problems in the relationship, but this can feel insurmountable when one or both partners feel as if any small issue will snowball into a relationship-ending fight.

Treatments for Relationship Problems Due to Anxiety

Building a healthy relationship when you have anxiety requires extensive support and inner work, as well as excellent communication. Some individuals find that their relationship improves when they develop a multi-pronged approach to the issue, healing their own inner problems with therapy and medication before building outward and undergoing a journey of exploration with their loved one.

CBT couples therapy is an excellent way to build trust in a healthy relationship, as a skilled counselor can help couples unearth problems and address them in a comfortable and non-judgmental setting. Here, both participants will learn about what is causing the lack of trust, be it previous actions or internal issues, and workshop solutions to be implemented over time.

You’ll learn how to develop true vulnerability with your partner and express your feelings in a kind way that is easier to understand, as well as to identify whether your concerns are based on the current reality or are simply triggered by self-defeating beliefs and memories of past betrayals. Learning to face one’s cognitive distortions and to see the situation more clearly can go a long way toward building trust and, thus, reducing the negative impacts of anxiety on a relationship.

Every individual, regardless of their background, deserves to have a healthy and supportive relationship, but this can be made harder when one has experienced disappointments and pain in previous relationships, particularly those foundational ones between parent and child. However, there is treatment available to help you tackle the anxiety and attendant lack of trust that can harm a loving connection, enabling you to feel secure in love.

Table of Contents
What Causes Anxiety in Relationships How Anxiety Contributes to Lack of Trust Treatments for Relationship Problems Due to Anxiety
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