How Anxiety Affects Your Marriage
The other night, as I was pouring a glass of red wine, I asked my husband, “Do you EVER struggle with anxiety?” In a kind of sarcastic tone…
It had been one of those days. Which, in this day and age, seems to be every day. Right? The news was all terrible. Social media was a cluster. Everyone was losing their minds… (myself probably included.) The kids’ school had been cancelled for two weeks, there was a lot of noise in the house, and we couldn’t go anywhere because everything was shut down.
And my anxiety was THROUGH THE ROOF.
My breath was short.
My thoughts were racing.
I couldn’t calm myself down and I couldn’t focus.
My husband, on the other hand, was unphased. The news, the panic, the noise… it wasn’t affecting him like it affected me. So, when I asked him this question, I was honestly wondering if he even knew what anxiety felt like…
To which he replied, “You know, I felt anxious one time a couple of years ago when I was driving to the Post Office.” (You have GOT to be kidding me.)
On the other side of the spectrum, I can remember my first struggle with anxiety at 6 years old. While the things I worry about have changed since I was 6, anxiety has still had an impact on my life, and marriage, for decades.
Because of this, I want to share with you how anxiety affects you, your marriage, and what you can do about it. (Some of what I’m going to talk about will have a lean toward psychology since I have a Masters in Psychology and have been trained as a therapist.)
Now, let’s get into it…
How Anxiety Affects You & Your Marriage
What is anxiety?
Anxiety could be short term… feelings of stress, apprehension, and fear…or anxiety could be long term.
In the short term, it is a feeling of apprehension and fear, characterized by physical symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, and feelings of stress.
BUT IT could be something you have for an extended period of time, which could then classify it as a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
According to the DSM, generalized anxiety disorder is described as:
- Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance).
- The person finds it difficult to control the worry.
- It can lead to…
- Restlessness, or feeling “keyed up,” or “on edge”
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep)
If any of these last longer than 6 months OR if the anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, then it could be time to speak to a doctor or licensed professional to see if you have GAD. I encourage you to speak with a doctor or licensed professional to work through this!
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder while nearly 40% of Americans suffer from anxiety in general… and even though it is highly treatable, less than half of the people who have it seek treatment.
ALL this goes to say that you’re not alone… but you also don’t have to live this way forever. Because after a while, it can become a way of life (but it doesn’t have to be.)
My Anxiety Is Different Than My Husband’s Anxiety…
I always knew that I was anxious, but I didn’t realize that it wasn’t a normal way of life until I married my husband.
Like I mentioned in the beginning, we are so different. My mind is super fast-paced, and my emotions can easily sway me. I can look at statistics of worst-case scenarios and somehow figure out a way that I will become part of the negative outcome.
I ruminate over how I could have said or done things differently… from earlier that day or from 15 years ago. At night, my mind races. I think of everything I have to do and what I could do better. I worry about failing. I worry about not being good enough. The list goes on and on…
My husband is much more laid-back, logical. He… doesn’t really worry. And when people worry, it stresses him out. You see, for Rob, that’s my husband, all he needs are facts. All he needs is a plan. He cares about doing a good job and succeeding… but he doesn’t let it shake him. He doesn’t think about it as he tries to fall asleep at night. He thinks of castles and islands and vacations as he tries to sleep…
…I worry about why my friend never texted me back.
Anxiety is hard. On the individual, and on their relationships.
And in times of high anxiety in the world, it adds an extra layer of stress and apprehension. For people already prone to anxiety, forgive the analogy, but it is like putting an alcoholic at an open bar. The thing you struggle with the most is the ONLY thing surrounding you. And controlling your thoughts can be nearly impossible.
It affects your quality of life. And with continual anxiety, it also affects your body. It can increase your stress levels, which increases cortisol, which can wreak havoc on your hormones, and lead to issues with sleeping, issues with energy, and issues with your body being able to function normally.
On top of that, when YOU DON’T FEEL GOOD, you can’t think well. And when you can’t think well, it’s difficult to act well in your relationships.
“When you don’t feel good, you can’t think well. And when you can’t think well, it’s difficult to act well in your relationships.”
My husband tries to understand my anxiety, but my anxiety has a profound effect on our relationship, especially if I am not working to control it or decrease it.
Here’s How Anxiety Can Affect Your Marriage
- It can stop you from engaging with your spouse
- It can lead you to avoid events or situations that your spouse wants to go to/do with you (but you don’t want to)
- It can cause you to become fixated on only talking about certain things… which can drain your spouse
- You may want your spouse to fix your anxiety and your worry… and then when they don’t, it may lead you to feel more detached from them (and them to feel more detached from you)
- It may even cause your spouse to worry more… as well as your children or other family and friends
Or perhaps your worry ABOUT your marriage has driven your spouse away… maybe your marriage is all you’re thinking about and worrying about… and it’s causing you to act out of fear rather than out of strength.
Here’s what I mean by that.
If your spouse has become distant from you, then of course, that’s going to cause anxiety in you. But if you continue to ruminate on your worry and let it control you, it will probably lead you to do things you wouldn’t have done otherwise.
For example… I was working with a client recently who said he was so worried about what his wife would think if he came home from work a couple of minutes late that he would wouldn’t run any errands or go to the gym to blow off steam… because he didn’t want to give his wife any more reason to want out of the marriage! (Even though his wife hadn’t actually said any of those things!)
You see, his worry was CONTROLLING him and his every decision. He was becoming a prisoner of his mind… and was making a ton of assumptions about what he thought his wife was thinking.
In actuality, though his wife was not happy in their marriage, she probably would have understood if he simply said, “I would like to start going to the gym after work.”
Instead, he sacrificed himself at the mercy of his thoughts and his anxiety. (We do this as well.)
And when the anxiety in the world is elevated, so is ours. When everyone else is worried about toilet paper and paper towels… all of a sudden we feel the need to worry about it, too.
But let me ask you a question: what are you anxious about right now?
Do you need to be anxious about it? Is your fear based on emotions or facts? And even if it is based on facts, is it controlling you?
Here’s my encouragement to you, it is possible to overcome anxiety. And it’s even possible to change your thoughts.
You will see what you look for. If you look for good, you will see good. If you look for negative, you will see negative.
The best thing that you can do for yourself and for your marriage is to not let your anxiety control you- and to get help if you need it! (Easier said than done, I know.)
Things that can help you overcome your anxiety & get it under control
1. Realize that you can only control yourself.
And believe it or not, you can control your thoughts. It takes practice, but you can learn to take them captive.
Even simply taking 10 deep, belly breaths can have an amazing impact on your body- it slows down your nervous system and activates your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems to better regulate your body.
Get some of the tension out… and get off your phone! Go out for a walk in the sunshine, get some natural Vitamin D, get away from screens and focus on the good
4. Focus on the good.
Actually write down 3 good things every. single. day. And don’t just write them down… dwell on them for one minute. In fact, when you start to think positively instead of negatively, it starts to reactivate the way your brain is wired!
Doing these things won’t stop your anxiety overnight… but this, as well as other practices to calm your mind and get your anxiety under control, can begin to help you make large strides. *And always get the help and assistance from a licensed professional or medical doctor.
If you need help for your relationship, we can help! If you don’t know how to calm your nerves, stress, and anxiety, we do. At Marriage Helper, our workshops, online courses, and marriage coaching have touched the lives of over 275,000 people… we use research-proven principles combined with experience-driven techniques that we know work.
THOUSANDS of people have told us what they learned from Marriage Helper calmed their anxiety, saved their marriage, and made their relationship better than it was before.
And we want to help you, too!
Give us a call at 1 (866) 903-0990 to see what we can do for YOUR marriage. We also post new YouTube videos every single week. Click here to start watching!