Is Your Anxiety Totally Killing Your Relationship


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I’m an anxious person. If I were a stray dog, my temperament would take me so far away from adoption material that the animal shelter employees would probably just pretend I didn’t exist.

When I was in college, my academic adviser and I once bonded a little too strongly over this e-card and the joke that calm people make us even more anxious. Then there was a long silence when we simultaneously realized it wasn’t a joke.

Whereas calm people can date calm people and anxious people can date calm people (they’re kind of like the Type O of monogamy), under no circumstances can anxious people date other anxious people. It takes a calm person to neutralize an anxious person, and it takes a very specific type of person to neutralize me.

I used to pick the most inane fights with my boyfriend. I’m neurotic, high-strung, prone to overreacting, very into hypothetical scenarios, and kind of an undocumented Freudian case study, so this should come as a surprise to absolutely no one. We’ve been together for eight years, and more relevantly, I’m me, so we kind of have our own relationship Rule 34: If it exists, we’ve fought about it. Or rather, I’ve insisted that we fight about it and he’s more or less patiently waited for me to get it together and stop being such a drag.

Whenever we were in the heat of an argument, I would be entirely convinced that everything I spoke was of the utmost truth and wisdom. I was also convinced that he was always wrong, which was logical, as I was obviously right or I wouldn’t have started fighting in the first place. Duh.

After a few years of this (I’m a late bloomer), I took some time to reflect on our relationship. During this time, a flood of fights came back to me, and I struggled to think of a single one that involved any initiation at all on his part. There were none. This isn’t to say he’s never done anything to legitimately upset me or that he sat silently on the couch while I berated him, but he has never started an argument with me, provoked me, or gotten mad at me about something that didn’t warrant some degree of anger. I can’t say the same for myself. Like, not even a little bit.

While these fights were typically meaningless bickering and of no real consequence, they were all so unnecessary because I was being so unnecessary. I wasn’t right. I was the problem.

If any of this sounds embarrassingly familiar, here’s what you need to do before you open your mouth and ruin a perfectly good camping trip or dinner or day or night or week (I’m really sorry about all of those, by the way):

1. First of all, figure out if whatever is on your mind is going to bother you a few days from now. If it’s not, stop. Just stop.

2. Ask yourself what you’re going to get out of this. Peace of mind? An honest answer? A solution? Or are you talk in circles for an hour trying to make an issue out of something that isn’t an issue?

3. If you’re still not sure, get a second opinion. Friends are just therapists who actually like you. They want to be on your side. When they’re not, you’ve probably messed up.

That’s it. These three little things that I imagine the rest of the world is already in on have set me free. And instead of spending my days making him listen to my unwarranted anxiety, we have so much more free time to do the things that really matter. For instance, tonight when he gets home from work, we’re going to watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

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