What does it mean when you are constantly feeling anxious in your relationship?

It could be you, but it could also be them. 

21 August, 2023
What does it mean when you are constantly feeling anxious in your relationship?

In her song About Love, Marina writes, “Now I’m all caught up in the highs and the lows// It’s a shock to my system// I don’t want to run away, so I stay// My head gets messy when I try to hide// The things I love about you in my mind// I don't really know a lot about love// But you're in my head, you're in my blood// And it feels so good, it hurts so much.”

Allow us to paint a picture for you: your relationship is going well with little to worry about. You’re in love and you cherish the feeling of having someone who understands you, communicates with you, and trust you. Still, deep down, you feel as if you’re constantly walking on egg shells around your partner, coupled with the fear of judgement for being yourself, and the fear of abandonment. You find yourself in jitters during a confrontation or hide your feelings because you’re scared of how your partner may react. 

According to psychologists, this is known as relationship anxiety. It may occur at any stage of a relationship and eventually culminate into emotional fatigue, lack of willingness to make an effort, and sometimes even physical health concerns such as gastrointestinal issues. There are a myriad of reasons for feeling scared or anxious in a relationship—but there are ways to overcome them and feel nurtured, cared for, and loved without the overarching, back-of-the-mind feelings of insecurity or fear. We’re here to let you in on the reasons behind relationship anxiety, how it can affect you, and how to navigate through it. 

What causes relationship anxiety and who is to blame? 


According to Healthline, your anxiety may not result from the relationship itself but its presence can have severe impact on the relationship and lead to anxiety within it as well. We spoke to psychologist Nisha Khanna, who says, “Past trauma, your upbringing, fear of rejection, abusive patterns, and fear of abandonment all have a significant role to play in relationship anxiety.” Transformational life coach Dr Aparna Santhanam says, “The difference in attachment style and lack of communication—verbal and non-verbal—also add to relationship anxiety.” Further, self-doubt and low self-esteem are also causes of fear. “We can feel scared of saying or doing something that could shatter the other person's positive image of us because of a low self-esteem,” says Dr Chloe Carmichael, PhD and author of Dr Chloe's Ten Commandments of Dating. 

Besides the external factors that can contribute to relationship anxiety, sometimes, the two people involved also play a significant role. “The other person does play a role, especially in abusive relationships,” says Santhanam. Emotional abuse may look like derogatory nicknames, patronising behaviour, belittling your accomplishments, using guilt, denying support, invalidating you, love bombing, and even gaslighting. These may lead to relentless feeling of anxiety and uncertainty in a relationship. “The other person may be sending cues that they are unable or unwilling to tolerate flaws or imperfections,” says Carmichael. Such behaviour may also lead to a fear of the way they may react in certain situations and you may end up avoiding confrontation all together, allowing yourself to build up feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear within yourself. “In non-abusive relationships, empathy and active listening can change the situation significantly,” she adds, “Ownership and a joint partnership approach is critical to overcome the fear.” 

How can relationship anxiety impact your relationship? 


When you’re constantly overcome with fear and anxiety, chances are, your fear will be governed by these feelings and you may not be able to be yourself completely. “When we are constantly afraid of disappointing the other person, we are often afraid to be ourselves and take risks. Ironically, this can actually become a turn off because we come across as uptight, rehearsed, or guarded. It can also impede intimacy or closeness, because we are afraid to be vulnerable and potentially learn or grow together with our partner,” says Carmichael. When you’re inhibited by fear, you don’t allow yourself to be fully present emotionally. “Not resolving this kind of fear within the relationship can lead to seeking support outside, exposing vulnerabilities in unnecessary forums, and severe frustration on the part of the non-fearful partner,” says Santhanam. In addition to this, Khanna says that if such issues remain unresolved, it will not only culminate into a break-up but also lead to compounding fears of intimacy and self-doubt. 

How to navigate through it 


The first step to overcome such fears and anxiety is by acknowledging the presence of it. “Accept what you’re feeling,” says Khanna. “The second step is spending and taking time to think about what’s at the root of the fear. Ask yourself what you are really afraid of,” says Santhanam. After going through these stages of reflection, you may realise that you need to resolve issues that you have been struggling with internally for a long time or as Khanna puts it, “Your inner child may need healing.” What next?

“Talking through your feelings with a mental health professional and then your partner will help create an honest and safe space for you to heal and your partner to understand you better. If you think the problem lies within the relationship, consider telling them why you feel this way; and ask if they agree or if you might be misreading them. Be open to what they say and listen carefully,” says Carmichael. Open and honest communication is key to building relationship based on trust and mutual growth. 

Finally, it is also important to remember that not all relationship anxiety can be resolved. If you find yourself feeling anxious despite regular communication, then it might be best to end that relationship. “Sometimes a relationship with fear may not work out. It is still important to recognise the pattern of fear in all relationships and seek help to recognise ownership, attachment patterns, and fear of intimacy. Working on self is most critical, even if partner support is slow and sporadic. Healing yourself with support is important before jumping into other relationships,” says Santhanam.