Anxiety in love and relationships is not new to me. It is not an easy subject to talk about, but it doesn’t make it less important. I am willing to be real and transparent with you, especially if it can potentially help someone.
Anxiety in romantic relationships (and just relationships in general) can come from two sources: you and your insecurities and your partner, that does something, that inevitably makes you question them (yes, it’s possible).
In this post I am going to focus on the first source, which is you. However, keep in mind, that sometimes we are not to blame for our insecurities, especially if our partner is the only one, who we struggle to trust.
My insecurity is related to the psychological trauma I experienced when I was a kid. I never had trustworthy relationship with my parents, so I got used to living in fear of being abandoned. That fear had become a part of my personality and stayed with me for many years. I do not know exactly where it came from.
You will see it often in my blog posts, one of the most important steps to healing is awareness. Once you spread the light on your insecurities and reasons, that caused (or are still causing) them, you will feel better and prepared for future changes. It is important to be honest with yourself though.
You don’t always need to dig deep to find the roots, as it can most certainly be a traumatizing experience, but being aware and accepting that you do have issues, is a huge step forward.
Like I said, for me it was fear of abandonment, that stood out above everything. And it was really disrupting my relationships with other people, especially romantic ones.
Think about it. If every time you are alone, you are experiencing anxiety; when you are with someone, you are afraid they might leave; you are afraid to do things you love, because someone might not like it or disapprove of you, then it’s a good idea to pay attention to those “symptoms” instead of focusing on your partner’s flaws or worrying about being single.
According to American psychiatrist, Karen Horney (I have read a couple of her books), there are ten neurotic needs that are based on the things that people require to succeed in life. Among them are the need for affection and approval, the need for a partner (who will solve their problem), the need for social recognition and the need for personal admiration. These needs are much stronger for neurotic personalities (people who suffer from neurosis aka anxiety disorder).
People suffering from anxiety (or neurosis), can be “needy” when it comes down to relationship, or, as I’d like to call it, partnership. What it means, is that we look at others from a position of a taker, we live in constant fear and demand love and affection.
When you focus too much on what you need and want, you will see very soon, how your partner is moving away from you. And most of the times it happens not because you love yourself too much, but because you don’t.
“Immature love says: “I love you because I need you”. Mature love says: “I need you because I love you” (German psychoanalyst Erich Fromm). See the difference?
Erich Fromm, the author of an amazing book "The art of loving" put it best: “the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love”.
I used to constantly expect other people to fill the void that I had inside me, because I couldn’t do it myself. But the problem is that, if you can’t fill that void, nobody will be able to do it for you. It was important for me to stop waiting for people to fix me, I had to take care of my mental health first. I had to figure out what was causing pain, insecurity, anxiety and fear that I had, and try to gradually change my destructive tendencies. And that became my priority.
In order to be in the relationships, I had to first build relationships with myself, as I never really felt love and compassion for me. I was looking for it in the outside world, because it seemed to be easier.
When we love someone, we want them to accept us as we are. Many times, we use love and support of other people to help us love ourselves. But the major part of work must come from us.
Here are some important truths that I realized along the way:
- when you are ok being alone, there’s no room for fear to be abandoned;
- when you have mastered the art of loving yourself first, you are on the right path to the ability to love others;
- when you have learnt to be honest with yourself, there’s no need to lie to others, as you are no longer afraid of their disapproval;
- you love because you want to give, not because you need to take;
- you understand because you care, not because you need to be understood;
- you accept because you have come a long way of accepting yourself.
I love how Erich Fromm calls love an art. In order to create a piece of art you should put work into whatever it is you are making. It takes time, it takes dedication, it takes patience. It takes a lot of work sometimes to start loving yourself, but it is the only way to learn to love others.