What can cause marriage anxiety
While some people enter into marriage with an anxiety disorder, many people experience marriage anxiety due to relationship insecurity. Relationship insecurity has to do with whether or not I can count on my partner to be there for me and to have my back. It is about emotional safety. When fights, communication problems, and relationship hurts build up, it can erode the emotional safety of the marriage—leading to more relationship insecurity and more marriage anxiety.
What’s worse is that once the emotional safety has eroded, couples get into patterns of protecting themselves to try to prevent from being hurt.
An example of marriage anxiety
Jane feels anxious that her husband can’t find her attractive anymore, and so whenever he gives her a compliment, she feels like it isn’t honest and rolls her eyes and walks away. John then feels hurt, gets angry at her, and then doesn’t cuddle with her at night because he feels hurt and ignored. He feels anxious that if he turned to her, she would turn away from him. But when he stays turned away from Jane, this reinforces to Jane that he doesn’t find her attractive and doesn’t want her—increasing her anxiety.
Couples get into patterns like this where good intentions are misinterpreted and anxiety increases. Partner then go back and forth unintentionally causing each other to have more marital anxiety.
And while there are times that couples do try to intentionally hurt each other, the majority of couples are just caught in a negative cycle that enhances anxiety for both of them. That being said, if there is abuse happening in a relationship, please find resources through individual therapy and contacting state and local resources for domestic violence. One place to start would be the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Here are some common signs of marriage anxiety
- Feeling anxious and insecure
- Wondering if you’re partner cares about you
- Difficulty trusting your partner
- Thinking you won’t be accepted by your partner
- Feeling hurt by small things
- Taking things personally
- Feeling like you have to protect yourself
- Finding it scary to be vulnerable
- Getting more irritable when you actually want closeness
- Shutting down and avoiding
- Feeling like you are walking on eggshells
- Constantly worrying about the relationship
What marriage anxiety is actually about
Anxiety can be a helpful emotion in that it can tell you when there is a potential danger—in this case the risk of being disconnected from someone you love. The worry leads people to trying to problem solve and fix the relationship. Unfortunately, the solutions don’t always work out—this is where couple counseling can help.
Often times this anxiety around marriage is about wanting to stay close and connected to your partner. The anxiety is there because it is painful to feel unwanted, not accepted, or rejected in some way—and the anxiety pops up to try to protect you from that emotional pain.
How couples counseling can help improve marriage anxiety
Couples counseling can help improve marriage anxiety by helping couples implement strategies that work based on the science of love relationships. Many of these strategies can help improve fighting, increase awareness of yourself and your partner, enhance mutual acceptance in the relationship, and increase emotional safety and security. With emotionally focused couple therapy—the only couple therapy that is currently considered to be an researched evidenced based treatment for marital distress—the counselor will help you identify and understand your negative pattern and how that creates more marriage anxiety and relationship insecurity for both of you. The therapist will then assist you in changing how you relate to each other in order to decrease marital anxiety, and enhance your sense of emotional safety and security with your partner. The end goal is for you and your partner to feel loves, cared for, accepted, and to know you each have each other’s backs.
If you are experiencing marriage anxiety, please reach out to schedule a free 20-minute consultation with me for couples counseling.
Elizabeth Polinsky is a marriage and couple therapist specializing in working with military members, veterans, and their families. Liz is located in Norfolk, Virginia, and provides online counseling services throughout Virginia, South Carolina, and Arkansas.
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