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When anxiety and love collide

Four years ago, two slightly neurotic, anxiety-prone people fell in love. Two years after that, they decided to share a living space.

Now he and I are both entering our early thirties and the world is a lot bigger and scarier in a lot of ways––both in the long term and in the day to day, and we feel it in our own ways. Oh, and we cope with it in our own ways too, which typically means independently––trying to not burden each other with our emotional baggage. It’s a sweet gesture, but it means we aren’t communicating, and that leads to some unfortunate negative repercussions. Then again, I’m not a licensed psychologist. I write tweets for a living. It’s been estimated that 75% percent of anxiety sufferers feel their disorder impairs their ability to perform normal activities with their spouse/significant other, with 25% feeling it interferes most of the time. Just a few months ago, we were on our way to a party when I became overwhelmed with anxiety, and I insisted our Uber driver take me home. It was a missed opportunity for us to work through that moment together, because we hadn’t found ways to help each other deal with those emotions as a couple. How can we have any real fun together when there’s anxiety looming? It’s becoming clear to me that our lack of language around our feelings is causing a wedge. Anxiety can haunt you for so long that it can become your baseline for normal, making you believe that this is just how you are; it’s an immovable part of your personality. But, it’s not; it’s treatable and no one has to live in fear of putting themselves in new situations, adventurous or mundane.

I knew something was wrong that moment I bolted from the Uber, but it’s only been recently that I’ve accepted that I need to do something about it. During a recent trip with my boyfriend, where being out of our comfort zone was feeling overwhelming to both of us, I suggested we use the Headspace app. We had both used the app a couple of times before the trip––he for flying anxiety and me for my generally clouded mind and for stress. Even though the recording suggested sitting, we decided to lay down. This was a vacation, after all. And together we took ten minutes out of our vacation to just be present with ourselves and each other. It didn’t fix any major underlying issues, but it definitely helped us to feel calm and present in the moment and to enjoy the rest of our trip. Enough so, that I suspect we will become part of the 8% of people living with a partner who use meditation to overcome worry and stress once or twice a month, if not part of the 6% of couples who meditate weekly.

Two-thirds of anxiety sufferers feel their relationship with their spouse/significant other would improve if they were not suffering from the disorder, and I’m one of them. I hope to be with my significant other for a very long time, which makes it imperative for us to learn how to practice self-care both as individuals and together as a couple. It’s why we’ve been actively seeking methods to alleviate these symptoms, with meditation being one of the solutions. Even now, back at home, when one of us is starting to show signs of stress, anxiety, or even panic, we always suggest meditation to help one another. We all get so mired in our day to day that it helps to have someone to keep you accountable for making space for mindfulness—why not make it your significant other?

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It definitely helped us to feel calm and present in the moment

Heather Sundell

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