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How to Stop Anxiety from Sabotaging Your New Relationship

New relationships can be stressful. After all, there’s a lot at stake. You’re really putting yourself out there, risking rejection and abandonment. You are also pouring a lot of emotional energy into something which may well end up being detrimental to your well-being.

For these reasons, it’s normal to experience some level of anxiety in a new relationship. However, anxiety can become a real problem if it’s severe enough to sabotage the potential romance. This article provides some pointers for how to stop anxiety from wrecking your relationship. But first, how exactly does anxiety cause problems for a new couple?

Ways Anxiety Can Lead to Problems in a New Relationship

Below, we discuss three common ways in which anxiety might attempt to sabotage your relationship. Do you find yourself:

#1 Pushing Your Partner Away

When you’re anxious, irrational thoughts about your own inadequacy or inability to sustain a relationship tend to pop into your head. For example, this may lead you to become clingy and message your partner incessantly whenever you are apart. Alternatively, you might excessively seek reassurance from them when you’re together.

Ironically, the harder you try to keep your partner close, the more likely you are to push them away. Often, a person with anxiety will do this unintentionally. For some, this is based on an unconscious fear of abandonment: you are testing your partner to see whether they’ll stay even after you try to push them away! This can put a great deal of strain on a new relationship, making it more likely to end in tears.

#2 Struggling with Sexual Performance Anxiety

Sexual performance anxiety is a psychological issue that has a negative impact on millions of sex lives worldwide. This is often based on an underlying sense of inadequacy – “I’m not good enough” or “they’re going to be unimpressed”. This can lead to other forms of sexual dysfunction. For example, men may struggle with erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation. Women may experience difficulties with vaginal lubrication and achieving orgasm.

In either case, sexual performance anxiety is an issue that is highly likely to come between the two of you, so to speak. For new couples, this can be disastrous. Sexual intimacy is a vitally important aspect of having a romantic relationship. Would you like to learn more about sexual performance anxiety and what you can do to treat it? If so, we published two comprehensive articles discussing how performance anxiety is linked to erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. You can read them here and here.

#3 Avoiding Conflict

Avoidance and anxiety are like ice cream and chocolate sauce. They inevitably end up enmeshed and on top of one another. However, they simultaneously reinforce each other’s unhealthiness, putting your newly initiated diet at risk. Let’s look at an example of how avoidance can be harmful.

Let’s say that you’re incredibly anxious about your new relationship working out. Your partner proposes a candlelit dinner at a local vegan restaurant, but you’re unhappy with this choice. You consider speaking up, but this triggers a spike in your anxiety levels. As a result, you decide to pretend that you love artichoke and tofu dip-cups, opting to avoid rather than address this disagreement.

What’s the issue? As paradoxical as it may sound, healthy conflict is the foundation of a solid relationship. You observe one another’s differences and then you reach a compromise. You fight and then you make up. Psychologists call this the process of “rupture and repair.” It’s a process that’s vital for building healthy relationships. If your anxiety is causing you to avoid conflict or disagreements, there may be trouble brewing.

What Can You Do?

It’s all very well to be reminded of the complicated ways in which anxiety is ruining your prospects of finding love, but how can you address the issue? First, you need to be mindful of your anxiety and how this is affecting the relationship. You can’t address what you’re unaware of, so make sure that you take some time for self-reflection. Alternatively, speak to a wise and trusted friend, a therapist or simply ask your partner about their experience.

Second, you need to communicate. Yes, being a psychologist, it was only a matter of time before I dropped the ‘C’ bomb. Communication is incredibly important. Speak to your partner about your anxiety. Have an open conversation so that both of you know where the other is emotionally. Forge a way forward using the wondrous tool that has been bestowed upon us: Language.

It’s All About Respect

At the end of the day, you need to treat your anxiety as you would any other medical condition: with respect. How? Acknowledge that it’s natural to be anxious when you’re dating someone new. At the same time, if anxiety is seriously affecting your ability to live your life, speak to a mental health professional about getting the therapy that you deserve.

You may also want to consider couples therapy – this is an incredibly powerful way of getting the guidance and support that many new couples need. Ultimately, remember that anxiety gives you a chance to examine your deepest insecurities. Treat your anxiety as an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with your partner and to forge a bond that’s more likely to last the test of time.

Related Article: How to Improve Your Sex Life by Being More Present

Daniel Sher

Daniel Sher

Daniel Sher is a registered clinical psychologist, practicing in Cape Town South Africa. He serves as a professional consultant for the Between Us Clinic, which provides sex-therapy online programs. A component of his training and practice involves working in the context of sexual and sex-related issues. Practice aside, Daniel is... Read More

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