Ways to Support Your Non-Anxious Spouse If You Have Anxiety
Supporting your non-anxious spouse is important. Living with anxiety is a daily challenge for relationships, including marriage. Maneuvering through simple situations can lead to intense worry that distracts from the joy of a wonderful marriage. But like clockwork, your non-anxious spouse rises to the challenge with unwavering support. But what happens when tragedy strikes and the anxious spouse must become the rock? How can you support your spouse when you have anxiety?
Anxiety Stole Support from My Non-Anxious Spouse
A few weeks ago I received an unimaginable call. My husband’s voice was on the phone telling me his brother, only 30 years old, had passed away. Such a traumatic experience sent my generalized anxiety disorder into a rampage. This time it took on a new form. I experienced crippling illness anxiety as each symptom felt life-threatening.
Fear kept me trapped inside my own head. I was obsessively and inwardly focused for days. Panic attacks came and stayed for much longer than they were welcome. The entire time I never realized what a disservice I was doing by not supporting my non-anxious spouse.
Guilt Because of My Anxiety
Fast forward three weeks to a walk on the beach where my husband revealed my selfish behavior. It was a harsh but honest truth. After the tears subsided I was able to reflect upon my actions since his brother’s passing, a wave of guilt crashed over me. I knew that wasn’t his intention but am certainly glad it happened. I couldn’t identify a single time in those few weeks my husband freely expressed his grief. Instead, he was spending his energy protecting me from added stress. I knew it had to stop.
3 Tips to Deal with Anxiety and Support Your Non-Anxious Spouse
A non-anxious spouse is unfairly used to giving more support than he likely receives. We should never apologize for how we feel, and a truly supportive spouse wouldn’t expect it. But if you’re like me, sometimes you learn you’ve been stealing the emotional support your spouse so desperately needs. That’s why we need strategies to make sure we’re giving our share of support.
Every relationship is different, so these may not work for you and your spouse. They may work for you and a friend instead. Regardless, the goal is to be there for those who need us most while continuing to care for our mental illnesses in times of grief. We need to support our non-anxious spouse.
1. Don't Internalize Sad or Anxious Emotions
After our conversation, my natural reaction was to hide any feelings of my anxiety from my husband. Internalizing only intensified my anxiety symptoms and led to a bigger breakdown. You have to express your needs and be supported, just be cognizant of your significant other’s struggles.
2. Spend Time Grieving Alone
This advice seems counter-intuitive, but we found it was sometimes easier to grieve alone. He could let loose without fear of stressing me. I could focus on calming my physical symptoms of anxiety. Time apart allowed our minds to clear so we could better support one another when we came back together.
3. Ask About Each Other's Mental Wellbeing
Our relationship’s fatal flaw is trying to protect the other, which leads us to internalize our own feelings (see #1). We found that simply asking one another on a sometimes annoyingly regular basis spurred more open communication. Being asked, “Are you okay?” forced an honest answer and gave the added assurance it was okay to talk about the pain.
No one knows the best way to navigate the unexpected loss of a loved one. Combine grief with an overwhelming anxiety disorder and the resulting relationship challenges are daunting. Thankfully with love and patience, we can learn how to support our non-anxious spouse and others who we love.
Clements, B. (2017, July 21). Ways to Support Your Non-Anxious Spouse If You Have Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/relationshipsandmentalillness/2017/07/anxiety-disorders-and-grief-spouse-support-in-tragic-times