Ah, love. It’s complicated, right? We’ve all been there: your partner is on edge, their anxiety is bubbling up, and you desperately want to help. But sometimes, our good intentions can lead us astray. Instead of being a balm, our words may unintentionally add fuel to the fire.
If you’ve ever felt your foot heading straight for your mouth, read on. Let’s chat about five common pitfalls and how to navigate these challenging conversations with compassion and grace.
1. “Just calm down.”
Why It Doesn’t Help: Would you ever tell a cat surrounded by barking dogs to “just relax”? Probably not. Asking someone with anxiety to “just calm down” can make them feel misunderstood or dismissed.
What to Say Instead: “I’m here for you. Let’s take deep breaths together.”
2. “It’s all in your head.”
Why It Doesn’t Help: While this might be technically true since anxiety stems from the brain, it feels dismissive. It’s like telling someone with a broken leg, “It’s just in your bones.”
What to Say Instead: “Your feelings are valid. Let’s talk about what you’re feeling.”
3. “Why are you always so anxious?”
Why It Doesn’t Help: If your spouse had the answer to that, don’t you think they’d be on a Caribbean island sipping a piña colada rather than wrestling with anxiety? This question can feel accusatory.
What to Say Instead: “What can I do to support you right now?”
4. “Others have it worse.”
Why It Doesn’t Help: Playing the comparison game doesn’t minimize pain; it just invalidates feelings. Anxiety doesn’t work on a comparative scale.
What to Say Instead: “I can’t imagine how tough this must be for you, but I’m here to listen and support.”
5. “You just need a distraction.”
Why It Doesn’t Help: While distractions can sometimes help, suggesting this can come off as trivializing the issue.
What to Say Instead: “Would you like to do something together, or would you prefer some alone time?”
Navigating a relationship with an anxious spouse isn’t about always having the right answers but being there with an open heart and keen ears. Being an ally means creating a safe space for communication. Remember, it’s okay to fumble, it’s okay to stumble, but with every misstep comes a chance for greater understanding and connection.
In the words of the renowned…umm, my Grandma, “Love isn’t about finding the perfect dance partner but about stepping on each other’s toes and laughing about it together.” So the next time anxiety tries to cut in on your relationship’s dance, lead with empathy and let the music play on.
If anxiety feels like a third wheel in your relationship and you’d like a little guidance, reach out. We’re here, relatable and ready, to help you and your loved one find your rhythm again.