How To Deal With Relationship Anxiety So You Can Stop Worrying & Start Enjoying Your New Love

Photo: by Baylee Gramling on Unsplash
How To Deal With Relationship Anxiety So You Can Stop Worrying & Start Enjoying Your New Love
Love, Self

One of the most common types of relationship anxiety is born from painful past relationships that worm their way into present relationships.

No matter how healthy or safe a new relationship might be, anxiety from the past can linger, flaring up in a new — and better — relationships for no apparent reason.

RELATED: If He Does These 5 Frustrating Things, He Has A Deep Fear Of Commitment

So how can you stop letting anxiety from the past infect the present, especially when it comes to relationships?

The anxiety that plagues you might be the fear of your current relationship ending poorly as your others have. In spite of knowing your current partner wouldn't do what previous ones have done, you still worry.

When anxiety from past relationships finds its way into a new relationship, it can leave you feeling confused and frustrated, and also put reassurance demands on your relationship that can be straining.

The anxiety seems to come out of nowhere and can feel especially irrational when nothing in your new situation seems dangerous or uncomfortable.

Sometimes one of the most uncomfortable things in a relationship can be your anxiety about the past, and of course, your desire for it to go away. After all, you're out of that old relationship, your new partner is not like your previous one, and you're confident there's nothing to worry about.

So how do you take control of relationship anxiety that's unnecessarily complicating your current relationship? What can you do to make it stand down?

Here are 5 ways you can learn how to deal with anxiety and keep it from stressing you out and hurting your new relationship:

1. Try not to fight with your anxiety.

You only worry about the things you care about most, so recognizing that your anxiety is trying to protect you can help you deal with it more constructively.

Of course, you care deeply about the safety of your relationship and your future happiness. You also care about making sure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. But that doesn’t mean your anxiety is there to hurt you, or that something is wrong with you if you feel it.

Work to shed your anxiety about your anxiety, since resisting anxiety tends to escalate it. This will allow you to look at your anxiety about the past head-on. By naming it, you will gain more control over it, and be able to better discern what it is trying to tell you.

This will also help put you in the mindset of working with your anxiety rather than against it.

2. Know your buttons and ghosts from the past.

Thanks to your well-tuned brain anatomy, you're set up to vividly remember and feel danger when you encounter situations similar to others that could be dangerous.

Sensitive by design, “buttons” are your strongly lodged mental associations to painful situations of the past that often drive strong, and sometimes confusing, emotional reactions to present situations. Buttons can be surprisingly accurate, but can also misfire.

Understanding your sensitive areas can help you better asses what is a ghost flaring up or a fictional worry, and what might be a rational concern worthy of investigation.

RELATED: 8 Natural Ways To Deal With Relationship Anxiety

3. Learn how to detangle imaginary ghosts of the past from real threats.

One of the most important questions to ask when anxiety flares up is whether your anxiety is based on a probability or simply a possibility. Just this questioning alone creates a greater sense of control and a powerful reduction in anxiety.

Ask yourself what anxiety about the past is wholly unlikely to happen in your current situation, and what are the ones that could happen.

If you aren’t sure, ask yourself, "Where is the evidence such a thing will happen?"

If there is evidence to support your relationship anxieties, then it's critical to pay attention.

But if there's truly no evidence to support your anxiety, it is safe to determine anxiety as unfounded, and irrational. Irrational anxiety doesn’t mean such a situation isn’t possible, it just means it isn’t probable.

In the case of the reader above, it could help her to look at how her current partner ended his other relationships to get a clearer sense of how differently he handles conflict compared to her previous partners. This brave analysis of the facts is how we continually detangle them from the fictional worries that can sometimes take hold.

4. Reframe your irrational anxieties.

When your mind starts spinning irrational fears and tall tales — meaning your anxiety about the past is truly irrational with no legitimate bearing on the realities of your relationship now — your challenge is to reframe your irrational thoughts into rational ones.

Instead of interpreting your new partner’s silence as withholding and dangerous like in your previous relationship, for example, remind yourself of your partner’s innate introversion and occasional need for solitude to restore his energy.

Immediately reframing irrational into the rational is the work here.

When you notice anxiety from the past flare, aim to direct your thoughts away from the scary possibilities based on other relationships, and redirect them toward the more reasonable and positive probabilities that better reflect your current relationship.

You can’t stop your thoughts or make them go away, but you can replace them with more reasonable ones that, with practice, eventually replace the unreasonable ones.

5. Practice creating a helpful mantra.

The key to making this stick is to distill this process enough that you can quickly redirect your buttons into rational and calming thoughts.

Here is an example of what a calming mantra might look like for you, but feel free to create your own:

  • "This anxiety is there to protect me and relates to my difficult and hurtful previous relationship."
  • "There's no evidence to support this anxiety now. This man is not like my previous partner and has given me no evidence that he ever will be. It's OK to keep checking, but it's also my responsibility to recognize when I am safe."
  • "He's working hard to earn my trust, and I'm working hard to know he is trustworthy. It may take time, but my safety is worth it."

Working through anxiety about the past isn’t easy, and can be a particular challenge when it feels like “ghosts from the past” are threatening to take over.

The key to managing this anxiety is to take control as soon as you can, work the process of detangling, and be gentle with yourself and your partner.

It’s OK if this all takes time. Remember: This is who you are and there is no shame in learning and healing from the past. Your past has after all allowed your present to be what it is today.

With time and practice, your anxiety about the past will begin to stand down as you absorb this new reality and come to believe that you are in fact safe. This is how the realities of your current relationship lay to rest the ghosts from your past for good, and allow you to focus on the connection and joy you deserve.

RELATED: If You're Anxious About Your Relationship, Repeat These 9 Affirmations Everyday

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!

Dr. Alicia Clark is a licensed clinical psychologist. For more help with managing stress and anxiety, check out her anxiety blog, download her free ebook, or sign up for her newsletter.

This article was originally published at Alicia Clark Psy D. Reprinted with permission from the author.