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No matter how long you've been with your partner, anxiety can creep in at any point in the relationship. But don't worry. Feeling unsure about your relationship is a totally normal thing (usually).

Feeling anxious about your relationship? A psychologist talks about what relationship anxiety is and self-care tips to alleviate it. © Maskot - Getty Images Feeling anxious about your relationship? A psychologist talks about what relationship anxiety is and self-care tips to alleviate it.

Everyone experiences anxiety during certain points in their dating lives, say experts. And how it impacts your relationship varies, too.

Sometimes, the anxiety is brief. For others, it comes in waves. And in other cases, it sticks around. Even if you find yourself in that last camp, it doesn't necessarily mean a breakup is around the corner.

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But, it is important to deal with it. Letting the anxiety fester can break down the relationship or even drive you to the point of sabotaging it, says Shelley Sommerfeldt, PhD, clinical psychologist and relationship coach.

Anxiety is often rooted in things that happened to you while you were growing up. "There are different ways in which [people] attach [to the people they love] in childhood, such as to [their] parental figures," says Sommerfeldt. And though you've grown up, how you relate to and trust other people (i.e. romantic partners) is still shaped by those experiences.

If your household was an unstable one, for example, you might have grown up feeling unsure in your relationships, worried your partner will abandon, reject or hurt you, says Sommerfeldt.

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But childhood fears aren't the only reason you might be feeling unsettled. Even in long-term romantic relationships, Sommerfeld explains, anxiety can stem from your personal life and then spill into your partnership. Take low self-esteem, for instance, or job insecurity, or fear of being first-time parents. Those emotions can have a ripple effect on your experiences with your partner.

Even though relationship anxiety looks different for everyone, that doesn't mean there aren't common factors that contribute to this feeling. Ahead, discover the root causes of relationship anxiety and how to cope with it.

What is relationship anxiety, anyway?

"It's when someone experiences doubts, worries, and second-guesses their relationship or partner," says Sommerfeldt. You might catch yourself stewing over whether your partner is still in love with you, whether they'll find someone they love more than you, or insecure about whether they still find you attractive.

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And even when your partner reassures you, you might still have a hard time believing them. Doubting your partner can ultimately lead to your sabotaging the relationship: You might pressure them to reassure you about their faithfulness, pick fights, or test them by, say, mentioning how attractive the server at dinner was, to see how they'll react.

When and why does it happen?

At the start of a relationship, you might suffer from anxiety about whether you even want to commit to someone, whether you're a good match, or wonder what your loved ones will think of them. This is all standard and healthy, says Sommerfeldt.

And throughout the relationship, regularly checking in with yourself about the person you're partnered with is all good, too, she adds.

However, things get trickier "if anxiety [is] hindering the relationship or impacting [your] mental or emotional health, and impacting [your] partner. That's when it gets problematic," she adds. There's more reason for concern when the anxiety leads to doubt and stress.

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In long-term relationships, anxiety is more likely to pop up because of a personal experience. "If [one] person is facing their own insecurities and facing self-esteem issues, they [might] project that on their partner," Sommerfeldt says. Take abandonment issues, for example. One partner might have dealt with absent parents growing up, which has manifested into a fear that their partner will break up with them.

Oftentimes, how you treat your partner stems from the example set by loved ones during childhood, says Sommerfeldt.


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Attachment styles are formed during youth and teach you what to expect from those who love you. If your example of love and how you deserve to be loved is insecure during childhood, then how you expect to be loved as an adult will typically mirror that. When you're anxious in romance, it's usually because you didn't receive stable or consistent affection growing up which manifested into worry that the people who claim to love you will withdraw their affection.

What does relationship anxiety look like, exactly?

It can manifest in a number of ways. Find the most common below:

1. Overthinking

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2. Doubt

Doubting is a classic symptom of anxiety and it can quickly put a strain on your relationship, says Sommerfeldt.

Doubt may lead to your checking up on your partner more than you have normally would have, snooping through their things, and distrusting them even when they haven't given you a reason to do so. Once your partner catches on to your suspicion, they'll likely grow resentful or frustrated at having to prove themselves again and again.

3. A Need For Validation

Anxiety comes about when someone "constantly needs their partner to validate their love," says Sommerfeldt, and that's a heavy burden to put on someone else. Constantly seeking reassurance from your partner is a sign of feeling insecure with yourself or with your partner.

4. Withdrawal

Not everyone is expressive about their anxiety, however. "People can shut down due to fear and that kills a relationship," she says. Shutting down is not only unhealthy, but it gives mixed signals to your partner because not communicating your feelings forces them to draw conclusions on their own.

5. Worry

Anxiety often looks like worrying about the health of your relationship. That worry can grow into harmful stress as you imagine all the ways your relationship can fall apart, says Sommerfeldt, that keep you from being present.

6. Insecurity

In anxious relationships, one partner might project their insecurities onto their partner even if that insecurity isn't a direct result of the relationship. So, if you think negatively about yourself, you're likely to think your partner will too even if that's not the case.

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7. Loss Of Identity

"People lose their identity because they hang out [so often] with their significant other and they blend into one person," says Sommerfeldt. "This usually happens in earlier stages of the relationship." To keep your partner interested, you'll mirror their thoughts and actions. And rather than maintaining your own self-worth, you'll rely on them to bolster it for you.

Thing is, if you're the type to feel anxious in a relationship, once you've melded with your partner, you'll have a harder time pinpointing the anxiety. It'll be harder to determine from which partner the anxiety is coming and how it started.

Losing yourself can cause stress and confusion in your relationship, says Sommerfeldt.

So, what can I do about it?

On the bright side, you have full control over coping with your anxiety. It all starts from within—by getting familiar with anxiety, says Sommerfeldt. Identifying the actual root of anxiety is the first step to showing it the door.

Sommerfeldt recommends implementing "self-soothing" and "calming-type methods," such as self-care practices. She suggests walking your dog, meditating, taking a bath, journaling, or any other self-care activity you resonate with that will help boost confidence. "Doing the self-care work will help with controlling your impulses to seek validation. You'll build a stronger sense of self and anxiety decreases," she explains.

While working on your own anxiety triggers is important, working on them together is a good idea, too.

"Couples should look into therapy or counseling options," suggests Sommerfeldt.

Communication is key to working on relationship anxiety as a couple. "Everyone has their own method of communication that works for them," she adds, and a professional can help you determine what that is and how to keep those lines of communication open so you can feel more confident in and about your relationship.

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