Prone to nervous butterflies when you’re dating? Tend to get a little needy too soon? What about stalking your prospects Instagram account before you’ve even caught up for coffee? You may have a case of ‘early relationship anxiety.’ When it comes to starting something new with someone, the early stages can be fraught with worry and the inevitable ‘will he/she like me’ debate racing through your mind—which is completely normal and natural. But, if the behaviour and anxiety starts ruling your actions (…aka stalking their social every hour) it may be worth taking a step back, especially if you don’t want to sabotage things with your potential bae. To understand what it is and how we can catch it early, we called on relationship expert Dr Lurve to reveal how it can manifest and the key steps needed to stay on track.
What is ‘Early Relationship Anxiety’?
“New-relationship jitters are very normal! Entering a promising relationship, with real long-term potential can be anxiety-inducing. However, anxieties due to irrational fears are not! This is what distinguishes ‘Early Relationship Anxiety.’
“Unlike anxiety that focuses on worries we actually face day-to-day, early relationship anxiety is something that can hinder someone’s opportunity to be in love as they become plagued with worry, fear, doubt and insecurity, even though they want nothing more than to be in love, they struggle because of irrational fears and beliefs.”
How common is it and why do we get it?
“It’s very common because falling in love challenges us in numerous ways. The more we like or value someone, the more we have to lose. On many levels, conscious and unconscious, people are scared of being hurt. However those with added anxiety experience endless worries about being hurt or being left alone.” “According to attachment theory, 20 per cent of us have an anxious orientation in relationships. Like other forms of anxiety, relationship anxiety has an underlying cause and can be anything from being hurt in past relationships (maybe as far back as childhood) or issues you’re experiencing in any current relationship that could contribute to your bout of early relationship anxiety.”
What exactly does early relationship anxiety look like?
“Most often, relationship anxiety indicates not what’s going on between the two individuals but rather the self-talk and inner worry of the individual. That inner voice that often fuels their fears and criticises their efforts. A lot of the time the inner voice might sound like this… ‘You’re too boring to keep his/her interested in you,’ or ‘You can’t trust him, he wants someone better than you,’ or ‘He doesn’t really love you, you better get out before you get hurt again!’” “What this does is promote hostile, paranoid and suspicious thinking. These thoughts undermine your happiness and lower your self-esteem and trust in people as well as lead to being defensive, jealous and anxious with no evidence as to why you should be.”
“If you’re unsure whether you’ve begun to go down this path, the best way to identify it is to understand the symptoms.”
The 10 most common symptoms:
1. Fear of being judged by a partner 2. Fear of their partner leaving or abandoning them! 3. Fear of being emotional vulnerable 4. A needy attachment style and the need for constant reassurance 5. Creating unnecessary conflict or displaying push-pull behaviours 6. Overly jealous behaviour 7. Feeling the need to test if your new potential partner is committed to you 8. Anxiety attacks 9. Inability to trust because of worries or fears 10. Decrease in sex drive
“Just the thought of meeting someone or starting a relationship can stir up stress and often begin a series of endless worries like: ‘Does he/she really like me?,’ ‘Will this work out?,’ ‘How serious is this?’“ “These thoughts and a nagging feeling of anxiety can sabotage new relationships as they increase feelings of insecurity which is the very thing that will drive a relationship apart.” “Why? Anxious thoughts about your partner’s intentions, love and commitment in the relationship tends to negatively impact your relationship as it doubts her/him and can hurt you. It can lead to feeling isolated, creating distance between yourself and your partner and more often than not, push you or them to give up on love altogether.”
What steps can we take to switch out of anxiety mode?
1. Take a reality check Look at the ‘what if’ vs ‘what is’. Determine which basket it fits in and only deal with the ‘what is’. 2. Ask a friend Friends can be a good resource to gain perspective from. Ask a few trusted friends what they think and get feedback. They might help you decipher irrational thoughts and feelings! 3. Stop analysing Consciously stop yourself from analysing their every move. They will make mistakes just as you will and not every move has a bad intention behind it. 4. Remember your power
You control your mind; it doesn’t control you. When unhelpful thoughts come up, remember they are just that. They don’t need to shape your reality 5. Trust in life Remember that all is going to be okay. Even if your relationship does fall apart, the feelings and thoughts are still only temporary.