Have you ever had the experience of caring about something so much that you actually fail to enjoy it?
I have a favorite shirt. It is a nice color. It fits just right. And I tend to get complements on it when around others.
And I barely wear. Why? Because I don’t want anything to happen to it. I worry about something getting spilled on it. Or threads becoming loose. I don’t want it to get ruined.
I get so anxious about the shirt getting ruined that I don’t take full advantage of enjoying.
Some marriages are like this.
Some people are so anxious about their spouse and marriage that they struggle to find joy in the relationship. Or in the person they are married to.
Anxiety has a way of stealing joy. Knowing the symptoms of anxiety can be helpful. And while there are some exercises you can do to ease anxiety while it is present, it is valuable to have awareness of the negative messages playing over and over again in your mind.
These messages are causing you anxiety about your marriage.
Message That Causes Anxiety in Marriage #1: Do I Matter to You?
It’s not unusual to have doubt in a relationship. It happens. Your spouse will disappoint you. You will disappoint your spouse.
But when we allow that doubt to take on a bigger life than it deserves, we can quickly start to become anxious in our relationship. You begin to wonder if you matter to your spouse.
And when you start feeling like you don’t matter, you begin to look for signs or evidence to confirm how you are feeling. Or to prove you wrong.
And once the anxiety becomes too much to bear, a person begins to behave or act in a way to relieve that anxiety. That can be destructive to a relationship.
It’s not unusual to wonder if you matter to your spouse. But you want to limit the amount of life you give to that fear.
Message That Causes Anxiety in Marriage #2: Are You Going to Leave Me?
This is a form of anxious attachment that creates a great deal of fear and suspicion. There is great fear in wondering if you can trust the person that you are in relationship with.
It’s a fear of being abandoned. Of being left behind. This fear drives one to seek, or even demand, security.
But what actually occurs is the constant wondering of being left alone creates anxiety within the marriage rather than provides security or love. And it is exhausting. For you. And for your spouse.
Learning to trust that you will be okay in the relationship — and outside of it — is what will help quiet the anxiety. And create space for greater intimacy.
Message That Causes Anxiety in Marriage #3: I Know What You Are Thinking
Mind reading can be a source of anxiety. And it potentially creates an increase in conflict within relationships.
When you assume you know what your spouse is thinking or how they will react, a great deal of anxiety can arise. You may begin to keep secrets or conceal information due to a fear of how one may react.
For example, a person may choose to hide information of a fender bender from their spouse. Or money spent on some new clothes.
Assuming the thoughts or reactions of another person does not provide any comfort. But it does limit the possibility or capacity of intimacy.
And it increases anxiety within the marriage.
Message That Causes Anxiety in Marriage #4: I’m Walking on Eggshells
There is anxiety that is created in a marriage when there is a lack of consistency in behavior. For example, if one spouse is relaxed and easy going one moment but becomes hostile the very next.
Mistrust begins to build when our spouse does not know what to expect from us day-to-day. Or when we don’t know what to expect from our spouse.
Trust in a relationship is built when you are consistent in your behavior 9 out of 10 times. This means that you are predictable 90% of the time. If you are lacking consistency, it means may mean that anxiety can grow.
It is not unusual for marriages to have moments of anxiety. But anxiety also creates chasms in relationships. It rarely helps to strengthen a bond or help a couple develop closeness.
Thankfully, there are steps you and your spouse can take to help improve your communication.
And if you wonder if marriage counseling would be good for you, seek out a marriage counselor to help you discern.
If your relationship is a source of anxiety, marriage counseling could play a huge role in setting your relationship on the right course.
Jason Wilkinson is the owner of Wellspace Counseling and enjoys helping couples thrive in their marriages. He provides marriage counseling to couples to those living in Tualatin, Lake Oswego, and Portland. Wellspace Counseling can also provide counseling for marriages and individuals throughout the state of Oregon through the use of online counseling.