How it Feels to Have Anxiety in a Relationship.

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How does it feel to have anxiety in a relationship?

It feels like the pain of your past is being folded into the joy of your future—and you’re left, somewhere in between, unable to grasp the present.

It’s blurring the line between that which is possible and probable, quietly fighting to uncover even the slightest crack in the most brazen of armours.

It’s the way you somehow always manage to find one; magnify it, expand upon it—allow it to justify the tidal waves of self-doubt as they build, bend and break to shore.

It’s your needing closure to that which you hold open.

It’s harboring a silent resentment over the hypothetical scenarios of your own writing, leaving them to play out on a manic loop—sparking a groundless sense of panic which swells and consumes all remaining sense or logic. It’s your questioning even the purist of intentions, deeming yourself forever unworthy—not only of that which you desire, but of that which you’ve already received.

It’s tripping over your own laces, tied voluntarily between each shoe.

It feels like you’re reading darkness from between the lines of a love letter—overriding any sturdiness to their voice with the familiar, wavering tones of all those you’ve heard before. It’s preparing yourself for heartache, despite it not being there; despite there being nothing to suggest it will be.

It’s the way you plant such damning evidence in amongst the unassuming beauty of everyday life; setting yourself up as victim and condemning those you love as criminal. It’s anticipating the emptiness to a glass currently full; the crumbling of a wall that remains standing—the eventual end to a feeling finally returned.

It feels like your time together is cultivated in the pause between words, in the keys between lyrics, in the moments which fall so silently prior to embrace—and those which lie so immediately after. It’s holding all the world’s certainty in the palm of your hand, and calling it out as chance—forever watching the shadows in the background, over that which is presented clearly in the fore.

It’s believing that heartbreak is, in the end, inevitable—despite your undying hope for the contrary. It’s allowing this belief to undermine all you think, say and do; setting an unforgiving pretext—leaving a bitter aftertaste to even the sweetest bite.

It’s not depression, nor is it insanity. I suppose, if anything, it’s a chronic inability to seize the moment; the ongoing struggle to play whichever cards you’re dealt, with quite the confidence you’re meant to.

It feels like you’re being relentlessly gripped by a maddening nostalgia; the kind which suffocates, the kind which preemptively falls from each and every moment—right as you’re in it, right as it passes.

For fear that each one—each kiss, laugh or unsuspecting smile—could be the last.

Relephant bonus:



Dear Closet Anxiety Sufferer—You’re Not Crazy.

The Intelligence of Anxiety. 



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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Charles Harry Mackenzie/Flickr 

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Samuel Leighton-Dore

Samuel Leighton-Dore is a writer/director from Sydney, Australia. He spends his days working a minimum wage job, and his nights writing about love and relationships. He dreams of a life without weekends. You can follow him on Twitter & Instagram @samleightondore. His debut eBook ‘Love, Or Something Like It’ is out now.

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anonymous Mar 23, 2016 7:18pm

Thank you for this soul rant… My own heart~ keep writing ,and quit your day job ( not literally…not just yet,,,but theroretically and realistically not a bad idea!??!!) “)

anonymous Oct 14, 2015 4:02am

I didn’t know I had this coming into the relationship I am in now. If the stories were half as exciting that are self manufactred, would I still be with him? That is the question. Honestly I was good. Better than good when we first started seeing each other. Then a red flag. Haven’t seen any since then, but I am more than willing to keep my ‘stories’ alive. So sad

anonymous Sep 4, 2015 10:36pm

This is exactly what i’m feeling right now….

anonymous Aug 31, 2015 10:26pm

How poignant and beautiful this description is of the constant anxiety that I too feel. It is a love-hate relationship with everything at all times. Thank you for sharing so accurately and making me feel that I am not alone! 🙂

anonymous Aug 17, 2015 8:33am

Not only is this hauntingly accurate, it’s also beautifully written.

anonymous Jul 21, 2015 7:18pm

After spending four plus years either single or bey casually dating after my divorce, I met the most incredible man. He’s intellectually and emotionally intelligent, handsome, funny, and loves me to the ends of the earth.

In the past I’ve already been very confident in myself, and in my relationships. It didn’t take long until anxiety about our relationship began to cripple me. I didn’t realize the depth of my insecurity and self-loathing, as I always hid it away, from myself and others, with a mask of confidence.

This man has helped me strip all that away. I’m vulnerable with him, as naked as I have ever been with anyone. I’ve confided the depths of my fear and pain with him. His heart aches for the pain mine feels, and he supports me daily, and helps fuel the daily fight to make peace with all my fears.

A brave person is not a person without fear, but one with anbintimate relationship with fear. I am striving to me brave.

anonymous Jul 20, 2015 5:29pm

That was like reading my own thoughts in print. I am absolutely amazed that you have so perfectly worded how I feel on a daily basis. I am in a great relationship and I am always looking for what will go wrong. Thank you for sharing your message and helping me realize I am not the only one who feels like this.

anonymous May 29, 2015 7:55am

This is just what I'm living. I don't know whether I feel happy, because finally I feel understood, or sad, melancholic, about something that I havent' been able to change….

anonymous Mar 8, 2015 3:51pm

Thank you so much for sharing this. One of my loved one's is dealing with this now and I don't know how to help her. Does anyone have any techniques or solutions that have helped them while in a relationship with someone who has anxiety? After reading all of these comments from people that are dealing with similar things, I'm hopeful because I truly love this woman and I understand that her anxiety is out of her control. On the other hand, for my own well-being, I can only handle being the "bad-guy" for so long. I can't handle being accused for events that have never happened, or being made out to be someone I'm not because of her own fears and past relationships. Do I just have to accept the manic outbursts and say I love you or is there something I can do to make it easier for her and make me able to better empathize with her? I feel so guilty for thinking that I deserve to be treated better but it has taken me many years to come to terms with my own past and I feel like I'm finally at a healthy point in my life. From my point of view, I know she has anxiety, but her actions make me question if she is happy with herself. I'm also wise enough to know that in order to be in a healthy relationship, both people need to be happy with themselves first, before they can love some one else. My soul and my heart are so conflicted and confused. I am committed and ready to share my life with this person but I can't imagine living the rest of my life with the hurtful words, criticism, and false accusations when I try everything I know to be there and understand her pain.
I'm open to any suggestions.

anonymous Feb 4, 2015 2:13pm

“It’s harboring a silent resentment over the hypothetical scenarios of your own writing, leaving them to play out on a manic loop—sparking a groundless sense of panic which swells and consumes all remaining sense or logic. It’s your questioning even the purist of intentions, deeming yourself forever unworthy—not only of that which you desire, but of that which you’ve already received”

THIS. 1000x this ^^^ 🙁 I thought I was the only one.

anonymous Feb 3, 2015 8:53am

its like the clouds parted when I read this, knowing others deal with this horrible feeling on a daily basis. thank you for allowing me to see I'm not the only one and putting it into the most beautiful of words.

anonymous Jan 19, 2015 5:27pm

This is exactly me and currently self sabotaging the great re relationship am in because of this anxiety, impending doom that I convince myself of.
What can I do? Is there help to stop this recurring behavior? I feel like this will never stop and I will never have the love and family I so deeply desire

anonymous Jan 19, 2015 5:13pm

I used to suffer this kind of general anxiety, extending into all my relationships, which was incredibly painful. It makes you feel as if there is no safe space, no lasting security, because your mind is frightengly excellent at finding doubt in everything.

To me, understanding where this anxiety comes from, changing my environment (retrieving myself from an environment which kept affirming my own convictions about myself) and with this, slowly the quality of my relationships. From those, who reflected my belief of being unworthy of love to my most recent one, where I am still left gaping sometimes, how someone so kind and loving has come to be attracted to me. But this too, I see as a sign if my changed self-image and beliefs.

Also, reading upon attachment styles and how they come into being has helped understand the origins of my anxiety.

Getting profession help in order to discover the harmful thinking patterns I had grown up with.

Keep challenging yourself.

You are not your thoughts.

Sometimes I still get triggered, so the first sentence struck deeply within me.

I send out all my love to you.

The anxiety is with us for a reason, but we are not the anxiety. There is a powerful being inside you, that craves to express itself, to rip off the sediments of fear, to bravely step into the world and love.

anonymous Dec 30, 2014 2:30am

This sounds very much like BPD. If childhood traumas encroach on your relationship to the point where you are in a constant state of fear then its time to get help.

    anonymous Feb 6, 2015 9:09am

    Are you referring to Borderline Personality Disorder?

    anonymous Apr 9, 2015 6:45pm

    I was thinking the exact thing.

anonymous Dec 11, 2014 9:47pm

Yes. Thank you.

anonymous Dec 2, 2014 3:39pm

Incredible. Heartfelt thank you. Going to re-read several times. This is my life of love.

anonymous Dec 2, 2014 2:08pm

Perfectly said.

anonymous Dec 2, 2014 12:48pm

“It’s your needing closure to that which you hold open.” Hit the nail on the head for me with that one. Damn. I’m so glad to know that it’s not something else screwed up in my head but something I already knew was in there. Getting close to someone makes me feel more wholly myself and at the same time so utterly broken. I see the mistakes as I make them and yet I still cannot prevent them. Not to mention anything going down on their side of things. I feel doomed and yet I still believe.

anonymous Nov 30, 2014 8:12pm

It's incredibly powerful to see it written, plain as day, what I feel constantly. And reassuring to know I'm not alone. Thank you.

anonymous Nov 18, 2014 7:58pm

I just recently turned my son in! He came to stay with me…from what I believe was on drugs…been there before.. He was so hurtful with his words and my anxiety…and meds. My fight mode went into gear. Tired of being manipulated, verbally, mentally and emotionally abused by people who don't understand. I have kids on drugs and they always turn to me for help~ I just want peace! Ive lost my family~ But, I stood up for myself. Thank you for listening.

anonymous Nov 1, 2014 6:42pm

I want to thank [email protected] for bringing my lover back to me,…when i first contacted him, i was very unsure if a love spell can bring my lover back… But after such a long time of loneliness i decided that prophet chasus should do a love spell for me to get my lover back. Well after prophet chasus casted the spell and told me what to do, within few days my lover came back feeling so sorry for living me lonely for years, the love spell was so amazing that i could not believe what was happening. my lover just came to my house and asked for reconciliation… he now shows me love more than before thanks prophet chasus
Maria cassidy

anonymous Oct 20, 2014 11:06pm

Im in a long distance relationship. He’s 7 hours away. We both just graduated high school, and we both have very big ambitions for ourselves. And everything that this article describes is true. The worst part is that he isn’t with me, so there is truth to my anxiety. I know its all about trust. But with someone so far away, its almost like you want it to end. You want the feeling to go away, so that you can selfishly live your life without a second thought of them. But in the end you know you could never leave them, because everything is fine. They are perfect. And its a constant battle of “Should I stay or should I go”. Anxiety, or truth?

anonymous Oct 19, 2014 3:11pm

The only way to overcome anxiety is know that you are a child of God, perfect and holy…..and most of all is to remember that you are not separated from God. This is the ultimate answer. Everything else is very much time consuming and it will fuck with your head in a long run. Just put it this way, will you trust your mind knowing that it is you that sabborage yourself in the first place….you may find a relief but it doesn’t mean it’s permanent. It wont belong and you will have another anxiety attack in least expected.

so here is the proper solution. ….train your mind not to listen to your story head….let everything go….be always in the moment….no past no future…..correcting your mind by vigilance of seeing separation and simply recognised oneness with everything. You are free…be happy

    anonymous Jan 18, 2015 5:38am

    Right on sister starting Today accept God’s peace and joy, in glad exchange for all the substitutes that I have made for happiness and peace.
    No easy task if you have not purged all negative emotions first.

anonymous Oct 18, 2014 2:54am

It’s like the sun in being able to feel the radiance & warmth when you are distracted but every time you really look directly at them you get burned. And you try so hard to feel their love but it’s as though everytime you really try to hold on you’re clutching smoke. Like you’re in a dream & you just can’t fully grasp, can’t seem to close your palm tight enough. It slips through your fingers and you’re left feeling alone when the person who loves you most in this world is right next to you in body and spirit. And then you drive them away. Without even realizing it.

    anonymous Oct 28, 2014 8:49pm

    this made me silently cry Jason… feeling it!

anonymous Oct 17, 2014 10:15pm

I’ve not once commented on an article that I’ve read online. However, this piece spoke to my heart in a way that I can’t sufficiently put into words. I suppose I just wanted to say thank you.

anonymous Oct 17, 2014 9:30pm

Wow. Beautifully written. Totally speechless Samuel. Thank you so much for sharing your honesty. We have all been there but it is always nice to remember that. Thank you for helping so many of us.

anonymous Oct 6, 2014 11:44pm

This piece hits so close to home it’s not even funny. The words as you put them together are tragically beautiful and the work itself is a piece of art. This is so true with many people including myself. Very much so in love with this and thank you for writing such a lovely piece.

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 8:51pm

I was having nightmares that my husband would leave me. He has broken up with me many times. When I woke up from the nightmare I was always so relieved that it was only a nightmare. Tuesday he decided to leave me again, today I awoke from a nap alone in a different house on the couch and my nightmare was my reality. No relief that it was only a dream. So hard to feel this pain.

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 6:40pm

Thank you.

anonymous Oct 4, 2014 5:52pm

So beautiful. This ruined the best relationship of my life.

anonymous Sep 23, 2014 9:49am

I'm in a relationship now with a good guy. I feel these anxious feelings at times but my love in him helps me to see beyond them and focus on the good I have now. Great article! Reading it is like looking into a mirror just to see your face. It's the only body part that you can see none of without the help of a reflection (well there's the back too I guess).

anonymous Sep 14, 2014 8:52pm

I read this article b/c someone that I care about posted it. I’m assuming that he relates to the article b/c I can see how it applies to me & him. He has sabatoged our entire so-called “relationship” from the very beginning. I’ve tried to be understanding & hopeful that he will choose ME, but I’m FINALLY giving up. If he can’t see the value of having me in his life and if he isn’t willing to be there for me and add some kind of value to my life, I’ve got to let it go. I deserve to be loved & truly happy. Too bad he doesn’t feel the same for himself.

anonymous Aug 19, 2014 11:34pm

This article made me feel like I was reading my own thoughts and writing. I am luckily I am with someone now who understands we are all on our own path to be the best version of ourselves (of course not forgetting the past), but I do feel grateful that my current other tries his best and is open to the anxiety described in this article. It is me to a T. We all do our best to let go of our past, but it is hard. It's so comforting to read this, as well as the comments after to know i am not alone in this particular journey. Thank you so much for being so honest and open. .. I thought as far as sending this article to my significant other as I feel your words describe how I feel better than my own. .. Thank you. And also thank you to everyone who responded. .. Lovely writing. And genuine thoughts.

anonymous Aug 19, 2014 3:03am

This is the best article I've read for a long time. I thought it was just me… Thank you!

anonymous Aug 19, 2014 12:38am

dang, I'm an enneagram 4, and ACOA, and that pretty much sums up my relationship life. Thanks

anonymous Aug 18, 2014 10:18pm

powerful words.

anonymous Aug 18, 2014 9:35pm

I certainly can relate to this article, and these feelings. I'm reading darkness into the light most of the time. I misunderstand. I receive mixed messages. It confuses me.

anonymous Aug 18, 2014 8:54pm

I don’t think I can put into words the tide of feelings this post brought up in me. Gratitude that I am not alone in a pattern that often leaves me feeling powerless and undeserving, but also shaken up and vulnerable that the heart of my biggest “problem” or trigger was so perfectly found and exposed with your words. I had no choice but to go there within myself as I read it.

Over all – thank you. Truly. I don’t think I can express quite how much this post means to me <3

anonymous Aug 18, 2014 8:05pm

I have never read something that could put my feelings into words. Not just my emotional/mental feelings, but the physical agony I feel. Anxiety controls all my relationships on/off. My mother, daughter, husband, friends and other important people. I have tried so many things to feel at peace and enjoy the present and give up control. I just cant!

anonymous Aug 18, 2014 3:33pm

Wow, I have never read something that has more accurately described something I feel almost every day of my life. I was feeling a lot of self-loathing for these emotions, but now I feel so connected to others just by reading this and knowing that what I am feeling is something that is a shared emotion with other individuals.

Thank you so much. I feel extremely at peace suddenly with this strong emotion, and I feel like I can move forward with how to heal the anxiety. I briefly shared this article with the Facebook world to share that we aren't alone.. I had someone message me instantly and share that they felt the same and let me know that I wasn't alone. Truly amazing to me because I have felt so alone. I did delete the post because I didn't want it to negatively reflect my boyfriend in a bad way.

Anyways, thank you for this insightful post.. It really helped me.

anonymous Aug 18, 2014 3:05pm

This hit me hard. You portrayed the feelings of anxiety so accurately and bravely. I used to get anxious in most relationships, but haven't for decades. That is until my last love triggered a boat-load. He -and I – blamed my anxiety for the end of what I thought was a balanced loving relationship at the time. But I was going trough a bit of anxiety provoking stuff in my personal life, and was blaming spil-over on my internal anxious cues. It culminated in a terrible ending, when my anxiety increased dramatically in response to what would have produced anxiety for most people. But I had been denying that I was in a relationship that would provoke that sort of anxiety. My partner had been very subtly, yet very persistently and constantly pushing to move our monogamous relationship into a polyamorous one. In an attempt to relieve our anxiety, I opted to open it up for discussion. The ending was a horrible culmination of discovering that two people wanted different things, and had very different ways of communicating. My point here is that anxiety can point to something that needs to be examined. I am learning to see it as an indicator to explore, rather than habitually seeing it as an enemy to be conquered. Had I understood it as a normal response to a somewhat unusual request, I could have prevented a lot of confusion and heartache and temporary self-abuse.

Thank you for helping me to see myself in a safe and helpful way, to understand how I was behaving and how I can help myself in different ways next time.

    anonymous Aug 15, 2015 9:32pm

    I think you are correct EarthNurse as I have been seeing a 'new age' psychologist who believes that anxiety is the indicator that you are avoiding or pushing away your feelings…something we can learn & carry around from a young age (eg small things from a young perspective like mum being too busy one day for your needs & hey presto we have a small rejection anxiety) as well as minor & major 'traumas' in our lifetimes.
    So I think identifying the behaviours you unconsciousy use for avoidance & the feelings of anxiety to point you in the right direction. Find out what you are actually feeling (or avoiding feeling lol) so you can acknowledge the (anger, sadness, grief, love etc) and let it go…we don't always know or need to know where it comes from or why…just feel!! It is not easy work but this kind of self awareness will unblock & free you eventually!!

anonymous Aug 18, 2014 2:37pm

Good work!!! You're exactly right about everything. I haven't been in a relationship like this, but I've seen it and it's terrible. Thanks for putting it into words!

anonymous Aug 18, 2014 2:32pm

Wow! That's beautiful writing! Thanks for sharing wise words.

anonymous Aug 18, 2014 1:42pm

Thanks for this! I've been struggling with this exact issue. YOu hit the nail on the head. Glad I'm not the only one out there.

anonymous Aug 18, 2014 11:54am

Yes, and I get caught in it by believing all the chitter chatter of my anxiety until something makes me realise I am ruining my relationship. I'm going to keep this to read when the anxiety voice gets too convincing. Thanks x

anonymous Aug 18, 2014 11:52am

gosh, i know this far too well. it is so self destructive. and you miss out on so much happiness because of it. i'm battling this right now. day by day. sometimes, moment by moment. i am in a relationship with the love of my life and i'll be damned if i let this tear us down. good luck to each and every one of us that battles this. <3

anonymous Aug 18, 2014 11:48am

wow, so crazy to read this and know it describes me exactly! thank you for writing this – such honesty. xx

anonymous Aug 17, 2014 10:20pm

yes thank you! I feel this way in most relationships it's so hard to deal with sometimes but it helps to know other people deal with it too

anonymous Aug 17, 2014 1:20pm

This is what ruined my last relationship. The last seven months I have taken the time to figure me out so that these type of thoughts do not sabotage a good thing again. Thank you for writing this. I really thought I was crazy and alone in this behavior.

anonymous Aug 17, 2014 12:55pm

thank you, that perfectly fits me… that's so hard. but I stay, I rest, I hope.

anonymous Aug 16, 2014 9:08pm

Incredible. It’s unreal to read out loud what I do and what I’ve done. Sad but inspires change. Thank you!

    anonymous Aug 17, 2014 1:44pm

    Thanks so much, Jessica. It means the world to know that it resonated x

      anonymous Aug 18, 2014 12:25pm

      me too! I feel so self destructive at times, look back and think why did I do that? do you have any advice on how to make steps to change our anxiety?