Anxiety and Relationships

Anxiety and relationships are a tricky combination.  When you already struggle to keep your emotions and fears in check, allowing yourself to be emotionally entangled with and vulnerable to another person can be confusing, overwhelming, and challenging.

Anxious people tend to require a great deal of reassurance, which can be draining to their partners, only adding to the stress of the situation. Those who are able to recognize their irrational or anxious behavior end up blaming themselves for acting out the same patterns over and over again and feeling helpless to stop it.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that up to 18 percent of adults in the United States live with an anxiety disorder, with up to 23 percent of those cases being classified as “severe.” This makes it one of the most common and treatable mental illnesses, and yet, it’s still misunderstood and stigmatized. 

Anxiety can create states that are so intolerable that we are compelled to take actions that are impulsive and misguided. In relationships, this could mean some sort of acting out that is destructive, quickly jumping to conclusions, or making decisions that will not bring desired results. If you find that your anxiety makes you impulsive in relationships, it can be important to slow down, be still, and think through anything you are doing. If it is simply just to relieve anxiety, try and find a better solution that won’t result in increased problems and stress.

Dealing with anxiety and panic is tiring, even if you are not the one experiencing it. Constantly having to assess whether your partner is comfortable and functioning takes a lot of energy. The basics of adequate sleep, good nutrition, exercise, and pleasurable activities–both with and without your partner–will help you ride the waves of anxiety and panic with your partner (and actually, those suggestions will work for your partner as well!)

Although anxiety can impact a relationship in many different ways, the important thing to remember is that anxiety is a treatable disorder. Treatment often consists of a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. Oftentimes, couples therapy will be a component of treatment so that each partner can work to support each other as they work through the process of better understanding, and recognizing, the impact anxiety has on their relationship.

Anxiety and Relationships

If you, or your partner, struggle with a level of anxiety that is having a negative impact on your relationship, please call us – we can help. 

How To Talk About Difficult Subjects



Avoiding topics that you know you need to discuss is common.  Unfortunately, in relationships it can be costly in terms of the distance it can cause between partners.  Here are a few guidelines that may be helpful to use the next time you and your significant other decide to talk about an issue that you have previously chosen to avoid or deny in the past.


1. Give your partner a heads-up that you would like to carve out time for a serious talk.

2. Create three talking points (and only three!) and memorize them. Be able to make each point in one sentence. If you say nothing else, these are the points you need to make. Now you have a skeleton outline to help you return to the issues at hand if you get sidetracked.

3. Be concise. We tend to say too much. Say it once. Let silence happen while your partner processes your points.

4. Don’t be in it to win it. Be in it to discover how your partner sees it. In fact, ask, “How do you see it?” This attitude shift is critical. It’s not a fight. It’s a discussion.

5. Stay in the present! Do not bring up past transgressions no matter how tempting it is to zap the other person with old atrocities. That’s hitting below the belt. Defensiveness and anger will follow, and your talk will dissolve into an argument no one can win.

6. After you’ve covered your three talking points, ask, “Where do we go from here?” Be prepared with your own suggestions, but listen to your partner’s ideas, too. He or she may suggest alternatives that never crossed your mind.

7. If you’re reduced to shouting, be confident enough to end the discussion. Suggest you both think about what happened and set a time to talk within the next 24 hours when both of you have calmed down.

Resolving Conflict With Active Listening – Give Your Partner An EAR


Active listening

Active listening

Many couples struggle with how to effectively handle difficult topics as they come up in their relationship, or try to find ways to be sure the other person hears and understands their thoughts and feelings on an issue that can sometimes be a trigger for both of them.

One approach that many therapists suggest, and many couples find difficult to remember the steps to, is active listening where both partners sit and listen to the others uninterrupted thoughts and then repeat back what they’ve heard and believe they understand regarding what was shared. The conversation then goes back and forth until both people feel the other person has accurately processed the information they wanted to share.

Difficulties arise when one, or both, partners forget the steps and then begin to interrupt, defend or try to insist that the other person see things the same way they do. Couples struggle to hold onto the boundaries of how to handle an active listening conversation when they both can’t recall the exact steps to work toward a respectful and satisfying conclusion. As a result, couples walk away even more frustrated than before.

An easier method to try and remember is EAR. EAR stands for ENGAGE, APPRECIATE and RESPOND. Here are the steps:

ENGAGE – reach out to your partner in a moment when both of you aren’t distracted or involved in another project. It might be after the kids have gone to bed, or before the workday begins. This can be accomplished by scheduling the meeting in advance, or simply asking the other person if this is a good time to talk about an issue you both have been working on.

APPRECIATE – have a mutual agreement that each of you will allow the other person to share their thoughts, feelings and struggles without interruption. Even though you may feel that you were misquoted, or your partner has a completely skewed viewpoint on a situation, you have to hold to the agreement that you will not step in with your own opinion until it is your turn to do so. Once your partner has finished, express genuine appreciation for what they shared and repeat back what you heard them say (not what your interpretation is of their narrative).

RESPOND– when it is your turn, share your thoughts and feelings on what your perception is regarding the same event or issue. Be sure to keep your opinion focused on your own feelings and not those you have projected onto your partner and fight the urge to bring up past events that you feel somehow relate to what the two of you are struggling with currently. This is not a time to defend, dismiss or deny anything your partner has shared. Instead, you should focus on owning what your part was in the issue and validating those thoughts and feelings that your partner has shared with you.

If you feel, after you have tried the above steps, that things have gotten heated between you it would be a good idea to take a break and return to the topic, and the steps outlined above, within 24 hours and try the process over again. Remember, your goal is to achieve a greater understanding of your partner’s perspective and a deeper level of connection between the two of you.

Adult ADHD and Its Affect on Relationships

We have all heard the stories and statistics around children who struggle with ADHD, but have you ever thought about how that same disorder may affect you later in life? Adults with attention disorders often learn coping skills to help them stay organized and focused at work. Recently though, experts have reported that many of them struggle at home, where their tendency to become distracted is a constant source of conflict in their primary relationships. Some research suggests that these adults are twice as likely to be divorced; another study found high levels of distress in 60 percent of marriages where one spouse had the disorder.
Over 80 percent of adults with ADHD are undiagnosed, so most couples are not aware of the impact it has in their relationships. Here are just a few examples of the role it can play:

Trouble paying attention. If you have ADD/ADHD, you may zone out during conversations, which can make your partner feel ignored and devalued. You may also miss important details or mindlessly agree to something you don’t remember later, which can be frustrating to others.

Forgetfulness. Even when a person with ADD/ADHD is paying attention, he or she may later forget what was promised or discussed. When it’s your spouse’s birthday or the formula you said you’d pick up, your partner may start to feel like you don’t care or you’re unreliable.

Poor organizational skills. This can lead to difficulty finishing tasks as well as general household chaos. Partners may feel like they’re always cleaning up after the person with ADD/ADHD and shouldering a disproportionate amount of the family duties.

Impulsivity. If you have ADD/ADHD, you may blurt things out without thinking, which can cause hurt feelings. This impulsivity can also lead to irresponsible and even reckless behavior (for example, making a big purchase that isn’t in the budget, leading to fights over finances).
Emotional outbursts. Many people with ADD/ADHD have trouble moderating their emotions. You may lose your temper easily and have trouble discussing issues calmly. Your partner may feel like he or she has to walk on eggshells to avoid blowups.
Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. With these kinds of issues (and more) certain predictable patterns develop. For example, the non-ADHD partner tends to become a “parent” figure — controlling and nagging in order to remind the ADHD partner to get things done, while the ADHD partner becomes a “child” figure who lacks authority or responsibility in the relationship.

Many couples feel stuck in this unsatisfying parent-child type of relationship. It often starts when the partner with ADD/ADHD fails to follow through on tasks, such as forgetting to pay the cable bill, leaving clean laundry in a pile on the bed, or leaving the kids stranded after promising to pick them up. The non-ADHD partner takes on more and more of the household responsibilities. The more lopsided the partnership becomes, the more resentful he or she feels. It becomes harder to appreciate the ADHD spouse’s positive qualities and contributions. Of course, the partner with ADD/ADHD senses this. He or she starts to feel like there’s no point to even trying and dismisses the non-ADHD spouse as controlling and impossible to please.

As you expect, the issues outlined above negatively affect the quality of your relationship. In fact, the divorce rate for older adults who have ADHD is almost twice that of those who don’t have ADHD. So what can you do to break this pattern?

Tips for the non-ADHD partner:

*You can’t control your spouse, but you can control your own actions. Put an immediate stop to verbal attacks and nagging. Neither gets results.
*Encourage your partner when he or she makes progress and acknowledge achievements and efforts.
*Stop trying to “parent” your partner. It is destructive to your relationship and demotivating to your spouse.

Tips for the partner with ADHD:

*Acknowledge the fact that your ADD/ADHD symptoms are interfering with your relationship. It’s not just a case of your partner being unreasonable.
*Explore treatment options. As you learn to manage your symptoms and become more reliable, your partner will ease off.
*Find ways to be more attentive to your spouse. If your partner feels cared for by you—even in small ways—he or she will feel less like your parent.

Tips for both partners:

Develop a routine. Your partner will benefit from the added structure. Schedule in the things you both need to accomplish and consider set times for meals, exercise, and sleep.

Set up external reminders. This can be in the form of a dry erase board, sticky notes, or a to-do list on your phone.
Control clutter. People with ADD/ADHD have a hard time getting and staying organized, but clutter adds to the feeling that their lives are out of control. Help your partner set up a system for dealing with clutter and staying organized.
Ask the ADHD partner to repeat requests. To avoid misunderstandings, have your partner repeat what you have agreed upon.
If you think you or someone you care about has adult ADHD, the first thing you should do is learn about the disorder and how it’s diagnosed. You can start by looking over free online resources from organizations like Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) and the National Center on ADHD. These sites can help you find local doctors, and support groups where you can meet people facing similar issues. You can also find out how to get tested for the condition.


Start the New Year With the Power of Forgiveness

imageChances are, you have been hurt in the past, and you have experienced the anger, pain, frustration and resentment that comes along with the pain of knowing you have been injured by the words and/or actions of another. All of these emotions, whether you know it or not, have somehow shaped your current perception of the world, along with the decisions you make, your health, your attitude – nearly every aspect of your life.

So, the critical question is – to what extent can you let these negative emotions go and forgive the person who hurt you?

Holding on to anger or resentment can sometimes trigger an addictive sense of strength and righteousness. It can feel good to blame someone else, but the downside is that it also leaves a negative imprint on us. Ultimately, who wants to have a life defined by anger, pain or suffering? There’s an important distinction about the act of forgiving – you can still condemn the act while forgiving the person who committed it. Forgiveness can’t be forced, but if you’re open to the possibility, it will come at the right time and the right place. You might wake up one morning and think “Now is the time to move on since my divorce” or “I’m tired of focusing on how selfish my brother has been all his life”.

Forgiveness is not easy. It’s not a benevolent gesture to be bestowed on someone who has wronged you, to free them from guilt. Actually, it’s not about the other person at all. Instead, it’s an active, challenging internal process that is specifically meant to help you. It is a shedding of those negative emotions that hold you back, that prevent you from feeling peace, happiness, and even love.
Tim Laurence, founder of the Hoffman Institute in the UK, strongly believes that forgiveness is an essential part of healing. Over the past 15 years, he has been amazed by the courage he has witnessed as people let go of anger and pain.

“I have seen people whose lives have been determined by a grievance that has affected not only themselves, but also generations after them. To then see that person forgive and be able to move on in their lives is like watching them unlocking the door to their own prison and stepping out into freedom,” Laurence said.

Not every person or every situation that has hurt us is meant to be a part of our lives and memories forever. Sometimes, they are there for a period of time to teach us something, and once their purpose is served they move on and the next chapter of our story begins.

As difficult as it may be to let people, or their hurtful actions, go, whether they are a long time friend, a family member, a spouse, or a lover, when we forgive them we create a space for them to move onto their next chapter, as well as ourselves.

The faster you can forgive those who have caused you pain and let go of the memory of the injury, the quicker you can focus on creating the most amazing life imaginable.

So, take the time to soak in what’s happened, learn from it, laugh a little and when you’re ready, set yourself free. You’ll be amazed at how much lighter you feel when you no longer carry around the burden of the past.

Relationship Warning Signs

imageWe’ve all heard the daunting statistic: 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. No one wants to be a cliché, and everyone wants to find themselves amongst the 50 percent that beat the odds. Although no test exists that can tell you if your problems are typical reactions to the stress and strain most marriages experience at one time or another, troubled marriages do tend to exhibit many of the same characteristics.
To see if your falls into this category, check to see how many of the following statements apply to your marriage:
Scorekeeping: The ease of give and take has been replaced with playing “Tit for Tat”, and you actively keep mental notes on how much you are contributing versus how much your partner isn’t.
Avoidance: Your marriage may be in trouble, if you both are using distractions to avoid dealing with core relationship issues. Do you always have one more thing to do before you can settle down, or is your spouse always hiding behind the newspaper, television, cell phone or computer? If yes, then it is time you both cut out the distractions and focus on your relationship, before it is too late.
Wheel-spinning: If discussions about the issues in your relationship seem to get stuck revolving around the same arguments again and again, it’s usually a sign pointing towards your inability to communicate thoughts and feelings effectively. Sweeping issues under the rug makes for a carpet that’s very difficult to walk on.
Lack of Intimacy: If you notice that intimacy between you and your partner has reached an all-time low, or is non-existent, you may begin to feel like roommates – you live together in the same home, but do not share the intimacies of a marriage. Intimacy levels directly relate to how well you and your partner are communicating. If you’re not talking, you’re probably also not having sex.
No Compromising: A major part of marriage involves trying to fulfill your partner’s needs while also making sure your own needs are met. It’s a lifelong dance, a give and take, and it requires constant communication. But if your partner continually refuses to listen to what you need (time, affection, sex/physical contact, help with children or chores), or refuses to share their own needs, this could indicate trouble in your relationship.


Power and Control: Partners who are rigid, inflexible and controlling often manipulate events to stop them from getting out of control, or making them feel threatened, uncomfortable or vulnerable. As a relationship grows and changes, the balance of power shifts, causing couples to realign their roles and responsibilities. Relationships can see-saw out of control when issues arise such as educational inequality, personal dominance and control, differences in earning capacity, a wife returning to the workforce and becoming more economically dependent, or an imbalance in the power and decision-making process within the couple’s relationship.


Poor Communication. Many relationships can survive infidelity, but most will break down because of poor communication, verbal and nonverbal. Couples who use vague and unclear communication patterns as a way of avoiding closeness and conflict set the stage for misunderstanding, frustration and hurt. A survey by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that 70 per cent of people surveyed whose relationships had fallen apart listed lack of communication as the major cause of their relationship failure.
Recent studies have shown that five years after the break up of their marriage, 40 per cent of individuals said they wished their divorce had never happened. They believed it could have been avoided had they only recognized the warning signs.
When couples see the signs that indicate that their relationship is struggling or “stuck” and are informed about the causes of their relationship breakdown and given solutions for how to deal with these issues, they are better equipped to avoid their dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors, and thus can effectively work toward improving and sustaining their relationship.

How Unmet Expectations Can Negatively Affect Relationships

imageThe most common cause of relationship conflict comes from unrealistic and unexpressed expectations. Misguided assumptions pose the biggest danger when each person in a relationship brings their own, and sometimes conflicting, expectations to the relationship.

As we project our viewpoint onto others, we are assuming that they think and feel in a similar way that we would in the same situation, and we expect them to behave accordingly. Unrealistic expectations occur when an individual projects onto their partner what they want or need. Your partner cannot read your mind. When someone close to us does something that seems in deep contrast with the standards we have associated with that person, we often feel hurt, betrayed, angry and /or confused.

Our disappointment gets expressed in the kinds of phrases we’ve heard or spoken: “You’re the last person I ever expected to do that”, “You really let me down”, “This isn’t like you‟.

We cleverly develop a tunnel vision where we only accept information that supports the view we have of who we want that person to be. The truth is that people show us exactly who they are through their everyday behaviors. When we choose to break the illusion and replace assumptions with a truthful evaluation, freedom from expectation is carried with it. The opportunity to begin a more authentic and honest relationship is born.

Relationships end for a variety of reasons. The most common reason being that people enter relationships with certain expectations which, when unmet or unspoken, start and fuel the domino effect which may eventually lead to the eventual unraveling of the relationship.

How one perceives the state of a relationship is altered by various conditions such as age, past experience, and personal background. Differentiating between what is real and what is imagined in a relationship is tailored by these past experiences in life. An example is how many young girls grow up envisioning „happily ever after‟ with their “knight in shining armor‟. No one can live up to that fairy tale image. This unrealistic expectation quickly leads to relationship problems.

Both partners must be free to be themselves, to respectfully express their needs and feelings, and to know they are accepted for who they are.

It is important for both partners in a relationship to take responsibility for mutually expressing their wishes. A challenge for most couples is learning how to meet each other’s desires and needs, which usually requires compromise on each side. An important point to remember is that each partner may choose to cooperate – or not. If not, the relationship faces a difficult future. If the partners agree to compromise, the payoff builds cohesiveness and intimacy. This is the glue that holds the relationship together and allows for more patience and understanding in times of difficulty.

Mindfulness and Relationships


What is mindfulness and what does it mean to be “mindful”? How can it help our relationships?


The term “mindfulness” originates from philosophical and meditative traditions. Mindfulness has two important parts. The first part is defined as attentiveness and awareness of the present moment, both internally (what is happening inside of you) and externally (what is happening outside of you – i.e. with others). The second part involves not judging, comparing, or evaluating the present experience as you observe it.


So how can this help your love life? If you think back to the beginning of your relationship, there were probably many moments of blissful unison. You may remember spending hours together and losing all concept of time. It may have flown by or stood still, but either way you were so involved with each other that time didn’t matter. And you probably weren’t thinking about things like laundry, shopping, paying bills and work. It was strictly you, your partner and your love.


Mindfulness can help you recapture some of those feelings since you are exclusively concentrating on your partner and the moment. If any other thoughts like laundry and work come up, mindfulness teaches you to not to ignore them, but to recognize them, dismiss them and move on. Then you gently go back to being with your partner. No judgments, no penalties, no harm, no foul.


Taking the concept one level deeper, the practice of mindfulness can allow us to develop some distance between ourselves and our emotions so that we don’t cling to the thoughts and emotions as being something we identify with. It doesn’t become ‘my anger’ anymore; instead we see it as just ‘being angry’. So we no longer think ‘I am so angry!’ instead we can say to ourselves more calmly, ‘I am just experiencing some momentary anger and I know this will soon pass.’


Mindfulness also helps us to understand and accept that no one is perfect. No one. Start to learn how to accept your imperfections. If you are not fully aware of your mistakes, you may not only miss what is most significant in your life, but also fail to recognize your true potential in terms of your relationship with your partner and yourself. Instead of suppressing your mistakes, review them mindfully. A successful person accepts and learns from those moments when we are not our best. So, highlight your weak points and start working on them. If you can’t solve your problem, ask for some assistance from trustworthy people. You will not become small by asking. Share your problems with your partner and truly open yourself up to their support and advice.


While it may not be possible to be mindful all day long, the power of a mindful moment each day shared with someone you love can make a relationship strong and more loving. And a mindful moment with yourself can keep you peaceful and capable of developing those parts of yourself that you might have neglected or minimized. Either way, you’ll learn more about being kinder to yourself as well deepening your connection with your partner so that your relationship can grow.