As I mentioned last week, about 1 in 5 people will struggle with severe anxiety at some point in their lives. Living with a partner who has anxiety can be challenging.

Often times, it can lead one to feeling frustrated, angry, sad, or even disappointed that their dreams about what the relationship could be have been affected by anxiety.

Here are five ways that you can support your partner through their anxiety without compromising your own values or making it worse:

1. Educate yourself about anxiety. It’s important to learn as much as you can about the different forms of anxiety and how they may be impacting your partner. This will help you to better understand what your partner is going through.

Learn about the typical warning signs, symptoms, and triggers. While everyone’s experience of anxiety will vary, gaining a general understanding can help demonstrate that you care and open up dialogue.

2. Listen. It can be very difficult for people to open up about their fears, even to those closest to them. When your partner discloses an anxious thought, even if you think it is somewhat strange, try not to make quick judgments.

I often encounter individuals who tried to talk to their partners about the thoughts they had been having but left feeling judged and misunderstood. Even if an anxious person recognizes a thought as being bizarre, it is very real and very scary to them in that moment.

Don’t ridicule or judge. Just listen.

3. Set boundaries. Often times people may find themselves in the role of caretaker for the anxious partner. Being their superhero and rescuing them from situations that make them anxious can actually lead the anxiety to getting worse.

Agreeing to drive all the time or run all the errands may come from a place of compassion (or even convenience), but it’s ultimately not helpful. This does not mean that finding a compromise cannot be helpful, but aiding in a partner’s avoidance should be… avoided.

4. Relax together. Learning techniques to manage anxiety and stress are helpful to everyone. Learning them together helps to hold one another accountable and can make the experience much more enjoyable.

One idea could be finding a guided meditation, such as a body scan, to do together. This can help to promote mindfulness in both partners. One person can even guide the other through the exercise. Here is an example of the body scan meditation

5. Take care of yourself. Living with an anxious partner can lead to a lot of tension within the relationship and within the home. Having your own practices for self-care are important.

Examine what you’re already doing to promote your physical, emotional, spiritual, and professional well-being. Consider what your goals for improving some of these areas might be and determine what steps you can take to achieve them.

We cannot be fully present and take care of others if we do not fill up our own gas tank first. Siphoning your own gas to fill up your partner’s tank will leave you both running on fumes.

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