People with anxiety are fighters — we have to ward off negative thinking, irrational thoughts, intense fears, and obsessions on the reg.
We also have to fight to find partners who know how to deal with someone who has anxiety.
Let’s just start off with this piece of advice: You should never think that a partner can “fix,” “save,” or “heal” you. It’s unhealthy to think that way — plus, you probably already know that fighting your anxiety requires a whole lot of work to be put in on YOUR part, along with help from mental health professionals.
Qualities to Look For in a Partner if You Have Anxiety
A partner isn’t going to be a replacement for your therapist and likely isn’t going to be a cure all for your anxiety. However, there are some qualities you should look for in a partner if you suffer from anxiety, that can make for a healthier more satisfying relationship.
1. They’re willing to learn about your condition
While dialogue about mental health is more open now than ever, a lot of people are still a bit uneducated about mental illness. If your partner doesn’t really know about anxiety disorders — maybe they’ve never experienced it themselves or never been close with anyone who has — they need to be willing to learn, so that they can better understand you. It will be a lot easier for them to understand what you go through if they can understand the basics (at the very least) of your disorder. If they aren’t willing to learn about it, that’s a red flag.
You can help them out by explaining to them in your own words how your anxiety feels and how it affects your life. You can also send them some articles regarding anxiety, like a general overview. There are even some articles out there specifically giving advice to people who are dating people with anxiety, like this Talkspace blog post.
2. They’re understanding
This is probably the most important one. You need someone who is sympathetic and understanding. They’ll have to understand that every day isn’t going to be a good day for you, and understand that they shouldn’t take anxiety related incidents personally. They should also understand that anxiety can have an impact on the relationship, and they have to be okay working through that.
There are many situations that could arise where a partner might need to be more understanding. For example, if you’re supposed to be going to a party with them but are having a horrible mental health day, you need a partner who isn’t going to freak out and get mad at you for it — rather, they’ll be sympathetic and respect your need for some self-care instead.
3. They’re a good communicator
While you should be looking for a good communicator in every relationship — regardless of mental health status — you especially need an excellent communicator when you have anxiety. Communicating involves both talking and listening, so it’s crucial that your partner is a good listener, too! It’s important that you both feel free to communicate how you’re feeling if you sense that something is off or if something is bothering you. It’s likely that your anxiety will be a topic of conversation once in a while, and you both need to communicate as clearly and openly as possible about it to keep the relationship strong and make sure that the anxiety doesn’t take over.
4. They’re accepting
Of course you want to feel accepted in any situation, right? People with mental illnesses can feel especially vulnerable and unlovable, and long for acceptance. Many people with anxiety disorders experience stress surrounding dating, maintaining a healthy relationship, and not scaring a partner away. Finding a partner who is totally accepting of who you are, anxiety and all, is going to make you feel a whole lot more secure in the relationship. (Pro tip: it’s also going to be a whole lot harder for them to accept you if you don’t accept and love yourself first!)
5. They’re patient
As someone with anxiety, you have to be patient with yourself — whether it’s patience for a panic attack to end, for a medication to kick in, or for you to progress in therapy. So, you need someone who’s going to be patient with you —whether it’s being patient when you need some extra time to compose yourself mentally before you head out of the house, or being patient while you tell them how you’re feeling without them rushing or dismissing you.
6. They can push you just the right amount
One thing that you might want to look for in a relationship is somebody who can challenge you and inspire you to be your best self. A partner who (gently) pushes you to face your fears and fight your anxiety can be a great thing for you and your relationship —if it’s done in the right way. That being said, you definitely don’t want somebody pushy who’s going to try to boss you around and pressure you to do things you don’t want to do. Rather, you should have a partner who’s going to listen to your hopes and dreams and inspire you to take steps in the right direction, facing your anxiety head-on instead of always hiding from it.
7. They make you feel safe
While you definitely don’t want to rely on a human to be your security blanket, it’s nice to have somebody who makes you feel safe and comforted when you’re with them. You want to have a person to call when you’re having an anxiety attack who can tell you a funny story and make you laugh to forget about your anxiety for a minute. You want to have someone who makes you feel safe and loved when you share your deep dark secrets with them. And if they’re pushing you to face your fears, they can make you feel safer by standing next to you while you do it.
So if you’re in a relationship now, ask yourself if your partner possesses these qualities and if your relationship is healthy. If you’re single and looking for your “person,” be on the lookout for these traits. They aren’t a surefire guarantee that a relationship will work out, but they sure will make it more likely to.