Dear Dr. Julie: My husband is throwing his anxiety on me. How do I change this? Thank you!!
Dear Anxious Annie: This is one of my most frequent questions. People really struggle around how not to be so affected by other people's emotions.
When our partners, friends, or family members are struggling with anxiety, it can feel overwhelming, especially when their anxiety affects us negatively. Here are a few suggestions that may help you navigate this situation for everyone's benefit. (Remember you can't MAKE him do anything, but encouragement and understanding go along way.)
1. Heart to Heart Communication: Start by having a calm conversation with your husband about how his anxiety is making you feel and affecting you. Express your understanding of his situation and your concern for his welfare. Remember we all want to feel seen, heard, and understood and this is a great opportunity to practice letting him know that you understand how he feels. If you need help with how best to communicate your concerns, see my Effective Communication Guide.
2. Encourage Professional Help: Since his anxiety is having a negative impact on you, it's likely that he's really suffering. Suggest that he seek professional help from a therapist who specializes in anxiety. Anxiety is one a problem that responds well to treatment. A good therapist will have effective tools for addressing his anxiety.
3. Educate Yourself: Take some time to learn more about anxiety, how it creeps up on a person and the various ways it manifests itself. This will help you empathize with your husband's struggles and approach the situation compassionately.
4. Encourage Self-Care: Support your husband in doing activities that help reduce his anxiety, such as exercise, mindfulness practices or hobbies that he enjoys. If you do these activities with him, you may benefit as well and it could bring the two of you a little closer.
5. Set Boundaries: It's important to protect your own mental health, so setting a few boundaries will be helpful to you. Let your husband know when you need space or time for yourself. Encourage him to see support from others such as friends, family or a support group so you aren't the only one supporting him.
6. Seek Couple's Therapy: If he is reluctant to seek individual therapy or if his anxiety is having a negative impact on your relationship, consider going to couple's therapy. A trained couple's therapist can help you both navigate the challenges of anxiety and provide guidance on communication and coping strategies. Couple's therapy will be a safe place to communicate more difficult messages with care and concern and to create mutual understanding.
In summary, encourage your husband to take responsibility for his anxiety and seek the necessary help. Also, be prepared to support him through the process. The nature of anxiety makes it difficult to seek help and make changes and your support will be invaluable to him as he works on this issue.
If you want to have a big conversation with someone and you aren't sure where to start, get my Effective Communication Guide. It will walk you through the process.
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This question was submitted by a member of the Creating Soulful Relationships Facebook Community. Interested in getting support for your relationship problems? Join my group here.