Silent Sabotage – How My Anxiety Is Killing My Relationship


    6 Min Read


    “Um, Mitch, you know when you said everything would be okay?”

    “Yeah, Remy – I do. I remember saying it this morning, last night, yesterday morning, and nearly every day for the past two weeks! You need to stop!”

    “I know, but what if it isn’t? I can’t stop worrying about….”

    Does this type of conversation sound familiar?

    You can fill in the blank in Remy’s last statement, but Mitch’s response says it all – Remy’s anxiety is killing her relationship.


    We all get anxious on occasion. It’s a normal reaction when there’s uncertainty or concern regarding possible outcomes. But for some people, anxiety is anything but occasional.

    For people who grapple with anxiety on a daily, even hourly basis, it’s like living with a constant, shadowy companion. Not only does this companion influence their thoughts and behaviors, but it also can infiltrate their closest relationships and wreak havoc on communication, trust, and intimacy.

    So, if you, like Remy, can say, “My anxiety is killing my relationship,” this article is for you.

    A Note About Anxiety

    Before we look at how anxiety can negatively affect relationships, it’s important to understand some key points about anxiety itself.

    Anxiety is a term for a broad spectrum of feelings characterized by

    • Excessive worry

    • Fear

    • Apprehension


    When severe, it can significantly impact a person’s daily functioning and quality of life. The primary types of anxiety fall into the following categories:

    • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about everyday concerns, including work, health, relationships, and finances.

    • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Individuals with SAD may experience overwhelming anxiety in social settings, fearing judgment, embarrassment, or rejection.

    • Panic Disorder. Characterized by sudden episodes of intense fear or discomfort accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, and shortness of breath.

    • Phobias. Specific phobias involve an intense and irrational fear of a particular object, situation, or activity.

    • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can develop following a traumatic event such as a severe accident, combat, natural disaster, or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. For those who have dealt with infidelity, there’s also Post Infidelity Stress Disorder (PISD) that can affect relationships.

    • Post-partum anxiety. Many are familiar with post-partum depression, but post-partum anxiety is perhaps even more common and can center around any of the things that can impact a new baby, such as health (parental or baby), environment, and other people or caretakers.

    Although these are the most common, they are not the only forms of anxiety. It’s also important to note that anxiety can vary in severity and presentation, and symptoms from more than one type of anxiety disorder can be experienced simultaneously.

    The Effects Anxiety Has On Romantic Relationships

    Each type of anxiety will have a specific treatment or counseling approach. But when it comes to anxiety’s negative effects on relationships, they’re all on an equal footing.

    In his counseling practice Dr. Kurt sees the toll anxiety can take on a relationship daily. According to him,

    As damaging as anxiety can be to a relationship, the acknowledgement that 'anxiety is killing my relationship' is something I rarely hear. That's not because anxiety isn't a frequent factor in struggling relationships (it is), but because most people don't focus on the anxiety, they focus on the problems it causes. What I hear is what you'll read in the following examples. In these cases there are two problems to fix – the issues having an anxious partner can cause and the anxiety that will kill your relationship."

    The pervasive worry and fear that are characteristic of all forms of anxiety can chip away at the foundational components of a relationship, namely,



    Effective communication lies at the heart of healthy relationships. It’s required for expressing feelings, resolving conflict, and fostering a strong emotional connection.


    Anxiety can interfere with communication by distorting a person’s,


    I heard the way you said, ‘I love you.’ It didn’t sound like you meant it. I think you’re lying.”

    Amplifying their fears

    He said he’s working late. What if he’s actually having an affair? He could be, I’m not ‘young’ anymore. Maybe he isn’t attracted to me. Maybe that’s why we haven’t had sex much. He’s definitely having an affair.”

    Interfering with their ability to convey thoughts and feelings accurately.

    I know I said I don’t believe you, but that’s not what I meant. I don’t think you’re a liar. I just don’t know what to think anymore.”

    In addition to difficulty articulating feelings, anxiety can further damage your relationship by clouding your thinking and making it difficult to understand your own emotions. This can then lead to misunderstandings and conflicts within your relationship.

    This frustration and confusion worsens communication, causing the anxious partner to avoid specific topics or withdraw altogether.

    Anxiety can also alter a person’s communication habits, causing them to engage in,

    Excessive reassurance-seeking

    Do you love me? You love me, right?”

    Passive-aggressive behavior (which can be a form of suppressed anger)

    I’m fine,” “Whatever,” “Do what you want, I don’t care.”

    Conflict avoidance

    I don’t want to talk about it,” “You don’t need to worry about it,” “I’ll handle this.”


    Trust is a fundamental building block of any strong relationship. However, anxiety can erode trust within relationships through its influence on a partner’s perceptions and behaviors.

    The excessive worry and out-of-control thoughts common to anxiety fuel a person’s insecurities and doubts. These can manifest as distrust and suspicion towards their partner, often leading them to interpret innocent actions or behaviors as evidence of deception or bad actions such as cheating.


    Additional anxiety-driven behaviors like,

    • Jealousy

    • Possessiveness

    • Micromanagement

    can undermine trust and destroy a relationship.

    Anxious partners may even resort to controlling behaviors in a misguided attempt to alleviate their fears and insecurities. These actions can eventually lead to resentment, creating a toxic cycle of anxiety, causing distrust, which fuels more anxiety.


    Intimacy is more than just sex. It encompasses emotional, psychological, and physical, closeness between partners.

    Anxiety can inhibit a person’s ability to express vulnerability and affection and, as mentioned above, trust that their partner won’t hurt them. This can cause them to create emotional walls to protect themselves from perceived threats or rejection.

    All of this contributes to the destruction of intimacy and closeness with their partners and is a significant way anxiety can kill a relationship.

    It’s also not uncommon for anxiety to cause body image concerns or intrusive worries during sex. Consequently, sexual intimacy may become less satisfying or uncomfortable and eventually break down.

    Avoidance of emotional intimacy and a deteriorating sex life can create emotional distance and disconnect between partners.

    How Do I Keep My Anxiety From Ruining My Relationship?

    Preventing your anxiety from killing your relationship requires taking proactive steps, the biggest of which is recognizing there’s a problem.

    Being honest with yourself about the extent to which anxiety is affecting you and, therefore, your relationship lays the groundwork for managing your emotions and behavior and protecting your relationship.

    Some strategies to consider include,

    • Educate your partner. By being open about what you’re experiencing, you can help your partner understand anxiety and its impact on your life. Increasing their awareness and knowledge can help them feel closer to you, take things less personally, and improve their ability to support you effectively.

    • Discuss your triggers and fears. Sharing your feelings, triggers, and concerns can create a safe and non-judgmental space for dialogue and strengthen trust and understanding between you both.

    • Set boundaries. This is for both you and your partner. Communicating your needs, triggers, and limits to your partner can help you each respectively manage behavior and act respectfully toward one another.

    • Practice self-care and anxiety management. Activities like journaling, deep breathing, exercise, prayer, and meditation can help you put things in perspective when anxiety is taking over. Doing these things before you allow your anxiety-laden feelings to affect your partner can also help preserve your relationship.

    • Seek professional help. A professional counselor can provide you with specific strategies and coping mechanisms tailored to you to manage your anxiety and keep it from killing your relationship. Couples therapy can also be beneficial for addressing relationship dynamics impacted by anxiety.


    These strategies along with proactive management of your anxiety can help prevent it from destroying your relationship.

    What To Take Away

    Mitch and Remy aren’t the only couples combating the negative effects of anxiety on their relationship. And if you, like them, feel like anxiety is killing your relationship, you’re in good company.

    But it’s probably not the company you want to keep.

    To reduce the toll anxiety is taking on your relationship, remember,

    • Left unchecked, anxiety can damage communication, trust, and intimacy within a relationship.

    • Keeping yourself and your relationship healthy while managing anxiety means employing strategies that mitigate its effects and foster open communication.

    • Partners should strive to create a safe and supportive environment where feelings and concerns can be expressed openly and without judgment.

    “My anxiety is killing my relationship” – that’s what Remy said on her first day of counseling. Taking the right steps can help ensure you don’t find yourself uttering the same words.


    Looking for More? Check Out These Articles

    Read Comments from Others with Similar Experiences Below

    Like what you read?

    Guy Stuff's Counseling Men Blog shares real stories from our counseling sessions, giving practical solutions and answers to the challenges men and women face.

    Use your email to subscribe below.

    Subscribe to get in-depth articles, right in your inbox: