People talking - How to explain anxiety to your partner

Telling Your Partner About Relationship Anxiety

Oct 13, 2021


This post is all about telling your partner about relationship anxiety.


I'm excited to share that many of my blog post topics moving forward will be coming directly from submissions of my email community!

In an effort to write content that will really help you understand your relationship anxiety, relationship to your partner, and relationship to yourself—these blog posts will come straight from topics that YOU are requesting.

If you want to have the opportunity to submit topics for future blog posts, make sure you're subscribed to my email list!

Thanks for being here.



Telling Your Partner About Relationship Anxiety


To the point I just made above, I recently received the below question as a requested blog topic:

"How much should you disclose about your relationship anxiety to your partner to avoid making them feel bad or scared?"

What a great question.

I can sense the empathy and care coming from the person who requested this topic.

They're looking out for their partner's feelings here, which is a kind thing to do.

AND, while I love that so much, I also want to make sure this person is taking into account THEIR feelings, too, and feeling empowered to share these feelings with their partner if they so choose.

To set the stage in advance of me sharing my answer...I feel like I have to give a disclaimer that I tend to add to many of my articles, and that is:

There is no one right way or wrong way to move forward here. There is no "perfect" way to disclose (or not disclose) your relationship anxiety. We're all different people, within different relationships—so please use your own judgment when reading this article if what I'm saying feels good, or not. Take what works with you, and skip what doesn't.



Before we get too much further, I wanted to point out something I noticed in this question, and that is the assumption that your partner will automatically feel bad or scared when you share your anxiety or doubts with them.

I can see where this assumption is coming from, because I felt the exact same way.

This is a sensitive subject for sure, and some people may have a hard time receiving this information because they're equating it with "they don't love me, I'm a bad partner."

However, please know that it's entirely possible that your partner will receive what you have to say with empathy, compassion and understanding.

Part of that has to do with the delivery of this information (which I will discuss in more detail later).



Factors to consider before telling your partner about your relationship anxiety

Now let's get into my answer...

If you're considering telling your partner about your relationship anxiety for the first time, or planning to share more details with them than you may have already, there are a few factors I'd reflect on as you decide how much to disclose to your partner:

  • What is your “why” for telling them?

  • How much do you understand about your anxiety and doubts?

  • Privacy vs. secrecy

I will break each of these down with more detail below.

What is your “why”?

Are you telling your partner about your doubts because you're in a panicked state and need to get it off your chest?

Are you telling your partner about your doubts because you've been feeling guilty and feel like you're lying to them?

Or, on the flip side:

Are you telling them because you're looking to create more emotional connection and be vulnerable?

It may be a combination of all the above.

However, if you're trying to "offload" your anxiety onto your partner to gain reassurance or relieve guilt—the way you communicate this to them will likely be coming from that energy; the energy of needing them to reassure you, the energy of dumping something onto them so you don't have to carry it alone.

It's not going be coming from a grounded, open-hearted place in an effort to further connect, but rather a panicky fearful place to feel like a "better partner."

More to come later on how to have the conversation.

Action: consider journaling on your "why" for telling your partner and try to think of a reason that is mutually beneficial instead of just helping yourself—this may help you feel better as you approach the conversation.

How much do you understand your anxiety or doubt?

The fact that you're here reading this post likely means you've come across my content on social media, and maybe have even read through the other blog posts I have on my website.

If that's the case—you may feel like you are beginning to understand a little more about relationship anxiety.

Perhaps you've watched my free video training where I discuss the intricacies of relationship doubts, and how they have a lot less to do with your partner than you may think...

All of this to say, if you have a basic understanding of relationship anxiety from absorbing my social media posts or blog articles, you know that despite the intrusive thoughts saying "my partner isn't the one" or "I don't love them enough"—there is a lot of fear sitting underneath these thoughts.

Fear of failure.

Fear of divorce.

Fear of not being fulfilled.

Fear of losing yourself in the relationship.

Fear of abandonment.

Fear of imperfections.

Fear of intimacy.

Fear of settling.

All of these fears are at the core of most relationship anxiety and doubt, assuming you are in a happy, healthy relationship where you're being treated with respect. (if you're in a relationship where emotional, verbal, sexual or physical abuse is taking place—my content does not apply).

Understanding that relationship anxiety is less about your partner than it is about your own beliefs, experiences, and behaviors takes some time to sink in.

And yet, I believe it's hugely important to be open to that idea before having a discussion with your partner around your anxiety and doubt.

Without that understanding, you may approach the conversation in a way that COULD make your partner feel bad or scared, because the conversation may be more centered around them than you.

So, in my opinion (take it or leave it!), I think having a basic understanding of relationship anxiety is a baseline for having the conversation with your partner.

When I had conversations with Nate back in the day, I was not very clear with him.

I would say things like "I feel anxious about marriage...but I don't know why" or "something feels off with us, but I don't know why."

Luckily, Nate is extremely secure in himself (...what's that like?! haha) and didn't take offense to these thoughts of mine. He doesn't tend to get anxious like I do, so he was able to see the anxiety for what it was: fear.

However, had I understood my anxiety a bit more, I could have come to the discussing feeling more prepared, and giving him more information about relationship anxiety so he could have a deeper understanding of what I was going through.

As I learned more about my anxiety, I shared more information with him that helped him understand my experience a bit better so I didn't have to continue using vague or conceptual ideas.

Action: consider reading through some of my other blog posts or Instagram content if you are not familiar with the sneaky little trickster that is relationship anxiety. Some of the messaging I use within my posts may help you feel more prepared as you approach this discussion (or even, quite literally, showing your partner some of this information directly!)

Privacy vs. secrecy

Next, let's get into the difference between privacy and secrecy.

I loved this way privacy was described on said "When something is private to a person, it usually means that something is inherently special or sensitive to them."

Whereas, on the flip side, secrets are "something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others."

To me, privacy feels empowering and something you intentionally choose to practice.

Secrecy feels—I'm not sure how to even explain this—but, a "heavy weight" that you carry out of fear.

When I have a secret, I know it weighs on me.

I also don't love the idea of secrets within intimate relationships, a place where we have the chance to understand one another on a deep emotional level and be vulnerable, not keep things hidden.

So, what's the balance then? I think it’ll be different for everyone reading this.

I believe maintaining your individuality and privacy in a relationship is great.

This may look like not sharing every single thought that comes across your mind with your partner.

It may be choosing to say "I'm having doubts about committing to you" instead of "I have thoughts that say I don't love you"—because both are true, but one stings a little more. (and don't forget—more to come on how to communicate the doubts later!)

It may be choosing to keep it to yourself that you find your next-door neighbor good looking.

It may be choosing to leave out some of the exact details of your past relationships out, making sure to focus on only things that will benefit your partner, not make them compare to your ex.

And where does it dip into secrecy? That is your judgment to make.

However, if it feels really heavy to be keeping details about your relationship anxiety from your partner, maybe it's too much to carry and it will be helpful to let them in.

I found this article really helpful in reflecting on what privacy vs. secrecy in a relationship means, maybe you will, too!

Action: consider what you just read above and ask yourself if the information you are planning to share feels like it's a secret you'd like to share, or information you prefer to keep private and to yourself for now. Everyone may have their own definition, and that's okay.




How to tell your partner about your relationship anxiety

In addition to understanding why you want to share with your partner, learning the basics about relationship doubts, and reflecting on privacy vs. secrecy, I believe there are some important considerations as you decide how to have the conversation with your partner;

  • Making sure your partner can receive the information

  • Using a soft start-up

  • Keeping the focus on you, not them

I will also break each of these down with more detail below.

Making sure your partner can receive the information

Setting the tone for this conversation is important, and a big part of setting the tone is making sure that your partner (who is a very important part of this discussion) is in a place to receive the information you're about to share.

There isn't a perfect time to bring it up, so I'm not saying delay this until you feel like things are exactly as you need them to be, however, rushing up to your partner to tell them you're having doubts about your relationship after they're walking in the door after a long stressful day at work is not going to get you the results you're craving.

Timing, location, and your partner's ability to receive the information matter.

A great way to make sure they are in a place to hold space for you is by simply asking:

"Hi [name] [babe] [love] — I've been learning more about something and I'd love to discuss it with you, is now a good time for me to share?"

Simple, yet effective.

If they say no, that doesn't mean they're a terrible person, it means they have energetic boundaries. Ask them when a better time may be, and schedule it in.

If they ask you for a "preview" of the topic, say it has to do with anxiety. Keep it simple.

And only once they have said it is a good time to chat do I recommend having the discussion.

If for some reason they are not available for days and days, but you're really looking forward to the discussion, say this is important to you and you'd really like to discuss it as soon as they have availability.

Action: use the phrase "Hi [name] [babe] [love] — I've been learning more about something and I'd love to discuss it with you, is now a good time for me to share?" if/when you decide to sit down to share your relationship doubt (or share more information if you've skimmed over some details in previous discussions that you'd like your partner to be aware of now).

Using a soft start-up

According to Gottman Institute research, using soft start-ups in a conversation typically help kick off the discussion on the "right foot" compared to harshened start-ups, which typically result in a conversation "going south."

Their research showed that tense, harsh starts to a conversation almost always resulted in tense or harsh ends to the conversation.

While there is no "bad" or "good" way to necessarily have this conversation, I think we can all agree that trying to avoid harshness or tenseness in most conversations is ideal.

So what do they mean by a soft start-up? It's about approaching a conversation with your partner in a "soft" way, as the name suggests.

The goal of a soft start-up is that your partner can receive what you are saying in a more positive way.

Here's a few examples of ways to execute a soft start up:

  • Starting the conversation by using "I" statements to share more about you and your feelings, not things about their actions or feelings (more on this below)

  • Starting the conversation by saying something kind; "I'm grateful that you're so supportive of me and willing to sit down and chat," for example

  • Use a soft-spoken tone as best as possible so your partner doesn't feel the very human need to become defensive or over-alert as a result of a "threat" to their ego

  • Weave in some vulnerability: "I may not fully get the words right here...I am a little nervous" may help them feel empathy for you and what you are about to share

Action: decide on a soft start-up to your conversation before you sit down so you feel more confident kicking off the discussion.

Keeping the focus on you, not them

You know the expression "it's not you, it's me"?

I want you to fully embody that as you approach this discussion.

Even if your pesky relationship anxiety is screaming at you "BUT, it IS about them"—there's more to the story. If you need to better understand the "more to the story"—watch this.

And, one of the goals for this conversation is, as the question suggested, to make sure your partner does NOT feel bad or scared.

Saying: "here is why I am anxious, it's related to you and XYZ thing you do, or XYZ thing you make me feel" will probably make them feel bad or scared. If nothing else, they'd feel like they're causing you to feel crappy, and assuming they care about you, they don't want you to feel that way!

Saying: "here is why I am anxious, it's related to XYZ fear of mine, and here is what I am doing to work on it…" is a TOTALLY different ball game. (and even if what you are doing to work on it so far is reading these blog posts once a week, you're ahead of the curve—celebrate that.)

Do you see how this may bring about an entirely different conversation?

One may trigger defensiveness or hurt.

The other may trigger compassion and empathy.

It's important to be intentional with the language we use in this discussion. Feel free to use some of the language in this "script" below, in the below order, if it helps you:

  1. Make sure they are available for convo first

  2. Add a soft start-up, then...

  3. Use this script if it helps:

"I have something to share with you and I'd love to say my full piece before you reply.

I've been feeling really anxious about our relationship lately, and I've come to realize it's due to a lot of internalized fear around love as a whole. [if you have specific examples, weave them in, ex: "because I saw a lot of fighting and divorce growing up" or "because my last relationship ending was really hard"]...

My anxiety is showing up as a fear of committing to THIS relationship, but from what I have learned about it, I have come to believe that these fears would show up in ANY relationship. This is called relationship anxiety, and thousands of other people are going through it.

[if you feel called, feel free to share my page or other pages you follow who discuss this to show "social proof"]

It hurts me to experience these fears and doubts because I really want this relationship to work, and I really care about you. I'm confused by these doubts and plan on doing [insert thing here; reading more blog posts about it, signing up for working with a coach/therapist, etc.] to begin working through them in more detail.

I wanted to let you know how I was feeling and share this with you, even though I knew it would be hard.

Do you have any questions for me?"

This script isn't an 100% foolproof way to have this discussion, but it's pretty dang close. I hope it helps if you choose to use it!

Action: use that script, or edit it however you see fit, and have the chat with your partner (if you want to!)

One note about sitting down to have the discussion with your partner. My hope is that they respond with curiosity, empathy and understanding, however, if they are hurt or upset initially after hearing this information—this doesn't necessarily mean they are a "bad partner" or "handled this wrong."

They may need some time to reflect and think about what they just heard before coming back and discussing it further. They may feel confused, but once they take some time to think about what you've shared, better understand it for what it is—fear.

If your partner is completely un-supportive and mean for any reason after you have communicated that your anxiety is little to do with them, and more to do with you—notice this. This doesn't mean your relationship can't work, but if you value being able to share parts of your life with someone and have them support you, it's worth noting and deciding if that works for you.




Final thoughts

I know the nerves that come from sitting down and sharing something vulnerable with your partner.

Whatever you decide to do, and however you decide to do it—I support you.

I'll repeat what I said at the beginning of the article one more time:

There is no one right way or wrong way to move forward here. There is no "perfect" way to disclose (or not disclose) your relationship anxiety. We're all different people, within different relationships—so please use your own judgment when reading this article if what I'm saying feels good, or not. Take what works with you, and skip what doesn't.

Trust yourself and trust that you know your partner better than I ever could, and move forward in the way that makes you feel good.

Sending a lot of love, and if you feel called to do so—I'd love to hear if you use any of this information and discuss with your partner!

Drop me a message in the comments to let me know how it goes, or comment below with any questions.



This post was all about telling your partner about relationship anxiety.


 If you liked this post about telling your partner about relationship anxiety, you may also like:


Moving Forward With Doubts

When You Know You... Know?

Am I Forcing It

When It Feels Like Your Mind Is Split


Here are some ways I can support you further:

1 - “is it anxiety or intuition?” webinar - I explore this question in great detail and help you build up more trust in your own inner wisdom. Purchase the replay for $27.

2 - my recent webinar replay: “is it anxiety or incompatibility?” - Helps you answer this question with more clarity and ease so you can stop questioning if your relationship is incompatible. Purchase the replay for $27.

3 - Check out my self-study course Deconstruct the Doubts, which is perfect for someone who wants to confidently choose their partner and relationship and have access to the information TODAY!

4 - Learn more about Private Coaching.