In his latest article for Ditch the Label, our Ambassador Max Hovey talks relationship anxiety, negative mental health stigma and why we need to be kinder to each other.
“My ex is a psycho” “They’re so needy” “I feel suffocated” “They’re so jealous” “They’re so paranoid”
I think it’s safe to say we’ve all dated someone or had a relationship with someone where these sorts of phrases have been used. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending psychopaths – but the phrase “they’re a psycho” is so overused when it comes to dating, and so often creates a pretty negative stigma on genuine mental health issues.
So, what do I mean by this?
I’m speaking from my own experiences about this topic. I myself have not had any of those things said to me specifically, but I know that people I have dated could quite easily use these phrases when talking about me. As many of you know, I went through therapy earlier this year. This was due to severe relationship anxiety.
Prior to this year, my anxiety, paranoia and co-dependent mindset would lead me to be openly paranoid towards the person I was dating. I would blame my insecurities on them, I would be confrontational and cause arguments about topics that were not actually their fault. After going through therapy, I am now more conscious and aware when I am becoming paranoid, and have learned to deal with it in my own way – without projecting it onto my partner.
Co-dependence is not a healthy way to build a relationship, as your partner may feel suffocated and controlled. However, I myself know how this kind of behaviour develops. The important thing is to stop shaming people who may have these kinds of insecurities. The first step is to recognise if you are becoming co-dependent or experiencing relationship anxiety.
Spotting the signs:
Can become anxious when your other half is busy or not responding to you.
May have a fear of being abandoned
Social media can make you feel worried by checking activity etc.
Scared about the pace of the relationship; setting goalposts and being hurt when they’re not met.
Fear of rejection.
Overanalysing text messages
These are all things that I have experienced and can become like a fog that takes over – controlling your behaviour and dominating your thought process. The first step is to recognise the problem. Knowing that your behaviour may be unhealthy and lead to self-destructive actions will lead to you wanting to help yourself. This landed me in therapy, where I spoke openly about my issues, learned where they stemmed from and was taught techniques on how to overcome them.
I have now had opportunities to put this into practice and am now able to take conscious steps towards building a healthy relationship. I am under no illusion that I am cured or will never experience this kind of anxiety again, I still do to this day. However, I am now able to stop my thought process in its tracks, be kind to myself and handle things in my own way (whilst discussing my concerns with my best friend, as she checks my worst impulses).
The rest of the responsibility lies with the other kind of partner, someone who is secure. I get how it can feel, especially when your co-dependent partner doesn’t actively recognise their insecurities. However, branding people with these sorts of negative terms will be even worse for their self-esteem in the long-run; especially if they already have an active critical inner-voice.
We need to learn to be more understanding of each-other. I’m more than guilty of reacting negatively to people’s actions and sometimes it’s necessary to call people out on their bullshit. However, this kind of issue is a two-way street.
If someone is emotionally unavailable, it is our responsibility to recognise this and take a step back. It is also the responsibility of the emotionally unavailable individual to recognise their inhibiting behaviour and to not seek romantic connections with people knowing full well that they do not have the emotional capacity to currently do so.
If someone is insecure and co-dependent, it is our responsibility to approach this carefully and with sensitivity, not with confrontation and name-calling. It is also the responsibility of the co-dependent person to recognise their negative behaviour and take active steps to work on their mental state.
Everyone in situations like these have stuff they should work on, there’s no doubt about that, and the thing is, most people don’t even recognise when they are in it. If this resonates, from either perspective, it may be time to take a step back and have a think about why it does. The thing with relationship anxiety is that there are always real feelings involved, and it should never be on your agenda to hurt those feelings.
For more from Max, check out his Instagram @max_hovey