Marriage often brings two different people who work together to become one, and in so doing, there is some growth between the two people. My husband, with his calm demeanor, has helped me tremendously with my anxiety, while I, with my organization and administration, have helped him to plan better. However, if we’re not careful, we can let anxiety put a wedge in between our marriage. Our previous coping mechanisms can isolate us, and can confuse our spouse, especially if he or she does not struggle with anxiety.
Before I met Lenny, I believed that my husband would cure my anxiety. For those who are single and waiting for a man to fix you, read this carefully: Marriage does not fix you. Only God can take your brokenness, redeem you, and make you new. But for those who are married, God can use your husband, however great or however flawed he is, to help in that sanctification process.
You cannot rely on another person to fix your anxiety. While therapists, friends, and family can help, you still need to deal with your anxiety yourself. No one can make you stop believing lies; only you can. No one can control you when you have a panic attack; only you can. The only difference between being married and single is, now you have to be open with your spouse about your anxiety, and see how God uses him/her to help you overcome it.
While anxiety has consumed less of my life in the last couple of years, here are some practical ways to be open with your spouse about your struggle with anxiety:
- Be clear with your spouse about your fears, triggers, etc. If you have been following along with this blog long enough, you have dealt with your triggers, so you know how to communicate them with your spouse. Your spouse may not understand right away, so he/she might need a reminder. I’ve told my husband about my obsessive thoughts, and it didn’t click with him until I was telling him about another person who had the same disorder. Suddenly, my anxiety made sense to him. He said, “Oh, is that why you do such and such?” If you have specific coping mechanisms, tell them to your spouse, especially if they involve what to do in the middle of a panic attack. Although you may be tempted to isolate yourself when anxiety strikes, you can’t do that anymore. You need to let your spouse into your pain. I’ll warn you, it is not an easy process, but it will help you both become one in your journey together.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. For most people, anxiety is like a physical ailment. When I’ve had an anxiety-inducing day, the last thing I want to do is be around people. I don’t want to be exposed to more anxiety. If I know a situation is going to bring me into panic, I tell my husband I can’t do it. He understands, and he advocates for me.
- Be flexible when you can’t say no. We both have family in Florida (a plane ride, or a ridiculous drive, away). I hate planes, as they give me debilitating anxiety, but I can’t let that be an excuse not to see my family. If my husband has a work event, or a family gathering where I have to be, and I’m not able to say no, I kind of have to suck it up. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. Remember that you have to be there for your spouse, and take the focus off of yourself. Now, if you are forced to go to an obligation, plan ahead. If you have an anxiety-inducing event on Tuesday, take it easy on Monday or Wednesday.
Don’t let anxiety creep into your marriage. Bring your anxiety to God, and then to your spouse, to find healing and to become one in your marriage.