Anxiety and Marriage

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Anxiety and Marriage

Postby SonicCat24 » February 22nd, 2014, 6:22 am

Hi everyone. First time poster, long-time listener to Paul's podcast. I have been struggling with anxiety/depression for a little over 10 years. My anxiety manifests more mentally than physically (although I do get some physical symptoms like chronic fatigue and increased heart rate). My mind is constantly racing not allowing me to experience what is going on around me. Because I have been dealing with it for 10 years, I have learned how to get through my daily life without actually being there, mentally. I can talk to someone for hours and not remember anything they said but still appear to be on the same page as them (if that makes sense).

When I was living by myself and single, this wasn't as big a problem for me because I was free to employ my negative coping mechanisms (e.g sleeping all day, avoiding social situations, etc.) to my heart's content. But now, I have been married for 3 years and my problems are now becoming my wife's problems and it is killing our marriage. When I come home from work, I am exhausted because, again, my mind has been racing all day. All I want to do is crash on the couch and try to level my brain out. But my wife, like any normal person, wants to do something and get out of the house. Most of the time I will go along with whatever she has planned but am not there mentally the whole night. We could be out at a restaurant and, for me, I am just trying to get through it while she is trying to enjoy the evening. My act does not work on her. She can tell that I am not all there. She is very understanding of my anxiety but it is also very frustrating to her. It sounds terrible but I often dream of being single again and being able to be alone.

I have recently started taking medication for my anxiety which is something I NEVER wanted to do but I need to save my marriage and I've run out of ideas. That is how desperate I am at this point. Do any of you deal with similar issues? How does your anxiety affect your marriage/family? Thank you for reading. I look forward to reading more posts and becoming involved in the forum.

B
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Re: Anxiety and Marriage

Postby Arkay » February 22nd, 2014, 2:58 pm

I think it's important to distinguish your natural and normal limitations for activities/going out vs. shutting down due to anxiety. Wanting to stay in after an exhausting day at work doesn't sound unhealthy to me. We all have different levels of interest in wanting to go out and do stuff. Your threshold for that may just be lower than your wife's due to you being highly sensitive and/or introverted. Your wife may be energized by going out and being around people, where people like us find it draining. I think you and your wife need to find a balance of her respecting your limitations and you finding at least one time during the week when you have enough energy to go have a nice evening out together. Maybe you'll find that you can only do this on Saturdays, or maybe you feel less pressure by going out earlier in the day on weekends (we love a nice brunch date). If your wife feels fulfilled and happy by going out all the time, then she can do that without you. My husband and I do things separately all the time, and it works really well for us. A huge part of our marital success has been honoring who we really are as individuals and adjusting the expectations of what we *actually need* from one another. This may not sound very romantic, but I think it is the only way my husband and I have made it past the 10-year mark.

That said, of course my anxiety and depression has affected my relationship. Mostly it manifests for me in the form of extreme guilt that I am a drag to live with, what with all the crying and meltdowns and general failure. I need to be reminded often that I do contribute some good things to the marriage too. Also, it can also be pretty damaging to physical intimacy, although I have come to learn that that part of a marriage needs constant attention, maintenance, and care. The important thing is that you remain proactive in trying to find solutions to improve the quality of your marriage - your wife knowing you aren't just giving up is huge, and she in return can be patient as you find what solutions work best.

You don't mention other things you have tried to overcome your racing thoughts (just coping by withdrawing and being alone doesn't count), and because you said you were out of ideas, I'll share what helps me: I listen to a lot of meditation sounds/music/guided imagery. Even at work. Especially at work. I am able to wear headphones pretty much all day, so if I am having a particularly hard time, I work to binaural meditation sounds. I don't even try to meditate, but the sound filling my ears helps my brain slow down. I was medicated for anxiety and depression for many years, and it helped a lot for short periods of time, but my deeper issues kept creeping back. I'm now in therapy (CBT) without meds, but it is too early to give a verdict on that approach.

Marriage is one of the hardest things a person does in life, but also one of the most rewarding. I wish you the best. I hope things get easier for you!
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Re: Anxiety and Marriage

Postby Brooke » November 1st, 2014, 1:50 pm

I'm sorry that your anxiety is affecting your marriage... It must be so hard to feel like you have to "fake" being more active (sorry for the poor choice of words). Your wife seems like she is sympathetic, but...it seems to me like she's not sympathetic enough... I don't blame her because I'm sure she's never experienced it before and doesn't understand what you are truly going through... My husband doesn't suffer from anxiety and depression as much as I do, and he can be social and active if I want to be or if he is invited by his friends, but he would rather chill out on weekends or nights, so I'm thankful for that. I think communication is a must when it comes to marriages--you can't go on like this forever... She has no fault in this, but I don't feel like this dynamic is sustainable and it will lead to more frustrations down the road. This is your spouse who you are going to spend the rest of your life with, so you need to be able to be yourself and be vulnerable. Are you able to be vulnerable in front of her...? Not explaining the anxiety, but truly letting yourself go and showing her all of you. When there's social obligations and I can't go, I make sure that he goes and has a good time. When I'm suffering from insomnia, we sleep apart so I don't disrupt his sleep. Putting up a front never works in a healthy marriage, I believe. I think you both need to realize that marriage is a marathon and not a sprint. You two need to come up with solutions and meet in the middle. It's all about healthy sacrifices that you do for one another. I'm sure your wife doesn't want you to crumble and ask for a divorce all because of social obligations, dinners out, sleeping on the weekends, etc. You don't have to be attached at the hip and do everything together all of the time. It's healthy to have your own lives and rhythms. Sorry if I sound like an old couple, but I've learned from my past relationships that having expectations can suffocate each other. You're not "dating" anymore, you're coexisting, so there's going to be some unpleasant reality that we're going to have to face. But if there's true love, you'll make it. You'll find a way that you can both be satisfied with. No one person will get all of their ways. Good luck.
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