“When we can stand face-to-face with another human being in all of our anxiety, and we don’t have to try to run or hide from it, that is the beginning of a true relational connection.”
One of the areas of life that we often tend to experience the most anxiety is in relationships. And what we allow that anxiety to do to us in those relationships is a matter of us growing relationally, or regressing relationally.
A lot of us when we experience anxiety in a marriage for example, we tend to run from it. We avoid topics that might cause conflict (i.e. money, parenting, sex, faith). We might even just start living our own life, relationally detached, even though we are in a marriage.
Anxiety can often keep us from being differentiated in a relationship because we are so afraid of losing ourselves, that we would rather withdraw than to face the conflict that anxiety may bring about. I mention this in my book The Anxious Christian when I quote marriage therapist David Schnarch:
Another definition of differentiation is the ability to maintain a clear sense of self in close proximity to a partner. The higher level of differentiation, the closer you can get to your partner, because you’re not afraid of losing yourself. It gives you a solid but permeable self, which allows you to make a decision to be influenced and to change (as opposed to having to change to stay on good terms with your partner). At high levels of differentiation, what your partner wants in his/her life becomes as important to you as what you want.” (The Anxious Christian, pp. 159, quoting David Schnarch in an article, The Sexual Crucible and Imago Relationship Therapy: Two Approaches to Marital Counseling).
What do you do in relationships when you experience anxiety?
This post is the ninth in a continuing series on the book The Anxious Christian and the topic of transforming your anxiety.
[image by Munir Hamdan]