The moment someone feels that their relationship is stuck, or they are struggling to overcome challenges that are holding back their marriage from being something more, one of the first thoughts that many couples have is “we should look into couples counseling.”

Couples counseling is a highly effective, extensively researched way for couples to learn to communicate, work through their problems, and grow. But what we as therapists often find is that the problem isn’t always the couple as a unit. Rather, it can often be individual struggles that a person is dealing with that stand in the way of both partners’ happiness.

Anxiety and Relationships

Some people have a fear of commitment. Others have trauma from their past. Others need to learn how to accept love from someone. Some people need help examining their beliefs about relationships in order to address them effectively.

Yet for some people, the issue isn’t necessarily about the relationship at all. An example of this is anxiety. Anxiety is an overwhelming mental health condition. A person struggles with restlessness, rapid thoughts, stomach issues, sweating, nervousness, and general unease. If the person has a condition like panic disorder, then they are also frequently experiencing bouts of severe anxiety that leave them drained, empty, and inside their own mind.

“Lots of times when we see a patient that is struggling with intimacy issues, arousal, or isn’t able to focus on their partner’s needs, we also find that they struggle with anxiety” says Dr. Marc Shulman, a psychologist on Long Island that provides couples counseling and anxiety therapy. “We can support them through their relationship, but we still need to address the anxiety individually so that they can give and receive love better with their partner.”

While we often talk about the symptoms of anxiety and how they affect the individual, anxiety can also affect a person in a way that alters the relationship as well. Anxiety causes:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness/Insomnia
  • Poor Libido or Premature Ejaculation
  • Forgetfulness

Anxiety can make it easy to get overwhelmed, it can make it harder to communicate, and it can make it harder to feel happy.

“Anxiety is a constant distraction,” says Dr. Sadi Fox. a psychologist and couples counselor with Flourish Psychology in Brooklyn. “If someone is frequently distracted by and affected by their anxiety, it’s easy to understand why their relationship – especially the parts that require positive feelings, like intimacy, become more difficult for a person to manage.”

Dr. Sehdev, a psychiatrist in Dallas that specializes in anxiety, sexual dysfunction, and TMS therapy, notes that intimacy, specifically, is often affected by anxiety. “One of the medications that we might prescribe for some types of sexual dysfunction are the same medications used to treat anxiety and depression, such as SSRIs.” If the person’s relationship is being affected by intimacy, anxiety is often one of the first places we look.

The Complexity of Relationships

I specialize in individual relationship counseling. This type of therapy involves working with someone as an individual, with the idea and goal of helping the person with their own individual needs so that they can really give themselves to relationships better.

While there is a space for couples to work together, it’s important to remember that relationships are made up of two individuals, each with their own needs. There are many situations in which it is best to work with both partners together, but there are also many situations where the best approach is to address each couple individually, because each one needs a space they can share, grow, and address their own issues.

Anxiety may only be one of these many issues, but it does serve as an example of how relationships are complex, and how often growing as a couple means also addressing specific challenges that you face as individuals. If you’d like to learn more about individual relationship therapy, please contact me today.