Black Woman Holding Her Head In Her Hands -What A Blue Fish Tells You About Your Anxiety - Sandra Harewood Counselling

How To Tell If Your Relationship Is Causing Your Anxiety

If the story of your relationship (maybe it feels more like a drama) is punctuated with problematic narcissistic behaviours, sadly, anxiety will likely also play a part.

I often write about a book that I have read or a film I’ve watched. That’s because I find that books, films and popular culture reflect life.  The ancient Egyptians and Greeks knew a thing or two about that!

A Star is Born is promoted as a love story, but actually, it’s about a lack of love for self and others. It’s the modern-day story of Narcissus and Echo.

This week, I watched another film, Finding Nemo, about a father trying to find his lost son. What does that have to do with narcissistic relationships?  Do I think Merlin is a narcissistic fish? No!

Yet, the dance between anxiety and controlling behaviours and the impact of that is in the story.

When you are clear about the difference between behaviours that show genuine care as opposed to problematic behaviours, then you can take steps to lift yourself out of the anxious fog.

One of the ways of getting clear is by paying attention to your body and how you feel.  On an unconscious level, your anxiety might be letting you know that something is ‘off’ and isn’t right.

Anxiety Driving Control

Merlin is nervous, anxious and scared, perhaps understandably so. He has suffered a trauma. But even though there’s a caring side to Merlin, his overprotection driven by anxiety shows up as controlling.

Fear drives him to attempt to stop his son from having a life of his own. His desire to protect stifles Nemo’s curiosity, sense of adventure, education and friendships. In the end, Merlin’s efforts to keep Nemo close, which in effect isolate him, are what eventually drives Nemo away.

And that’s sometimes what happens; behaviour that at the beginning of a relationship seems sweet, helpful or caring, when it persists, can be controlling.

Have you experienced:

  1. A partner who encourages you to spend less time with certain friends and family because they’re concerned that ‘they don’t have your best interests at heart.’, not leaving it to your judgement to discern.
  2. Receiving a lot of messages when you’re out without them and reacting strongly when you don’t respond immediately.
  3. He or she is turning up at your home or workplace at unexpected times.
  4. A partner who is often jealous.
  5. Overprotectiveness is reinforced by inappropriate behaviour.

Anxiety & Forgetting

Then there is Dory.  She experiences short-term memory loss.  She forgets where she is most of the time and what has been said to her. But when she remembers, she shows a feisty and vibrant spirit.

Who knows why this character is forgetful, but this type of forgetting is a form of dissociation. And at the root of dissociation is high levels of anxiety.

Dissociation is part of the body’s flight-fight response.  It’s a defence mechanism.  It shows up because you are fearful, and it shows up in many different ways.  In dysfunctional relationships, you might find it difficult to remember the details or anything about painful or traumatic events.  This leaves you vulnerable to being at the receiving end of more of the same narcissistic behaviours.

When you are dissociated, you are not present in what is going on in your life.  You’re literally out of your body; you’ve checked out to avoid the pain.

Two Anxious Souls

So, in Finding Nemo, there are two anxious souls.  One is so scared of life that he tries to control it, and the other is dissociated and forgets where she is going, what she is doing and who she is.

This is one of the dynamics of a narcissistic relationship.

Deep Down What Are You Anxious About?

In an emotionally abusive relationship, there is an undertone of anxiety.  One way or another, the anxiety is there. When another person is continually attempting to control you, you’re going to feel less in control of yourself.

That’s anxiety-making.

You feel as if you are swimming around in the ocean. It’s challenging to be centred and grounded in your truth and who you are when you can’t remember.

Your anxiety might be triggered because of:

  • Not knowing what your partner will do next, you’re not in control
  • Guilt triggered by feelings of being less than
  • Worries about being humiliated or hurt
  • The dread of being abandoned and rejected
  • Anxiety about what people will think about you
  • Self-doubt because of the manipulation and gaslighting
  • Trying to make sense of conversations that do not make sense
  • Concerns about how your children are being treated and their wellbeing
  • Feeling unsafe
  • Feeling shame

An Old Familiar Story

Some of these anxious feelings go back to childhood.  If you experienced inconsistent parenting, seen or suffered abuse, neglect or abandonment, your body will remember the anxious feelings associated with these experiences.  Now, when something feels uncomfortable or scary, these wounds get triggered, too, and so does your anxiety.

Becoming familiar with your body and how it feels is an essential tool in managing your anxiety. In my next post, I’ll tell you why and how to do this.

Over To You

Does your relationship leave you feeling anxious and treading on eggshells? Counselling is a safe space where you can discover tools to manage your anxiety. If you want to explore how anxiety plays out in your life, get in touch and book your first counselling appointment.

Or call me today on 07535 864836.

Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.


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© Sandra Harewood

About Sandra

Soul Centred couples counsellor Sandra Harewood specialises in working with couples and single women with childhood wounding that impacts their adult relationships. Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore and discover creative solutions to their difficulties and create great relationships.