Roughly 15 million Americas - around 7.5 million unmarried couples – made the decision to move in together in the same home in 2009, the US Census Bureau says.
If you’re cautious about potentially moving in with a girlfriend, boyfriend, partner or spouse because of your anxiety, you’re not alone. At least 40 million adults, or a little over 18 percent of the population in the United States, struggle with a diagnosed anxiety disorder.
While this mental illness is one of the most treatable, especially if treatment begins early, it also means that normal life changes are more stressful and emotionally-charged.
Keeping control of anxiety during major life changes, such as starting a new job to beginning a new relationship, requires a very specific and intentional state of mind. This is especially true when you’re thinking about moving in together.
Throughout the move-in process, you should do everything you can to maintain a calm, smooth level as often as you can. Big life changes can be incredibly stressful and extremely wonderful. If you battle with an anxiety disorder, this guide will provide a few scenarios for you to consider, along with four coping techniques to help you through the roughest parts.
1. Think Ahead
Work to understand, together, why you’re encouraged to move in together. Once you have a clear understanding, you’ll have a better grasp of how to plan the move and form realistic expectations.
A lot of anxiety will come from facing the unknown. Set aside time to talk with your partner and decide, together, what you need to be on the same page about. Brainstorm ways to give certainty to the unknown by:
Agreeing on a realistic time frame for the move that you’re both comfortable with.
Sketching out a list of common triggers for your anxiety, as well as effective ways to deal with them together.
Decide on locations and areas you both want to live in and can afford.
Figure out how much space you need and create a list of items you’re willing to throw away and a list of items you’re going to keep.
Create a fair budget for the move and living together. Money is a huge reason couples argue and break up. Talking about it before you start to pack is a great way to ease anxiety.
Understand what the move might mean for your future – even if there is no rush to any sort of finish line.
2. Develop a Positive Attitude
Once you’ve planned your move, there are still no guarantee things will go smoothly. You have to be okay with the fact that you and your partner can’t control everything. When you feel overwhelmed by all of the things that might go wrong, think about everything that could go right.
Imagine the opposite scenario for each negative thought that races through your mind. What would it be like if this didn’t happen, but a completely wonderful thing happened instead? This is a great way to pull yourself out an anxious spiral and get excited for good times to come.
Things are bound to go wrong. Your partner might dislike your couch or have too many books to fit into a space you both can afford.
Movers might show up late. The house you love might get taken just as you were writing the check for the deposit. Just remember – these aren’t deal breakers. A couch is just a material possession, and a new one is an excuse for some fun housewarming shopping.
If you accept from the beginning that moving day might have a few mishaps, you’ll be one step closer to facing anxiety with a positive attitude.
3. Equip Your Anxiety Arsenal with Appropriate Tools
No one understands your anxiety better than you. This means that you are the best person to plan for potential triggers and prepare your partner and yourself to deal with them. Write out a list of positive coping mechanisms, maybe even some you can do together, and when you start to feel anxiety coming on, keep these tips in mind:
Practice mindful breathing to help lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Soothing physical symptoms of anxiety might also help ease your mind.
Get a relaxing massage, facial, or take a yoga class. Do something encourages you to take it easy and unwind your mind.
Exercise. The activity will give you a big boost of endorphins, which elevates your levels of happiness and pleasure.
Remember difficult times you’ve gone through, whether as a couple or as an individual. Tell yourself that you are strong enough to handle whatever is thrown your way.
Chat with your therapist or counselor. Often, just saying the words that express your feelings aloud can help settle your anxiety. If you know this transition could upset your sense of balance, you might want to plan out a few extra sessions.
Team up with your partner to solve problems and be proactive. If you can’t solve anxiety-inducing situations, don’t hold on to them. Give yourself permission to let a few things go.
4. Speak Open and Honestly
Keep a running tab on the things you feel anxious about and remember to give yourself time and space to think about why they bother you. Just keep asking yourself, “Why am I afraid of this?” or “Why do I think this will happen?” Share your list with your partner and ask him or her to add to it. Even if they don’t struggle with an anxiety disorder, they will probably have a few things to contribute.
Don’t bottle up your emotions or convince yourself to deal with them on your own. This will cause them to fester and grow. Be honest about how you’re feeling and listen closely to your partner’s responses. Develop ways to communicate that allow you both to feel positive about the results.
Big life changes, such as moving in with a partner, can be really stressful. The good news, however, is that you’re not alone. Be open and honest with your partner about your experiences so that you can create a positive support system.