These tips on how to cope with the panic and anxiety you feel when you think about ending your relationship are inspired by a reader’s dilemma.
She has wanted to leave her common-law husband for six years, and says:
“I’ve been in a serious relationship for the past 9 years; for the last 6 years, I’ve doubted whether I want to be with him. About six months ago, we broke up for just 2 days, and I experienced my first horrible and frightening panic attack. I was physically ill and had no emotional control. Because of that panic attack, I continue to be with him. I don’t want to experience that loss of control again. I know it’s because I have experienced much loss in my past. I’m so afraid to go through it again. Plus, he would be devastated. He’s a wonderful and kind man. I’m not in love with him. I never was. I’ve become so accustomed to this limbo life. Year after year, I promise myself that the relationship will end. I’m so disappointed in myself. I feel weak. I fear having the talk with him, feeling the pain, seeing him pack things up, feeling the loss of him for days, wondering if I made the right decision. Too much to bear sometimes. Any words of advice would be much appreciated.”
Actually, it wasn’t the breakup six months ago that is making her stay in the relationship. She’s been stuck with her partner for the past six years. To see the rest of her comment, read How to End a Relationship When You’re Scared to Be Alone.
If you’re in the same boat – you feel panicked and anxious at the thought of leaving your relationship – please think about reading I Need Your Love – Is That True?: How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation. You are believing your thoughts, which is causing these feelings of panic, fear, and anxiety. Byron Katie’s tips will help you challenge your thoughts, which will help you break through this state of limbo and paralysis.
Get to the root of the problem
It’s not panic attacks, fears, and anxieties that are keeping you from leaving your relationship. The panic attacks are a symptom of an underlying problem. What’s the real problem – what is triggering the panic attacks? You mentioned fear of loss, and you found my article about fear of being alone. You may need to start working on how to cope with the loss of a relationship, so you can move on with your life.
Find the right support
Find a counsellor or support group to help you isolate what is holding you back, and deal with those fears. If you panic at the thought of leaving your relationship because you fear you’ll never find love again, then you might want to learn how to live without intimate love. After all, you’re already living without love, aren’t you?
This is the “second home” I’m referring to above. Your second home can be a support group, a mentor, your family, a book, a blog, or someone like Byron Katie who can help you challenge your beliefs.
Remember that the worst is often more bearable than you think
I’m working towards my Master’s of Social Work at UBC; my practicum is with the Alzheimer Society. My favourite responsibility is to be part of the support groups – and one of those support groups is for spouses who are taking care of their partners who have Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the gentlemen in this group said he feared so much about the disease, and the worst has happened to him. He’s facing situations he never dreamed he’d have to cope with, such as his wife getting lost inside their house and panicking because she couldn’t find their bedroom. He said the thought of the worst that could happen is worse than reality. In reality, he’s coping with his worst fears because he has no choice.
You have a choice
Your choice is to stay in a loveless relationship, or let your fears and anxiety control you. You’ve been letting your fear control you for years – your choice has always been to stay paralyzed in your relationship.
Or, you could choose to throw yourself off the cliff. You could choose to trust yourself, God, your loved ones, the Universe, and your survival instinct to save you.
When was the last time you took a risk? How did it work out for you? What did you learn?
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For more tips, read How to Find the Strength to Get Out of a Bad Relationship.