My boyfriend and I started dating a little over a year ago. The story of how we got together is a fun one, but I’m going to save that for another day. We consider our relationship a team, and we’re happy to work together and grow together on a daily basis. And thank goodness for that, because both of us have our own issues with anxiety.
We both had panic attacks before our first date. We wouldn’t disclose this information to each other until much later on in the relationship, and on that first date I had no inclination he was any more nervous than the average person would be. That’s because during our first few months together, we both work extremely hard to go on dates without our anxiety tagging along. That takes more work than I explain though, so it wasn’t too long before we had to come clean about our individual experiences with anxiety.
You could say that most dates we go on are double dates – the two of us, and our two anxiety disorders. Our anxieties are very different, but they are both present in any new situations. That includes any destination that is busy and crowded, as well as any destination we have not been to before. We don’t let it keep us from doing new things. We try new restaurants, we go out on weekends and holidays, and normally we are able to work through the individual anxiety symptoms TOGETHER and enjoy the date.
Does that all sound tiring? Because it definitely is. So naturally we look for ways to enjoy each other’s company in public without the anxiety coming along. My boyfriend’s brother works for a breakfast restaurant that has a location right in town. Everyone who works there instantly recognizes my boyfriend, and some even know him on a more personal level. The first time he took me there it was very apparent that he was at ease. I was also comfortable, and while we didn’t talk about it I think we both realized how unique and effortless the experience had been for us.
Fast forward a year and we get breakfast at that restaurant every Sunday WITHOUT our anxiety. Just the two of us. Here’s why this works so well for us:
- We’re very familiar with our surroundings – we know the area, we know the parking situation, and we know the building. That means that even on the busy days we know the ideal time to get there, the ideal places to park, and the ideal standing areas while we wait for a table to open up. This removes our tendencies to overthink, which can otherwise make it hard to communicate and heightens both of our anxiety.
- We know the people we’re interacting with – they recognize us when we walk in. We have the same waiter every single time and we actually get to have real conversations with him. Anxiety can make both of us worry that we’re being judged, which just makes us more anxious. There’s no judgement here. And when we feel safe to be ourselves, we can tell our anxiety to leave us alone.
- We have a general routine in place – we know roughly how our Sunday mornings will go. We go to breakfast, followed by the bookstore and Target. My boyfriend always eats the same breakfast, which consists of home fries, bacon, and a bagel. I will always get an iced coffee, take a second one to go, and not finish it. Of course we can’t control every aspect of the day; sometimes the other diners are rude, other times we deal with terrible drivers. But knowing the basic outline of the day helps us feel in control enough to brush off the unforeseen challenges as they come.
- The food is delicious – ok, so this isn’t really relevant, but it needs to be said. The food is amazing. The specials change every week and I get genuinely excited to see what new idea they’ve come up with for their fluffy pancakes and giant waffles.
The biggest goal when battling anxiety is to not let it win. The term “anxiety warrior” is a great one because it is a constant fight to keep control over your own life. That battle doesn’t exclude relationships. I am so thankful for a partner who is willing to fight as hard as I am to make sure we get to experience all of the beautiful things life has to offer us. However, I am also thankful for a couple hours every Sunday to not have to fight. To feel safe enough to let our guards down while still enjoying the world around us. It has helped our relationship immensely, and I recommend it to anyone whose relationship is affected by mental illness.