The Scoop: A lot of advice out there tells daters how to get rid of anxiety in dating. Dr. Chloe Carmichael has a different approach – she wants you to embrace it. Dr. Chloe is a clinical psychologist, author, and speaker who specializes in helping individuals and couples understand their anxiety and channel it in constructive ways. She talked to us about why anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing and how individuals can use and appreciate their anxiety to effect desired and meaningful transformation. 

Everyone experiences the feeling of anxiety, and oftentimes, this feeling can protect or serve us. As a person who’s done their fair share of backcountry pursuits, I can tell you that a sense of anxiety has definitely kept me safe. 

It’s good to feel anxious while climbing a steep incline with no trail shoulder, and you better hope you feel anxious when you’re deciding whether a bear-proof setup is bear-proof enough. Anxiety can give us information about what may be dangerous and what we should do to protect ourselves. But when it goes unchecked, anxiety can cause serious issues.

In relationships, unchecked anxiety can swiftly wreak havoc on communication and connection. Dr. Chloe Carmichael is a clinical psychologist, speaker, author, and expert on the function and purpose of anxiety in relationships. Anxiety is often framed as something that needs to be done away with, often because it can cause so much pain for the people who experience it. 

Dr. Chloe has forged another way of understanding and handling anxiety, and it’s one that considers anxiety’s power when it’s put through the proper channel. Dr. Chloe talked to us about anxiety, how it manifests in dating, and what singles and coupled folks can do to navigate their anxiety constructively. 

“The presence of anxiety in relationships and the self in and of itself isn’t bad,” Dr. Chloe said. “The healthy function of anxiety is to demonstrate preparation behavior. A completely complacent person would never take action to change their situation, so some sense of anxiety is necessary for change.”

Anxiety Itself Isn’t Bad – It’s How You Use It

Anxiety can be a signal that change is necessary, and it’s time to prepare for it. Oftentimes, people feel anxiety around goals and other positive desires they have for their lives and relationships. 

“People who have a healthy awareness of their dating goals will feel a healthy pressure to achieve them, and probably under some time constraints,” Dr. Chloe said. If a person’s ultimate dating goal is to be married and have children, she said they are right to be aware of the timeline.

“Or, just because they’re excited to get to this part of their lives,” she added. “Whatever it is, they’re ready. And that should stimulate them to start going on a certain number of dates or start having those big or difficult conversations with their partner.”

When people handle anxiety constructively, it creates the desired change in their lives. It helps them take the proper steps to initiate and prepare for the change and then ultimately make it. Problems arise when individuals are unable to take action to change their situation and do something else with their anxiety.

dr. chloe carmichael quote
Anxiety can tell us important information about our situation and desires.

“If people don’t know how to handle anxiety constructively, they might try to ignore it or think it’s something to be ashamed of,” Dr. Chloe explained. “Then they deprive themselves of the healthy stimulation that anxiety is supposed to bring.”

If someone feels ashamed of their anxiety, they may always stay on the sidelines and not actively participate in their own life and relationships. “Some people feel pressure is bad, so they deny they feel any pressure, which is really just not serving them.”

Anxiety, like any emotion, demands to be felt, but it can’t take the driver’s seat. Dr. Chloe said it’s about finding the balance and allowing anxiety to be a constructive and manageable emotion. In relationships, this can be extra complicated since the feelings – and anxieties – of two people are involved.

Dr. Chloe’s Techniques for Channeling Anxious Energy

Each partner brings their past experiences to a relationship, for better or for worse. “Most people have issues in their past, or vulnerabilities, or debt, or family issues, or mental health concerns,” Dr. Chloe said. “Then they can have anxiety, a kind of abandonment, or a fear, or what will happen if they get close or are vulnerable.”

Dr. Chloe said part of managing anxiety around vulnerability is pacing the amount of deep emotional bonding that occurs at the beginning of relationships. “People should open up in a gradual manner because it shouldn’t be a black-and-white event, where one moment you’re casually dating, and the next they know everything about you.”

It’s essential to eventually be vulnerable with a partner, especially if you see the potential for a long-term relationship with them. Anxiety around this area is a sign this may be difficult for you, and it’s time to prepare. 

couples manage anxiety
Dr. Chloe said communication is essential for couples to manage anxiety.

Part of handling anxiety in a relationship is communicating that anxiety to your partner, which in itself can be a struggle. Many people experience anxiety around communicating their issues within a relationship. Dr. Chloe told us about her WAIT system, which she developed to help people share their personal experiences with partners.

“‘W’ is for want, which means you should want to share these things about yourself,” she explained. “‘A’ is for appropriate. It should be at an appropriate time and place. ‘I’ is for inoculation. Give them some time to think about this information. And ‘T’ is for trust. Trust is built up over time.”

Dr. Chloe said since trust is built over time, it’s best to share topics that may bring anxiety with people you can trust. Make sure the person you’re dating is routinely kind, compassionate, and honest before trusting them with sensitive information. It makes the process easier for both of you.

Embrace Vulnerability & Find True Intimacy

If you’re a person who deals with anxiety in relationships (A.K.A.– a human!), Dr. Chloe’s books have invaluable insights and helpful resources designed to help you overcome the negative aspects of anxiety and learn to channel the best ones.

Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety” is Dr. Chloe’s most recent book. The book was released in 2021 and combines therapeutic tools with engaging storytelling to create an all-in-one resource for people looking to understand their anxiety.

The book includes a breakdown of three common nervous energy profiles, step-by-step directions for implementing constructive anxiety-channeling tools, and real-life stories of people overcoming anxiety.

dr. chloe carmichael books
Dr. Chloe’s books offer invaluable insights for anxious daters.

Dr. Chloe’s 10 Commandments of Dating” is a great place to start for daters who are ready to embrace secure relationships. Each relationship will present different struggles for the people involved, and Dr. Chloe said communication remains massively important in ensuring each partner feels seen and heard.

“I always advocate talking about it,” Dr. Chloe told us. “If you don’t talk about it, you’ll never be able to resolve it. Talking about it can be stressful because a conversation can change the situation, but if you can’t talk to your partner about something, it’s not much of a partnership.”

Dr. Chloe said that dating anxiety is common, and her advice may not be the easiest for anxious daters to hear. Sometimes, the best things are waiting for us just outside of our comfort zone.

“Some people should realize that they don’t have to be comfortable in order to date,” Dr. Chloe said. “Sometimes it’s the cart ahead of the horse. You become comfortable enough to do it by doing it. I tell those people to just say to themselves they don’t feel comfortable– and do it anyway.”