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Security Protocols: How Adding Protocols to Your Relationship May Reduce Anxiety

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate that nearly one in three adults will experince an anxiety disorder at some point in thier lifetime. Post-2020, these numbers increased significantly, although the current data on percentage of adults formally diagnosed with anxiety have yet to catch up with self-report polls. This makes anxiety the most common mental health concern among adults.

Anxiety can have negative impacts on our relationships. It may manifest in a variety of ways: doubting a partner's feelings to you, withdrawing from relationships, overly focues on the idea you will break up, and even sabotaging your relationship. Recognizing and understanding the basics about anxiet is a good start to navigate it in personal relationships. Introducing certain protocols can significantly help reduce the anxiety you or a partner feels.

Recognizing Anxiety

Clinical anxiety is differnt than just feeling nervous or uneasy about something. Everyone experiences some normal anxiety. When we face a novel situation, when we have an important meaning, and pending difficult conversations cause most of us some anxious feelilngs. Clinical anxiety differs in that these feeling may not be connected to any specific stimuli or situation (generalized anxiety). The anxious feelings may interfer with daily functioning or cause significant alteration in our behaviors. Sometimes these behavioral changes can be crippling (e.g., avoiding all public gatherings, never engaging in difficult conversations).

There are some common behaviors which can indicate you or a partner may be experience significant anxiety:

  • Feeling nervous or restless

  • Sense of impending doom or panic

  • Uncontrollable worry

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Stomach problems, rapid heart rate, fast breathing

  • Avoidng situations and people who may trigger anxiety

These feelings may be associted with a specific trigger e.g., (large social gatherings), with certain people, or with nothing in particular. Anxiety is not unique to a gender, age, or BDSM role. Anyone, any kink identity, can experience anxiety. This isn't just an issue for female submissives.

Anyone, any kink identity, can experience anxiety. This isn't just an issue for female submissives.

Manifestations of Anxiety in Relationships

Anxiety may be specifically related to your relationship or partner or it may not. Regardless of the souce of anxeity, it may impact your relationship. There are some common ways anxiety impacts intimate relationships.

Doubiting Your Partner's Feelings for You

If you find yourself (or your partner) constantly questioning feelings in the relationship, there is a big chance anxiety is undercutting your relationship. You (or your partner) can only tell if the anxiety is based in reality if you have an honest conversation about the relationship. Talk to each other and be honest about your feelings. If you are the person experiencing anxiety, try taking your partner at their word.

If you have the conversation and still question your partner's feelings, ask yourself why.

  • Does your partner exhibit behaviors which make you question their feelings?

  • Can you specifically name the behaviors which make you anxious?

  • Do they regularly ignore you?

  • Do they respect your boundaries?

  • Are you experieincing a change or decline in the physical relationship?

The more specific you can be about identifying why you feel a partner's feelings may be questionable, the more specific you can be when speaking with them. If you "just don't think they want to be with you" the chance that anxiety is hijacking your brain is higher than if you have specifics. Specifics can also be addressed and fixed or changed in many cases.

Always Worrying About Breaking Up

If you find your partner (or you) constantly worries about breaking up, this can be a sign of anxiety. I cam across an old quote, "Anxiety is meditating on bullshit." An anxious brain is constantly trying to prepare for the worst. In relationships, this often means breaking up the partnership. Ask yourself if there are real signs of incompatability or if you are worrying to worry.

Sabotaging the Relationship

In a severe form of anxiety manifestation, you (or a partner) may try to sabotage your relationship. Fearing that the relationship will inevitably end, you (or your partner) start to engge in behaviors which will negatively impact the relationship. When a partner responds to these behaviors in a predictably negative way, the anxious partner takes is as "proof" their anxious feelings were justified.

Relationship-sabotage can look like:

  • Pushing your parnter away

  • Withdrawing from the relationship

  • Picking fights

  • Constant cancelling of plans

How To Talk to Your Parnter About Anxiety

If you feel anxious or your partner is demonstrating anxiety which is impacting your relationship, you need to talk about this. However, having conversations about mental health and feeling bad about a relationship can cause anxiety in itself! So, how do you go about having a productive relationship>?

Find a safe time and space to talk. Anxiety can make these conversations tense and difficult. Finding a time and place to allow for a productive conversation is key. Make sure you are in "neutral" territory. Avoid bedrooms and other spaces which can be charged when it ccomes to talking intimacy and connection. Make sure you have time where you won't be interrupted by kids doing homework, roommates, or other distractions. Finally, turn off other distractions like social media feeds and televisions.

Schedule a Talk.

Don't surprise a partner with a talk out of the blue. Letting your partner know you want to talk about your (or their) anxiety at a specific time will allow both of you to mentally get into a head space to talk about a serious issue. Avoid being vague about a date and time. Providing a specific date and time to talk will help reduce the anxiety about the conversation itself.

Bring Specifics

Anxiety is fed by vagueness. Overly general statements like "I'm worried about us," or "Things just don't click" don't provide an anxious person much to work with. Naming the issue "I feel anxious about our relationship" along with actionable items "because we haven't had sex in three weeks" provides both partners specific behaviours they can address. The act of naming what is causing the anxiety alone can help diffuse it.

If you have a hard time pinning down why you feel anxious, ask yourself when you feel secure in the relationship. What is it about this relationship which makes you feel safe and like it is worth continuing. Once you have that, you may be able to pick out the behaviors (if any) which lead to anxiety. If there are no anxiety-causing behaviors, consider talking about how you both expresse love. It may be simple missing communications.

Ways to Address Anxiety

Managing anxiety often takes a multi-prong approach. Medication, mindfulness, and protocols can all help manage or alleviate anxiety.


There are several effective medications for managing anxiety. A licensed medical pratictioner will need to prescribe these. Luckily, your primary doctor (or nurse practitioner) can prescribe these medications so you don't have to find a psychiatrist before getting help. There are three classes of anti-anxiety medications. It may take a few tries to find one which works for you. If you feel a lot of anxiety and find it impacts your life or your sleep, it is worth having a conversation with a doctor.


A variety of mindfulness practices have been demonstrated to improve the mental health of people with anxiety. The three most effective mindfulness practices for anxiety are:

  • Meditation

  • Gratitude Practices

  • Breathing

There are a variety of meditation styles so you can find one which works for you. I suggest checking out the Greater Good Into Action site through UC Berkeley to help you learn about meditation and find free guided meditation recordings.

Concious Breakting

When we are anxious we tend to change our brethaing. Our breath becomes shallow and fast. Taking slow, focused breaths even for just a couple of minutes will help calm your brain. Try inhaling for a count of six, pause for a count of two, exhale for a count of four, pause for a count of two, repeat. Do this for one to two minutes and you will feel your body relax and your stress level lessen.


Protocols are rules or rituals people who practice BDSM/kink engage in within a relationship. Protocols can cover a huge variety of behaviors. They may be employed to help partners feel more secure within their partnership.

When crafting protocols to reduce anxiety, you need to begin by identifying the things which you or a partner worry about. For about a week, have the anxious partner keep a journal or list of times they worried about the relationship or felt anxious. Note the time of day, what you are doing, when you last ate, and what you worry about. After a few days, patterns will start to appear.

Anxiety Tracker Worksheet (Downloadable)

anxiety tracker
Download PDF • 70KB

At the end of the week, go through the list/journal and note what repeats.

  • Are you always ancxious around 5:30 PM, after work and when you are hungry?

  • Are you anxious when you have sent a text and your partner does not reply immediately?

  • Are you anxious before bed when your partner is not there and you are alone with your thoughts?

  • Are all your thoughts about your partner cheating?

Whatever the results, you will have clues about what could reduce the anxiety. Make sure the protocol addresses the concern.


You notice you feel most anxious when you haven't eaten for a long time. Low blood sugar can trigger anxiety. If you regularly forget to eat, consider agreeing with your parnter to set an alarm for lunch and "requiring" you text the D-type to confirm you have eaten.

You notice you worry about your partner cheating when they are on a business trip. Consider asking them to check in via text or phone call in the evening and re-assure you they are safe and not cheating.

Your partner gets anxious when you leave a text message unanswered for several hours. Consider incorporating an agreement that both of you will acknowledge a text within a time frame which reasonably accomodates work and family demands.

Protocols like these are often tria;-and-error. Once you have settled on a protocol to try, set a time period to try it. After a few weeks or a few months (depending on the protocol and your relationship dynamic), agree to sit down and evaluate how it worked for both of you. Make adjustments as necessary.

Anxiety doesn't have to be a relationship ender. It can be trying to live with it. However, talking about it and finding ways to help manage your (or your partner's) anxiety can greatly improve the quality of the relationship.

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