It didn't take long for my partner and I to realize that we needed certain things from each other in order to make our relationship work. I needed him to understand that every Sunday I'd be watching the Seattle Seahawks, and he needed me to understand that he'd be watching his Green Bay Packers from another room. I needed constant communication and someone to support my career; he needed to open doors for me and be OK with him leaving rogue glasses around the house. What we didn't know, though, is that I would eventually need my parter to do all the things every grown-ass man does when his partner is suffering from anxiety, mostly because I never thought I would be the one suffering from anxiety and would be the couple facing the effects of anxiety, together.
I didn't realize that, eventually, we would get pregnant and decide we wanted (and were able) to be parents. I didn't know that, 19 weeks into our unplanned twin pregnancy, we would lose one of our twin sons unexpectedly. I didn't realize that our loss, coupled with a difficult labor and delivery, would leave me suffering from anxiety and postpartum depression and PTSD. In fact, I didn't realize I was suffering from any of the aforementioned until I experienced my first anxiety attack and my partner was there, phone in hand and online resources at the ready, telling me what was going on and how I could get through it.
Because of the social stigma surrounding mental illness and mental ailments, not much is openly discussed when it comes to anxiety. While a quick internet search will tell you everything you need to know, very rarely do people know what to say or do when they're around someone who has anxiety. Thankfully, my partner did, and any grown-ass man can (and should want to) educate himself on how to help his partner when they're suffering from anxiety. I definitely suggest looking up a few online and local resources but, until you do, here's a starter list, for all the grown-ass men who are part of a partnership, and willing to do what they can to be supportive.
Researches Signs And Symptoms...
If you're a grown-ass man, you'll have no problem being a true partner in parenthood, in your relationship and in every other aspect of your shared lives. That means, when you see that your partner is suffering from anxiety, you'll research just what that means and what the signs and symptoms are and how to combat an anxiety attack and what you can look for (in terms of triggers).
When I suffered my first anxiety attack, I honestly didn't know what it was. Truly, I thought I was having a heart attack and possibly (probably) dying. It was my partner, quick on his feet and eager to help, that looked up my symptoms and told me I was having an anxiety attack. He then helped me through it, with the help of the resources he found on the internet, and became as knowledgable about anxiety as he possibly could. Because of his choice to try and understand my anxiety, I never, ever, felt alone.
...As Well As Possible Solutions And Resources
Knowing what to look for and what you're symptoms are is only half the battle. A grown-ass man will help his partner find possible solutions (albeit it physical activity, breathing exercises, medication, etc) or accessible resources (like a mental health professional) so that his partner can get the help and support she needs. Both partners need to know that anxiety isn't something a person should shoulder on their own.
He'll Recognize Her Anxiety As Valid...
The worst thing you can do to someone who is suffering from anxiety, is downplay their experience. Trying to police their emotions or suffering by telling them that, "Well, I feel anxious too and I just kind of, you know, get over it," does nothing but make them, yes, suffer from even greater anxiety. There is a difference between feeling anxious sometimes, and suffering from a debilitating case of anxiety. Just because you may not live with anxiety and just because you may have never experienced an anxiety attack and just because you don't know, first-hand, what it feels like, doesn't mean it isn't real.
...And Will Refuse To Downplay Her Anxiety
Don't compare anxiety to feeling nervous and don't talk about your second cousin's uncle's sister's best friend who tried that one breathing thing that seemed to magically "cure" her of her anxiety and don't tell her to simply "get over it." That's not how anxiety works, and downplaying how serious it is and how difficult it can be, only adds to its overwhelming list of side effects.
He'll Ask How He Can Help
A grown-ass partner is going to ask his partner what she needs, and then facilitate those needs to the best of his ability. Now, this isn't about being some white knight and this isn't to say that people (and particularly women) can't take care of themselves when they suffer from anxiety. No, this is to say that when you're in a partnership, you'll want to help and support your partner. Honestly, there wasn't much my partner could do for me when when I was struggling with anxiety, but him simply asking somehow helped me feel better and, at the very least, anything but alone.
He'll Give Her Space (If She Wants/Needs It)
Everyone deals with anxiety differently, so what someone wants or needs is impossible to know until you have actually asked them yourself. However, what I wanted the most when I was battling anxiety, was to be left alone. Nothing seemed to do the trick like my bed and a heavy comforter, and if I could be left completely alone for a few hours, all the better. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for someone, is leave them be.
He'll Listen To Her
You can't help someone or understand someone, if you don't listen to someone. If a grown-ass man wants to help his partner when she's experiencing anxiety, he has to stop talking and start listening.
He'll Realize That He Can't "Fix" Her...
Whether it's gender stereotypes that have randomly assigned men to be the "saviors," or it's the loving (albeit sometimes flawed and misguided) urge to want to save someone you care about; a grown-ass man will know that his partner isn't his for the "saving." He doesn't need to fix her and he doesn't need to magically take away her anxiety and he doesn't need to be the solution to all of her problems. Honestly, no matter how bad he wants to be any of those things, he can't. It's actually impossible, and trying to do all of the aforementioned will only put a strain on the relationship, his partner and himself.
...Because She Isn't Broken
I'll say it again for the people in the back: people with anxiety are not broken. Hell, people with any mental illness or ailment are not broken. They're not in need of some "put together" human being, that fills the perceived cracks in their overall personality. Just, no. They are whole and full and don't need to be fixed, they just need to be supported and understood.