You asked “why” you experience anxiety when you perceive a loss of control; I am willing to provide some reasoning behind the feeling of anxiety. I hope you also allow me to provide some methods to manage the anxiety in an adaptive manner.
There are multiple reasons why a person may experience anxiety due to a perception of not having control. Some of the rationale can fall under perfectionism, unrealistic expectations, reactions to past unresolved traumatic experiences, the established need in wanting to feel prepared and thus having an influence on the outcome. Either way, the anxiety happens. Many people may have this interpretation that anxiety is the problem or issue. This sends subtle and flawed messages like feeling anxiety is abnormal, therapy goals include not having anxiety at all, and experiencing anxiety is automatically pathological. The problem is not the anxiety we feel; the issue lies within how we react or respond to the anxiety. How we respond makes the difference between healthy and unhealthy (i.e., unhealthy responses may include avoiding or procrastinating, yelling and attempts to manipulate/ control someone else’s behavior in a relationship, biting your fingernails, etc.). Our behaviors and actions driven by anxiety can present as problems in our daily lives, especially when it becomes evident your responses begin to negatively impact different areas of your life like your academics, relationships, spiritually, medical/ physical health, occupation, so on and so forth.
From your shared experience with the man you mentioned, I am sensing that you perceive an issue with how you handle your anxiety in the relationship, especially when he is not free when you want him to be. Otherwise, I get the impression you would not have mentioned the situation in your question while seeking recommendations from a licensed professional. Then again, I may be wrong; this is just a guess as we are not able to talk one on one. If you do see that your response to anxiety is an issue, it is strongly recommended to seek therapeutic services to help identify problematic reactions and replace these reactions with more adaptive responses – to help identify the type of thinking patterns that may be reinforcing how you respond to your anxiety currently (this can include unrealistic expectations we place upon ourselves and others) – to work with you on building relational maps and complete interpersonal work – to possibly address any unresolved traumatic experiences leading to certain reactivity (whether the reactions are hypervigilance, high emotional reactivity, altered perceptions of the self or how the world perceivably operates, etc.).
To address the relationship specifically - keep in mind: you may have the expectation for a man to be free when you want him to; nonetheless, the man can and has the right to have different expectations for himself, especially if you are not given the title or role of girlfriend (if those expectations were not discussed and agreed upon by both parties). Sometimes in relationships, we have unspoken contracts with one another (with certain stipulations on how we expect the other person to act in the relationship). Unspoken contracts tend to not be constructive in relationships as both parties must comprehend and agree on the boundaries and expectations set for both in the relationship. No mind-reading, no guessing. Now - If the other party does not respect the boundaries discussed, it is ultimately your responsibility to respond in the best manner for you (for example, if I have a boundary of not having a friend calling me inappropriate names in the friendship, I may respond by reiterating my boundary and removing myself from that individual to guard my social space and mental health, because I have control over whether I stay or go – how I respond). As you already know, you do not have the right to control another person; the only person you have control over is you, your thoughts, your feelings and emotions …. your reactions, action urges and actions.
To provide even more information: Anxiety tends to activate a part of our nervous system – sending us to the arousal state. Learning somatic work or relaxation techniques can address the physiological components of the anxiety. For instance, breathing exercises are often encouraged to manage the body’s temperature, slow down the heart rate when there is a spike, manage uncontrollable breathing, etc. Raised temperatures, rapid heartbeat, and hyperventilation can be identified as some common signs that indicate your body is in the aroused, alert state. You can learn several different techniques in therapy as well if you are interested, as these relaxation techniques can replace any identified problematic behaviors associated with your anxiety. You have the capability to choose a different route for yourself; the first step is to seek the knowledge and support, which is what I acknowledge you doing now.
I would like to end my feedback by describing what a friend told me. She gave me permission a while back to pass it onto others, and I encourage you to reflect on it. She told me she had a history of feeling anxiety when she perceived a loss of control. She said, once she started learning how to release the role of being the “guardian of the universe”, she found peace. Meaning, once she allowed herself to decipher what she had control over and allowed either the Higher Power, universe, nature, whomever – once she allowed this entity to take its job back as the overseer of others and the world itself, she experienced so much clarity and reduced anxiety. Remember: Anxiety is a natural feeling that can be managed appropriately. There are different methods in anxiety management; I hope what I wrote helps in deciding how you would like to manage yours.