Are You Settling?

Alongside questions like, “Do we have enough chemistry?” and “What if I’m making a mistake?“, my engaged clients and e-course members are plagued by the question, “Am I settling?” Chemistrymistake, andsettling are powerful buzzwords in our wedding/marriage culture and can easily lead even the most level-headed bride or groom down a dangerous path of possibly leaving a healthy, loving partnership because they think it doesn’t measure up to the impossible standard that our culture upholds.

Yet when I ask my clients to describe their relationship, they invariably say, “I’m with a fantastic partner. He (or she) is everything I’ve ever wanted: loving, kind, trustworthy, responsible, accountable. We have shared values and goals and he completely gets me. He’s by best friend. I was sick and tired of dating men who weren’t marriage material, and as soon as I started dating my partner I knew he was exactly what I had been looking for.”

Sounds great, right? And then the reality of the commitment sets in — either at the moment of the proposal or as soon as she knows that “forever” is on the table — and with the enormity of the commitment comes the enormity of her fear. Love is scary. That’s just the nature of the beast. And we come to real love relationships with a host of scripts — some healthy, some dysfunctional — that attempt to interfere with the natural forward progression of the relationship. Instead of understanding that this fear is normal, we equate the fear with doubt and fall prey to pervasive message that “doubt means don’t.”

But for most of my clients, doubt didn’t begin as doubt: it began as fear and grief. All transitions constellate fear and grief: we fear the unknown, we grieve letting go of the identity that we’ve embodied our entire life, we fear failure, we grieve separating from family of origin, we fear growing up and we grieve the end of childhood, we fear the risk of loss that accompanies opening your heart fully to another human being, we grieve the fantasy of marrying a perfect, flawless partner.

Because we’re poorly educated about transitions in our culture, we mistake the fear for doubt and thus begins a scary domino effect of believing that we’re in the wrong relationship. The message is: If you’re doubting, you must be settling. Cut your losses now and move on. This is dangerous advice, and only entrenches the doubt further as it doesn’t allow room for the normal fear to surface, air out, and find resolution.

Let me ask you simply: How could marrying a loving, kind, trustworthy, responsible, accountable partner with whom you share values, goals, and a special connection be considered settling? Settling is staying with an emotionally abusive partner while knowing that you deserve better. Settling is staying with someone whose core values are grossly out of alignment with your own because you’re scared to be alone. Settling is not working your tail off to boot fear out of the driver’s seat of your psyche so that you don’t walk away from a great partner with whom you could build a happy marriage.

The next time someone confides in you that she’s feeling doubtful about her upcoming nuptials, instead of spouting off the rote line of, “Well, maybe you’re making a mistake,” try offering, “Maybe underneath that doubt is fear and grief. Of course you’re scared! Marriage is one of the biggest commitments you’ll ever make and there are no guarantees that it will work. And of course you’re sad! You’re leaving the identity and lifestyle that you’ve always known and trying to figure out what it means to be a wife or husband today. It’s okay! I know you’re with a great partner and it’s going to be okay.”

What a different engagement culture we would have if we encouraged women and men to validate their normal yet uncomfortable feelings instead of judging them. What a different wedding culture it would be if we allowed brides and grooms room to express their true feelings instead of nearly forcing them to put on a happy face at the risk of being met with, “If you’re not glowing with ecstasy from proposal to I do, you must be making a mistake.” What a different marriage culture it would be if we presented a realistic view of partnership, which includes marrying a fallible human being that might not meet your every need. Given the dismal success rate of American marriages, don’t you think it’s time we examine the messages we’re sending about love, romance, and marriage? Let’s redefine those messages right here.

83 comments to Are You Settling?

  • JConley

    Well said, Sheryl! Thank you again for such a great write-up. Everything you just said is what I have been going through. Up and down and around again. Today, I laughed at myself for even thinking I was “settling”! He is a great guy and we have a great relationship, I do not want to let him go :)

  • yogi525

    Great post. The funny thing is I’ve gotten it from people in my life – a friend who have implied I’m settling for the first good guy I went out with, and also a close family member who says that I’m settling and I must have a low self esteem for being with this man. Mind you, the man they speak of is warm, loving, compassionate, intelligent, and always there when you need him. He’s not rich, but he has a job he loves that pays the bills. At first I allowed these two people to trigger the “maybe I am settling” anxious thought in my brain, and despite his awesomeness, it still comes and goes (anxious patterns love to stick around), but at the end of the day I realize that both of the people who said these things to me are single and have a lot of their own work to do so they can find love – I have to remind myself not to take it personally. But just like anything in life, when something good happens to you, some people will root for you and others will try to take you down a few notches. You have to learn how to focus on the kind words, and not the negative – it is hard though.

    • You’re doing great work, yogi. Keep going!

    • Andrea

      Hello Yogi,
      I think you brought up an interesting aspect, which is how the important people in our lives (i.e. family, friends) have an impact on our (sometimes anxious) thoughts. I bought a house a few months ago with my wonderful boyfriend and was experiancing anxiety. My older sister, who is going through a divorce, told me to never settle. She said everyone’s marriage fails. This was the last thing I needed to hear during this time. It made my anxiety so much worse until I found this site. I guess I am trying to say that you are not alone. I hate to say trust your heart because when my anxiety is so bad I don’t feel that I can hear my heart well. However, there is a knowing that I have that even during my anxiety I know somewhere deep down that I am in a good place and in a great relationship with a wonderful man. :)

    • Mars

      It is especially difficult when your mother, of all people, consistently tells you that you are settling, that you need to date more people, that she can’t accept who you’re dating, all the while you know that you’re with someone respectful, kind, and loving. It’s enough to drive me insane, quite literally :/

      • MEG

        Hi Mars,

        I remember my mom telling me early on in my relationship not to put myself out there too soon… meaning that maybe I shouldn’t fall in love to fast (with my now fiance). And what I’ve realized in hindsight is that sh was trying to protect me from going through the challenges she went through at her age. She married my dad at 20 and was done having children at 24. Since I was around 20 when I met my fiance, I feel like she wanted to make sure I did everything she couldn’t do because she “fell in love too fast” (i.e. go to college, get a good job, etc.). So, perhaps you need to understand where your mom is coming from in these arguments. It most likely doesn’t mean she doesn’t support your relationship, but that she’s protecting you from something.

        Best,
        MEG

  • Natasha

    Sheryl every article I read of yours is just so insightful. I am so thrilled to have found you and your wondeful work. I look forward to every article as I always see myself in your words and also recognise my expansion into real love by allowing room for a variety of emotions that form a part of the human experience. Thank you.

  • Chris

    I started having doubts in my relationship early, they have been pervasive, I even traveled alone to get some clarity but I always come back, we broke up once a year ago for one week and I couldn’t stick with it, five years in we’re now engaged. My biggest doubt is the fear I’m settling. Any thoughts?

    • Tell me more about the doubts, Chris.

      • Chris

        Well…I have stayed in my relationship with my partner because he is loving, kind, trustworthy he challenges me to try new things, his work is his passion he works very hard but doesn’t make much money. He did manage to buy me a beautiful engagement ring but his car barely runs sometimes he can’t afford basic things like a dental cleaning and I know that I will be the breadwinner in our marriage. A lot of doubt has stemmed from that dynamic which is different then my family of origin. Our core values are similar, we have fun together. Since we’ve been engaged I have put him under a microscope where sometimes I’m grossed out by something and the. Ext minute he’s the cutest thing. Sometimes I think about that cute boy in college I never dated but maybe should of. In short I felt so crazy and depressed until I found this sight which has given me hope that while our relationship is not perfect Ive stayed in it for 5 yrs because overall I AM happy and I’m with a man who loves and understands me and whose love has never wavered. What concerns me most about your article is the point you make about people feeling sure then doubt setting in after commitments on the table.

        • “What concerns me most about your article is the point you make about people feeling sure then doubt setting in after commitments on the table.”

          I’ve worked with many, many people who haven’t had that sense of certainty or clarity even in the beginning. This is not a red-flag! It sounds like you’re in a loving, supportive partnership and that the only problem at this point is your anxiety.

  • Hayley

    I came across this blog about 2 weeks ago and it’s helped me so much. I started having huge anxiety about my relationship with my boyfriend about 2 months ago and couldn’t figure out why I was having them when I didn’t want to let him go. We’ve been together just over a year and I’ve always had the occasional doubts in the back of my mind because neither of us have had butterflies or any of that lust stuff, and I didn’t like him at the beginning but felt a connection that I wanted to explore. It took him almost 10 months to tell me he loves me, and I said it back. Sometimes I felt like I was just saying it and other times I felt a huge urge to say it, but after a month the huge doubts kicked in. I was in a relationship once before where I said the L word and after it was over I realized it didn’t mean anything so I told myself for 2 years that I would only say it if I meant it. Is it possible that this ‘broke’ my brain and now I’m scared to love? My head keeps telling me that I’ll never love him and that we won’t last forever because we don’t have chemistry, but my heart keeps telling me that I do love him and just need more time, that I want to marry him one day and raise a family with him, and that he’s the perfect guy for me. My heart refuses to let go. I’m learning to let go of the ‘fairytale’ romance etc, but how do I let go of the fear of falling in love? How do I open up my heart? I don’t want to lose this guy but I feel like I’m getting over him. I feel like if I break up with him, I’ll have lost my perfect guy and spend the rest of my life trying to find someone as perfect but fail. Sorry this is so long, just wanted to get some stuff out of my head and maybe get some advice.

    • Rina

      I’m in the same situation. When I’m not anxious I realize the fear stems from my not wanting to lead him on thereby hurting him if the relationship doesn’t last. He’s totally ok with giving me time to sort out my feelings. I find that our fear brain can create unreasonable doubts sometimes. Why don’t you check your feelings when you’re not anxious as Sheryl suggests.

  • Andie

    You hit the nail right on the head each week Sheryl. I spent close to 2 years (we are having a long engagement) in a horrible state of fear and anxiety about my engagement to a man I can only describe as one of the best people I have ever known. I bought your book, I read your blog over and over, and then one day I realised it wasn’t me. It was the romantic movies I was watching, it was the magazines I was reading. How could I not be anxious when all of these beautiful and contrived examples of love beaming out to me from the screen or page made me feel more alive than my own comfortable, healthy relationship? So I turned off the TV, I cancelled my bridal magazine subscriptions and I took my cues from real relationships around me. I found not only am I making the right decision, I may be lucky enough to be marrying a guy that is my own dream come true.

    So thank you Sheryl, your book sits by my bed for those pangs of doubt, and soothes any worry or fear I have. I could not have done it without you.

  • BrooklynBride

    Sheryl! I love this line: But for most of my clients, doubt didn’t begin as doubt: it began as fear and grief. And imagine if we lived in a world that gave ourselves permission to fully experience those feelings. Your work is such a beacon of light and really is forging the way, giving men and women tools to gain comfort around the discomfort. :)

  • C.Michael

    Great stuff! Anyone with an open mind & heart can apply this to their life. Encouragement, not judgment!

    Looking from a distance & with some personal experience, it seems that the majority cannot date honorably anymore; that is to be honest, communicate openly, softly question assumptions/rumors instead of “playing chess” or doing/saying to see the reaction, and date with the purpose of loving each other – hopefully forever, not fulfilling “a gender role” and/or family expectations. (which makes it really hard to connect w/ the good ones that are still out there).. I think too much maybe.

    Old fashioned is making a comeback in my book! Let’s take all the good life-fulfilling aspects and leave all the fear-induced control that comes from the old-fashioned world. Communication barriers always seem to get in the way now, though. Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of means to communicate now, we just don’t do it right anymore. No more respect for others, respect of our own privacy, respect of hard work. Not everybody is a rock-star, celebrity, or millionaire, but they sure seem to be expecting the attention and lifestyle of one.

  • Linda

    I cannot believe how your posts address what I’ve been feeling and fearing for the last 3 years…it’s so reassuring to know I’m not the only one that’s had these trains of thought. I did want to ask you though Sheryl, now that I feel like I’ve pretty much come back to earth and out of that dark stretch of anxiety (mostly – there are still moments!)…how do I progress with actually setting a date and following through? Basically, I got my first panic attack a day or two before we were to make a booking for a venue, and things just got so much worse from there. What was supposed to be a 6 month engagement has turned into three years (he has been super patient and understanding). I have explained to him where I am at now that most of the anxiety has subsided so we’ve started batting around wedding ideas, with nothing set in stone yet. My main fear is that I’ll revert back to these panic attacks and plaguing negative thoughts once we actually set a date and start booking things, and I’ve also explained this to him. I don’t want to have to have a date set, tell his (and my family), and then postpone again because I start panicking again. Do we just keep up with the informal chats on what we both want in a wedding for the next couple of months or do I just take a deep breath, decide on a date with him and work through my anxious thoughts as they rear their ugly head? I want to move forward and I want to move forward with him, just not sure how to approach it! Any of your advice would be greatly appreciated :o )

    • Setting a date is a common anxiety-trigger for those prone to anxiety. I typically suggest to keep moving forward and practice the tools you’ve learned for relaxing into the fear, as it’s important to expect that fear/anxiety/panic will make an appearance. But when you keep moving forward you also send a clear message to fear that says, “I hear you but I’m not going to listen to you.”

  • antonella

    Dear Sheryl,

    I feel like I’ve been getting a new insight about my relationship to my husband since reading your blog.
    My father passed away six months prior our wedding last year, and ever since I’ve been feeling so guilty for ruining every thing. I can’t forgive myself for getting doubts about my husband…with my dad gone and being from a different culture, I kept on wondering if he could really take care of me and my family: I had nightmers and all sorts of bad feelings…then on the actual day I just really messed up as towards the end I got so resentful..In my opinion instead of enjoying the day he should have been the perfect man looking after my family…while he kept on telling me to relax and have a good time together because that was our day….the following morning was even worse cause I just wanted to make sure my mum was ok and I hated him for being hangover…
    I love my husband deeply, he is my companion and my teacher, but I can’t forgive myself and find myself being jealous of other weddings..like I’ve missed the chance to have our one happy day! I keep on thinking that maybe exchanging vowes again will make things better in my head..I wanted to be a beautiful bride but I ended up being a nagging cow..while I should have just had a good time with him! I wonder if he is desappointed in me and if he will ever forgive me…
    As anyone found themselves in the same situation? Is our marriage doomed?
    Thank youx

  • DCS

    Antonella,

    I can sympathise with the feeling that you feel like you missed your chance to have that one beautiful wedding day. I was an anxious wreck on my wedding day, after starting to suffer from severe doubts and anxiety a week before the wedding day (not eating, sleeping, crying all the time) out of seemingly nowhere. This ruined my wedding day for me, even though the actual day ran perfectly and everyone enjoyed themselves, I felt terrible. It also spoilt my honeymoon as I was working myself up into more of a state as time went on. I am now very slowly starting to improve, thanks to a combination of antidepressants and therapy twice a week, and also this website.

    I too have days where I think back to the wedding day and look at the pictures and am so gutted that it wasn’t how I hoped it would be. However on the days when I am feeling a little better I can see the wedding day for what it is, and that is one day out of your life. The thing that matters is the marriage and the rest of your lives together, just because that one day wasn’t what you hoped doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed. We have such high expectations for that one day and put so much pressure on ourselves is it any wonder that we can’t always meet those expectations?

    I was talking to my therapist about how happy and lucky I felt sat on the sofa with my husband writing our vows a couple of months before the wedding and she reminded me that moments like that are far more important than any “big day”. I hope this helps a little x

    • Antonella

      Thank you so much for your time…yes I do try to hold on to the little things too, and to the thought of our lives together!
      I just feel really blessed I didn’t go with my doubts…I just held off…but oh boy was it hard!!!
      Anyway, I’m very glad you are feeling better too about this!
      All the best from London townxxx

  • Hi Sheryl! I just want to say that I’m so glad I found your website.

    This blogpost is great, I’m so glad there is people “out there” telling the truth about REAL life! Because that’s what it is. Often, we are so busy “living in the pink bubble” that we don’t talk about our true thoughts.I think it’s because we really wanna show the world how great we are, how amazing our relationships are and that everything in our lifes is just perfect!

    I have been struggling with relationship OCD for several years, and I was scared some years ago. I didn’t know anyone who thought like me. I felt so alone in the world with my thoughts. Everyone I talked to said to me “leave your boyfriend, you shouldn’t be thinking like this”. This only got me into a turnmoil with more anxiety and depression. Im so sad people doesn’t talk about this. Why should we have any credibility in how “hollywood” tells love feels like, or should be like? Why are we so affected by this?

    I live in Norway, but everything is the same here. We have tv-shows telling us how love should feel like, we have books on how love should feel like,I have friends jumping from one relationship from another to feel “in love” again, I hope you get what I’m trying to say.

    This got a little longer than I thought it would, anyways, thank you so much. And keep on spreading the word!

    Greetings from Norway :)

  • Sophie

    Sheryl, it’s like you can see into my mind and post about what is worrying me most. As always, reading the blog is a calming balm. Thank you, thank you x

  • sarah

    Hi Sheryl,

    I was reading your article on settling. You imply that most of your clients knew when they first met the person they are now doubting,they quickly felt this is who they were looking for. What if you didnt get that feeling at the beginning, but the person you are with is an amazing person. In your opinion, does this imply settling? Im getting married and feeling a bit anxious after reading that bit!

    Regards, Sarah

    • Hi Sarah: Great question, and I was hoping someone would ask it! I work with many, many clients who don’t have that initial knowing that they had met the person they were looking for. Some people can even have an aversion to the other person in the beginning and then, over time, realize that their partner has most of the traits that they’ve been looking for. What matters is that you arrive at that realization at some point; whether in the beginning or several months in makes no difference at all.

  • sar

    Thanks for your response. We were long distance so it took me almost a year to get to that point (still question it sometimes~!~) Does that sound ok or a little too long?

    • Perfectly fine! Despite what our culture tells us, there really are no “shoulds” when it comes to relationships; it’s a question of what works for you and your partner.

  • Jess

    I’m in tears right now reading this. I’m in a new relationship (5 months) with an amazing guy. It’s the first real relationship I’ve been in after five years of being single. Tonight my ex-fiancé sent me a text message just checking in and it brought up a lot of feelings. He and I were together four years and had a wonderful friendship but as soon as we got engaged things feel apart. I started doubting how right he was for me almost immediately. I joke that I’m allergic to marriage because I got a horrible allergic reaction to the engagement ring and every time I tried to plan the wedding or even talk about it I broke out in hives and was on the brink if hyperventilating. It’s funny to joke about but in all seriousness I know it was fear of commitment, at the very least. I look back and wonder if I made a huge mistake. And I know if I wanted to try again after five years he would do it. I can’t separate the anxiety from reality though. Honestly, he was my very best friend and I loved being with him but he had some flaws that I had a hard time with. And now I’m with a man with solid values who is so thoughtful and kind but we don’t have nearly as much fun just being together and talking and laughing. So now I’m doubting my relationship with him. I’m comparing. But I’m starting to wonder if it is just anxiety and fear undermining my opportunity for a solid, loving relationship. And as I read your site, I am crying because I see myself in your clients and others who comment here and it makes me feel like I made so many mistakes and desperately want to learn how to be loved and commit to a lifetime relationship. I know I’m rambling but I’m experiencing that moment of knowing I’m the problem and I can’t just ignore it if I want to be fulfilled in life. I’m definitely signing up for your course!

    • Pree

      Jess, your words really resonated with me. I also can’t help comparing my current relationship (which is almost 9 months old) with my previous real relationship which ended 4 years ago. What triggers the anxiety for me is the occasional attraction I feel for other guys even though I know on a deeper level that they have nothing better to offer than my boyfriend. it makes me wonder if there is not enough excitement in my relationship. I’d love to hear Sheryl’s thoughts on your comment.

    • Mary

      Jess,

      Your story is similar to mine. I’m considering ordering Sheryl’s eCourse today.

    • Lauren

      I feel the same way! I feel like I love my boyfriend of 9 months but there is not the same “excitement and fun” that I had with my first “real” love. However my first love was one that I couldn’t trust him, I always felt like he was up to no good, and he says he loved me but actions sometimes spoke louder. Now I am in a loving, caring, reliable, stable relationship with a man that I truly care about but sometimes wake up and feel mundane about. I think Oh my God, is this all there is? I also feel like maybe I am the one who needs to put effort in but I am not sure if my “gut” is right or if it’s that I need to learn that I have to accept that even though it might not be the most exciting, I have a person who loves me to no end and who would do anything for me and I care about him just the same, I’m missing the “butterflies”. But does that mean hes not “the one” or does it mean I/we need to work at it? Please help!

      • You’re suffering from classic relationship anxiety! You’re in the right place. Keep reading, learning, watching and you’ll start to put the pieces together.

      • Liza

        ​Lauren, I feel the same way you do. I have been with my boyfriend (who has all the “on paper” qualities I would want in a husband – shared values, shared religion, similar goals in life, etc. – which from the start has made the relationship seem like it could be permanent) for almost a year. Some days I imagine myself marrying him and others I question whether I even love him. I go through times when I think I just have to break up with him, but somehow I can’t shake the feeling that there is something in myself that I need to work on. I can’t help but think my short temper and critical remarks are a defense mechanism because they also surface in my relationship with my parents and siblings – people who, like my boyfriend, are the closest to me.

  • Elena

    Hello Sheryl,

    I have been reading your blog for about a year now, and I was so incredibly relieved to find it. My story seems to be a bit different than other people who post, but I think the theme is generally the same. You see, I was married for 18 months to a guy that ended up getting addicted to opiates, and eventually I chose to get a divorce.

    About 6 months later, I started to casually date a good friend of mine from college, and after a few months, we made things official and decided to just date each other. Everything seemed to be going perfectly, until we decided to move in together. I had felt so certain that it was the right thing to do and then the moment I had everything at his place, I started to get anxious. I began panicking each day and found myself totally preoccupied with whether or not I was doing the right thing. I didn’t understand what was going on. Not only was I with a guy that treated me well, no red flags were present, I was dating someone that I had tons of fun with, enjoyed sharing my days with, and someone who was good to my friends and family. It is the healthiest relationship I have ever been in.

    After about a month of torturous anxiety, I ended up going on Zoloft, which helped me clear my head a bit, and I started to see a therapist. Eventually, I calmed down quite a bit, and remained living with my boyfriend and am still in this relationship. We have been together for a year and a half now, and he is someone that I would be lucky to call my husband. I can see myself having kids with him; our families love us together; he is someone I can count on; and we push each other to achieve the goals we have for ourselves. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

    That being said, I still experience anxiety from time to time. I am especially frustrated right now because we have planned to go and look at rings today (engagement rings), and I have started to get nervous again. Nothing has changed, but my mind can’t get off the track of anxiety that ends up leading to uncertainty. I have had moments of total clarity and peace regarding moving forward and getting married, but then I have these periods where I just feel scared.

    I guess I was hoping that you might be able to give me some advice on my situation. I have days when I feel wonderful and calm, but other days when I just feel like a nervous wreck for absolutely no reason. I don’t want to let my fears get the best of me. Any thoughts?

  • Barbara

    Sheryl, I have been in my current relationship for about a year. I have a similar story to some of your readers.. I was somewhat apprehensive about beginning our relationship, but the man I am with is loving, fun, and we get along so well, and I found myself drawn to him. Throughout the last year I have had times of anxiety over thoughts such as “Is this right?” “Do I really love him?” ” Are you settling?” “How do I know what love really is? The butterflies aren’t always there.” There are times I can look back and say to myself – “I remember wondering if I should just break it off.”

    I get so nervous about these things and the anxiety is crippling. I get very emotional when I consider just giving in and letting go, because I really do know that I have so much love for him. He is a great man, we have the same core values, and I enjoy being around him. BUT my anxiety makes me doubt this to the point that it is exhausting to “fight” myself. ( and I start to believe it)

    As he and I pass the year mark, I am seeing a therapist to deal with my issues of anxiety. I work through every time a wave of this anxiety of our relationship comes, but it scares me to think I could feel this way for the rest of my life. I’m getting tired.

    If you could give me any advice, that would be much appreciated. I know that your blog has helped me because it doesn’t give me the negative answers that are mostly out there- leave, there’s plenty of fish in the sea, etc.

    I know I love this man, I want to be with him, and I can see myself having a great life with him. How do I allow myself to FEEL that? To get my brain to just be quiet?

    • The best advice I can give you is to read through as much of my site as you can, and then start practicing Inner Bonding – which you can read about here: http://www.innerbonding.com. Take a look at the Conscious Weddings E-Course and sign up for the Lesson 1 for free (on the home page of the E-Course page) and you’ll start to learn that you’re far from alone and there are real tools you can put into place to alleviate your anxiety.

  • Sienna

    Hi,

    I just found your site tonight so I haven’t read a lot of what you offer yet.

    I was wondering if I could ask a question. I’ve known my common-law husband since I was 18, and we have 2 children together. It’s been a rocky, sometimes pretty violent and lonely marriage of sorts.

    In June I found my childhood sweetheart on Facebook, and we met in person after 20 years apart. I adore him, always have, and am extremely attracted to him. Until I saw him again, I thought I had no interest in sex anymore and never would. After we met a couple of times, my childhood sweetheart left to work out of town. He never responded to 2 text messages that I sent him, so I have not contacted him since. He told me repeatedly that he loved me, that I was beautiful. He broke my heart so many times throughout the years, but I can’t stop obsessing about him. As a little girl I loved him so much I would have stabbed myself in the heart for him and I still feel like this.

  • Sienna

    Sorry,he message got posted before I was finished. My question is why am I obsessing? Does this “love” I have for this man have to do more with me than with him? I mean my relationship with myself, my self love, my acceptance or something along those lines? He absolutely crushed me when we were teenagers. He didn’t mean to; he just didn’t feel the same way about me as I did about him. I’m so embarrassed about this and feel a lot of shame too as I don’t feel this deep stabbing love for my husband, nor ever have. Thank you

  • Wow Sheryl, I have surfed the net a lot for comfort and I am so excited I have found your site. It is very insightful and helpful for anxiety sufferers. I used to be extrememly anxious in my marriage. I am now in a long term relationship. Before this I dated a few men. I am having a lot of trouble accepting I am with a wonderful guy and we are suited. I keep finding things to make it feel rocky. The truth is I feel so much better after reading your articles and your comments from other readers. Thank you.

  • Em

    Hi Sheryl,
    I have been reading your articles for a while now and I can related to so much of what people have commented on, but I have been too afraid to comment myself as I’m worried that my situation is too different from everyone else on here. But here goes..
    In a nutshell, I am seeing someone who I’ve known/been friends with for some time (4 years), though most of our friendship has been long distance (we live in the same country but at nearly opposite ends). I have been living/volunteering in her part of the country for the last 5 months or so in an attempt to get to know her better/date her in person. We are both females in our late twenties. She has always been “sure” about me, but since the beginning I have struggled with doubts/ambivalence about her. I know that I had/have some genuine reasons to feel doubtful (we were dating long distance and I would have to relocate, at least for some time, to continue being with her since she is finishing school – which i feel open to doing but I am scared).
    Though I haven’t felt intense fireworks between us, I feel she is someone I can totally trust. She has always treated me well, better than anyone I’ve ever dated in the past. She is really warm, affectionate, thoughtful and makes me feel comfortable and accepted. We support each other through difficult times (we both suffer from different types of anxiety- which I’ve worried may be a red flag? shouldn’t at least one of us not be the anxious type? – though at least she doesn’t deal with relationship related anxiety!). I am physically attracted to her, though I do find myself analyzing her appearance at times. I also find myself almost constantly analyzing if we are connecting/having enough fun/talking enough which, in turn, makes it difficult to relax and have fun. We definitely share many but not all core values (for ex. I am passionate about growing/eating organic food and using natural products and she is not, though she tries to support me and she has become more open to/interested in some of it). Basically she recognizes our differences and accepts them, while I worry about them.
    I recently read Recipes For A Perfect Marriage in an attempt to help myself learn more about real love and I have felt touched/inspired by it (I was in tears at some parts), though I still question whether it can apply to my situation. I would really like to continue being with her; I just feel tired of having all these thoughts/worries all the time and the guilt that accompanies them. I really don’t want to lose a great person because of unrealistic expectations or things I/we can work on. I have told her about many of my doubts and she has tried/tries to be understanding/supportive, but I worry she can only take so much. I discovered ROCD (OCD with a relationship theme) online and can really relate to many people who have it though I don’t know for sure if that is what I have (a counselor I used to see before I left for my trip thought it’s a possibility). Also, I have always been sensitive since I was a child and have struggled with depression and anxiety, as well as anawareness and fear of death.

    This wasn’t meant to turn into an essay, but thank you for reading.

    Do you think our situation sounds workable? I feel like my feelings for her are growing (but at the speed of molasses) and I wonder if this is ok/enough?

    Em

    • Hi Em: I’m glad you had the courage to write and share a bit of your story. I don’t hear anything in your description that sounds different from anyone else on my site or on my e-course! It’s fine that you both have anxiety (most people do if they’re honest) and it’s certainly not necessary to share every value or interest as long as you’re supportive of one another. Since you’ve always been sensitive and have struggled with anxiety and depression, it’s highly likely that these thoughts would arise with anyone. With the right tools, support, and information, you can address the root causes of the anxiety and continue to move forward with the relationship.

  • Genevieve

    Hi Sheryl,

    I’m very glad to have found your site. I’ve felt for a long time that the media presents a very skewed idea of love, but I still can’t shake the feelings of doubt I have. I’ve been with my fiance for 3.5 years and I’ve had doubts about the relationship most of that time. We even broke up 6 months into the relationship because I felt I wasn’t very invested in it – the two days we were broken up were two of the worst of my life.

    He’s a very caring person and puts family (including me) above all else, which I really value in him. My concerns about the relationship usually stem from the fact that we encourage each other’s laziness (we are terrible at keeping our house clean) and the fact that when we are stressed out we tend to take it out on each other, leading to a lot of arguments. When things are good, though, we are great friends and love goofing around with each other. I just can’t shake the feeling that once we are married, he will continue to be lazy and I will end up having to shoulder much of the work. I’m finding it hard to decipher what is my anxiety speaking and what is legitimate doubt. I’m having a hard time picturing our life as husband and wife, or when I do picture it I am only able to see it in a negative light.

    If you have any advice at all, it would be so much appreciated.

    Thank you.

  • Genevieve: Once you attend to the deeper layers of your own fear, you’ll have more clarity about whether or not the laziness is a deal breaker. What I can say to you with certainty is that you’ll have to learn to accept and tolerate unpleasant traits with ANY partner you choose, so the question is really whether you want to do the growth work now or later.

  • Lucy

    Firstly, thank you so much for this blog; it has been such a source of reassurance over the past few months. It’s been such a relief to read through all these articles.

    I’m 2.5 months away from my wedding and am so scared and doubtful. My fiance and I were together for 1 year before getting engaged, and I did have fears on and off throughout the relationship, but never as overwhelming and paralysing as they are now.

    He’s a very loving man, he cherishes me, we have a strong emotional connection, and share similar values and life goals (we’re both Christians, we both like the idea of homeschooling etc.). He’s a very genuine, generous and cheerful man, and not prone to moodiness or sullenness (which is a nice relief after living with my dad and brother).

    However, my anxiety gets spiked whenever I see couples where one partner is passive and the other is driven – especially when this dynamic leads to divorce (as in the case of one of my friends). Our personalities naturally incline either way; his to be slow and relaxed, mine is take initiative, work hard and get things done.

    At the moment it’s this character trait seems like an insurmountable obstacle: his lack of an “I can see a problem, I’ll take the initiative to figure out how to fix it” attitude. It really scares me that I’ll be the one always initiating/figuring things out – like what car to buy or how to fix something around the house. He also works a lot more slowly than me and can’t shoulder as many responsibilities at once as me, which means I often feel more competent than him.

    This is really causing me to doubt whether we can have a happy marriage. I don’t like feeling more capable than him all the time, or as if whenever there’s a problem, I’ll be the one who is bothered by it and so will have to initiate trying to fix it. Sometimes I just want to shake him, and say “man-up” – take responsibility for this yourself, why do I have to be the one to ask!

    I have so many doubts about this issue, and have nearly postponed the wedding twice. I’m so terrified of not being able to live with it, and get bouts of very severe anxiety every few weeks where I can’t eat, sleep or think about anything else.

    If anyone has any advice, I would be so grateful to hear it. Feeling like this is exhausting.

    Thank you.

  • Lucy

    P.s. I should probably say that I have had other doubts, like whether he’s intellectually quick enough, or stimulating enough (as I like to read a lot, and he doesn’t). But in this area I’ve come to realise and accept that it’s ok for not every need to be met in him, and that it’s ok to get intellectual fulfillment from elsewhere; from friends, internet forums, and so on.

    He’s very emotionally perceptive and we are on exactly the same wavelength in this area. This is definitely more important to me than being on the same level intellectually, so I’m willing to accept that we won’t have intellectually stimulating conversations all the time.

    But I don’t know if the competency/initiative issue is a deal breaker. I don’t believe in divorce so that would never be an option for us, but I’m terrified by the thought of having an unhappy marriage where I always feel frustrated by his lack of speed and initiative :(

    As before, any advice would be much appreciated.

  • Lucy

    Hi everyone,

    Just to update you since my previous message. I’m feeling very peaceful about our wedding again now after having a really good talk with my brother (and a really nice weekend with my fiance).

    My fiance assured me that he would always do his best to be the leader in our relationship. Even though we have personality differences and he does take a bit more time than me to do things, I need to learn how to take a step back and let him lead, even if I know I could do it more quickly or efficiently. He has such a good heart and I feel so blessed to be with a man who is ready to take on challenges and eager to step up to the mark. I also need to learn to not automatically interpret his relaxed nature as a lack of responsibility. There is nothing wrong with doing things more slowly, it doesn’t mean he is any less manly. I need to just chill out, not get anxious and let him do things at his pace.

    My brother also reminded me that marriage is about becoming a better person, and learning to adapt to someone and love them, regardless of feelings. As a Christian, he said that the bible asks us to ‘love the one we marry’, not necessarily ‘marry the one we love’, meaning we shouldn’t be overly concerned with questions like ‘do I love him enough?’. Our feelings come and go, and it’s hard work, commitment and faithfulness that build a strong marriage. I know that my fiance has a very good heart (or ‘essence’ as Sheryl Paul calls it). He’s a faithful and committed man with mature character, and I’m committed to working hard at our differences, knowing that it won’t always be easy (for either of us). But I love so much about him, and would be devastated if I had to let him go.

    I’m sure the anxiety may spike again, but I will keep reminding myself of these things.

    :)

  • BABS

    Hi Sheryl,

    Here’s my soap opera :| – I am with my current boyfriend of 4 1/2 years. He is very attractive, amazing to me, my family, his family, friends, wants the same things I want ect… I met him when I really wanted to be with this other guy (for months) I decided to move on from him because he wasn’t ready to be in a realationship. When I did this he got upset and said he wanted to be with me so of course (since I barely knew my current boyfriend) I went back to him. Then I began to resent him feeling that he only wanted me because someone else did so I broke up with him and went back to my current boyfriend. He -to this day- texts me every once and awhile saying that he didn’t get a fair chance and deserves to get another shot. He said he’ll never give up on me unless I get married or tell him to leave me alone. He is the sweetest guy ever and promises me all the things I could ever want. Only problem is I don’t think my family would approve of him. My family LOVES my current boyfriend. And their opinion is very important to me. My ex promises to get me out of this small town so I can experience life like I never have but my current boyfriend has already lived all over the country so I know he is not open to leaving. I don’t want to be stuck at my job I’m at forever but I know it’s as good as it gets around here. My ex was sort of a bad boy but I assume he has grown up as he told me he has. Though I heard rumors of him doing drugs but he denies it… I am totally content and happy in my current relationship until my ex texts me… It’s an indescribable feeling the we have between each other. I’m sure it’s because there’s always that “what if” in the back of our heads. Once I get married that is it – divorce is NOT an option so I am terrified to take the next step with my current boyfriend (Yet he still hasn’t proposed) but that’s definetly the direction we’re moving. I wish I could go back in time to think before I jumped from relationship to relationship since that’s why I still wonder. I’m sure that there’s a reason I’ve stayed with my man for so long and not gone back to my ex right??? Subconciously I must know it’s not right…right?? I wish I would have the option to take a break and go see how things could be with my ex but if I do that I fear (rightly so) that my current boyfriend will NEVER take me back if it didn’t work out. I could make a HUGE mistake… So how do I know if I’m settling or not? I told my ex not to have contact with my anymore since I literally feel so much anxiety and wonder if I’m making the hugest mistake by not going back to him… It’s ALL I think about… I know I will never get over him unless he no longer texts me. Truth is I’m really sad about it, but I know its the right thing to do. My friend told me that he had his chance already and to move on since I have such a good thing with my current boyfriend… I fear I will always wonder if he and I should have been together… What do I do?? They’re both amazing men but could lead me down COMPLETELY different paths. What’s the right choice? Does it mean that I am supposed to be with my current boyfriend since I forget about my ex after no contact for a few months or am I just fooling myself? Please help me!!!!! I don’t want to make the biggest mistake of my life… :(

    • It sounds like you’re in a loving relationship with a solid man and that the ex is a distraction and fantasy – and likely not someone healthy for you. It’s also important to recognize that no one can “lead you down a path” that you don’t want to be lead. If you want to get out of your small town, you can discuss that with your current boyfriend and see if you can make that possible. It sounds like you’re equating this choice with your chance at happiness and making your partner responsible for your happiness. No one is responsible for your happiness except you. It’s time to grieve your ex and let him go once and for all so that you can live a content life with your current boyfriend.

  • BABS

    Thank you Sheryl! I really needed to hear that from someone. That’s what I belive I should do. I’m just so scared I made the wrong choice… Anyway, I really appreciate your help. :) Have a wonderful day!

  • Cass

    Hi Sheryl,

    I met my boyfriend 6 months ago for 2 months we just dated and got to know each other, during this time I had all those feelings of butterflys and thoughts of this guy is the one for me, feeling really like we connected to each other. 4 months ago he asked me to be in a relationship with him, I of course said yes seeing that I was very much into him. From that moment I started to doubt “is he the right one for me” ” do I actually like him” “do we connect”. This has created much anxiety for me, not been able to feel calm, sleepless nights, tears, over anaylizing every part of our relationship, and asking family and friends for their opinion. When I’m with him I feel fine, we get along well, I hate being apart from him, I get excited to see him etc.

    Sometimes I feel like we don’t or he doesn’t understand me. Yet I know he doe’s. Lately I keep thinking “what if i dated another guy maybe it would be better”. I don’t know if this is right to be feeling this, if I’m playing mind games with myself, maybe I’m just trying to convince myself his right and now looking at your blogs maybe it is anxiety.

    I then start to get upset at myself, because of these anxious feelings I start to worry and not be able to move forward with my feelings towards him, I don’t want to end the relationship I just don’t know how to stop feeling like this.

    Would love to have some feed back. Thankyou.

  • Sinead, Ireland

    I am in total shock with how alike we all are ladies. I thought I was the only one.

    I thank god(and Im not religious) that I found Sheryl’s site. I have spent hours online searching the internet with my anxiety problem. I emailed Sheryl today and I am going to download her e-course tomorrow.

    Like another poster (eerie)..Im a gay girl in a long distant relationship with a girl, I quite simply adore. Stunning heart, attractive, and blows me away with her beautiful nature. However, I get chronic anxiety/panic attacks with the emotional intimacy and get distorted thoughts, to the point I want to get sick and Im bed-ridden. It passes, and then Im serene, calm and feel a rush of warm love and protectiveness toward her. Then it comes back with a vengeance and I even shut down sexually.

    I am almost excited about this course and cant wait to purchase.

    I have spent years chasing alcoholic, toxic, drug-effect attractive girls only for it to end in tears and excrutiating pain. This girl is adorable and brings me to tears as Ive never encountered such cuteness, loving tenderness, generosity, warmth, compassion, understanding, sensual and I love her so much ht aches.

    However, when my panic attack hits, I feel those distorted feelings just as strong.

    I get backed into a corner mentally where I think “Id rather die than break her heart” thus induces more anxiety as the claustrophobic panic gets worse then.

    I really thought I was nuts. thank you for being so open and honest ladies and thank you Sheryl for existing :) . i cant wait to get started.

    Just proves this anxiety does not discriminate against sexual orientation.

  • I’m so glad you found your way here, Sinead!

  • Colette

    I can’t express to you how grateful I am that I found your blog. I have been in a very loving and happy relationship with a great guy for 4.5 years. We have lived together for 2.5 years and been engaged for 2 years. We’ve built this beautiful life together, and for quite a few months, we’ve been planning this big wedding. Neither of us wanted a big wedding to begin with, and I especially didn’t because of my anxiety. We looked into a bunch of smaller, alternative options, but with a very big family and lots of pressure, things snowballed into a big, traditional wedding. I made myself think I was okay with this and got very involved in planning. Then, about a month ago, I started to question every single thing. My anxiety got very bad to the point that I was having horrible panic attacks and although I’ve never suffered from depression, I was struggling with that as well. It got to the point that it was absolutely unbearable and I began to think that if I couldn’t go through with marrying my fiance, then he wasn’t “the one” for me. I ended up calling off the entire wedding, but my fiance and I both wanted to continue our relationship without the pressure of the wedding to see where the problem truly lied. The thing that bothered me was that I felt like I had been okay with the big wedding and actually feeling excited about it, so I struggled with the reason this had all happened. My fiance assured me that he only wanted me, not a big wedding and all the fancy stuff. I’ve been so confused with all of the emotions I’ve been feeling and I’ve constantly been questioning “Why?” and thinking about this non-stop. If I’m so happy with him and we’ve been happy for so long, I didn’t understand why this was all happening. I know for sure that I want a smaller wedding, but a lot of these other feelings have been bothering me. I’ve been relentlessly googling all kinds of phrases for some sort of support. Of course, I found so many webpages about “red flags” and “gut feelings”, basically saying that if everything doesn’t feel exactly right, then it’s wrong. This sent me into even more of a panic. When I found this blog, tears poured down my face because for once, I felt like what I’m feeling is “normal” and that just because this happened, it doesn’t mean things “aren’t meant to be”. You honestly touched on so many points and feelings that I was having that I felt like I had already told you about my situation. I’m willing to fight for this relationship and your words touched my heart more than I can tell you and really put everything into perspective for me. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!!!

  • S

    Dear Sheryl:
    I’ve found your site to be a sweet relief after months of trying to figure out my relationship anxiety issues and the past afternoon of reading has been very illuminating and given me far more peace than hours of conversation.

    Still, could you explain what you mean by shared values and goals, and understanding each other?

    I’ve been dating a wonderful, responsible, kind man for almost a year now. Almost immediately after I met him, I had this unshakable feeling that he was a gift. I don’t see a world without him, but I struggle to deal with a world with him. I keep circling around the same question—Are we well matched? Can he meet my emotional needs? Can I accept him for who he is?

    We work very differently. I’ve struggled with anxiety all my life and tend to express myself verbally to deal with emotions. He deals with feelings internally and doesn’t like talking about his issues. While he’s good at picking up on my emotions, he does not always deal with them sensitively or effectively. I don’t understand his way of dealing with emotions, he doesn’t understand mine.

    He’s willing to have difficult conversations with me about our relationship, but they are…very difficult…and can devolve quickly, leaving me feeling like I’m making much more of an effort to keep the relationship going than he is.

    To make matters more complex, we’re long distance—different countries—and he’s in the middle of a grueling PhD program. While he is willing to wake up and talk to me every day for an hour, there’s no other contact besides that (doesn’t reply to emails, etc). I feel terribly needy—because after all, an hour is a lot, but somehow I’m still anxious and want more— and like I take a backseat to his work (but I also feel guilty about taking up his time), while my anxiety about our relationship has interfered with my ability to work or socialize.

    I struggle to understand if this is my anxiety, or if there’s a fundamental mismatch in priorities and ways of seeing the world.

    • I would need more information to offer adequate advice, but the place to start would be to address your own neediness and from a more filled-up place you’ll be able to assess whether or not he’s able to meet your emotional needs. I highly suggest you read the book, “Why Talking It Not Enough” by Susan Page as well as “Inner Bonding” by Margaret Paul.

  • Grace

    Sheryl, I find this blog so comforting and wonderful. I am not yet 22 and living with my partner who’s 26 (we’ve been together 14 months). I have suffered with anxiety in general since childhood, and relationship anxiety since a traumatic first relationship fell apart and left me feeling small, under-confident and afraid. My partner is wonderful, beautiful and funny, and I love him very much; but when anxiety hits, I really wear the ‘nightmare glasses’: his face distorts and I feel frightened and much less attracted to him than usual.

    The last two months have been so tough for me. When we first met, we were just in flames for one another, I was overwhelmed by the immensity and clarity of my love. But my parents began a really acrimonious divorce a few months into our relationship, and the anxiety hit me like a freight train. I battled through it, and we moved in together, and we had a really beautiful chunk of time together where anxiety didn’t bother me. BUT, since mid-Jan, I’ve been really suffering: depressed, weepy, scared. Overcome by the pain of my parents’ divorce, I’m triggered by the littlest comments about break-ups or unhappy marriages. I’m too poor to do your course, Sheryl, but I wonder how you fend off an anxiety spike, instead of allowing yourself to be plunged under dark waters?

    • dorothy

      Grace, I am having the same problems. I am very afraid that I dont find his face common to me any more, that I cannot feel him real.
      What if I just want to live this life with someone and I am just picking him? I know it will happen again with everyone that I might meet, if I dont solve it now.

      • Grace

        Hmm, Dorothy, not feeling things are ‘real’ sounds like a symptom of depression, or at the very least, of detachment. Maybe try and solve this first? You are ‘picking’ your partner, everyone is just ‘picking’ their partner. The internet makes us think that we can somehow vet the entire world and ‘shop’ for the perfect lover, when actually, relationships flourish naturally between people in some kind of proximity to each other. Hang in there, love! If your instinct is that it is a problem in yourself, hold onto that instinct and get some therapy. And for the love of god, don’t google ‘should I break up with my partner?’. I’m in a spike and stupidly just did that. Useless and needlessly frightening.

  • Grace

    PS. I find people can be incredibly thoughtless and insensitive when giving out relationship advice, especially people who don’t understand the structure of anxiety. Towards me, people are often quite patronising, just because I’m in my early twenties, suggesting my relationship isn’t going to last anyway. It makes me feel so lacking in confidence in my own judgment. The harsh critical voice of the “future me” frequently appears and tells me that my decisions are naive and mistaken. Which makes believing in my partner tough sometimes!

  • Madison

    grace,
    I am only 19 and moved in with my boyfriend about 3 months ago. we’ve been together for a year but we’ve known each other our whole lives. for the first few months it was like nothing could go wrong and we both made it clear that we had no plans of ever being apart. but as soon as I knew I would be moving back to California where he was from nyc and moving in with him, anxiety set in. I was thinking “what if I don’t even like him? and sometimes even what if I’m a lesbian?” I had never had those thoughts before and after reading a lot of Sheryl’s work and startin therapy, I know the core of those thoughts is the fear of losing the person I love like I’ve never loved anyone else. it is very hard to see this reality when I’m in the midst of an anxious thought process but I know therapy will help me deal with these thoughts and have the clear, rewarding relationship that I know is there. I hope you find strength in coping with this anxiety!

  • Grace

    Madison, hey,

    I think you can correctly diagnose your thoughts as irrational if the content of them jumps madly from problem to problem, i.e. ‘what if I don’t even like him’ to ‘what if I’m a lesbian’. If you were dealing with something more external and founded in life, the problem would basically always be the same, i.e. ‘we always fight’, or ‘I never enjoy sex’. I think its actually really normal to panic and mentally test the relationship during a transitional period (everyone does it, but for some people it totally takes over).

    I’m feeling strong in the last week! I have a new, brilliant therapist and me and my boyfriend are getting on really well. I had a spike this morning, but coming to this website again has reassured me slightly. The love you feel for someone is the realest and most profound feeling in the world, so hang onto it. Sheryl talks about moments of clarity in her ‘Clear Eyes or Fear Eyes’ article, and that really resonated as true with me. Last point is that if you really didn’t love someone anymore, you would just feel it, clearly, wouldn’t resist it so much, wouldn’t look for help bringing you back towards your partner.

  • Coral

    Hi Sheryl,

    I’m wondering if you can point me in the right direction on my relationship problem. I’ve been dating a man for over a year now, a man who is caring, gentle, and sweet. This is my first “real” relationship, and if you had asked me a year ago I never would have thought it would have lasted so long–I never felt the spark that so many people seem to feel. Rather, I feel the potential of our relationship. We agree on so many aspects of life and compliment each other so well.

    And yet every time I see one of my friends falling into these brilliant, fabulous relationships I just spiral into this horrible feeling of jealousy, bitterness, fear, anxiety. The first time I felt so awful was after he said he loved me a few months into our relationship. My first reaction was happiness, though I wasn’t ready to say it back. And then the “what ifs” and “should I feel that way yet?” started pouring in. But what really killed it for me was seeing a good friend of mine say “I love you” to her boyfriend after only a month or so only made the feeling worse. I stayed this way for months before I finally broke down and confessed to him that I didn’t love him (yet) and how anxious and fearful that made me. He was incredibly supportive about it and made me promise to talk about my feelings with him, which I have tried to be more open about.

    Months later, I nearly broke up with him again because I was speaking to a friend of mine who felt he had found his soulmate. He was blown away by this woman and I was blown away by the fact that my friend, usually level-headed, was in so deep after speaking to her for 10 minutes (right after that they both decided to be boyfriend and girlfriend. Seriously!). My boyfriend and I talked about this issue, but the anxiety burned me up and only through his supportive words was I able to steer myself out of another breakup with him.

    Now, months after this last incident, I find myself caught again in a phase of anxiety, fear, and jealousy over my friends’ strong emotional attraction to their mates. It makes me feel like my relationship, built on potential, values, communication, feel second best when I see how much their partners make them happy. I don’t know whether my feelings of jealously are my anxiety speaking (I generally am not anxious about most things in life) or a sign from my inner self saying that though my boyfriend is wonderful, our relationship won’t work. Maybe I really do think that the “spark” AND the potential need to be there. I would love to hear thoughts from you, Sheryl, or anyone else out there experiencing something similar. Thanks,

    C

    • Please read these two books:

      Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Kate Kerrigan
      First Comes Marriage by Reva Seth

      And continue to read through my site. You’re far from alone in your concerns; you’re actually describing textbook relationship anxiety and indicate your confusion between real love and infatuation.

    • Liza

      Hi Coral,

      I don’t know how much help I can be, except to say I am right there with you. (Even been dating my first real boyfriend for the same amount of time as you.)

      This weekend we had one night out with friends, two of whom are newly dating, and it left me a wreck – I was constantly comparing our interactions to theirs (They seem really happy. She just touched his back, he just laughed at her joke – are we affectionate enough? Do we laugh enough?) I was even jealous of them holding hands, even though I was walking right behind them doing the same thing! Over the course of the evening became critical of and impatient with my boyfriend.

      The next night we went out by ourselves and I was happy and content. What changed? Nothing, except for my perception and the absence of comparison. It’s so confusing, hence my re-reading of this article this morning.

  • Anne

    Hi Sheryl,

    A horrible thought just popped into my head and now I can’t shake it. It’s a bit along the idea of “what if I’m settling,” but more along the lines of…what if, say, I was never dumped by an ex, and so I stayed with him and never started dating my current boyfriend? ie: What if I’m just with my boyfriend because he never ended things with me earlier on? I suspect this is yet another junk thought but it’s a very scary thought. I don’t subscribe to the idea of fate, but the idea that I’m just dating any guy who doesn’t end things with me is a terrifying possible realization about myself.

  • Alex

    Hi, I really needed to hear this. I am one of those people that judge others because my family does it but secretly, I really feel like there isn’t anything wrong with what they are doing. I didn’t want to be the odd one out. my family’s idea of compatibility is way too high… Well, meeting a great guy now because I am almost 30, they think I am settling. They believe I can do better. I have gotten to the point also where I have started asking myself if I am settling cos I am a bit bothered about the height difference, also maybe I am with him because I need to get married cos I am almost 30?? Today I was so depressed because I started thinking about one cute guy who had asked me out but at the time, I didn’t want him. I was wondering what that was all about. The person I am with now is a great guy, humble, honest, kind and loves me. I fell in love with him for him not his physical qualities. but every time my siblings tell me I am settling and they know me (of which I really believe that they don’t), I can’t help but wonder if I am truly settling.
    Thank you for this topic. I have a lot going on in my head concerning this topic. I really wish they will accept him too…he is a great guy.

  • Alex

    Also, I am a bit scared about what other people will say. I am okay with him but why do I feel like I need their approval. He is an inch shorter than I am, it isn’t a problem to me. I used to be self conscious about such things but since meeting him, it has been different. I genuinely fear people will say things like, “her ex-fiance was so gorgeous, compared to him (physically)she must be settling”.

    • Worrying about what others think is a HUGE problem for most people, especially when you’re prone to over-thinking, perfectionism, anxiety, etc. When you truly connect to what feels right in your heart and continually return to that place, you’ll care less and less about what others think. It’s a long process of reversing the direction of your focus (from outward to inward) but it’s doable. My mother often says, “What you think of me is none of my business” and “What you think of me says more about you than me.” Great quotes to remind yourself of a hundred times a day until it starts to sink in!

  • Irish_chick101

    Thank you Sheryl for all of your blogs. It brings me peace at times and then the anxious feeling comes back. I am battling between feeling that I may fear of allowing myself to fall in love or I fear to be alone and so forcing myself to be in love. I often wonder am I settling? I am 27 and I would love a family by the time I am 35, and feel like I don’t have much time. I am currently in a loving realtionship with my boyfriend for the past 7 months. I have always been confused about the way I felt about him from the begining…Sometimes I feel: cold and distant, or that I might deserve someone with a stronger connection, but then fear that I can’t do better, or that I can’t see that love is right in front of me. My boyfriend is the pursuer in the realationship. The first month I met him he was there for me at every turn, this first month was when my stress levels were the highest. I was moving, having finacial difficulties for the first time, became really sick ended up in the hospital, had some drama with leasing office/ roomate, but he was there to pick up the pieces and hold me together. It was that same month that he slipped out the “L” word, although flattered I couldn’t help but to think he wasn’t serious. As I sit in awe for all that he is and wonder why me? What is it about me that makes him tell me that he loves me the second week of dating…he didn’t even know me. How can you love me when you don’t even know me. I become skeptical, and see myself distancing myself trying to understand, but as time pass I see that he is being genuine. I then came to a place where I reciprocated that love he longed for, but that didn’t last that long…. now I am at a secound stage of fear if we are even right for each other. The secound stage of fear was triggered when I heard from a guy (whom which I felt a huge connection for about a year before) and he and his 2 year fiance had broken up, I told him that I had a boyfriend and he didn’t try to talk to me further and said he was happy for me… I adore this guy and care for him deeply but he lives too far away, plus its a huge risk to try anything with him, because I am already in a loving relationship and I don’t want to lose that for a “shot” with him. With my current boyfriend at times I think I could walk away, break it off, and feel nothing, but realise I am just fooling myself. It is driving me crazy that I cannot figure out if I am either fearing the commitment (and that’s why I cannot love him the way I feel like I should) or that I am forcing the love to avoid being alone. Do you have an article that address these polor opposite sides of fear?

  • z

    Hey Sheryl. Your write ups are so amazing! Please hear me out.

    So i met this guy and after grabbing a few coffee sessions with him i’ve been already thinking i really should date this guy. 6 months later, we got together. It was the happiest i’ve ever been in my entire life in a very very long time. He is fun, funny, silly, caring, selfless, and knows how to handle situations well. I could talk about everything and anything with him. He just gets me. I’m the type who wouldn’t open up my thoughts to anyone but he encourages me to. I could even picture spending my whole entire life with him; starting a family and kids. and this is the only relationship that feels right compared to my previous two. It’s been 5 months now we’ve been dating. And we hit a little bump. One of my family member dont seem to like him. And it bothers me so very much. I’m afraid of so many things. I’m afraid of disapproval, I’m afraid of being blinded from love, I’m afraid i might be wrong. By just hitting one bump i’m already freaking out. Will i be able to handle more? I care too much about what other people think. Then i start comparing and comes the what ifs. I feel terrible. so much uncertainty that i sometimes feel i’m losing myself. Help? How do i deal with this? It consumes me and the relationship itself.

  • Confused

    I am in the same situation, I feel confident until I speak to my mother and sister who convince me that I am ‘settling’ for a guy that is intellectually less than I am.
    I can definitely see that intellectually we are different, maybe not in terms of ‘smartness’ but even just in terms of curiosity and our willingness to question things, be critical and creative and so forth. My conversations with my bf are generally limited to discusison of what our day was like etc.
    However, having said this he is loving, supportive, has a good job, treats me like a princess!!! I know for a fact that we could be together forever with a solid future – if I wanted.
    The unfortunate thing is I swing like a pendulum between thinking that a good conversation is so fundamental for a solid relationship that I should break up with him effectively immediately, to hating myself for even having those thoughts. It’s heartbreaking to constantly feel like this and I don’t think there is an easy for solution for me. I’ll be upset if I stay as I’ll always wonder if I have cut myself short. I’ll be upset if I go, as deep down I do love the stability he gives me. I’m so incredibly confused!