Can I Make It Work With Anyone?

IMG_2633After reading through my site, many people are left with the question: If I can grow love and cultivate attraction, can I make a relationship work with any good and loving partner with whom I share values and vision? My short answer is: no. Let me explain.

There’s a mysterious element of relationship called connection. Connection is the magnetic pull that draws you toward certain cities, places in nature, work environments, and people. It’s why some people feel drawn to the desert and others are drawn to the ocean. “I feel connected to forests,” one person might say, while someone else shares, “I feel connected to the buzz and rush of city life.” We each respond to different types of art, style, design, and music. It’s why we have country music, hard rock and classical.

So just like you wouldn’t choose to be friends with anyone – even if you shared interests and background – you wouldn’t choose to develop a romantic relationship with anyone. There’s something that drew you to your partner, something inside of you that said “yes” even if other, fear-based elements were simultaneously saying “no”.

Now, connection can be a tricky thing, and can also be a high-spike word for people struggling with relationship anxiety. First off, connection can be difficult to determine if your heart has been closed for most of the relationship. Because we expect our partners to “make us” feel alive, when that aliveness (spark, chemistry) is missing, we immediately assume it’s because we’re with the wrong person and we don’t have the “right” connection. But how can you determine connection if your heart is closed?

A key question to ask yourself is: Do I feel alive and connected in other areas of my life? If you’re like many of the people who find me, you’re likely suffering from a dry inner well of Self – low self-love, self-knowledge, and self-trust – which leads to a lack of aliveness and connection to yourself and to your life. While you may have initially felt alive in the early stages of your relationship (some people are offered a free ride in the beginning where their hearts open and the infatuation overrides the status quo of numbness or anxiety), once the reality of every day living takes hold, you will default back to your baseline level of inner dryness. So the first step is to examine your connection to your own aliveness, which, in essence, is your connection to Self (self-love, self-knowledge, self-trust).

And even if you do feel connected in other areas of your life, if you’re suffering from anxiety the first place you’ll shut down is in your intimate relationship. So you could say, “Yes, I do feel alive at work and with my friends; it’s only with my partner that I shut down so therefore we must not have a core connection,” but that would be a thinking error. You can have a core connection and still shut down around your partner if you’re wired to equate an available, supportive partner with lack of attraction and you don’t know how to effectively work with your fear walls.

Deep down, underneath the self-doubt and ceaseless mind chatter, when you stop and turn inward and plumb into the place of truth inside, you will know if you and your partner share a connection. Other helpful questions to ask yourself are: Does he “get” me? Does she support me? When I’m not in an anxious spell, do I enjoy spending time in his/her company? When our hearts are open, is there a basic flow or ease between us? In a moment of calm, ask yourself, “Do we connect?” and if the answer is yes, you know that you’re in the right place and you’re choosing someone loving with whom you can work to grow your garden of love, intimacy and attraction.

Real connection is found in an open heart. It’s not about surface attraction and it’s not about what we normally think of as chemistry and spark. True connection occurs when two hearts speak to each other. It’s the deep river of beauty you sense in your partner that transcends any physical feature. It’s the place of soul, of poetry, of who you would see when you looked at your partner if your gift of sight was removed. On this planet of billions of people, to meet someone with whom you connect  is nothing short of a miracle. Our fear-laden hearts try to trample on this miracle by convincing us to run with the messages of “not enough”: not attracted enough, not in love enough, not enough connection. But you know what’s true. Somewhere underneath the fear-based lies runs the steady river of truth, as steady as the real beauty of the partner who stands before you.

118 comments to Can I Make It Work With Anyone?

  • jen

    What a perfect post Sheryl, when i read it everything you said I can relate too, it was like it was actually wrote for me,
    when I met my husband I was initially interested in him because his friend told me he was first cousins with one of the biggest rock bands in the worlds lead singer and also my families favourite band! I was thinkning wow cool and also he was attractive and there was something so special about him he was so calm and had this way about him I really liked.

    I am currently pregnant with our second child, all through our relationship of 8 years i have went from worrying maybe i dont love him enough too recently worrying maybe he no longer loves me or is attracted too me, it seems like I cant just relax alot of the time and i am constantly alert looking for signs that his unhappy or things arent going well and sure enough after a long time of doing this it has transpired into my reality and I could definitely see that my personality was taking a toll on him- the anxious part of me.

    we had a chat last night and I was telling him how I had been thinking in ways i wish we never got married because it puts all this mental pressure on me to make sure everything is ok, he expained too me that his idea of marriage is to create a stable base for our children and also too make a lifelong commitment too one another, i told him this is the part i struggle with because how do we know its going to work out, how do we know that one day we wont stop loving one another, i suppose this is why i dont like the whole marriage thing it just makes me feel uneasy, at the same time im happy im married in ways.

    Having these thoughts about my own marriage makes me uneasy because i think well maybe its just i cant commit therefore maybe i really dont love him, but then why would i be worried he doesnt find me attractive anymore, why would i look for signs his unhappy or look through his phone etc.

    its kinda crazy and today i really was thinking that this is pretty much a mental obsession so therefore maybe i should be on long term ssri after i have my baby.

    anyway sorry i just really need too talk and here seems the only place im understood, other people dont really understand and I dont understand myself most the time, its the most confusing feeling in the world and always seems too be way worse when I am pregnant.

    • This is the key sentence in your comment: “I dont understand myself most the time”. It’s the lack of self-knowledge that leads to the inability to break free from the intrusive thoughts, so I encourage you to pour yourself into yourself through journaling, reading, mindfulness, and attending to your physical health. When you commit to a holistic approach for healing anxiety, you can learn to fill your inner well of Self and find your clarity and serenity.

  • jen

    sorry is not attracted too me I meant too say.

  • Bryce

    This is so beautiful and true! If you tap into the true and core you, you will feel this connectedness! Thank you!

  • Rebecca

    Beautiful post! Thank you for sharing. I just married a man who I definitely feel very connected too but it is such a great reminder that this connection is only possible when my heart is open and to go back to this place first when I feel like that connection seem unavailable, dull or missing. Love your blog. Thank you! 🙂

  • Sammy

    And my mind jumps right to “And if the answer is no?” I have struggled with a lack of connectedness to my spouse for the majority of our relationship. I want to make it work but over time I have come to realize that while he is a good and loving partner, we may be missing that core connection. I’ve committed to him, our marriage, and our children, but I have a sense of sadness as that need for connection goes unmet. I don’t want to divorce, I don’t want to upset my entire life…I just want to feel drawn to him. If that doesn’t exist deep within, how grim are the prospects?

    • How connected do you feel in the rest of your life, Sammy? How connected do you feel to yourself? Read the article again, especially the paragraphs that pertain to those suffering from relationship anxiety. There will be NO CONNECTION when anxiety is in the way.

  • Me myself and I

    One thing I know for sure is I’ve struggled with connecting to myself for a while and that in turn has made it a struggle to connect with my partner. This struggle to self connect preceded my relationship with my current partner. I have had brief moments of connection with my partner that tell me there is still something that draws me to him. My fear based mind likes to come up with foolish excuses for what draws me to him and it’s amazing the excuses I come up with. Sometimes these excuses make sense logically but they r just a projection of taking the responsibility off of me and to put it onto my spouse. I had moments of connection in the beginning. I can remember these moments clear as day. I felt the connection much more readily. But I also remember picking my spouse apart maybe like two to three months in. It was almost like the anxiety set in that early on. It intensified once we talked about moving in together and getting engaged. I never had it be so intense until then. My point is, I know I am connected to him at times and that I love him even though I’ve only had glimpses of it.
    Yes I’ve felt connected with my friends and family at times and even with myself at times like when I’m dancing or whatever. But ultimately those moments r when my heart is open but then my heart closes again. Because my partner is a trigger for my anxiety it is harder for my heart to open up around him out of fear. But I’m getting better at it. It’s taken a lot of work and resistance is my middle name. I know resistance will always be there to greet me but I choose to move through it. Because if I don’t, how will I ever grow? How will I ever grow in my relationship? I grieve and cry when I think of my partner being with someone else or leaving me. I’ve also had moments where I felt calm about leaving the relationship and him finding someone new. The point I’m making is fear is something we all know so well on this forum. It can convince us to leave. I think I read something somewhere that said….

    U can hurt a person by being true to yourself but in the long term you are doing both yourselves a favor. You can so hurt a person by being selfish and caught up in your fear/anxiety. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the two apart.

    • Thank you for your comment. This is key: “Because my partner is a trigger for my anxiety it is harder for my heart to open up around him out of fear.” You’re doing great work. Keep going.

      • Me myself and I

        Thank you! This is the hardest work I’ve ever had to do but it is also the most rewarding! It’s all about cultivating a sense of self worth that enables me to trust in myself. All this work has pointe towards stAying in my relationship while simultaneously doing the self work and relationship work.

  • debra

    hi sheryl,
    as always, your words are powerful, honest and deeply inspiring to me. i had to leave my long term relationship recently because while love and connection were definitely there, my partners ability/desire to work through his fears was not. we kept hitting a wall on the path to deeper intimacy. i do not believe he was able to see how his “lack of aliveness” in his life was contributing to the problems we were having. i tried to work through this with him but his choice remained to do his work on his own and it simply was not enough. i have grown, he is/was, not.
    i still and always will love him deeply so it hurts to leave but i get that timing is everything and our journey together had to come to an end.
    sigh…..
    thx for your always helpful insights.
    xox
    debra

    • Me myself and I

      Being on the receiving end of someone who struggles with anxiety and a lack of self connection is painful. It must’ve taken a lot of courage for you to stay and work it out. At the same time it’s important to take care of ourselves and recognize our own limits. We must all do the best we can and make decisions based on what we know to be true in the present moment. Wishing you all the best on your journeys. When it comes to matters of the heart, I think we all know the power of fear, rejection, and failure.

  • Christine

    Hello:
    Reading this article I can relate.

    I have been with my boyfriend for two years now.
    He moved in about a year ago to help me financially, and I am grateful.
    We have good times together he listens and supports me all the time.
    However he will tell me he loves me..and I never say it. We have had long discussions about how I feel.I tell him..I just dont feel that love for you. I feel terrible saying that …he is amazing in every way. Financially..he lost everything in his divorce and he is 53. I am totally confused…if not Mr. Perfect than who?
    Mentally we do not really connect either…there are topics that we discuss and he knows nothing about…kind of surprises me. I dont want to come off as some scholar snob. All I can say is HELP.

    Please advise..

    I am a divorced mom..two kids.
    Split custody with dad. So I get nervous about being alone..have had a difficult time finding a good job.

  • Ruby

    I could have written Sammy’s post. Ad I don’t believe that anxiety is a factor for me. I tried everything I could to foster a connection with my husband and in the past two years, I have so reheat given up on that in favor of working on that self-connection and inner well that you speak of. I have come a long way in terms of loving, knowing, and trusting myself. And it feels wonderful!
    But the lack of a core connection with my partner remains. I believe he is emotionally unavailable to me, and conversations about it never yield anything positive. No matter my approach, he feels cornered and pressured and, I think, baffled. It’s as if he doesn’t even know what it means to have a connection on that intimate level. Maybe he never has. It feels like trying to get blood from a stone. So then I pull back again into my self-care and focus on myself and my children, though I am still kind to him, too, of course.
    Because I don’t want to divorce, I have tried to simply change my expectations, letting to of hope for a core connection with him. Honestly the biggest challenge for me is sex. It brings forward the sadness and deep loneliness I feel within my marriage, so sex doesn’t happen as often as he would like.
    Is there any hope for us? I assume we will part ways when our children are older. I feel both grief and relief at the thought. He is a very good person, kind, caring, creative and a great dad. We just don’t have that one, key element.
    We have tried counseling in the past. I’d be willing to try again, but honestly I don’t have a ton of hope. Mostly it feels like an unsolvable problem that I am choosing to cope with for my kids sake. We don’t fight and we are warm and respectful to each other– granted its not perfect but we both make an effort.

    • I’m curious what drew you to him to begin with, Ruby.

      • Ruby

        Hi Sheryl,
        I was drawn to him for many reasons, reasons which hold true after eight years. I am actually very proud of myself for choosing such a good partner, despite the fact that, when I met him, I was not even remotely the person I am today. I did not love myself so fiercely then. I had a habit of ping ponging between men who followed me around like puppies, and men who were remote and even cruel. He was neither. I think it was actually an act of courage when I chose to say yes to him (the second time that he asked). We do have a lot of “chemistry”, which as you have noted is not the same as core connection. Maybe the potential is still there for us. I’m just not sure, and I think I’ve withdrawn a bit for fear of bring let down again, as my past efforts have failed. I am going to read that book.

        • me myself and i

          Ruby, you say
          “I think it was actually an act of courage when I chose to say yes to him (the second time that he asked). We do have a lot of “chemistry”, which as you have noted is not the same as core connection. Maybe the potential is still there for us. I’m just not sure, and I think I’ve withdrawn a bit for fear of bring let down again, as my past efforts have failed. I am going to read that book.”

          Yes, it was an act of courage to say yes and you know what, it’s still an act of courage for you to stay and not give up on your marriage. It seems you still possess this courage and can actively work towards cultivating the open heartedness you wish to have to connect with your spouse. Also “core connection” is what you seem to have with your partner. He’s your biggest cheerleader, you seem to have the same values and have been together for 8 years, and you admitted that there is this chemistry between you which may equate to what Sheryl speaks regarding “this ease with which you jive together when doing things like taking care of your kids etc.” Another good read is “101 things I wish I knew before I got married” and “recipes for a perfect marriage” (which is fiction and a great read) and lastly” and First Comes Marriage by Reva Smith.

          One last thing, while we are all able to feel connected and alive at times in some areas of our lives, ultimately, we have to recognize the human condition of fear of love. In our intimate relationships, we all have a fear of getting hurt and pretty much have been conditioned from a young age to keep our hearts closed. So while “relationship anxiety” may not be the coined term that people relate to, anxiety, nonetheless, is something I believe we as a human race have had some experience with. When considering this philosophically, it is important to recognize the walls we all ahve around our hearts and how it impacts our relationships. It seems you have reconsidered your earlier post where you said “you don’t have relationship anxiety” when you mention that you do keep walls around your heart because of fear of being let down by your spouse after attempting to convey to him his lack of emotional availability. It also seems your later response shows your courage to look back at how you were before you met your spouse where you internalized messages from your mother about what love was and what men are all about. You see that this message is still something that plays over and over in your mind like a record player. This message may be one of the layers of fear you can work through to access your open heart. I wish you the best on your journey. Regardless of where it takes you, it’s great you’re choosing to live in the present and do this work on your marriage. It’s always best to do the work so we can arrive at a good place before giving up and walking away.

    • Me Myself and I

      I hear ya Ruby and Sammy. If you partner is unwilling to do his/her own work, how does one grow? All I know is we are never done growing. Sometimes we feel so sad because of the lack of emotional connection within the marriage that it clouds us from finding ways to connect. I don’t blame your partner for feeling cornered. Clearly, if that is his reaction then there is work to be done on both of your parts on how to improve your communication so you both understand one another and feel like your needs are getting met. Counseling seems like a sure start. Probably his counseling individually and then both of u in counseling. It’s normal to doubt the relationship is not going to work out and to even feel relief because u know u won’t have to endure the struggle of the current state of ur relationship but also grief because u probably had higher hopes itw ould work out. What drove those higher hopes to beginw ith though? I think that’s the point Sheryl is getting at. What made u want to commit to him to begin with?

      I can tell u that my partner had to do individual counseling to see that his overbearing mother affected his ability to emotionally connect with me. For instance, he was always in his head thinking and calculating his communication because it makes him feel safe. Always thinking of just the right thing to say or the right thing to do was purely logical and he kept his emotional side out of it. but it didn’t mean he wasn’t feeling emotions or wasn’t processing it all inside him. He just was too afraid to communicate what he was processing to me because he didn’t want me to react in a negative way. He was conditioned to be this way from society and also from his mother who is emotinoally overbearing and an anxious worrier.

      Chances are if he is feeling cornered, he is not feeling safe enough to communicate with you.

      He may also tell you therapy is not for him. I know my spouse said that in the beginning. He had so much resistance to it because most people are scared of therapy. It’s still quite taboo in this culture.

      The number one reason women leave relationships is a lack of emotional intimacy plus women statistically are more likely to initiate divorce than anyone else too.

      Know how you are feeling is a common dilemma. The work sheryl recommends is tough tough work. most people don’t stick it out. But the more u feed the thought of “i’m just staying for the children then I’ll leave” the more likely that will become your destination.

    • Me Myself and I

      One other thing Ruby. At one point I could relate to this statement you made:

      ” No matter my approach, he feels cornered and pressured and, I think, baffled. It’s as if he doesn’t even know what it means to have a connection on that intimate level. Maybe he never has. It feels like trying to get blood from a stone.”

      I realized I was projecting onto him “You are responsible for my aliveness. I want this deep connection with you because I’m not getting it from within myself.” Then I took a step back and realized:
      This man loves me. He has a different way of communicating it. Every time I approach him about his lack of emotional availability, he shuts down because he feels like he’s not making me happy and incapable of giving me what I need. I then internalize his shutting down as – he is unemotional because he is a man. he is unemotional because i was his first serious intimate relationship and he doesn’t know how to open up in this way to me and probably never will.

      Can I just say my thinking was ALL WRONG. Couples Therapy and his own individual therapy started to bring out how we were both coming from a defensive place and projecting onto one another. What also came out of it was we expected the other to fulfill certain needs that weren’t being met. Once we learned through lots of hard work how to communicate better, things in the relationship started to shift. This has taken nearly two years. And I honestly only noticed the shift within the past two months or so.

      Add the challenge of managing time for your children, your relationship, and each other and you’ll get the hint. And I’ll tell u, the work didn’t happen in the therapy room nearly as much as it happened through our own direct interaction.

      You also said this….
      “Is there any hope for us? I assume we will part ways when our children are older. I feel both grief and relief at the thought.”

      When I’m in a sad or lonely place, the same thoughts and feelings come up for me also. I even say to myself “I don’t have anxiety. I’m fine. It’s just my relationship is not working because we don’t have that connection and we’ll never be able to be happy and not work out.” Then I start crying and listen to my inner child who says “You deserve this love but you have to BELIEVE in it. You are too afraid to take the risk because you’ve been abandoned/hurt/rejected/abused/shamed/humiliated/traumatized in the past.

      Also, I have never been in a relationship with an emotionally available partner before that’s actually worked. Usually, I’d just leave the relationship and look back with regret thinking “Wow, it could’ve really worked out with that one if I hadn’t been so afraid or immature.” As they say, timing is everything.

      So my question for you (especially since you are doing great self work) is…”What drew you to him to begin with?” and “Do you think your own fear and your lost faith in the relationship are related?” Perhaps his lack of emotional availability and obvious communication issues within your relationship have caused you to put a wall around your heart.

      • Spot on, and so generous of you to share this. Ruby, I HIGHLY recommend that you read “Why Talking is Not Enough” by Susan Page. Since you’re in for now, you may as well leave no stone left unturned, especially as it doesn’t sound like there are any red flag issues like addictions or breaches of trust.

        • Clara

          Yes, do read ‘Why Talking is Not Enough’. Sheryl recommended it to me about a year ago and it was such an important piece in my reconnection with my partner.

          • Ruby

            Thank you, thank you for these words of wisdom. That book has been recommended to me before and I AM going to read it. It’s time. I’m tired of toughing it out. My kids are only two and three, so 15 years is just too long to essentially be staying married after having given up.
            I am part of a mothering circle that is moderated by someone who teaches Inner Bonding. So I have a good foundation for doing this tough work. I just clearly need to keep at it. I need to nurture my own aliveness, as you wrote, even more consistently. (I learned from my mom that man = excitement, aliveness, purpose, safety, etc. I just need to keep on unlearning that!) I am many years into this work, but marriage and parenting have brought me from high school to grad school in a hurry.
            Thanks again.

          • Ruby

            This is my inner dialogue also!! When I remember…

            This man loves me. He has a different way of communicating it. Every time I approach him about his lack of emotional availability, he shuts down because he feels like he’s not making me happy and incapable of giving me what I need. I then internalize his shutting down as – he is unemotional because he is a man. he is unemotional because i was his first serious intimate relationship and he doesn’t know how to open up in this way to me and probably never will.

            He freezes up when we Talk. His core fear is that I will bail out so he freezes. I’ve wondered if it has anything to do with him being adopted, but ultimately it doesn’t matter why. He just does. But I know he loves me. And when I am living in an empowered way, he is my biggest cheerleader.

  • NYCgirl988

    Hi Sheryl,

    This post is great as I’ve always wondered what differentiates choosing one potential mate from another. While I do realize that I am in the midst of anxiety and the course, this post really spiked me. My WS has latched onto the thought “What if we don’t have a connection?” While I realize a what if statement is purely based from the wounded self, I can’t help but wonder is this why I have anxiety? Do we have a lack of connection?

    You say to ask yourself questions like does he get you? Most times but sometimes he does not. Does he support you? Always. Do we enjoy spending time together when anxiety is not present? Absolutely. Is there a natural flow and ease between us? I’m not sure because this anxiety has me questioning everything in my life. I sometimes feel as though I don’t know what is real anymore.

    When I first read the post, I immediately cried and my WS screamed out to me to leave yet again and took it’s hold on me like it hasn’t in a while. But the thing is, I don’t want to leave him. I don’t want to be with anyone else. Even in my anxiety, I know this but can’t help but question everything about our relationship with a fine comb. Am I just too scared to face the truth? Please help. Thank you.

    • This is clearly your anxiety speaking, NYCgirl. Keep doing your inner work and holding true to your inner knowing that you’re with a loving partner who loves you and supports you. Nobody will “get” you all the time; that’s a fantasy. But it’s clear even from your comment that you have a core connection and that your anxiety is in the driver’s seat right now.

      • Pamela Fischer

        This entire post SCREAMED out the me (the blog and this reply). I am having a serious phase of depression fueled by anxiety and, as discovered, my relationship. Sure, everyone has doubts sometimes and wonders “hmmm…what if?”, but I can say that mins is absolutely self-created when it’s this out of control.

        “the thing is, I don’t want to leave him. I don’t want to be with anyone else. Even in my anxiety, I know this but can’t help but question everything about our relationship with a fine comb. Am I just too scared to face the truth?”

        I could have written this exact paragraph myself. The amount of times I have had this conversation in my head is unbelievable and so So frustrating…I cry and cry and feel so sad at the thought of us breaking up. There are no red flags, just anxiety fueled doubts.

  • Sela

    This is so perfect, and it came to me in the perfect moment. Working through the ecourse and journaling, I am seeing a huge shift in my anxiety! I can’t thank you enough. I am learning so much about myself and realizing this has nothing to do with my partner. This anxiety has been with me for most of my life, and I am forever grateful I found your page. For the first time I am actually taking a good hard look at myself and opening up to real love. There is still a lot of work to do, and a lot of growing! Thank you thank you thank you!

  • Carly

    I really like this post. I know for me I lack self trust. I am always seeking reassurance for most decisions I make. The only thing I question is the question “does he get me?” Perhaps you could clarify, but I do not expect him to understand the anxiety and this process fully.

    • No, you can’t expect him to understand your anxiety, but the anxiety is not who you really are (your essence). The question to ask is if he understands the core/essential you.

  • Alex

    Thank you Sheryl for your understanding and helpful explanation. Although experience has taught me otherwise, this was always a sticking point for me – the idea that you can make it work with anyone if you can grow and cultivate love and attraction. During the good moments of my relationship I remind myself that my boyfriend and I ‘just work’. I can’t explain why or how, just that we do. Maybe I should recognise this for what it is, a connection and one that I’ve always thought missing. As usual, great timing!

    • Yes, this is a phrase I often hear from my clients struggling with relationship anxiety: “It just works.” If it’s working 80% of the time, you’re in a good shape, and the rest is learning to work with the anxiety.

  • Me Myself and I

    Hey Carly,

    I hear you on “Does he get me?” That can definitely be an anxiety spike. Then you start doing the comparisons to past loves or other people in your life you’re close to who might readily understand you in a particular way (especially if you’ve known these people for many years or if these people knew you even before u met your partner).

    One thing about my husband is emotionally, he is not always going to know why I’m upset because his brain separates logic from emotions whereas mine combines them. He can look at me and see that I’m upset but may not know why if I do not choose to share it with him. The more we talk about what’s going on inside of us, the better we learn to communicate and the more he can understand me.

    Also, when I’m upset about something girl related, and want to vent to a friend, that friend is going to be familiar with how to emotionally respond in an appropriate way which reinforces my sense of connection to that friend and the fact that that friend and I havek nown each other for 10 years. I’m going to feel like they get me in this particular area and my fear mind will say “well my partner doesn’t get mei n this area so that means he must not understand me.” When in reality, I LIVE with my parnter and he gets me in ways that my friends don’t get me. It’s just the nature of your relationship to your love. We all have different types of relationships to different people in our lives and each one helps fill different parts of ourselves. I’m learning to trust and open up to my partner more and this has helped him and myself learn to respond to each other’s emotional needs better. This in turn has helped me open my heart more, feel more connected, and ultimately, feel more confident that he gets me.
    Also, another thing I think about is that my friends and I aren’t each other’s primary life partners. A Primary life partner role comes with a much BIGGER set of expectations (not to diminish the deep bonds we need and get from our life friends) but having different sets of expectations changes how we relate to one another. It almost takes the pressure off in a way and can help you feel more open.

    In essence, my partner is an anxiety trigger for me. My friends (while they can say things to trigger my anxiety at times) they are not alone an anxiety trigger.

  • Carly

    I really like what you said about different people fulfilling different purposes! I overanalyze so much whether my partner really connects with my essence, but I don’t even know what that looks like for me. What I do know is that he accepts me at every level. He is so patient and open with me and we have grown immensely. We are learning to listen to each other with compassion which has helped form this connection. I think my anxiety spikes when people say a connection is either there or not from the beginning.

    • It’s also worth saying that connection, like love and attraction, can be grown. Just look at the success of arranged marriages!

    • Me Myself and I

      Carly you said:
      “What I do know is that he accepts me at every level. He is so patient and open with me and we have grown immensely. We are learning to listen to each other with compassion which has helped form this connection.”

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I feel the same way about my partner. Also see Alex’s response above about “it just works” and that is very telling of the connection we have with someone despite what romanticized ideas we may buy into from society.

  • Quick one, guys. Id recommend reiki sessions and actually studying it and doing it on yourself daily. Its healing my anxiety and my relationship with (most importantly) myself, then automatically everyone else around me (including my boyfriend). He did the reiki course too! Im feeling connected to myself, life, everything. Starting to undetstand what people have said all along ‘its nothing to do with your boyfriend’. Good luck on your healing journey, guys!! Many thanks to Sheryl 🙂

    • Pamela Fischer

      I am doing Reiki today and hope it calms me, even slightly, but will continue to do it regularly. The “it’s nothing to do with your boyfriend” comment is one that runs over in my mind, but is counter-commented with “but what if it is! it is!”

  • Me Myself and I

    Man I’m really doing a high number of posts today.

    I just want to mention that having children is a MAJOR transition, albeit a very worthy one. With our focus on our children, balancing our lives becomes more challenging and finding time for our relationships also gets harder. You’re just so busy all the time that if you don’t find time to water the garden of your marriage, you notice that self-alienation more readily.

    We plan to have children someday ourselves and although we haven’t yet walked that path, just about every person we’ve talked to who’s had kids has said “it’s the greatest joy and the greatest challenge as far as finding time for our partner” and when both partners work through the challenge and make the effort, things begin to change. But it takes two.

  • Lily

    Really hits close to home. I’m engaged. And at the point of ready to break it off and be “free” of all this going back and forth. At this point i don’t want to get married to him or any man for that matter. It’s that bad. Thought I wanted it all, now that it’s more real, i just don’t want it and want to go back to the old days of being alone….
    I fear this can be a trend with every man I meet and get serious with.

    • Me Myself and I

      Lily, we all walk this path. The engagement anxiety wakes us up, it calls to us to do the work.

      You say: “I fear this can be a trend with every man I meet and get serious with.”

      you’ve already identified one layer of the onion surrounding your heart. There are many more layers to peel back. it’s your choice. how u do it is your choice. Some people choose to put off the wedding date and do the work and find their marriages continue to gradually get better (with the ebbs and flows) while others may all together just give up on the relationship and perhaps delaying their opportunity for growth. As these problems will clearly be revisited when u walk the road to serious commitment again in ur life.

      • Me Myself and I

        some people (like myself) don’t put off the wedding date and just move through the fear walls on the other side.

        • Kristen

          Me Myself and I,

          If you don’t mind me asking, are you married? I feel so different from most people doing Sheryl’s work because I’m married and I’ve struggled with anxiety on and off since January. I had anxiety before my wedding but it went away until it came back again. I thought I was doing better lately, but the past few days I’ve felt terrible. I’m starting to doubt all this work because I don’t know anyone else (except for on here) that is married and has relationship anxiety. Some days I’m able to see my core fears and I feel blessed for finding this work, and then other days (like today) I feel like all of this is a joke and I shouldn’t have to work this hard. Do you ever experience the same?

          • Me Myself and I

            Kristen,

            Totally. When you say “I thought I was doing better lately, but the past few days I’ve felt terrible.” it reminds me of the ebb and flow that so many of us can relate to. Channeling your loving adult to recognize this ebb and flow as a part of your own process and journey helps when in the “ebb” places.

            Also, relationship anxiety is not a term most people are familiar with. Take me, for example. I’d never heard of it until I discovered this site. But yet, when you consider the high divorce rate, high rate of breakups, and general fears of facing rejection amid opening your heart to love….I think we can all see how relationship anxiety can be a spectrum phenomenon (as in some people have it in low levels while others have it in high levels) that is common to lots of people even without putting a name to it.

            Also, many people feel shame around having these types of conversations regarding their relationship and are more likely to not share such deep vulnerable information because in this perfectionistic culture “You should get out of your relationship if you hare having problems and are not happy most of the time.”
            Clearly this link of thinking is problematic but it is what many of us internalize.

          • Me Myself and I

            And yes, I’m married.

          • Lydia

            Hi Kristen,

            I just wanted to chime in with what MMI said about how you are very likely not alone but no one is talking about this. People often comment to me and my partner that we look like we have the perfect relationship and we look so happy together. We are happy together, but there is strong relationship anxiety on my end that comes and goes and, even though I am not married yet(engaged), I can’t possibly imagine it leaving forever just because we got married. I assume it will be a lifelong struggle of sorts. It’s like my go-to response as soon as I get scared of life. I like to say: my partner is always the second person I start hating (after myself).

            Anyway, the point is: I never talk about this. And on all other aspects, I try to be a very honest person and not create ideals. But this feels too personal, and I dont feel strong enough to handle other people’s fears and doubts around it.

          • YES to all of what you wrote, especially this: “I assume it will be a lifelong struggle of sorts. It’s like my go-to response as soon as I get scared of life. I like to say: my partner is always the second person I start hating (after myself).”

  • Tom

    Thank you! What a great article! It helps me see what I need to work on in my life. I had so much anxiety in my last relationship I was not able to be present and the relationship failed. I am working on being happy alone, sticking to my boundaries and trusting my feelings before getting into another relationship. Being alone is very challenging at the moment. I can do it! I can do it!

  • Lily

    After reading about Sheryl’s work, I felt I can related to all these good issues brought up and can relate. But then my anxiety is whether or not I’m sure it’s all relationship anxiety and I’m using that as an excuse or if really, he’s great and all but just not for me. Or am i just “comfortable” and “secure” but no connection…

  • Lily

    Additionally, we have so much fun together whether out at a party, dinner, or just watching tv in bed. But then i question, maybe it’s because he’s my best friend, maybe as lovers it should feel differently, deeper passion or something…

  • Kristen

    MMI,

    Thanks so much for your response. Did you find Sheryl’s work before or after you got married? Does your spouse know about your relationship anxiety?

    • me myself and i

      I found it before but did not really pursue the ecourse until after. Yes my spouse knows about my anxiety and while we’ve discussed in detail the impact of having a closed heart and the fears I’ve held onto that I beleive impact our relationship, I do not tell him the specific negative thoughts I have that are not grounded in anything sensical. Quite frankly, the thoughts that run through my head, as we’ve shared on Sheryl’s forum, are not factual and are negative projections. To tell him specifically what those negative projections is hurtful. So I don’t share them. I just name the fact that I’m having these thoughts.

      • Shoshana

        Thanks for asking this question, Kristen, and for MMI, your response. I’m struggling with knowing if/how/when to communicate my anxiety to my boyfriend. I don’t want to hurt his feelings so it’s helpful to understand to what extent other people share with their partners.

        I am about to move across the country to live with my boyfriend and while this is what I wanted a few months ago now that I’m about to do it in a few days I’m beyond freaked out and experiencing high levels of anxiety around is this the “right” move. While I know there is no “right” move, I know that it’s time for us to try living together. Of course, what Lydia said is exactly my experience:

        It’s like my go-to response as soon as I get scared of life. I like to say: my partner is always the second person I start hating (after myself).

        So, I continue to move forward with the move despite the ebb feeling in the relationship. Being long distance puts added pressure on a relationship, but the extended periods of time we have spent together are generally good (meaning, connected, easy to function together, caring). It’s certainly not passionate all the time but that takes effort and can’t expect it to be there all the time.

  • Stephanie

    Today’s blog post really resonates for me (as it clearly did for many other readers!) I’ve been in a great relationship with a wonderful man for a little over a year–he wasn’t at all what I thought I wanted when we first met, and I was scared and resistant to the point of near emotional paralysis. Amidst the loud voices in my head urging me to RUN AWAY, I chose to listen to the one that whispered LEAN IN, and I’m so glad I did.

    I have been doing some deep self-exploration both on my own and with a therapist, and I’m starting to better understand myself, and most importantly, WHY I sometimes feel disconnected from my boyfriend (and my life). What I’m coming to learn is that, when things are really good in my life, that’s often when I feel most insecure/anxious because of the overwhelming fear I have that something terrible will happen and that everything will fall apart. In terms of my relationship, I fear that I don’t have what it takes to be a loving, committed partner because of the deep distrust and dysfunction that permeated my parents’ marriage (and, by extention, our family). I fear that I’m too damaged to sustain a safe, loving relationship. I fear that I simply don’t have the ability to love the way “normal” people seem to. In short, I live with fear. A LOT of it.

    But in spite of the fear, and in spite of a difficult past, I am walking through the fear into a future that includes a life with my boyfriend (who I hope will someday become my husband) and his two amazing children. Our life together won’t be perfect. I hope that the fear will go away, but I suspect that it will always be there in some form or another. I spent 43 years building strong walls to protect myself; I have to get comfortable with the notion that it’s going to take awhile to take them down (or at least reconfigure them) so that pure love and joy can finally shine through. That’s my wish for all of us on this journey. Good luck with this work, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

    • Stunningly beautiful comment, Stephanie. Based on what you’ve shared here, I have no doubt that you will continue to soften your fear walls and create a life of love and joy. Yes, it does take time, and the fear likes to reappear from time to time, but you have everything it takes to allow love to emerge victorious!

  • Sunny

    Thank you for a wonderful post, Sheryl. Came at a perfect time, as this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. After being single for many years I got a boyfriend in June. Everything was great at the dating stage, but when it turned into a real relationship I started getting panic attacks, and I’ve been struggling with severe anxiety ever since. But I am still in the relationship, hoping to find clarity at the other side of fear. However, since it is certain aspects with my boyfriend that triggers my anxiety, it is really hard to tell real issues from differences we can work through/stuff I can learn to accept. Could you tell a bit more what you mean by “sharing values and vision”? (Or is it covered in another post on the blog?)

    • Shared values means being on the same page OR having arrived at workable agreements regarding having kids, handling money, religion (including how you’ll raise kids regarding religion), time with family of origin. It does NOT mean that you have to enjoy the same hobbies or activities (a common misconception).

  • Rpeli

    I just love this post and reminder about what true intimacy is. I can only really speak for myself, but after having been withy partner (now-husband) for over 7 years, it’s been so easy to take all that we have for granted. What’s more, as a sensitive person, I’ve found myself susceptible to messages from ‘stronger’ places (media, friends) about relationships and what to look for in a partner.

    I’ve been prone to a kind of ‘eat, pray, love’ fantasy- whereby if I left and found myself, I wouldn’t want my husband anymore (because id be ‘stronger’)

    What I now know is: this isn’t a journey of finding myself, this is a journey of learning to accept myself. And along with that self acceptance comes embracing my husband for all that he is and all that he brings to my life.

    The fact of the matter is, I’m never going to stop being the person that I am- at my core- and I need a partner who is able to walk this particular path with me.

  • This sparked my anxiety. Every time the words, “Connection”, “Spark”, and “Love” come up I end up freaking out and questioning my relationship. It’s hard for me to tell if I have a connection with anything, especially my boyfriend. I think I do, but sometimes I am not sure.

    I can talk to him about anything and everything, I can’t go a day without talking to him, I want to know he’s there for me, I can’t imagine him not being in my life, the thought of breaking up with him doesn’t seem right, and I stay up just to hear his voice when he comes home from work, even if we don’t talk, Just knowing he’s there on the other side of the phone makes a big difference, (I am currently in a long distance relationship and talking is all we have had for 4 months, but I’ll be home to see him around Christmas).

    Are there any more questions you can give to help me, and others, with anxiety to be able to apply it to their relationship more? Questions are how I reassure myself I am in a great relationship when dealing with anxiety.

    • If I took a poll from everyone on my site to see if, after reading your comment, they think you have a connection with your boyfriend, I’m pretty sure it would come out 100% yes : ). The work for isn’t about trying to figure out if you have a connection, but about growing your self-trust, that place inside where you know something is true. If you don’t grow that place, you might find reassurance that you’re in a great relationship but your lack of self-trust would fester into anxiety about something else.

  • Sofia

    Lily, I have the same questions as you do about my relationship. From the start, I’ve been missing passion, it hasn’t really been there except for maybe a few times. When I think back at a previous relationship, before I got together with that guy, everyday when I woke up my first thought was happiness over being able to spend time with him and if I was away, I’d miss him a lot. Other people knew we were into each other long before we noticed it ourselves. The day before I had to leave the country where we were both working as volunteers was the day we finally became a couple. After that, we kept in touch for a year by email and Skype, and every time I received an email from him, it’d make my day, have me soaring on clouds basically. I would tell everyone about him. When he suddenly stopped contacting me (he was in financial trouble and depressed and in his culture – as I’ve heard from other girls with Korean ex boyfriends – apparently it’s common to break up in this horrible manner), I suffered for a long time. I met another guy a year later or so who wanted to be with me, but I said I feared I wasn’t over my last boyfriend yet, but then I changed my mind and got together with him and we had a pretty great time together and good sex life but I never really loved him and we didn’t have much in common, but it took me like two years to admit that to myself and break up. About two years later, one year ago today, I met my current boyfriend, who’s from another country just like the two other guys. I share much more passions in common with him than I did with the two other guys and he’s the first guy I’ve really fantasized about a future with kids with, but that could perhaps be age related, and because he has a type of lifestyle I really like, close to nature as he comes from an indigenous people. However, much of the time something just doesn’t feel right, although there’s been a few nearly perfect moments too. I don’t feel like telling the world about him, on the contrary I often feel reluctant to tell people about being in a relationship. He’s told me that sometimes he has watched me sleep and felt such love for me, when I’ve watched him sleep I’ve tended not to feel any attraction. Many times when I said “I love you” part of me wanted to take it back because I was afraid it was a lie. Sometimes when he sent me a really beautiful love letter, I’d cry because I felt uninspired to write something similar. We’ve had a long distance relationship for the past few months and I’ve cried so much because of all the relationship anxiety. He has touched my heart like no other man and I want him in my life and I want to give him things, talk to him, tell him stories, but I feel that I will hurt him and I fear doing that so much. I want to love him so bad! I feel it doesn’t make sense that I was in love with that other guy whom I shared less things in common with and who didn’t get me as this guy does (no one has ever given me gifts as beautiful as my current boyfriend has, he knows exactly what things I’d love) and not with this guy who I feel suits me much better and is more exciting to be with and loves me more. My boyfriend tells me I want too much, but I don’t think that’s the case, I merely want to feel what he does, I can see how much he loves me and he tells me his love grows for each day, but it seems my heart just grows distant and elusive. I’ve even started thinking that I’m polyamorous (I have many friends who are), even if I haven’t fallen for anyone else, because I feel so curious about other men. Maybe it could have something to do with him ridiculously easily getting jealous, which to me feels like a stab in the chest, but he’s been working on that and it’s gotten better…but perhaps he has reason to be jealous, because my heart is elusive? But I’m not convinced it always has been. Damn, I’m fine with those exes of mine not being in my life anymore, but I often feel it’d pain me so not to have this guy in my life anymore. He’s a musician and I’m so afraid that if I hurt him I could never enjoy his music again, or enjoy the beautiful gifts he has given me, or see his lovely smile, and I’d like to show him my country because I know he’d love it…we’ve talked so much about him coming here already, studying my language and stuff. Also, we have so many mutual friends and I like his family and badly want to meet his sister’s new born twin girls. But I’ve been away from him now for a few months and most of the time I don’t miss him like I should, like I feel one should miss a lover, I did sometimes in the beginning after getting back home, but rarely now. I often call him not because I really long to but because I feel I ought to, the times when I really do want to call him tends to be the times when I’m crying and seek comfort.

    I’m planning to take half a year off school and go back to be with him to figure things out, because I’m going nuts here with all the doubt I’m feeling and I feel I can’t make any decision on staying with him or leaving him when he’s on the other side of the world, and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to tell him over the phone. If I had been convinced I loved him, it would’ve saved both him and me some horrible heart ache caused by some things that happened because of my insecurity, but I just don’t know, but he has stuck around so that I can find out. At one point he told me in a text message to think hard about whether or not he’s the guy for me or if he’s more like a best friend and told me not to toy with his emotions. I dropped a few tears when I read that, because I was so afraid that toying with his emotions is exactly what I’m doing, but I don’t think it is – if I stay faithful to a guy on the other side of the Earth, surely I’m not with him just because I want comfort, tenderness, sex or something like that? It seems more to be a question of wanting to make him happy and hoping that he can make me happy too. But I feel like I’m at war with myself and my feelings.

    • You’re suffering from classic relationship anxiety, Sofia: equating longing with love/passion (your first boyfriend) and now creating walls around your heart that prevent you from experiencing passion and real love with your current boyfriend.

  • me myself and i

    I think figuring out whether we have a connection is a BIG anxiety trigger. I know “how to tell if we have a connection” was one of the first things I googled that lead me to Sheryl’s site. Hence the reason so many of us are commenting on this today.But I think when you have anxiety, you obsess about what’s causing it hoping this discovery will make the anxiety go away. But as multilayered human beings, with each discovery comes another layer we peel back. It’s SO EASY to convince ourselves the anxiety is related to something tangible outside of ourselves like “lack of a connection” or “insert any other shameful emotion here that we attempt to escape by projecting or blaming someone or something outside of us.”
    But that’s EXACTLY the problem. We keep looking outside rather than inside.

    • That’s it, spot on. Anxiety will hang its hat on ANYTHING: lack of connection (or perceived lack of connection), too short, too tall, doesn’t talk enough, talks too much, not smart enough, not passionate enough, etc. Until we do the inner work of filling the inner well of SELF – self-love, self-trust, self-knowledge – the anxiety will not be resolved. Anxiety is the messenger, carrying the message of needing to learn to fill the inner well.

  • Lydia

    Thank you so much Sheryl. Like others here, it seems you were reading my thoughts for the past week. This weekend, like many others, I was eagerly awaiting your Monday e-mail and what a gift it was!

  • lennonpie

    Nice post Sheryl. I’m wondering though, what if I mistook infatuation for connection? I really felt such strong love feelings for the first year and then it all just stopped. I wasn’t connected to myself or the other things you mentioned either, and am possibly still not, but I never had the chance to work through everything and come to a conclusion on our connection. I guess if I went on this website we must have had a connection, but do you think it’s possible for infatuation to masquarade as connection. Or is it simply that you fall in love with someone you have a connection with? Is there any way to discern a difference between connection and infatuation?

    • Excellent question. Yes, you can absolutely mistake infatuation for connection, which is why you only start to learn about real love once the infatuation wears off. Most times there’s a true connection underneath the infatuation, but not always.

      • lennonpie

        Yeah its tricky to tell the difference. Its probably not black and white either. I dont think it could be a case of you either have it or you dont, but maybe something that can grow, or something that goes up and down like attraction?

        There’s so much similarities between the two, I mean I felt an ease and flow with my ex, I felt like she got me, and all the other ways you described connection. Then I went through a rough patch and I became anxious about losing her and then I gradually closed my heart. It’s difficult to say if we could have worked through our relationship anxiety though. I’d like to hope so, and that I wasn’t just in denial.

        My counsellor recently told me that as long as you share the same values and work towards those, the relationship can work out. Is that the same as ‘connection’? Or what are the differences between a real connection and just an infatuation? Maybe infatuation is more physical, more a longing? We were long distance, so I definetly longed for her, but I think that longing is normal with real connections aswell?

        I ask these questions for 2 reasons. 1) Id like to hope I wasnt in denial, because she had a really tough time throughout my anxiety and maybe that didn’t need to happen. and 2)In future relationships I’d like to know more about ‘real connection’ so that I don’t go through an infatuation and have a difficult break up afterwards when I realise there’s no connection.

        Thanks for reading!

        • me myself and i

          Lennonpie,

          Have you heard of the pursuer/distancer dynamic? This can occur in infatuation based relationships. I think connection is about sharing core values, having a lot of trust and respect for one another, enjoying each other’s company, understanding one another or making an effort to understand one another and work through conflict, supporting one another’s self growth, and ultimately not getting attached to feelings or emotions but consciously cultivating a positive sense of self worth so you can interdependently co-exist. That’s my take on it anyway. It sounds like you have a core connection. I know I’ve had relationship anxiety in previous relationships where the moment I realized I was falling hard for the person, I started to freak out and push them away because I knew how vulnerable I was to being hurt. It sounds like this happened to you too. You and your ex can always get back together.

  • Lily

    When my anxiety sparked in regards to the connection, am I in love enough, etc. (after I got engaged), I’ve shut down in terms of evening considering another man. Before we were “serious” I was open to the possibility of meeting another man, now I have no desire to date or even get married anymore, to anyone for that matter.

  • Ruby

    Sheryl, thank you for pointing out that connection can be grown. I feel hopeful.

    • Thank you for your comments, Ruby. It sounds like you have a very positive foundation to work with and I have a strong sense that you’re going to be able to cultivate a very fulfilling marriage together.

  • kira

    Hi Sheryl,

    I’ve never commented here before, but I’ve been reading your blog for over a year and really want to take the ecourse when I have the money! Anyway, I’m sure you expected that this post might spike a lot of people, and it definitely has for me. I’ve had relationship anxiety for most of my relationship, and one of the topics has been whether or not I’m attracted to my boyfriend or if we’re just “best friends”. This idea has been there from the very beginning. Thanks to you I have begun to get over the obsession with being attracted to him, but now I’m preoccupied with whether there is a sense of “rightness”, where deep down I know it’s just “right”. This has been driving me crazy and I think maybe the “rightness” I’m wondering about is similar to your concept of “connection”.

    As you said, it’s hard to know if there is connection if you’ve been anxious the whole relationship, so the question is: if I do the inner work and connect to myself, is it likely that I’ll find out I’ve never been connected to him in the first place? This is what scares me so bad and makes me afraid to learn about myself (although I realize that knowing myself is very important). Questions about my own sexuality have played into this fear of knowing myself, as well.

    I would really love to hear your take on this. I’m guessing a lot of people here are afraid that doing the work will lead them to the truth that there is no connection and they’ll have to break up.

    Also, THANK YOU so much for everything you do! 🙂

  • Michelle

    Hi, I hope I can contribute and possibly get some feedback.
    I enjoy these blogs very much and as I keep reading I keep hearing (or seeing) a message to do the concious wedding e-course. I think inner bonding is something I need and a journey I’ve already started through other means. However, I am not so worried about the work it will take but just scared to do it or for what I will find out about myself and my current relationship. In relation to this article which seems applicable to a question that continues to run through my mind: What if I have only been in one serious relationship and have nothing else to compare it to? How do I know if it truly is a connection or I am just making it work with the one person I’ve been with? I can maybe guess again that once I do the ecourse I might be able to answer that myself. But I have been dating my boyfriend for 8 years (I am also the only person he has had a serious relationship with). I consider him my best friend and I really can talk to him about anything. He truly listens when I open up and is very supportive. Just recently we have been able to connect on a spiritual level. He is more religious however I have recently connected to my own spirituality and agree with his religious values. While recently I’ve initiated talks about our future (living together, marriage, kids), there hasn’t been a lot of communication around this for most of our 8 years and I question why, if this is a lack of connection? We don’t live together yet. We are both 24 and I guess figuring ourselves out but I can’t help compare ourselves to other couples and feel like we are lacking something? We have had conversations about this and where I used to doubt his commitment and love for me (and don’t anymore) now I doubt my own to him. Sometimes I find myself thinking “if he were just like this… or if he had this quality like this other guy…” I would be happier with the relationship. I think this is looking outside myself rather than inside for happiness? We can do almost anything together and when I am not anxious or doubting I love just being in his company even if we aren’t engaged in doing something together. He loves to share his thoughts, ideas, and excitements with me.

    It’s interesting Sheryl you ask “do you feel connected to other areas in your life” and I guess the honest answer for me is no, I am still trying to figure all that stuff out. I can relate to the comment about the “Eat, Pray, Love” fantasy about thinking if I leave to find myself and I will feel stronger and not want him anymore. Sometimes I question the passion in our relationship and the passion I have for him. ad then I say to myself: What is passion? But I don’t have another relationship to compare it to personally and I find I question that a lot. Are we just making it work? Should I experience relationships with others before I make a lifelong commitment to my boyfriend? But then sometimes I say the risk I could take to possibly lose my current boyfriend isn’t enough for me to leave him. I believe I too am a sensitive person and am prone to messages from others and the media and what our culture thinks a relationship should be. Because of my family of origin I think I may have a closed heart and definitely anxiety around many things (especially my relationship_. Just wondering if anyone who can understand this anxiety and these types of questions (as I think this community can) has any feedback?
    Thank You =)

  • kira

    Michelle,
    Your situation sounds so much like mine! I’ve been with my boyfriend for over 3 years and this is the first serious relationship for both of us, also. I understand exactly what you’re talking about regarding not having other relationships to compare to. I’m sure almost every other person on here struggles with the same questions you have; I know I do! As I wrote in my post above, I have also been worrying about the connection issue for a while, and I am also afraid of what I’ll find if I do the work. I have a suspicion that this is just anxiety taking hold for both of us 😉

    • Michelle

      It does sound very similar Kira! I think I have had anxiety around the relationship for most of the years as well and as far as I know my boyfriend does not have anxiety and is very sure of himself and our relationship. I struggle with the attraction piece at times as well, I know I was very attracted to him at the beginning of the relationship though. I’m not sure why I would be afraid to connect to myself but maybe that’s the anxiety getting in the way? Maybe, like some of the other articles Sheryl has written, it fills a space within us and I’m scared to let go of the anxiety and the worry? I think the ecourse is a must!

    • Macy

      hi Kira and Michelle, I am in the same boat as both of you. I have been with my boyfriend 5 years and have always had trouble with a lack of passion. Partly because we started going out when I was 13 and I had a lot of media induced notions of love.

  • stephanie

    What is that a picture of? 🙂

  • Katie

    Hello everyone,

    I have been following this post for awhile now, and it has brought me great relief to know that others struggle with the anxiety I often have. I met my fiance about 2 years ago, and we have built an amazing relationship together- he is the most caring, sweet and sensitive man I have ever met. But ever since we became engaged, I have been overwhelmed with a sense of anxiety over planning our upcoming wedding. I prayed that he would propose to me, and then after it happened-about 4 months ago- I started second guessing everything about our relationship- having thoughts like, Is he the one? Do we have enough passion? Are we too different? Even though I love him very much and can see us continuing to build a wonderful life together. I have struggled with anxiety for the past few years, often going through periods where I’m happy and content followed by weeks of overwhelming fear and anxiety. I honestly don’t know what it is that I’m so afraid of. I want to enjoy planning my wedding but am really struggling when all I feel is fear. Any suggestions for learning to cope with my feelings and not hurt my relationship? It’s weird too, because the anxiety hits hardest when I feel happy and content in my relationship-almost like it’s too good to be true…

    • “It’s weird too, because the anxiety hits hardest when I feel happy and content in my relationship-almost like it’s too good to be true…”

      You may want to read a book called “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks. It addresses this fear of our Upper Limit Threshold that kicks in when things seems to be going “too” good.

      • P R F

        “It’s weird too, because the anxiety hits hardest when I feel happy and content in my relationship-almost like it’s too good to be true…”

        Couldn’t be more true for me too.

  • Giovanna E.

    Sheryl, I think I know what you are trying to say here:

    When you ask “do you have self-trust, self-love, or self-knowledge?” What you are really asking is “do you trust yourself to make loving choices? Do you love and accept yourself a a human being? Do you know yourself and what you want out of life?”

    When fear and anxiety are in the driver seat, we cannot answer these questions without our heart being open. But deep down, we all have that place of knowing, and when your heart is open, you can answer these questions openly and honestly.

  • bella

    Hi there, I am so glad I have come across this website. I have had a two relatively serious relationships in the past and one serious one. My main serious relationship ended with him cheating on me with mutual friend , and, even though i knew that he was no good for me and he was very controlling (and looking back i think he was depressed but didn’t realise it) i was still devastated when he broke -up with me. I had suspected that he fancied our friend and I asked him out-right a few times only for him to get very defensive and say I was ‘nuts’. I learned that after he broke-up with me and started a relationship with ‘our’ mutual friend and then confessed he had cheated.
    It took me a long time to get over that and I met another guy a few months afterwards who , again, turned out to be a bit of an idiot and cheated on me but also lied to me about a lot of things. I called this off once i had discovered what he had done and swore i would never date another man again!
    I was not looking to meet any guy and didn’t want to even think of dating a man when i met my current boyfriend. He was totally not like any other man I had met and to be honest wasn’t my type physically but there was something abut him that was over-powering and he pursued me and we went out on our first date. He is the most caring, kindest, fabulous man i have ever met and i fell very hard for him. He was exciting and clever , i fancied the pants off him (still do sometimes!) he talked about his job with passion and he was ambitious with a very good job and he had a really healthy, exciting lifestyle . He never bragged about what he did or what he could offer me and I just fell for his easy manner and out-look on life.
    He treats me like an absolute princess and at first i loved it but i start to feel guilty as i cant match what he gives me financially . He took me on holiday to italy for my birthday and then held a party for me back home. He then asked me to move in and i said yes straight away, i didnt even need to think. I would have married him tomorrow if he had asked. I knew he was right for me from the 3rd date and i couldn’t believe how lucky i was.
    About 6 weeks after i moved in, I had a few big changes in my life-i started a new job, i had some family stress and my boyfriend started to get very stressed at work. He wasn’t as exciting or as passionate about everything and I began to worry. I was still crazy about him but I worried it was me. Also , i have suffered for a very long time with body confidence and self-esteem issues, especially regarding other women and that i’m not good enough for him.
    It seems like I have almost convinced myself that our relationship is bad and that I don’t love him,even though the last thing i want is to not be with him as he makes me feel calm and i feel connected to him like we re a team. I keep thinking stupid thoughts like ‘do you really love him?’ or ‘its not as exciting as it was 4 months ago’. I almost try and justify why I shouldn’t be with him and that the relationship has gone bad because of the last 3 months and that i should call it off . I worry that he’s ‘not perfect’. It like i had this image in my head of the perfect man and the perfect life and because he doesn’t fit it exactly he’s not right for me!. I think i’m doing this to myself as a self-protection because I am scared of moving into a new phase of my relationship or because i have never lived with a boyfriend before and its not exactly like i thought it would be. Dating a man is very different from living with with him. It’s been over 3 months now and my boyfriend is much less stressed at work and he’s getting back to how he was before but i am scared i may have ruined it. He is so supportive and says he’ll ‘fight to save our relationship’ but i feel guilty. I have made connections to words like ‘i love you’ which starts to panic me and i’ve become obsessed with people breaking up and why they broke up. I miss my boyfriend when he’s not with me but its like i am over analysing everything about our relationship and questioning everything, I never used to be like this and I know that if i don’t stop , I will lose him and i don’t want that as deep down, i really adore him and i can see my life being with him. I just want it to be like it was before i had this panic. Its gone beyond a ‘blip’ and its full blown anxiety, i am just exhausted as i love him but i cant take much more of this and my brains all over the place!
    Do you think the ecourse would help me as i know i’m not engaged or married but i want to be married to my boyfriend.
    Thanks and i know i’ve written a lot!
    x

    • To answer your question, the ecourse would be an ideal match for you right now. It’s for anyone struggling with relationship anxiety, whether dating, engaged or married. There is some language geared to those in the marriage transition, but the vast majority of the course applies to anyone at any stage of anxiety.

  • chelsea

    Great post Sheryl. I do have a question lately I’ve been having weird thoughts and imaging things, like being intiminate with guys I liked back when I was single or just guys and other times before my bf now. This upsets me I’m worried as to what these mean, do I not love my bf am I not happy and want to cheat is what I’m scared of. Deep down I know I’m happy with my bf, he’s amazing unlike any other guy I’ve meet loving, caring, sweet, funny, smart,supportive and so much more. Do you have an answer as to why these thoughts are happening I’d really appreciate any thoughts you have.

  • L

    Hi Sheryl
    I’m so pleased I came across your site, what perfect timing.
    I do also suffer from anxiety but for the last couple of months I keep having reoccurring thoughts that my partner and I aren’t right for each other. We come from families with very different priorities and values and it is something I am struggling with at the moment. I feel like I don’t fit in with his family, I find his brother rude and to be honest he is the cause of most of my anxiety. He has a criminal record and used to take drugs and that all scares me. I’m worried about the example he will set for our future kids and it’s making me question our relationship. I am worried about the affect he will have on our life. My partner and I are on the same thing about most things (values and priorities) and he has agreed we need to set boundaries with his brother but it’s just not siting right with me!
    Thanks

  • Maureen

    I agree with this post. This is a tricky subject though. A few years ago I was in a relationship with a wonderful man. He loved me and treated me like gold but I couldn’t get the anxiety about our relationship to go away, and eventually I ended it. What followed were a few sad years and a sad relationship with someone who did not show me much love or support and I ended that one too for obvious reasons. Now I’m in a relationship that I love, one with connection, support and real intimacy. And I feel great, no anxiety.

    In the beginning of this relationship though, I felt anxiety about silly things (was he physically my type, etc?) but it wasn’t the same as the anxiety I had felt in those previous relationships. I think deep down in my core I just knew he was good for me, and a good match. I also think I just needed to live through a relationship that provided me with so little love to recongnize fully one that did.

    I suppose my point is, there is a difference between the anxiety produced by a bad connection and the anxiety produced by fear. It is very hard to see the difference when you are a person prone to anxiety. What eventually worked for me was to change my outlook. I used to think it was wise to proceed with a relationship only if I felt a definite “YES.” I decided to change that and proceed with a feeling of uncertainty and stop only when I felt a “NO.” This changed everything for me. Over time the uncertainty went away and the NO never came and what I have now is a really wonderful and rewarding relationship.

    • Nora

      Maureen, I too am a person prone to anxiety. I have always thought that if it was right, I would ‘just know’ and there would be no doubts at all – anything else means that the guy is not ‘the one’. I’m trying so hard to change my outlook right now, not only for the sake of my current relationship, but also for myself in the long run. It’s a real challenge!

  • Monique

    This is a beautiful article. Thank you so much for posting this.
    I’ve been struggling with relationship anxieties the moment I started to get intimate with my partner a year and a half ago. He is a wonderful, kind and beautiful person that I love dearly yet some days I just get flooded with doubts and fears. Using meditation, I realized it’s from the fear of ending up like my divorced parents. I am finally seeing a therapist. It’s a slow process but your article(s) got me so hopeful that I can do this and finally feel comfortable being with someone who deeply cares for me.

    Although I acknowledge my relationship anxieties, sometimes I wish I could have a deeper connection with my boyfriend. When I try to initiate a deep or emotional conversation I can tell he becomes somewhat withdrawn and intimidated. I am more of a straight to the point person while he is a bit shy. I relate to Ruby’s post : ” I believe he is emotionally unavailable to me, and conversations about it never yield anything positive. No matter my approach, he feels cornered and pressured and, I think, baffled. It’s as if he doesn’t even know what it means to have a connection on that intimate level. Maybe he never has. ” I’m not sure how to go about this.

    I really want to make it work with this person because we have something very special between us (love, compassion and tons of mutual respect) which is why I’m seeking all this help. I’ve never been in a relationship like this so I tend to feel lost and confused a lot.

  • Yellow

    I think that what Maureen said above is particularly true of the nature of the intrusive fears I have. I love my husband. However, there has been recurring elements of fear and panic and ROCD since we started dating. The thought that I simply cannot let go of is, “yes, he’s a good man and you have a connection, but you have recurring fears about him and your relationship together. You see friends/hear of others who had these things, left their relationship that was causing anxieties, and are now in bliss with someone else.” The sum total of these thoughts is that there is some formula that my and my husbands relationship is missing which is present for these others, and therefore I have made a mistake/need to leave. Why would it be that some flee their anxiety ridden relationships and find great joy elsewhere? And why, even tho there aren’t any red flags and we’re both good people, wouldn’t any sane person want to leave what was causing them pain if better things can be found elsewhere? You realize of course that my fear mind is asking these questions. But they seem really important right now to be answered.

    • Based on everything you’ve learned here, Yellow, I encourage you to channel your adult self and see if you can answer this question yourself:

      You see friends/hear of others who had these things, left their relationship that was causing anxieties, and are now in bliss with someone else. Why would it be that some flee their anxiety ridden relationships and find great joy elsewhere?

    • Candie

      Yellow I think there is a difference between fear thoughts and real reasons to leave. With my ex partner I suffered relationship anxiety when I actually valued the relationship. After so many years red flags appeared and I experienced genuine doubt. I had no problem leaving and never once doubted my decision as we became toxic. With relationship anxiety you create the pain yourself and it hurts so much as what you imagine is the opposite of your true desires, the quest for certainty is the cause of the pain not anything the other person is doing. So leaving under those conditions will mean the pain will arise as soon as you value another relationship, even children!

      One way of always knowing when I was projecting was to understand that the pain I felt came from my desire to want things to be right and know without any doubt that I was making the right decision. When I left my ex he causedy pain through emotional abuse and lack of respect. I now have a lovely partner and because he matters and I want this to work, I’m facing a few old demons. In my experience I only experience fear doubts when I truly care, real doubts are very different and I never second guessed myself.

      • Laura

        Candie – your quote ‘the quest for certainty is the cause of the pain’ makes so much sense, I relate to it so well.

        With my partner I identify that he is just perfect – I wouldn’t want to change a thing about him, his core values and family are so in tune with my ideals and I feel we have a genuine care between us. I have felt anxiety in each relationship I have been in (whether I was the one pursuing or not), but have only identified ‘feelings’ when I was doing the chasing. This has made me realise that my anxiety has always been about finding ‘certainty’. Certainty either about my own feelings, or the other person’s in relation to my own.

        However, with past relationships I always felt that I had been ‘chosen’, and that there was a basic incompatability. That for me is a ‘reason’ to leave, as I did not feel mentally close to the other. With my current partner I do have that clarity of closeness, but feel like that should have equated to some physical feeling. I love him, but those words make me uncomfortable due to my anxiety about a comparison of feeling. I feel normal, and happy, but the anxiety makes me question even what I’m with him for! It is entirely silly – I feel I need some rulebook that says either ‘don’t worry, you feel enough’ or ‘you will feel these things in time’. I agree with you – I doubt because I care, if it was genuinely wrong there would be no relationship to speak of after discussing these doubts with my partner and receiving support. According to him; “i’m not expecting you to feel anything, but just be happy and know you want to be with me. And you have to know if that’s enough for you.”

      • Laura

        I’d also like to ask Candice, how did you / how are you overcoming your ‘old demons’ in your new relationship? Do you identify a ‘feeling’ or is it more a comfort of familiarity?

  • Michelle

    Hi Sheryl,

    Can just worry and doubts classify as symptoms or a condition of relationship anxiety as a whole which you and your blog describe and refer too? I have read a lot and seen from others comments about the anxiety just hitting and having the physical symptoms and it affecting sleep and eating. I have experienced actual anxiety before related to my relationship (the physical symptoms and it has affected my sleep) but this wasn’t when things were going well. We had taken a break got back together and then again I was really considering breaking up. I have had anxiety about other things as well but I would say that 90% of my thoughts and feelings about my relationship involve more of a constant questioning, doubt and then worry (which also goes with most other areas of my life as a matter of fact). I know you also mention worry in your blog but does mostly worry and doubtful thoughts/feelings, without major or any physical symptoms of anxiety, still count as “relationship anxiety”?. Oh and I do have good and positive feelings and thoughts about my relationship. When I read this blog and the comments, most of the time I feel relieved and that I’m really not alone with thoughts and feelings that I have, but then I doubt this, and have an inner voice that tells me I’m just trying to make myself feel better. Does this happen to anyone else? I get confused about if I’m having genuine doubt or not. Is this normal? I have purchased the ecourse and while not necessarily anxious about it I am scared to start it and I’m procrastinating. Ah such a bad habit!

    • Michelle

      I did post earlier in this blog and since then purchased the ecourse!

    • Hi Michelle,

      Yes you’re experiencing relationship anxiety. Most people have physical symptoms as some point but they tend to dissipate after a while and then they’re left with the obsessive and intrusive thoughts. Gather up your courage and dive into the course material! My guess is that you’re resisting because you’re scared of what you’ll discover (that you don’t want to be with your partner) but that’s not likely to happen. What will happen is that you’ll break through your fear walls and be able to give and receive love, which will only make you feel closer to each other.

  • Michelle

    Okay, yes that all makes sense. Ultimately what I want is to feel closer. I don’t want to live in so much fear. I want to find that serenity you express (which is there no matter what the outcome of anything is). I can see that fear is what is holding me back right now. Thank you, I really appreciate this and all the work that you do. I was thinking about how awesome it is that there is this community who understands, shares and supports each other on topics like this. And I’ve found it 🙂

  • Christina

    I Love this post!!! after reading this I truly believe my boyfriend is my divine connection. The experience we have being with each other with both of our hearts opened to one another is a refreshing experience

  • Emily

    Sheryl,

    My boyfriend of over a year dumped me, suddenly. His reasons? I feel as though I don’t love you enough; something is holding me back from loving you fully, maybe I never loved you and I just don’t feel the spark anymore. I, of course, believed what he said and it sent me to a rather dark place of self-doubt that I’m still trying to climb out of. It made me feel fundamentally unlovable. It also made me lose trust in myself and my instincts, because my instincts, up until the end, were telling me that he did love me. What do you think? We had a connection, like you mentioned, but he is a very closed off person (doesn’t really have strong bonds with anyone, not even his family members)who doesn’t get to know people and doesn’t like people to get to know him.

    • It sounds like he’s carrying a lot of fear and self-doubt of his own and projecting it onto you and the relationship – of course using language and rationale supported by our culture. The more you understand what was likely happening with him, the more you can restore your self-trust and intuition.

  • Leigh

    Thank you for this post, and all your posts. I found your site after struggling with fear and confusion about my relationship. I have been dating a loving, kind, caring man for a little over a year now. He is the closest friend that I have ever had and I feel free to talk about anything with him. However I find myself constantly questioning our relationship. In the beginning when we first met I was not attracted to him at all, and when he asked I told him so (in a nice way, of course). He continued to pursue me and over time I decided to just give it a try and see if love could grow because I saw that we had core values in common as well as other interests and hobbies. Eventually I found myself falling in love with him, but still knowing that I was not initially attracted to him, which caused me a lot of anxiety. Sometimes I fear that I just “made it work” because he was available and interested even though I was not at first, but now I know that I love him (even though there are still aspects of his personality that I am not attracted to). He is the only person I have ever been in a romantic relationship with so I do not have anything to compare it to. I know our love is real and true, but I fear that I forced things in the beginning. Whenever anyone says something like “I just knew as soon as we met” or “I know he is the one” it makes me extremely anxious and I feel like I am doing everything in my relationship completely wrong. I don’t want to just “make it work,” I want to be in the right relationship with the right person. But I want to thank you so much for your site because at least I know that there are a lot of other people out there like me who don’t have everything figured out.

  • Candie

    Hi Laura. My take on things is society teaches us longing Is love. In reality- love is gratitude and expressing it. Gratitude for having someone who I can trust and depend on, gratitude for having a man who even when i have my hair scraped up on my head and no make up on- or when I’m being moody.. He still loves me. Gratitude for a man who loves and provides for my children like they are his own. Gratitude for a man who when I’m ill he will hold the fort and genuinely cares about me. When you learn to love truly and drop being in love with feeling in love.. You find something that’s so much better then infatuation. The wariness you feel in your heart comes from a genuine place and for genuine reasons- not a rush of hormones! It’s hard to explain but I think that’s what sheryl means about showing up even when you don’t always feel loves up. I don’t always feel loved up- nobody does! But I feel loved and I would rather share my heart with someone who shows my true love then have something based on infatuation and hormones.

    It’s a bit like when you first have a baby- at some point during the first 2-3 years your head over heals in love with your child. Just being with them gives you a buzz. Eventually though this wears off and underneath is the real love- the need to protect and nurture at all costs. Love to me is gratitude and care- society will tell you that it’s a feeling of extreme joy, but that is a feeling you get from loving sometimes. It’s not something you feel all the time!

    • This is nothing short of brilliant, Candie, and you’ve literally taken the words right out of my mouth as I’ve been writing a blog post called, “What does it mean to be in love?”! Thank you for your support to others here; it’s always inspiring to read your responses.

  • Macy

    Hi Sheryl, your work really seems to suit my situation perfectly exept one thing. I am 18 years old and all the people on this site seem quite a bit older than me. I have also been with my boyfriend for 5 years, since I was 13 years old. I never had those “in love feelings” everyone talks about and I am afraid I will regret sticking it out with him and missing out on a relationship that has both the passionate feelings and the great comfort. In the first years of our relationship I believe I stayed for the wrong reasons (guilt and pressure and fear). But out of it all, we grew something very special. We get along well, he is so so so understanding, we have a level of comfort that is incredible and we know each other extremely well, there is no abuse and we share all the same values. I have struggled with intense anxiety our whole relationship and after taking time away from him, I realize that it is also present in other areas of my life. Just that it is mostly present around my relationship with him. Can anyone please please please give me some advice. Is it worth giving up this incredible/ almost perfect person in order to have experience with other boys and experience those infatuation feelings?

  • Macy

    I don’t want this feeling of “needing other experiences” to simply be my anxiety talking, because it always finds a new place to hand its hat.

  • Macy

    If there is anyway to fix this…I am willing to try it, I really can’t ask for anything more in a person. Its just how I feel towards him that I would like to improve….sometimes I feel like its to late

  • Candie

    Thankyou Sheryl, it’s nice to know you like what I post.. Looking forward to reading your new post 🙂