“I Wish He Was Funnier”

IMG_6192Oh, the list of thoughts that try to prevent us from taking the risk of loving wholeheartedly is quite long, but there are a few that always top the list, buzzing and darting in and around your ears like mosquitos in summer. I recently wrote about the “I wish he was taller” thought, and I’ve written extensively about the “I’m not attracted” thought. This week’s thought that topped the charts of my sessions was “I wish he was funnier.”

Here’s an excerpt from a client (published with permission):

“Over the past few weeks, I feel that I’ve been picking C apart in my head, specifically when we are with groups of close friends and family. I’ve recently been attaching this anxiety to his sense of humor, and how he may not be as funny as I wish he were. Sometimes he doesn’t laugh at my family’s jokes and vice versa and sometimes he tells corny jokes of his own. I think my family has always placed so much emphasis on having a good sense of humor, and I think that’s something I find important as well.”

This client is well-versed enough in my work to understand that the thought isn’t about the thought. In other words, she knows that embedded in the thought is her own addiction to approval and caring too much about what other people think. A diagnostic question that confirms this root cause – and one that I often ask clients when they believe that the thought is true and must be taken at face value (and therefore is just cause for walking away) – is, “If you and your partner were alone on a desert island, how much would you care about his sense of humor?” The answer is always some version of, “Not that much.”

For this spoke of the “I wish he was funnier wheel” (caring what others think and addicted to approval), the medicine is to learn to fill your inner well of Self so that you’re internally referenced instead of externally motivated. This is not a quick-fix and requires a deep commitment to turn inward and commit to practices – meditation, journaling, prayer, creative expression – that reconnect you to your center of wellness. When you’re filled up from the inside-out, you naturally care less about the approval and opinions of others. The work is less about trying to get rid of what’s “negative” and more about growing the good and compassionate actions that lead to self-love and self-trust. When we plant enough flowers, they shade out the weeds.

We then dissected the thought further and discovered several other spokes of her wheel: her own self-judgement and her desire for her partner to heal her sense of inadequacy among them. She was able to identify the place in her that is constantly judging herself, especially in social situations, and how afterwards she reviews the conversations and nit-picks each nuance and subtlety of what she said. As she stated above, she’s realizing that her parents place a high premium on humor, and in fact told her growing up that humor was the most important trait in a partner. This led her not only to expect that of her partner but also of herself. And when she found that lacking – at least in her own self-critical eyes – it led to self-judgement.

Every family has a code of values that is communicated either overtly or covertly. For some families, the highest premium is placed on intelligence, so for those sons and daughters their intrusive thought will often center on the “Is my partner smart enough?” spike. And I have worked with many clients who come from families who place social fluency at the center of their wheel. This causes not only a pressure to find a mate who is socially at ease, but also a pressure on oneself to attain these ideals. This is how the externalization of self-trust is born: from well-meaning parents who focus on how you perform and meeting external ideals instead of celebrating your intrinsic qualities.

We continued our excavation process and discovered that, following on the heels of the self-judgement spoke of her wheel, was a belief that if her partner was funnier then she would feel better about her own perceived inadequate sense of humor. This is another way that we project onto our partners: We expect our partner to pick up the slack where we feel lacking in the hopes that it will heal our own (misperceived) deficiency. This is a fantasy, of course, and the work, again, is to turn inward and meet ourselves in our own hurt places. For this client, as for many others, that means seeing herself as she is – which is more introverted than she realized – and the compensatory behaviors she developed early in life to cover-up the intrinsic way she’s wired that differs from the family value code.

By the way, as I shared with this client, humor isn’t actually the most important trait in a partner. And, contrary to what the culture teaches, neither is chemistry, attraction, intelligence, or any other external quality. In my book, and anyone steeped in the world of relationships will likely share this view, the most important trait in a partner is the willingness to dive two feet in and learn about love together.

How do we work with this thought? As I’ve shared in many other posts and extensively in my Break Free From Relationship Anxiety E-Course, the same basic work applies to all thoughts:

  1. We must first name the thoughts as a projection. You may not believe that it’s a projection, but unless it’s a true red flag, it’s important to name it as such. Naming creates a space between you and the thought so that you can step back and objectively work with it. It’s when you believe the thought is true that you slip down the anxiety slope that leads straight to inner hell.
  2. We then ask, “How do I feel inadequate?” or “What aspect of this perseveration relates to me?” or “What is this thought protection me from feeling?” Remember, whenever we’re focusing on our partner’s so-called deficiencies that manifest as “not enough” (not funny enough, not tall enough, not intelligent enough, not social enough, not attractive enough), it’s often a projection of our own sense of inadequacy. Sometimes it can also be a reflection of lack of connection with ourselves or with partner, which I wrote about here.
  3. Finally we practice seeing and celebrating ourselves exactly as we are instead of how we’ve been taught we should be. This often includes a grieving and healing process where we individuate from our family’s code of values and then learn to create our own.

At this point, you may be asking: But I find other people funny, like my co-workers and friends funny, so clearly I’m able to experience humor. Doesn’t that mean I’m supposed to be with one of them, or someone like them? Short answer: There’s no risk there. You may feel open-hearted and free-spirited with co-workers and friends and fall prey to the alluring and convincing belief that that means that you’re with the wrong partner, but you would be barking up the wrong tree. It’s only in our most intimate relationships, and for most people that means their romantic partner, that our deepest fears are stirred up and activated.

But here’s the lifeline that most people don’t tell you about, and one of the through-lines that underscores so much of my work: When you’re in the stronghold of anxiety, and, thus, tightly wound, you’re not going to open. Fear constricts; that’s part of its definition. Anxiety is a killjoy. And when you’re not open, you could be with the most hilarious person in the world and you wouldn’t think he was funny. He could be standing on his head while juggling with his feet and you wouldn’t crack a smile (and would likely find it annoying). Like sex, in order to be in the flow of humor we have to be loose, light, and open inside. Humor is about letting go. Anxiety and letting go are mutually exclusive.

If we’re shut down, we’re simply not going to see clearly. So here it is again: Fear alters perception. Conversely, when you attend to your own unhealed places that are clamoring for attention and you begin to fill your well, connect to your own source of joy, and experience more consistent lightness, you will see your partner differently. He could tell the same joke or use the same voice that you found nails-on-a-chalkboard irritating just months earlier and suddenly you burst out laughing. He hasn’t changed at all. It’s you – and the lens through which you see the world – that changes everything.

The work begins with you, and then is rippled out into our relationships, our community, and our world. That’s why naming these thoughts as projections is the first, and often most difficult step, in healing, as it’s the one that orients you toward the person that needs the focus of your attention: you.

87 comments to “I Wish He Was Funnier”

  • Brittani

    Today is one of my low days. Its a Sunday afternoon and I just want to cry. Anyone else ever “feel like crying”? When I think of the world and the state its in, I’m absolutely disgusted. I wish I could survive on water only. We’re literally thinking machines that can’t survive without other living things and it makes me so sad. Its so disgusting to me!! This sadness can sometimes become overwhelming because a few months ago, I cared nothing about any of this. Sorry if this sounds judgemental; I’m only venting.

    • When despair takes over, we must find ways to take actions that help the world in some way. There are many wonderful and accessible ways to volunteer and donate both time and money. No matter how little we have, there’s always someone else who has less.

  • Louise

    Thank you so much I needed this today as this is my biggest hook!
    I have always placed such an intense importance on my partner being funny and now I am with a loyal, trusting, HUGELY supportive man who I am attracted to and can completely be myself around but ever since our first date I have had these doubts because he doesn’t really make me laugh (even when I’m not anxious) . Sometimes it doesn’t bother me and other times it REALLY does. My ex made me laugh a lot but I also could not trust him at all.
    I guess I always thought I was the exception because I thought I was sacrificing my most valued trait in a person. I am on the ecourse and going to try and work through this ! This has given me motivation ! I actually make him laugh a lot which makes me happy.

    I need to stop thinking life will be better with someone funnier and appreciate what I have . I’m still very young (21) so people say I just have not met my match yet but I don’t want this to be true

    • I’ll be writing about the “I’m too young” spike next week. Stay tuned!

    • SB129

      This sounds just like me, but with a different intrusive thought, instead of her not being funny enough I am worried we don’t talk enough. And I am also young (23). With my ex we talked alot, and pretty easily, but we were not such a great match, I really could never trust her. My girlfriend now, is everything I’ve ever hoped for, but we’re both pretty quiet. Growing up and to this day my mom always told me I didn’t talk enough, and I’ve always been told I was too quiet, and “oh wow he talks!?” so I’m sure the projection has something to do with that, but I still can’t get through it. It’s the one thought that has triggered all the others. I still want to be able to have good conversations, like I’ve had with previous partners and some friends, and am worried it means we just don’t “click”. Even though we have so much in common, it’s frightening and terrifying and exhausting. It’s certainly my biggest hook. And am worried I’m giving up my most valued trait, as you said. Even though she is everything that is good. It’s that one thing I just can’t seem to get past. Sometimes it’s fine sometimes not. Bleh.

      • Kathy

        This is something that I’ve been struggling with as well. Since our very first date I’ve clung on to the fact that my boyfriend and I don’t talk a lot and the resulting thought that this means we just don’t “connect”. I can’t even begin to tell you how much anxiety this has caused me and I’m still getting over that now. But the turning point for me was one conversation that we had where he really LISTENED to me. It honestly hit me like a ton of bricks because up until that point I really thought that his silence meant indifference and that he just didn’t care. I won’t say that it was like flipping a switch and now we’re talking until the break of dawn but I will say that I learned that, while neither of us are particularly talkative, when it counts the most he is there for me and vice versa. I think Sheryl really hit the nail on the head when she said that the most important trait in a partner is not humor, attractiveness or being talkative, it’s whether or not you can learn about love from them. For the record, your age has nothing to do with it. One of the most stable and loving relationships I’ve ever seen is between my best friend and her husband and they got married at 21. I think the reason they’ve been able to stay so strong is that they grew, learned, and took all the changes in their lives together. Try and define what you think it means when you guys don’t talk or that he doesn’t make you laugh (i.e. that your partner is not right for you, that you aren’t connecting, that they don’t care). Identifying that as a projection was a big step for me (i.e. general insecurity, I’m not interesting enough, I’m not someone who can be in a relationship, I’m going to lose this person). This isn’t easy (it’s hard as hell actually), and I’m not saying once you get there your relationship will magically bloom and you won’t have any other doubts ever (because that will never happen), but this majorly changed how I viewed myself, my values and ultimately my relationships, with my partner and even with my friends and family. Good luck to you both, I hope this helps!

      • Louise

        No , I have had thought too! But the two kind of melded into one… The conversation didn’t seem enough because it wasn’t witty. In the height of my anxiety I became hyper vigilant about the conversation and that made it ten times worse. When you’re praying for a good conversation/laugh it rarely happens.

        I have overcome the conversation spike a lot by filling my life up, naturally having more to talk about with my partner as a result. We’ve stopped texting during the day and honestly these things have helped massively!

        Fill your own life with excitement and the conversation will follow!

  • Chantal

    Wow, this is amazing! I remember one of my first thoughts that spiraled me out of control and into the dark night of the soul was “I wish he was funnier” I was on a vacation from hell, essentially, in a REALLY bad place and looking at my sister with her husband seeing them laugh and have fun. Mistake #1 Comparing myself and my boyfriend to her and her husband Mistake #2 Believing “I wish he was funnier” as being about him and truth vs. what was actually going on inside. If only I knew the Break Free course material before then, then I would be more educated and confident. This thought does often plague me and I do still suffer with comparing our relationships, but am working on it. I will continue to work on myself, filling my well of self and opening my heart to the amazing man that is in front of me.

  • Zoe

    As they say, ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ and boy is that true. I always look at others and think How much happier I would be and I become convinced of it. I thank you for this post Sheryl as because I don’t experience anxiety much these days just irritableness and agitation which can be accompanied by low mood, I really do believe the thoughts and start to make plans (which I won’t follow through) to be with someone else. It’s horrible and when I am in a good place I don’t want to be with anyone else. But as soon as I get on with another I almost become infatuated. I feel awful about it and I wish I didn’t get these feelings. Is it normal to have this? My in laws always state that if you look at someone else your current partner isn’t right for u this make me anxious as a big part of me is flirtatious and I’m pretty sure I would be flirty no matter who I was with. Sorry but this post came at a good time as it has been playing on my mind a lot.

    Warm regard

    Zoe xx

  • Findingpeace28

    “Fear alters perception.” Absolutely! I sometimes marvel how I can allow pecieved “flaws” to slide with friends, family, and colleagues and they become so paramount with my boyfriend. The more I do this work, the more I realize, you’re so right, relationship anxiety is so intimately tied to the fear of loss. When I am open hearted with my boyfriend and experience moments of complete bliss and contentment, I tap into that vulnerability and that scares me, so I run back to ruminating. It’s been so helpful to be able to name it for what it is, and with time, it’s become easier to recognize and move through. Thank you, Sheryl!

    • It sounds like there’s been a lot of growth for you. Wonderful to hear ;).

    • Hannah

      Omg findingpeace you have literally took the words out of my mouth. This is me all over. I no longer get the intrusive thoughts around him not being good looking, funny enough etc it literally just centres around ‘I don’t love him’ or ‘I don’t love him anymore’ which is the most painful. I have managed to get rid of the other thoughts but now fear comes back stronger and just point blank says ‘I don’t love him.’ When it isn’t true. Like you, when I tap into the feelings I become very vunerable and it’s really scary. So I also go back to ruminating and the intrusive thoughts start again. It’s amazing how the mind works but also really heartbreaking. So many people leave good relationships because of this when they don’t need to, if they did the work they would realise that it is about them, and about loving there partner so much that it absolutely terrifies them. I’m so grateful to this place and for all the people on here. Hugs & kisses to you all X

  • Louise

    Do you have any books or resources that would help with this particular hook ? Im scared to read certain books in case they spike me further . Thank you.

    • The best book I know that talks about celebrating differences is “100 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Got Married.” It’s not exactly on this spike but it does address some of the underlying causes of this kind of spike.

  • Josh

    Zoe, I just wanted to say to you that what you feel is absolutely “normal”. The part of us that finds the opposite sex attractive doesn’t just turn off because we love and commit to one person in particular. My girlfriend is awesome, and I love her very much, but I still feel sexual attraction and affection for other women. Your in laws are simply wrong. Maybe their experience is that they never look at anyone else, but that doesn’t mean your experience is somehow inferior or invalid. Your experience doesn’t contain any deep truth about the strength of quality of your relationship. It’s simply what you experience. It’s what I experience. People like to take their experiences and hold them up as the one true way to be or feel or think. Reality is more complex than that. So take heart and think for yourself. You get to choose how to live your life. There isn’t a wrong way or a right way. There’s simply your path, the one you choose for yourself, moment by moment, day by day.

    Peace and love to you all,

    Josh

  • John Lee

    Thank you Sheryl once again for your gifts of clarity and wisdom. I particularly loved your description of the most important trait in our partner. That gives me hope.

  • JoJo

    Hi Sheryl,
    Another wonderful post, thank you for all you do and the wisdom you share.

    At times I will think about my relationship: I wish “we” had more fun together. Is this still a form of projection even though it’s not about my partner’s attributes but about “us” together? This really spikes me because I have this idea you should always have so much fun and be laughing etc…

    • That’s an unrealistic expectation, JoJo, to “always have so much fun and be laughing.” It sounds like a message you received from Hollywood, but that’s not how real life is. There’s some fun and laughter, some stress and exhaustion, some boredom and monotony, some excitement and joy, some sadness and fear. Relationships are a smattering of every emotion, just like life.

  • Mary

    Every single one of your articles has helped me. I honestly don’t remember how I got signed up to receive your emails but I am so thankful I did. Every time I see something in my inbox from you it gives me hope and reading it brings relief to me. Thank you!

  • Marcy

    … But… Isn’t there something to be said about being with someone who can make you laugh? If I were on a desert island with my guy, I’d definitely want our humor to match up. Otherwise I’d be bored out of my mind! I’ve heard so many old married people say, “Marry someone who makes you laugh.” I’ve dated guys who were kind, loyal, trustworthy, AND funny. Hilarious, smart, witty, etc. So I know it’s possible! Aren’t there SOME cases where two good people just aren’t that compatible?

  • Paige

    I very much relate to what JoJo, Louise and Chantal wrote. The “I wish he was funnier” doubt is my main anxiety hook and is the reason why I am taking the ecourse. I really thought I was alone in going through this very specific type of anxiety (others I have talked too about it simply can’t relate) and felt like I was going a bit crazy. I am relieved to find Sheryl’s site and find that others struggle with the same thing. My partner is very loving, supportive and sensitive to my needs. We love to do the same kind of things together and we have a great emotional and physical connection. He is my ideal partner in so many ways but I am hung up on the sense of humor issue. Sense of humor is one of the main qualities I look for in a mate as it is always something that has been very important to me. In my previous relationships, we had very compatible sense of humors and laughing was a big part of our relationship. My bar on this particular trait is quite high and I make comparisons a lot. My past relationships failed because my partners didn’t give me the kind of love of attention I needed am getting in my current relationship so I don’t want to walk away from what I have.
    I too wonder sometimes if there is someone else out there that I will have more fun with and is a more ideal match for me. However, walking away is a big risk I don’t want to have to take. I do love my partner and want to try my hardest to work this out. I just started the ecourse and hoping it will help.

  • Paige

    Another thought: One thing I have struggled with is that mainstream society tells you that you have to make a list of the key things you want in a partner and if your partner does not meet one or more of these things, they aren’t the right match for you. Finding a guy that is funny and makes me laugh has always been up there on my list. Although my partner does have a sense of humor, and we do laugh together at times, I don’t necessarily find him funny. If finding a partner that is funny is something that is important to me – part of me feels I should be true to myself and honor that. How do I reconcile this? If the “funny” box is not checked in my list of priorities, does that mean I am not in the right relationship?

    • I recommend making that list, too, but then assessing the non-negotiables. You’re never going to find someone who has every single quality on the list but you can certainly find someone who meets the essentials. As you said in your first comment, you had compatible humor with previous partners, but they couldn’t give you the love you needed. Now you have the love and you don’t think he’s funny. You now have what’s most important, and humor, as I said, is greatly altered by perception, which is greatly altered by anxiety. And the fact that you’re here, on the course and on this site, means that you’re prone to anxiety. It’s worth hanging on, Paige, and seeing what happens as you continue to work through the course.

  • J

    superb, as always! and for what it’s worth, I am funny FOR A LIVING and my partner doesn’t find me amusing. Humour is subjective 🙂

  • Annie

    Sheryl…thank you so much. Words can’t express how grateful I am for this post and the last post (“I wish he was taller”). Wow. Just…wow. Your words and wisdom are so encouraging and affirming, and speak directly into my deepest, unarticulated (and articulated!) thoughts and feelings about my wonderful, loving (and often unappreciated by me) partner.

    Again, thank you for your work. You are a light.

    Blessings,
    A.

  • Angela

    Dearest Sheryl,
    The mind is a powerful thing but that dosent mean we should fear it, but only welcome it, nameit and wipe your hands clean. Its what i have done thanks to you Sheryl. Xx learning about love is the abundance that we are grateful and blessed to have found it. I appreciated it through a dark soul and i appreciate it now and tomorrow. 😘🌼

  • Mia

    Very excited (and anxious) about next weeks article Sheryl!

  • Al

    Hi Sheryl,
    The last week I’ve been focused on: he is more introverted than I thought, he is so self-reliant, so closed off somehow, so strict in his own personal boundaries! I wish I was with someone that is more easy going, that I feel more ease around, that doesn’t give me that tight ‘strict’ feeling inside. Around some other people I feel more at ease from the start. Around my current partner I’ve always felt tense, either from infatuation or shame about rOCD and thinking he’s judging me. Only now I think I seem to realize it is maybe just how he is, and I interpret that way of being in a way that rubs me somehow. I feel like I don’t have enough space, like he doesn’t enjoy his time with me, I feel fear of being overruled by his dominance. I have reacted to this feeling by making myself small and trying to bend myself in a frame that fits him, but finally I dare to stop doing that and just be myself, which is scary but feels a lot better. I am trying to find a new balance now, and live more from my own wants and needs instead of trying to accommodate around him. I did that out of fear of loss, a feeling of inadequacy and avoiding bumping into each other. He wants me to be myself and in no way prevents me from doing what I want. I just really react easily to small signs of disapproval: not finding my joke funny, not wanting to come with me to family events, his feeling of unease when I take him to my mom’s house or show him my friends that he doesn’t like. I fantasize about a partner that I more easily can be myself around, that is more easy going and less strict in his own boundaries. So I think it is a combination of his personality (needing lots of own space and knowing exactly what he wants and despite social skills being quite shut down when we are alone together), and my own (tendency to over-adjust).
    I find it hard to love that part of him. Maybe he is just not for me. But I am trying and I want to see what happens when I dare to be myself despite the closed feeling around him. I do am afraid the problem is really that trait of his that I’ve been misinterpreting and now seeing as a part of his personality that maybe just doesn’t work for me.

    • bee

      I relate to so much of this. My husband is introverted, set in his ways, and at times I felt like I’ve done more “bending” in the relationship than he has. In the beginning we battled over him not wanting to hang out with my mom every weekend. Truth is, I don’t really care that he needs his space. I like my space too. It was my fear of judgment of my mom thinking “whats wrong with him why wont he hang out more”. So I’m going to work on just that. Fear of other people’s opinion. My mom places a high emphasis on frequent togetherness and thats fine, but I don’t have to adopt the same ideas. I can individualize and not project when someone doesn’t act in HER ideal. BUT ITS HARD. On the hypothetical deserted island that Sheryl speaks of, I think my husband and I are a perfect match. I don’t feel those internal voices chattering which ultimately lead to a projection. Best of luck!

    • Sarah

      Dear Al,

      I always thought I would be with an easy going man who got along great with all my friends. When I met my husband, I was very attracted to his character and integrity and the core values that we had in common. However, while he is funny and outgoing in some settings, a lot of the time he is very strict, decisive, doesn’t get excited about hanging out with some of my best friends, and often prefers to let me go to social situations without him. He also has OCD tendencies about some things. These traits terrified me when we were dating, but through Sheryl’s blog and a wonderful community of family and friends, I came to realize these things were merely highlighting my own insecurities. I often struggle with standing firm on boundaries, making decisions, fearing judgement, feeling insecure socially, and feeling like I’m not perfect enough. Our first few months married were a huge adjustment as I went through the painful process of recognizing these things and learned to let my wise self gently parent the scared little girl inside to a more healthy place. I continue to learn how to turn inward when my husband’s traits cause me negative emotions and to work on whatever it is in me that needs healing. This is not to say I don’t acknowledge my husband’s own need to grow, but I focus my energy on changing me instead of trying to manipulate him into being different than he is. This also gives me more understanding for some of his own weaknesses. We have been married almost a year and we just got back from a delightful camping trip with my family. I realized on that trip how at peace I have become through all we have worked through. I am learning to let him be himself and me be myself, unapologetically. I also realized how some of the decisiveness that felt unhealthy to me originally (because my family always discusses things from every angle and weighs everyone’s opinion before making decisions), I now really admire. When too much time is spent weighing every decision, little gets done, and often people are afraid to stand on what they really would like. My husband’s confident approach to making decisions is balancing my own perspective compared to what I was raised with (even though I still appreciate my family’s approach at times). So Sheryl is right, the same traits that trigger anxiety originally, can be enjoyed when we get to a healthier place within ourselves. I am so thankful I married a man who challenges my comfort zone. Even though it has been super scary and super painful, it has given me a wealth of opportunities to grow into the person I actually want to be.

  • Maria

    Wow, this is like reading about myself!
    I’ve been working on my projections and it’s amazing how much we put on others that is totally about us. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.
    Thank you for this !

  • Hannah

    I can completely relate to fear alters perception. For a long time there was always SOMETHING my mind would pick apart, some examples are he’s not tall enough, he’s so embarrassing, he’s immature, he’s not good looking enough, he’s not trendy enough, bla bla bla. All those thoughts came up and I still knew I loved my partner so I didn’t let it bothere me that much but then I got over most of them. Now, my biggest one is that I don’t feel the love anymore. I am in constant anxiety, and it’s scary and upsetting. Fear really does alter perception even when you are feeling happy. Me and my partner had an amazing evening the other night, it was so lovely, I was so happy in his company but I was trying too hard to feel the love and although I genuinely FELT happiness I wouldn’t say I FELT love so then fear completely took it all away because I was scared. I guess if you try to feel it too much it just doesn’t happen, just be happy in the moment and in the company of your other half, don’t think about the feeling too much and it will come on its own. I stopes looking for it and before we went to bed I couldn’t stop telling him how I love him! I couldn’t get the words out or explain how much I loved him. Just shows fear really does distort EVERYTHING!

  • bee

    Sheryl you hit the nail on the head. INDIVIDUALIZING stuck out to me in this post. Can you please write something, or link me to something if it’s already been done, on this topic? I struggle with it and it leads to many projections.

  • Hannah

    I meant stopped not stopes, stupid auto correct lol

  • Jessica

    This is wonderful! What a great reminder read for me. I’ve been following your blog for years & have taken several of your courses. Your work is so important and was/is a lifeline with my struggle with relationship anxiety. It’s so interesting to read about other people’s ‘hooks’ that pull them down into the cycle of obsessive & anxiety thinking. What they all come down to for me, is the pain and risk of loving someone. It’s interesting as through the years of healing & work, the relationship anxiety doesn’t have much of a hold on me. However with the birth of a new beautiful baby – it comes back in a completely different way! I don’t have the doubts of loving my baby but do have to deal with intrusive thoughts. What if something happens to her, the world is not a safe place for her, i get bombarded of images and thoughts of horrible things happening. My loving adult self can sort of step in and realize it comes down to again – the risk & pain of loving another human being. I can name the thoughts, and breath through them, put man are they painful! Maybe one day you can have a post that can help with this topic as well. Thanks again!

  • Amy

    This is a great post, Sheryl. Thank you so much. For my family, the highest premium was placed on intelligence, and one of my most common thoughts has been “is he smart enough?” We have been married a little over a year, and by and large I am doing so much better with my anxieties. I don’t let them take over to nearly the extent I did before, and feel a greater and greater deal of confidence that I have chosen the right partner to share my life with. We are expecting our first child in a few months, and my question is this. How do I best celebrate my child’s intrinsic qualities while still instilling my values in him or her? I do want my children to place value on intelligence and academic success, but not to end up being like I have been – judgmental of those who are not…

    • It’s about seeing your child for who they are, not for who you wish/imagine they would be. We all have an idea of the kind of child we’re going to get, and then we need to grieve that fantasy baby so that we can embrace and celebrate the child we actually have. It’s also important to realize that there are many forms of intelligences, and even if your child struggles in school or doesn’t excel academically, that doesn’t mean they’re not smart. Have you taken my Trust Yourself program? It would be ideal for you before your baby arrives!

  • Emily

    Sheryl, I came across your blog by frantically “googling” why I’ve been feeling such anxiety all of a sudden over my boyfriend that I love sooo much. One day I felt head-over-heels and the next I was questioning, “Do I love him?”, “Do I like him?”, “Is he the one?”, “Is he cute enough?”, “Is there someone better out there?” This is the first relationship I have had that I actually felt unconditional love from my boyfriend and loved me for me, and actually saw marriage in the near future, and I’m thinking that’s where it’s stemming from. I’ve always suffered from anxiety, so I think the thought of this major change in my life that seemed like many years down the road, may just be right around the corner. I’ve since started therapy and upped my dose of medication. Luckily, i haven’t taken any drastic changes with him, like breaking up with him, when at many times my anxiety convinced me was probably the best option. Of course it thought that- I’m scared, and it wants me to get away from what’s making me scared! Flight or Fight, right? I’m fighting so hard, because I know deep down, and when i have those few moments of clarity- that I absolutely love this man and do not want to be without him or be with anyone else. And when I am anxious and not having clarity or it’s talking me out of loving him, i try to remember that- I wouldn’t be fighting this hard if I didn’t love him or want to be with him. Projection is definitely something i struggle with. He is so funny, but recently I haven’t been laughing at what usually makes me laugh! I’m aware that some things will get old if he does the same things over again, but I think it’s also anxiety projecting on something like being used to it, so it’s not that funny anymore- as “Oh, you don’t like him anymore, there is someone else out there” when i clearly know that is irrational and stems from my own issues that I’m trying to work thru myself. I am SO glad i came across your blog. Every time i “google” for reassurance, your blog comes up and always makes me feel better, so i decided to subscribe and have been getting them in my email. I would LOVE to do the e-course, and I will when I have the money to. Thank you SO much for such reassuring and helpful posts!

    • I’m so glad my blog has been helpful, Emily. Many people have broken free from their relationship anxiety from my blog alone, but when you’re ready for the course it’s a great way to deepen and solidify the work.

    • Hannah

      Emily, I have been exactly the same. My anxiety has got worse knowing am engagement is around the corner. I think we put pressure on ourselves to feel a certain way before am engagement but this is a false belief. Sometimes things like this in life just crop up sooner than we expected and because we can’t control when this is going to happen it scares us to death. It is scary, of course it is. It’s such a big commitment. But if you are ready for the commitment then feeling scared of it is not a bad thing and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. If we both have a good, healthy, solid relationship then there is no need for us to run.

      • Emily

        Thank you so much Hannah! And you are so right. I even think of what people would say if i ever did dump him: “why did you break up eith David?” “Because… im scared?” I mean, i will be scared and anxious no matter who i am with. So, why lose an amazing man? Its definitely a work in progress.

  • Vanessa

    Thank you for this article. I can totally relate to thoughts like this one and “caring what others think” definitely resonates with me as well. My partner is amazing in many ways- warm and accepting and “willing to dive two feet in”, but there are irritations I sometimes experience towards him in social situations. Sometimes he doesn’t listen very well and will get off topic. This in part makes me stress about him appearing to be “ditsy” and also in part I just find it to be rude. My question is- is it possible that it isn’t a projection but just reality? And if it is reality, what should be the “lens” I see these situations through? My current default is to wait until everyone has left and so that I can begin to point out to him how he didn’t seem to be listening very well or very focused. I don’t feel like this is the best approach as I can definitely see how it might be wearing over time on him. These annoyances are definitely not deal breakers for me. I am committed to him and our relationship hence why I am seeking a healthy way to view these situations and how to speak with him about them, if at all. Thank you for any insight you can share!

  • Isabelle

    I’m new to this site and have greatly appreciated the information that I’ve been reading. I’m recently engaged and have been with my partner for 9 years. Suddenly, I started to think about something that seems especially scary: “Is he MORAL enough”? This is random for me because it’s not something I think I’ve ever reflected on before… but suddenly I have thoughts of memories from years ago when he brought home a few supplies from work, or when he gave a sick note for an exam, and it sends me into a spiral of anxiety. Any thoughts on this kind of thought in particular? I’d like to think it falls under this general theme but a voice in my head is telling me “No, this is DIFFERENT and WORSE!” any help would be great! Thank you!

    • hayley

      I’ve felt the same. Things like kind of insensitive things he laughs at, or doesnt have an opinion on, just general human things, like lying to his work. All that makes me a bit anxious like how could I be with such a horrible person. But he’s not he’s human. We all do shitty things that probably arent super moral but thats just people.

  • Francine

    Wow, what an incredible teaching source you’ve given us here, Sheryl. Thank you. I find it really helpful when you write about particular thoughts, but much of this feels very applicable generally, too. Perfect. At the moment, something inside me clenches when I hear the word ‘anxiety’. I don’t currently feel anxious (though I am lightly medicated, and only seem able to feel the very intense pokes of anxiety). It makes me feel like an imposter; like I’m the odd one out here. I understand what you’ve written about anxiety and emptiness/numbness…but I feel, so convincingly like…I am switched off to ‘us’. I hate it. It’s so strange because after a period of quiet time together yesterday, I felt the grip of pressure loosen and I filled back up with ‘love’. My murky lenses had been wiped, so to speak; all felt right with the world; aligned. I dreamed last night that he cheated on me, in front of me, humiliating me, and this morning I am back to feeling under that angry, dark, helpless, heavy cloud. Back to the ‘not enough’ thoughts about him. Another thing I wanted to ask – what do you do if your mind is blank of tangible thoughts (that I can at least pick up on and dissect), but you just have this feeling of resistance to your relationship? I feel so bad typing this. Underneath this ****, there is something so worth holding onto. One part of me is saying ‘yes’ and another part of me is saying ‘nonono!’ in a child-like tantrum. One part of me almost hates him 🙁 and another part of me loves him to pieces. Ugh, it’s so difficult to feel that I am being accurate and honest in my depiction of the problem, as there’s always the voice that says, ‘Why are you over-complicating it? You simply don’t love him’. I’d love to know what you/others think about any of this. Thanks, Fxo

  • hayley

    Sometimes I feel that my partner doesn’t appreciate me, or show enough love. I feel that he’s kind of an ass (dont know how else to explain it) but I think that honestly has to do with the fact that I’m addicted to the infatuation feeling and unconciously assume that if he’s not telling me how beautiful, amazing, perfect I am, taking me on dates, treating me like a total princess how women are treated in the movies). That he’s not a loving choice or he doesn’t care. I know he feels these things about me but am obsessed with reassurace. I’m hoping to open my heart more and keep on the road of understanding and compassion. He has his own wounds that make him who he is. He accepts mine, I am more than happy to accept him how he is and am willing to kick my unrealistic expectations and ego away.

    • hayley

      (Dont worry he isnt an ass, he takes me on dates, he treats me well, he’s just not big on compliments all the time, which is okay to me :-))

  • Lee

    This relates to me because I have been engaged for two years, and almost everyday feels like a battle. Although my partner is loyal, trustworthy, kind, and down to grow, he is also very simple, low energy and negative. I am an adventurous, free spirited person, and I guess I always assumed my lifelong partner would be down to explore and take on this amazing world with me, instead of retreating, smoking pot, staying inside and playing video games. He is very grounded, nurturing, giving and unconditionally loves me which has kept me at bay these past four years we’ve been together. I teach yoga and living in that community can aggravate my anxiety to no ends (how ironic!) I am scared that who I truly am differs greatly from his lifestyle. Is having different lifestyles a red flag? I am scared that in our marriage I will be all alone on sunset bike rides, camping trips and traveling.

    Thank you so much for this blog! <3

  • Leah

    Your articles are always eye opening. I’ve been with my wonderful guy for almost a year, we were friends for a few months before (long distance friends for 4 months, then I started school where he goes & we were friends for a month in person before he asked me to be his girlfriend). Through all that time & about 2 months into the relationship I felt sooo happy with him. Head over heels for him! Then all of a sudden I got the thought “what if I don’t actually love him?” & it scared me to death. I got super depressed because of the ruminating on the thought & I have recently had a relapse of the feelings. I keep thinking “what if I’ve always felt like this with him? What if it was never real?” I’ve also been experiencing the wishing he was funnier, feeling annoyed by little things that he says trying to be funny or make me smile, which spikes my anxiety even more. I’ll think “gosh, he’s such a child. Why is he so immature?” I feel like I have attached the anxiety to him & whenever I talk to him or think about being with him I get anxious. How do I detach the anxiety from him? How do I enjoy him again? Deep down I can see myself being with him forever, but I’m so scared.

  • Marlene

    True true true! Thank you!xx

  • Katelyn

    I am very young, probably younger than a lot of y’all but I have been with my boyfriend for almost 2 years now!! It’s so hard battling with this everyday.. I know I’m young but I battle too. I will question if I love him or want to be with him and I just sometimes don’t feel the love. Your articles help me so much. One minute I’m calm and ok and the next I’m just so sad! My mind will literally trick me into thinking that I’ve decided I’m breaking up with him or I don’t want to be with or love him.. Feel free to comment to share you’re story with me because I love knowing I am not alone! I can’t say I know I love him because I don’t but I do believe I have relationship anxiety and I am going to stay and fight it. In moments of clarity I feel so awesome with him! I have an appt to talk to someone next week!!

  • Silver

    Hi, Sorry for posting too much. But I have now a better understanding about myself this time. When I spend time with my partner the whole day and we keep having fun, sometimes my thought spikes when things will get intimate like deep kissing etc. spiking my fear of intimacy which prevents me from being vulnerable to my partner and being close to my partner picking up bad things and overlooking them and not seeing my very loving, supportive and everything that I will need in a partner. I also fear that I might have an affair because I don’t have a very clear view of my feelings chasing certainty, I always get distracted by beautiful girls( which don’t really matter in the future, my partner is beautiful too but she keeps saying that her eyes are only on me)She keeps getting fat but I feel that it’s only in my head. I also fear that I will leave somewhere in the future because of my condition. I want to heal because I’m being unfair and not feeling the same way with my partner even though I feel that I will lose a very loving person which I really don’t want that’s why I keep holding on even my partner has depression and fear of loss too. We have a lot of issues no person don’t have issues ever in their life. Things that I’ve been doing to help me, exercising, reading in this site, reducing my substance addiction, a bit of journaling, meditating and the most important praying to GOD and positive thinking. I hope that all of us will get through here.

    • Katelyn

      Wow I swear I could have written that myself, Silver! When we argue I feel like I shouldn’t be with him or that he’s bad for me, but that’s my thoughts trying to get in the way! Every couple argues, right? He is so good to me and I’m sure whoever you are dating is good to you, I just have to try to think of something positive to say when I have a thought. Be careful who you talk to about them because most people think “just because you doubt means you don’t love them” which is not true!! Keep fighting! It’s hard trust me I know.

  • Kate

    Hi fellow heart warriors,

    I have a question and the reason I am posting it on this site is because you are all like minded people, potentially going through a similar thing. I have began a journey healing through Homoeopathy, I have taken everything right back to the start and have almost finished working through everything, I’m very proud of myself for this its took a lot of my days feeling completely empty and confused. I am writing because if anyone could give me some words of encouragement I’d truly be grateful. I am with an incredibly loving man, I remember when I first met him how easy I could be myself, I am so myself with him I decided to go on the Homoeopathy journey to learn to peel back the layers of fear that no longer serve me, he loves me truly unconditionally, I grew up with a traumatic childhood, my parents had a horrible relationship and a messy divorce, I was sexually abused (which I am on my way to healing) and never felt love or security as a child, I was incredibly misunderstood. I currently struggle with immense relationship anxiety, from the morning I get up to the moment i go to sleep, a lot of reasons contribute to this particularly my lack of self worth and sometimes my inability to let love really flow through me, it’s something I’m working on but never the less it’s hard. I’m moving out with my boyfriend in a few weeks and due to our homes being far away I currently live with him, it’s so horrible to be disconnected from a man I love more than anything I can’t tell you how supportive he has been, he is truly a gift of the divine. My particular struggle right now is with my fear of loss. I’m so petrified when I’m out of this journey some cruel twist of fate is going to rip him away from me or I’ll do something stupid and make this man walk away. It keeps me up at night, stops me from eating, more importantly stops me from loving. Due to the Homoeopathic journey being a bit of a spiritual one I can’t help but think he is here just to heal me and move on. It stops me from wanting to complete the process. Every spiritual post I’ve ever read say these people don’t stay in our lives, this man has touched me deeply in a way no one else ever could, he’s seen every dark corner of my soul and just chose to stay and love it unfazed no part of what happened to me scared him. What I’m really asking is, do you have any stories of happy endings or words of encouragement the world needs more love like ours to heal, I hope we can contribute.

    On a side note I think we are all incredibly brave, fear tries to stop us from loving but we’ve found pieces to work with to our journey back to love! Keep going! The world needs love now more than ever. To Sheryl, you have truly opened my eyes to fear, I first started reading your stuff a few weeks ago in a time I really needed it and because I found you I am able to go deeper within myself. You truly are a gift to the planet.

    Love to all. Keep fighting.

    • Lena

      Hi Kate,

      You should be really proud of yourself. You’re clearly so brave to dive in and work through your trauma and fears. Your situation is very similar to mine. My parents had an awful marriage and a painful divorce. My father was a drug addict and he physically and emotionally abused me. My boyfriend of only 9 months has been so good to me. Patient, loving and trustworthy from day one. I am also struggling with relationship anxiety from morning to night (it’s even there in my dreams.) Its been such a struggle. I am working through it with Sheryl’s break free course and therapy.

      As for the fears you listed above, you’re not alone! I have the SAME exact fears. Fear of loss is huge. I’m afraid once I heal, I won’t need him or he will pass away. I also have the fear that he’s only here “to heal me and move on.” Back to the course I find the “stories” sections very helpful. I listen to one almost everyday. Its very helpful to hear how other people healed their relationship anxiety and made it out on the other side WITH their partners. It is possible.
      Sending you lots of good vibes. You have come a long way. I hope you heal soon 🙂

      • Kate

        Wow Lena,

        Thank you so much for your reply! It’s a crazy old journey this one. Although I’m sorry to hear you are also having these fears, it provides me comfort that I am not alone. It also made me deeply happy you too, are with someone who makes you feel like you can be accepted for who you are. I’m so sorry for your painful past, it’s hard to think that children are brought up in such environments are scared to have the one thing they deserve; love. I’m so happy to hear you are working through the course with sheryl and listening to positive stories! What a wonderful way to keep the faith when it all just seems too good to be true! Well done you for working through everything! What a brave, inspiring person you are. I wish you all the best in your healing. I would also be up for contacting you direct if I find something that makes the fear of loss a little easier, but either way, thank you so much for sharing, your comment really touched me. I too am sending you back lots of positive vibes and happiness I truly believe you will make it out the other side and finally receive the love you deserve! Best wishes, I wish you all the support you need on your journey back to wholeness.

        • Lena

          Yes, it definitely feels good to know I am not alone. Awww thank you for the kind words.

          I would love to connect with you. Sorry, This might sound a little weird, but I am an actress based in New York, and I’m a bit scared to publicly post my email/number. Would you be okay with posting your email and I’ll contact you that way?

          Thank you for all the positive vibes!

          • Kate

            Sure: TheLTSA@outlook.com

            Look forward to hearing from you 🙂

          • Silver

            I don’t know why I am being attracted to other girls and try following them, people say that if you’re attracted to other people it does mean that you don’t love your partner big time and you have the possibility of affair

  • Relieved and in love

    Hi Sheryl,

    I’ve only recently stumbled upon this website and I just wanted to say thank you. I think you might have just saved me, along with my brand new relationship. I hope it’s ok if I share my story here.

    I started dating a close friend from work, about 4 months ago. I’d felt drawn to him for a while, he pursued me lovingly, and the more I got to know him on a more intimate emotional level the more I appreciated his integrity, his goodness, his quiet strength, and his sensitivity and vulnerability, that allowed him to connect with his emotions in a way that’s pretty rare in a guy. Despite huge commitment fears, intimacy fears, and worries that we might be “bad for each other” due to us both being so highly sensitive and prone to anxiety and insecurity, I convinced myself to give it a try. I was just so sick of the longing.

    Almost immediately the critical thoughts set in. I became totally hung up on a particular trait of his – the fact that he can be quite awkward in groups of people, and in difficult situations, and he cracks out this nervous laugh that just sets me on edge. Oftentimes I could put all this to one side and enjoy his gorgeousness, his love, and our shared interests. But at the back of my mind was constantly nagging “If this was really right, I wouldn’t be so irritated”. The thought would gnaw at me even in my happiest moments, and on days when something triggered the irritation, I would be inconsolable. Eventually my evident unease spooked him and he broke it off, apologising profusely and telling me he loved me.

    It was clear immediately that the break up wouldn’t stick. We were still drawn to each other, and with the pressure and fear of the “relationship” removed, we connected more effortlessly than ever. We poured ourselves, individually, into the things we loved. I travelled alone in Europe for a week. He pursued his outdoor activities helping kids. We took care of ourselves, made ourselves whole, instead of depending on each other, and two weeks ago, effortlessly, we came back together.

    It went great for the first week and then it happened again. I scrutinised him in the pub with friends, and the old irritation came back “Why can’t he be cool? Why is he the only guy here who looks so awkward??” I made the mistake of talking to friends who gave the standard advice – “If he irritates you this much it’s not real. It won’t last.” I fell into a well of despair. This time I knew, I *knew*, just how much he meant to me and just how wonderful he was, so I was determined to hold on, but I was so scared. How could I deserve to be with this amazing man, when I was harbouring such nasty, critical thoughts about him?

    And then I found my way here. Suddenly everything makes sense to me. Of *course* he irritates me. Of *course* I’m on edge. This is an intense period of upheaval for me. I’ve been single for a looong time and it feels like my whole life has turned on its head. The feeling of being drained after spending time with him isn’t because he’s “bad for me”, it’s because that level of intense connection, for a highly sensitive introvert, is necessarily exhausting! Instead of expecting *him* to replenish me, I have to replenish myself.

    And then today it happened, the biggest turning point. He did his irritating laugh, and instead of gritting my teeth against it, I *leant into it*. Now I’ve tried this before, the first time around, when I stumbled across your “I’m irritated by my partner” post from a few years ago. I’ve tried it before and couldn’t quite make it stick, but this time it worked. It more than worked. In choosing to embrace this aspect of his personality, I felt a new level of closeness to him. I recognise this quirk as part of his true beauty and uniqueness. My wildest dream was that I might come to tolerate this trait – instead I think I’m coming to love it. Loving him even with this “flaw” makes me feel better, and realer, and truer to myself and him, than if I thought he was “perfect”.

    It’s a hard road ahead. Anxiety nags at me every step of the way. But now I know it isn’t real. And it’s a blessing. Through this pain I am learning to love more honestly, and more deeply, than I ever thought was possible.

  • Lacey

    Hi Sheryl, I need your help. I got married a year ago and went through crazy anxiety sessions, but thankfully I am a lot better now, because I know I love my partner and he is amazing, no doubt there. What causes anxiety still sometimes is that if, for example, I don’t see him for 4 days due to him working, but there are times through this period where I miss him, and tell him I do miss him etc. Finally the 4th day I see him in the evening and he expects me to be very excited to see him, but for some reason, I wasn’t as excited as him in that moment, maybe I was tired, or bored (so I started to watch tv), I’m not sure. But because I knew he was going to be disappointed and because I was not super excited, and I was right about him feeling this way, I got anxious and felt guilty. Anxiety already started before he came home, because I knew the outcome of this evening. BTW, majority of the time we are together, everything is fine, or amazing. So what do I do? It hurts me to feel like I’m disappointing him at these times. Forcing my attention on him when I want it to be “me time” or grumpy time is hard because it could happen at the wrong time and that causes disappointment on his end and sadness for me. Can you write an article about this please?

  • Maryanne

    Hi Sheryl thank you so much for this article it really spoke to me. Having recently got engaged (4 months ago) and going to engagement anxiety, i have been struggling with these thoughts that my partner is not good enough for me. Today i had negative thoughts on how he was not interesting enough, had let himself go and had no hobbies only to have the realization that i often seem to rely on him for my own happiness instead of working on my own fulfillment and that my own life has become dull. The anxiety does creep in from time to time but i find comfort in your articles and also managed to get hold of The Conscious Bride which seemed to be the only thing that helped me in my darkest times. Thank you.

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, I had an argument with my husband on the weekend. Im giving him the silent treatment. Im waiting for an apology from him. I feel he owes me one. I have a question for you which you probably been asked by many of your clients. Why is it that I feel so good after the argument, no anxiety no tension, it feels i can see the light properly, its been 4 years, i can breathe , what does this mean Sheryl?

  • Angela

    I just wanna truly feel happy again,

  • Heather

    I love this quote, “the most important trait in a partner is the willingness to dive two feet in and learn about love together.” My fiance is very good at this, very supportive as I work through my own anxiety and depression, but I find myself being critical (he’s too this/not enough that.) He also has epilepsy, which is somewhat under control, but does affect our relationship in many ways. Our wedding is in six weeks, and I’m struggling to get over the cycle of “he’s amazing!” and “are we crazy to get married?” which seems to happen WAY too often. Sherry, I’d be interested in knowing your perspective on dealing with relationships that involve a major medical issues and some cognitive impairments.

  • Christina

    I am so ecstatic that I have found this blog. In December of 2015, I felt like there was no hope. I felt like I needed to break up with my boyfriend. I recently stumbled upon this site, and it’s literally every thought I have ever had regarding my relationship. I can’t tell you how much this has helped me get through this. I’m doing better, and I know it’s a long road, but just knowing I’m not alone, and the answer is NOT to break up with my amazing boyfriend is so reassuring.