Loneliness is a Part of Life

One of the biggest obstacles to finding more wellness and equanimity is the belief that we shouldn’t be feeling what we’re feeling; that if we were more evolved or healed or with a different partner we wouldn’t feel so ________ (anxious, depressed, lonely, confused, empty, bored). Because we live in a culture that disseminates the message that everyone else is living a happy life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that there’s a manual that you didn’t receive that outlines the steps for happiness. There is no manual, and if you look closely enough you will find that everyone struggles. The problem is that very few people talk about their struggles and so we collectively perpetrate the illusion that everyone else has it together.

One of the ways we perpetuate this illusion as a culture is that we’re not honest about our inner worlds and the struggles that populate our daily lives. When asked, “How are you?” we dutifully respond, “Fine.” Are you really fine? Probably not. Or maybe. But because we’ve been conditioned to offer a rote response, we don’t allow others to peer into the true reality of our world. The other day my son asked me, “What do I say when someone asks me how I am?” which launched us a very interesting discussion about how our cultural norms and mores are designed to keep up the happy face mindset. As Jungian psychoanalyst Marion Woodman once said, “We walk around all day with a happy face and then go home at night and cry.”

So when the normal emotions of life arise, our initial knee-jerk response is to bat them away. Our second response is to analyze them and try to figure out why we’re feeling what we’re feeling (attaching story). And the third response is to project the feelings onto something external – partner, job, house, city  – as an escape-hatch attempt to abdicate responsibility. None of these responses actually work, yet because we’re not taught how to attend lovingly to feelings, we resort to ego habits and learned tactics.

What does work? Simply being with the feeling. I’ll explain this more through discussing the specific feeling that arose repeatedly in my work with clients last week: loneliness.

“Sometimes I’m with my partner and he just doesn’t get it. I can see as I’m talking that he doesn’t really understand what I’m saying. He listens but I know it’s not really going in. And then I start to think that maybe he’s not the right person for me.”

“What would happen if you didn’t go into the projection that he’s not the right person for you?” I ask.

“I don’t know. I guess I would have to feel what I’m feeling.”

“And what is that?”

“Lonely. Unseen.”

“Yes, it can feel lonely when you sense that the person you’re talking to doesn’t really get what you’re saying. Can you handle sitting with that core feeling?”

“Maybe. But why would I feel lonely with my partner? Doesn’t that mean I’m with the wrong person?”

Let’s pause here for a moment to splash some truth water on the belief that you should never feel lonely with your partner. This erroneous and damaging belief is part of the template encoded into our psyches that says that our partners should be our perfect match. They should read our minds. They should predict our thoughts. They should know how we want to be loved and then proceed to love us in exactly that way all the time. Essentially, they should be our clones. Why? Because then we would never have to feel lonely. This belief comes from the partner-as-soulmate mindset that proposes that if you meet your perfect match you will feel seen, loved, attended to and adored every moment of every day for the rest of your life. In essence, this fantasy model of partnership is an escape-hatch mindset that convinces you that the “right” person will lift you out of life’s pain.

There is no such partner and there is no such remedy. The truth is that you will never see everything the exact same way as anyone else: your partner, your best friend, your therapist, a respected teacher. Part of being in relationship with others is learning to tolerate differences of opinion and ride through those moments when you feel unseen. It’s learning to be with the feelings that arise when your partner looks at you blankly or doesn’t respond in a way that makes you feel heard and “gotten”.

Now that we’ve addressed the cognitive distortion around loneliness, we can circle back around to the conversation about what it looks like simply to tend to a root feeling of life. It means that you become a friend to the feeling. It means you sit with it without judgement, shame, or resistance. When you befriend loneliness, you ease an edge off the loneliness and, paradoxically, feel a little less lonely. So here we arrive at an interesting layer of loneliness: part of it might stem from a moment of feeling unseen or unheard but a deeper part is when we abandon ourselves in a moment of difficult feelings. In other words, our partner or a friend may trigger an internal state but we perpetuate that state when we discount or avoid the feeling in any way.

When we befriend a feeling we bring compassion to it, just like we would if our best friend shared that same feeling. We’re often much kinder to our friends than we are to ourselves, so when we’re practicing bringing compassion and curiosity instead of judgment to our internal states it can help to imagine what we would say or do if we were talking to our closest friend. When we allow for the feeling instead of resist it, it moves through us. After we meet it with compassion, we can then encourage it to flow through us by breathing into it, writing about it, drawing it or dancing it. It’s in this way that the inevitable feelings of life move instead of stagnate, and we eventually learn that when we meet ourselves with love, moment by moment, there is less room for fear.

115 comments to Loneliness is a Part of Life

  • CP

    I’ve been struggling with relationship anxiety and I have intrusive thoughts about not loving my partner. I’ve also recently came to terms that I was raised in a home with an alocolic mother. I’ve been doing lots of reading on how having an alcoholic parent can influence your relationships later in life. I’ve read the book on acoa and was wondering what your thoughts were on how being the adult child of an alcoholic can have an impact on your intimate relationships and play a role in relationship anxiety? I do know it’s caused me to have low self esteem even if I didn’t notice it until recently.

    • Any kind of abuse or trauma – and being the child of an alcoholic is considered trauma – will effect your ability to love and be loved. I highly recommend attending a 12-step meeting if possible.

    • mhk415

      CP I can’t recommend Al Anon (for families of alcoholics) enough. My boyfriend convinced me to try it and it has helped me process my relationship with my mother and understand the effects she has had on me. Al Anon is so much about coming to understand ourselves and it dovetails beautifully with Sheryl’s work. It has helped me let go of so much and generally helped me be more at peace.

      • CP

        I would love to try that but I’m not religious and I’m afraid of how it would work if I don’t believe in a “higher power other than myself”

        • Eleonora

          Dear CP, I also want to recommend Al Anon. It helped me a lot. Maybe you can substitute “higher power other than myself than myself” with “the highest part of myself”? You could always attend one meeting and see if it helps you. Best wishes,

    • Lorena

      Hello CP,

      I’m a member of ACA and it has been a crucial part of healing my wounds. Here is the ACA website:

      http://www.adultchildren.org/

      You can find many meeting everywhere in the world AND online (so should no meeting be offered near your home, you can access a meeting online).

      Good luck!

  • Nikki

    Hi there Sheryl,

    I have been slowly working through your e-course for breaking free from relationship anxiety. I feel very stuck as times it feels i’m holding up resistance to taking the step to accept my partners differences and other times my mind feels like it is telling me that I am resistant to taking a leap and leaving which is very confusing for me. I can say that what causes me to feel anxiety about my partner is that he questions social norms a lot and doesn’t follow them just for the sake that they exist. He is very comfortable in his own skin and has no issue shrugging off little remarks others might say about doing things his own way. However, I’m very much by the books and my mind constantly tells me that i’ll never be happy and will always feel lonely if I don’t find a match that is “socially acceptable”, any words of wisdom for this?

  • Eleonora

    I love your blog. I am subconsciously looking for a clone, someone like my mother, and it is deliberating to hear that my partner being quite different than me in some ways, does not mean that he is not right for me. All the best,

    • I’m so glad it was helpful, Eleonora.

      • Lisa

        Hi Sheryl, thank you for this post and all your work. I feel lonely with regards to my doubts because no one I tell them to understands them and although I’m trying to use all your tools I don’t understand it either.
        My main ‘what if’ thought is: ‘what if you’d rather be single’
        It’s killing me and I’m ruminating about it every single day trying to find the answer. I want to be with my partner and I guess part of me wants to be single as well, but I can’t seem to put it at rest. It’s so exhausting. Why is this thought torturing me? What am I afraid of?
        Is this still relationship anxiety? I know I love him
        I’d really appreciate your thoughts.

        • Eleonora

          Lisa, at least you are not alone. I have that thought as well.

          • Lisa

            Hi Eleonora,

            Thanks a lot for your reply, it means a lot to know I’m not the only one.
            I’m staying because I love him but it’s so difficult. Everything just screams ‘run’

  • agnes

    I was fascinated by that example of your client feeling “lonely” and “unseen”. I have similar instances with my partner and the general feeling is “he doesn’t get me, he doesn’t understand how important this is to me”, but what’s struck me is I never identified this feeling as loneliness. I always thought I was so tuned in to my thoughts and feelings, but it seems the connection has been broken. I think I attach to stories more than I realise.

  • Lyndell

    Sheryl,

    Thank you for this. I had to pace myself through reading it, and literally breathe in the pain and emotion I felt while reading through it. Really though, it was such divine confirmation. I have been feeling SO alone lately, specifically in my relationship, especially when we are around one another, oddly enough. I found that I have become happier thinking about my relationship or talking about some aspect or instance with someone else than I have been even in the presence of my partner lately. It makes me very sad and I go into the “escape-hatch mindset” you so knowledgeably summed up, up above. Before reading this article, moments before, I believed my healing was in accepting my role and responsibility in how and why we are where we are, and I even heard an intuitive voice in my mind encourage me to return to journaling this week, to be intentional with the time I set aside to meditate, and to push myself to work hard to change my circumstances, as I know is in my power to do, and to be kind to myself. I have heard and read about the healing power of allowing, acceptance. I have breathed in pain, sat with it a while, and felt it dissipate. I know this works. I know this can work. I also know that Mercury Retrograde began today, and while it is a challenging time for outer work- communication, travel, scheduling, judging- inner work, reflection, and introspection are greatly supported. Thank you for this reminder to go within. It was right on time. Be blessed.

  • Findingpeace28

    Such a timely post, Sheryl, as I’ve been ruminating about this very thing all week, of course attaching stories and with it, so much judgment. I have so many false beliefs and expectations around how I should feel around my partner and what feelings I should never experience. I have such resistance to learning to take responsibility for myself and recognizing that there is no one who can save me from myself. That I have to be my own witness, my own loving parent at times, and give myself permission to feel what I feel. I’m getting married in 5 months and there has been moments of pure joy and excitement and others of complete loneliness and disconnection. I’m (slowly) learning to hold both, reminding myself over and over again that I am loved, and there’s nothing wrong with my relationship.

  • Kathy

    Anyone have any advice on how to communicate these feelings with a partner (or if this is something that needs to be communicated)? I’ve struggled with these thoughts since the start of my relationship and I know I attach wild stories to them (i.e. He doesn’t get me, he’s self absorbed for not trying to understand me better, he doesn’t care) and even though I know these are just insecurities they are still very real and urgent to me, real enough for me to shut down and just not try and open up to him at all for fear of getting that same passive response that looks to me like he just doesn’t care. I know I can’t use self-isolation as an escape hatch from loneliness but it’s kind of my go-to. I’m struggling with finding ways to sit with the feeling that don’t involve me emotionally checking out. And I’m struggling even more with not feeling resentment towards my partner when I feel this way.

  • Sandra

    Hi sheryl,
    I have been experiencing a lot of anxiety and fear around my loving boyfriend for the past two years. I am a christian and have experienced true love with Christ but at the moment I cannot feel God’s love and am so weighed under by this. I have broken up with my boyfriend twice over the last 5 years and every time we break up I can feel my true feelings again and know that I want to be with him forever, but as soon as I begin to draw closer to him, my anxiety returns and I question everything; whether or not I love him enough, whether he is the right one for me or whether I am doing the right thing. I think the biggest fear is that I am experiencing all of this anxiety because God doesn’t want me with him and that I am doing the wrong thing, so on top of all the fear I am crippled with condemnation and guilt over it. I am trying to read books and seek Jesus more in the word but I feel sometimes this just makes me feel even more anxious afterwards because my perception of God at the moment is so twisted and I struggle to see his love for me. I know that it is not God’s will that I live in this place and that I experience all of this fear, since his love and grace drives out all fear, but I don’t know what the right thing to do is and how to overcome this – and if I should even try to overcome it because I might just be going against his will and I don’t want to do that. So I feel somewhat stuck, paralysed. Unable to make a decision. Please help!

    • Mary

      God wants you to be happy.
      Your anxiety is happening due to something other than God.
      Don’t blame God, leave him out of this.

      1. Are you talking about your needs and wants to your partner? How well do you get together? How similar or different is he from you? Is there something you really don’t like about him? What is it?
      2. Have you changed the way you view your faith while dating your partner and then this upsets you and you blame your partner for this? “my perception of God at the moment is so twisted” why do you fear to change the way you view God as an adult? Do you feel you will abandon him? Or he will you?

      3. Forever is a nice way to look at a partner, but might you be putting too much “forever” thoughts on your relationship causing you to try to be 100% sure even before you took a test ride and was certain he was compatible with you? Compatible means that you can openly talk about your needs and wants in a relationship.

    • M

      Sandra, Sheryl has a great post on this topic called Living Gods Will. I am Catholic and it really helped me.

  • Maria [Germany]

    There are moments or even a few days in a row where I see my partner and my feelings through clear eyes, but soon I shut down again and arrive in the miserable zone of doubt that I don’t love him and that feeling ‘he doesn’t get me, he just doesn’t know what this or that means to me’, and it’s horrible. Sometimes I even feel like there’s no love left inside me for which it would be worth fighting for (which doesn’t make even sense), I feel so exhausted. I really try to learn that it’s ok to feel lonliness, but I just don’t understand why I get such strong relapses. How can I shape my thinking pattern to prevent that? All I want to feel is my love for him and see him with clear eyes as the wonderful person he is.

    • Relapses often arrives when there’s a disconnect somewhere, either inside ourselves or with each other:

      http://conscious-transitions.com/when-youre-not-attracted/

      • Maria [Germany]

        Thank you for recommending this article, I read it right away. The thing is, I don’t know if I’m disconnected from myself (ok that may be a sign, because I don’t know how to really connect in the first place), all I can feel is this fear. This fear when I see him that tells me “You don’t love him” and tries to make me run when I see his face. I really hope connecting will help me with that. The only reassurance I have to keep fighting are those precious clear eyes moments.

  • Mary

    This is so well written.
    Growing you with a narcissistic mother (which I found out she was at the age of 38, I moved out of my house at the age of 14). I find it hard at times to believe people are sincere and honest with their feelings. My mother loved and hated her children, she was fighting her own mental illness. Due to that, I struggle with relationship anxiety, looking for that perfect fit, but thanks to my therapist and reading books, I have come to a conclusion that there is not a perfect fit, that it all falls down on me.
    It is me, I’m broken inside and at times being alone is the hardest thing to do, why? Well because we hear our feelings and thoughts. Our heart and mind are at constant battle. We feel shame for feeling nothing when looking at our partner, for finding others sexually attractive …etc.
    My marriage is on the rocks, at times because of me and at times because my husband is at fault. We have similar past childhood traumas.
    I feel shame because of my feelings at times, but I am slowly learning how to go through them and have accepted that there is oh so much I can do in a relationship, it’s a two-way street.

    • Are the two of you open to couples’ therapy? When you have a trauma-trauma partnership, it can be enormously helpful to find a skilled couples therapist to guide you through the rough patches and offer effective tools for healing. The only approach I recommend is EFT (emotionally focused therapy, created by Sue Johnson). You can find a local therapist here:

      http://www.iceeft.com/index.php/find-a-therapist

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl,
    Feeling lonely and unseen feels like a child who cries and nobody responds. Its not a nice feeling, but sometimes when you are in a relationship it dosent mean that your partner is glued to your hip. If that were the case that would drive me mental. I have experienced loneliness when I was single mostly. There are times when my husband is watching movies from his iphone most of the day everyday that i do feel lonely and frustrated, but i i know its his way of unwinding so i respect and understand it now. He wont change. I know his not doing it deliberately. We both have our own hobbies and we give each other the space. I do make some noise when I need to talk to him and he dosent mind. I think humans are supposed to be social beings. We all feel like we need attention its who we are, otherwise we feel invisible. Nobody wants to feel that way. As a child i always craved for attention, i was centre of attention.

    • Yes, all true, Angela. And also true that when we’re needing human connection (as opposed to phone connection) it’s okay to ask for it.

      • Lisa

        Please help!:
        I’m feeling very lonely at the moment, my anxiety caused me to miss work and I’m afraid of sharing every little detail of it with my brother, I think it’d devastate him.
        What makes me feel lonely the most though is that I don’t know what I’m going through is even relationship anxiety. No one seems to be having this specific ‘what if’ thought.
        People at work are noticing it more and more and I’m just so depressed and consumed by it.
        My main ‘what if’ question is ‘what if I’d rather be single’?
        Is that even still relationship anxiety?
        I’m so confused. I’m in this great supportive and serious relationship and last Christmas that voice in my head just introduced this question. Since then it’s been there torturing me.
        I’ve had it in previous relationships. I do recognize that it always kicks in when things are getting serious indirectly asking me ‘if I’m ready for this’
        But why can’t I just list all the good things and why I’m with him and then it’d stop? That’s what most people would be able to do. WHY on earth is it torturing me every single day. It clings on to other ‘what ifs’ such as ‘you don’t leave because you’re afraid’ , ‘you’re not leaving because moving out would be too much hassle’
        I started catching myself having these break up fantasies in my head and how I’d get part of my furniture moved and how it’d be after we broke up.
        This is terrible! What am I scared of? I’m having a really really hard time finding out what I’m scared of. I don’t want to leave but I don’t know if I’m staying for the right reasons. It’s like I don’t know myself anymore, why can’t I answer this question and just put an end to it
        Is this relationship anxiety??
        Please help

        • Lisa

          I meant boyfriend not brother

          • Sophie

            Dearest Lisa,

            Thank you and well done for sharing, for loving yourself enough to reach out and ask for help. May you receive all you need and may you choose that what you need is to feel that you fully love and accept yourself, faults, flaws and all you consider good. Is there anyway typing brother instead of boyfriend is telling you something? Revealing something to you? Xx

  • Angela

    Its not our partners responsibility to make us feel happy every moment of the day. Compliments do help but we dont need to hear it from them all the time. We have to tell ourselves everyday we are super.

  • Katie

    I’m just confused on how you’re supposed to know you love someone if you can’t base it on feelings.. for example me and my partner, I can go days without having any loving feelings and then there could be a time when we are having a cuddle and I’m just thinking to myself “ah I love him” we get on so well, we both have our own interests, we are best friends, we laugh so much together.. overall our relationship is amazing. I couldn’t fault it apart from I feel like we don’t spend a lot of time just sitting and talking to one another but we both agreed that we will start to do that more.. but I am constantly having a conversation with myself in my head on wether or not I love him, my head will tell me I don’t love him so I sit there pretending that I’m breaking up with him to see if I feel anything about it and because I don’t it then makes me think that maybe it’s true, maybe I don’t love him? But I get upset because I don’t want it to be true. I’ve finally met someone who I enjoy being with, who makes me laugh and loves me, someone that I could actually spend my life with, & it upsets me that I’m constantly checking my feelings because I feel it’s unfair on him if I’m with him but don’t truly love him.. I’m only like this more when I’m not with him & then the minute I am with him it seems to all dissolve. It all started when we broke up and got back together so then when I think that maybe that could be the root, my heads all like “when you broke up maybe you stopped loving him” but then that was over a year ago? So surely if that was true it wouldn’t of been bothering me for this long? I still want my life with this man, but I also want to know that I love him 🙁 he deserves the world

  • Briana

    So I am struggling a bit when I comes to dealing with the intrusive thoughts- it spikes me when you say there is something “deeper” that needs to be dealt with. Simply because my thought of being drawn away by someone else’s personality and looks to me, doesn’t sound like I have deeper work that needs to be done, but rather that might simply be my truth. I feel like going “deeper” into those thoughts would only cause me to confirm that- but if I simply just dismiss the thoughts they quiet down- however in the face of the trigger (all men besides my partner) my mind always images what a relationship would be like with someone else. This of course puts me in a state of panic. I am so afraid of falling prey to these thoughts. And I’m struggling with the approach to handle them. I don’t feel wounded, or undeserving of love or insecure in any way- I’m not afraid of vulnerability, I am simply afraid of being carried away in the rush of emotion with the drawing of strong attraction. That scares me so much. This thought has so much power over me- it paralyzes me, I don’t want to go anywhere new, or meet new people for the fear I will meet someone that draws me besides my boyfriend. I don’t know how to handle this- what approach to use?

    • Sophie

      Dear Briana, thank you for your post. I note you wrote that you’re ‘struggling’ – why allow yourself to struggle? Can you allow yourself to allow yourself your feelings rather than struggle? Xx

      • Briana

        I kinda get what you are saying. I’m just really scared, I don’t want my fear to be truth. I do good for a couple days then I see a new attractive guy and BAM all the intrusive thoughts, scenerios, and emotions come crashing back in. It’s discouraging, and scary. When I am not in the presence of a trigger I am fine, but in the presence of a trigger (all men) my mind going CRAZY. I don’t want this- I just don’t know if I am strong enough in heart and mind to resist the temptation- which spikes my anxiety.

  • Katie

    I just read on one of your other blogs.. “learn to hear the doubt but don’t listen to it, which means not allowing it to sit in the drivers seat of your mind and heart” .. but I’m struggling on how I’m supposed to do that now? When for a year I’ve had the same thoughts about loving my partner, and not thinking I love him because I don’t “feel” it, when I’ve always thought you’re supposed to feel it and that’s how you know when you love someone. It’s like I’m being told that what I have grown up thinking is love is not actually true, but how am I supposed to know what’s true and what isn’t now? I’m happy with him but you can’t just stay with someone because you’re happy? You have to know that you love them to start a life with them surely?
    Anyone feel free to comment if you have any help or advise for me 🙁

    • Katie

      I don’t re-call having any of this with previous partners but at the same time, I’ve never looked at previous partners as a lifetime partner, whereas my current partner I want to be with him for life

    • Hi Katie: I hear how much you’re suffering in all of your comments, and I know how challenging this work can be. I know you’ve been considering the Break Free course, which would be excellent for you in that it will offer you the additional information and tools that you’re craving as well as the in-depth support through the forum. It would be the best gift you could give yourself at this juncture.

      • Katie

        I really am considering it and I really want to purchase it, I’m just scared that I’ll do the work and realise I don’t love him, I don’t want that to be the case 😩 I want this man to be in my life for as long as possible, we are looking to buy a home together in the next few months and I want that more than anything

        • L

          Hi Katie,

          I had the same fears as well. It took me over 4 months to purchase the course. I was also terrified that I would do all the work only to come to the conclusion that I did not love my partner. However, I have completed the course (a couple of times) and I feel a hell of a lot better. My boyfriend and I are still together. I am no longer plagued with constant anxiety/thoughts/fears. I still have some difficult days, but it is no where near what it used to be. I know it’s hard. I’ve been there. I couldn’t think straight, sleep, eat etc. I would spent most of days frantically googling topics on relationship anxiety.
          I also found that cutting out processed foods was very beneficial. I am also taking tai chi and guided meditation classes. Both were extremely helpful.
          You will get through this 🙂

          • Katie

            Mines only worse when me and my partner aren’t around one another, the minute we are back in each others presence it seems to go away. I’m always doing loving actions, not even because I feel like I need to do them for the loving feelings to come back but because I just do them naturally. I’ve just always thought love was a feeling so I’m just struggling to tell myself that it’s not that. Because if it’s not a feeling then how does anyone know when they love someone

        • Sophie

          Dear Katie,

          You say you fear doing the course because such action might cause you to choose that your relationship isn’t right for you to commit to longterm. Here’s a few thoughts that came to my mind upon reading your post – though I invite you to only listen to yourself, so why am I commenting? Am I still needing to ‘fix it’, ‘jump in’ when someone says help or just shares their thoughts or feelings? Can I be ‘selfish’ and focus just on me, is putting my energy into replying a distraction from living my own life, choosing to be successful? (When what I learned was that I had no right to be and now the same person who instilled such values tells me I’m wasting my life! No doubt a projection of their feelings about themself, and a reaction to my choice to no longer accept their truth and to decide for myself, so maybe the best I can now offer you is to invite you to choose how you choose to act, think, feel, react, create and co-create. Sending you my best love, which I have spare now I choose to love and put myself first and have stopped choosing to allow others’ interpretations of my life define, shape, dictate how I choose to think, feel, emote, act, react, create, co-create and procreate! Kind blessings to you if you (and your choice to choose to accept such or not 🙂 ) X

          • Sophie

            *desire (ie kind blessings to you if you desire receiving such from me, is what I was endeavouring to type!)

    • Eleonora

      Katie, you state that you are happy with him. Why is that not enough to start a life with him? Do you really need to know the true meaning of love?

      • Katie

        Because ive been with him nearly a year and a half, so shouldn’t I know 100% by this time that I do love him? He loves me so much, he always tells me “I love you so much” and all the time it’s the “so much” which spikes me a little bit, I always say I love you back but I haven’t added the little bit on the end yet cause it spikes me. I used to say all that at the beginning

  • LightAtTheEnd

    I always attach onto a story…that a ‘different partner’ would make me feel better. That I would be much happier than my current reality with someone else. A different man would free me.

    The evidence for this always comes thick and fast and validates this big fear of mine. It can be very disconnecting from being in the present moment with my husband. Destructive at times if not carefully managed.

    I guess the real diamond is to learn to effectively DETACH from these fantasies of being with other men. To detach in a way that truly convinces me. The only real story I have is with the man right next to me. What do I want the next chapters to be about?….its my responsibility to find peace with this so I can effectively move on.

    I know what needs to happen…I just struggle badly getting there…

    • Sophie

      Why do you choose to ‘struggle badly’ ? I like your post until I read that. Kind blessings to you X

  • J

    wonderful, and the synchronicity of this piece is very interesting. I have incessant and disabling partner-centred intrusive thoughts, which I just can’t share with her. It feels incredibly lonely not being able to ‘open up’, even though I know it is the loving thing to do to stay shtum.

    • Sophie

      Why do you say you are acting in a loving way by keeping quiet and not opening up and sharing your intrusive thoughts? What if sharing your’s enabled your partner to hear and/or share their own? Why are you telling yourself that your behaviour is not loving? Am I wrong to ask a ‘what if’ question of you? Does that suggest I’m intruding like your own intrusive thoughts or am I offering kindness and compassion? Maybe the intention behind the action, thought, emotion, feeling, reaction etc is important? I intend for my comments to be received as caring and kind. I choose to trust you are perfect just as you are, as is everything in your life xx

  • AT (from Nov '16 TY course :) )

    I read this and the last post on dreams just as I was feeling lonely, having had dreams of not being able to use the bathroom because others were around, being rushed. This is a recurring dream theme but, interestingly, does not occur when I am engaging in self-care. I have not been engaging in my morning and nighttime rituals much at all. Not surprisingly, since I got engaged a little over a month ago, I have been feeling impatient, exposed, annoyed, listless, and concerned with what others think, measuring myself up against others and with what they want.
    The loneliness makes sense- My IC has been navigating this new boundary alone, and my LA has been falling on deaf ears of the parts of myself that are afraid I can’t handle the acceptance of my feelings. Time to cycle back to my CW (and TY) course content 🙂
    I think back to the moment of engagement–My partner made sure it was truly a surprise, and when it happened, I had so many questions for him: “Are you sure? But didn’t you say you were not ready? Are you doing this just because XYZ did it too? I’m feeling sudden loss of attraction–bad sign?” My Loving Father then reminded me I’d explored the option of marrying this man, that I knew what intense love/fear felt like and what the most loving choice was in that moment. I said yes to him and was patient with everything I was feeling and it all flowed through me in time. I also want to continue to say yes to myself. I have you to thank, Sheryl. No matter what stage your readers are at, your writings land somewhere that has been waiting to be “seen.” <3

  • Newly Married

    I go through a lot of anxiety because everyone in my husbands family just see me as if i was the new one and they said that if it was not because she left i wouldnt be there and they talk about her and how much he was with her for 10 years and how he always this and that with her, a long with that my husband would always play jealous games with me and her telling me that he missed her and all kinds of things and i jet so jelous and insecure with all this it consumes me daily.
    So mich pain and abandonment from him that i dpnt know what to do. I am seeing a therapist but its not helpinng me a lot she is doig emdr but the feelings are still there. Please anyone do you have any word of advice, can you please talk to me about any advice.

  • Lisa

    Please help!: ive been having a few awful days lately, I can barely do anything. People at work are noticing it more and more and I’m just so depressed.
    My main ‘what if’ question is ‘what if I’d rather be singke’?
    Is that even still relationship anxiety?
    I’m so confused. I’m in this great supportive and serious relationship and last Christmas that voice in my head just introduced this question. Since then it’s been there torturing me.
    I’ve had it in previous relationships. I do recognize that it always kicks in when things are getting serious indirectly asking me ‘if I’m ready for this’
    But why can’t I just list all the good things and why I’m with him and then it’d stop? That’s what most people would be able to do. WHY on earth is it torturing me every single day. It clings on to other ‘what ifs’ such as ‘you don’t leave because you’re afraid’ , ‘you’re not leaving because moving out would be too much hassle’
    I started catching myself having these break up fantasies in my head and how I’d get part of my furniture moved and how it’d be just after we broke up.
    This is terrible! What am I scared of? I’m having a really really hard time finding out what I’m scared of. I don’t want to leave but I don’t know if I’m staying for the right reasons. It’s like I don’t know myself anymore, why can’t I answer this question and just put an end to it
    Is this relationship anxiety??
    Please help

    • Kathy

      Is it possible that you are afraid of being lost it the relationship? It’s a thing.

      And don’t be so hard on yourself for having doubts, everyone has doubts. Even the most loving, functional, supportive couples I know have doubts. Even if part of you does still wish to be single that doesn’t make your relationship wrong. It’s not about whether your partner is right or wrong for you, it’s about whether or not they are someone with which you can learn about love. I try to keep in the back of my mind when the thoughts are coming in rapid fire and it’s hard for me to discern between what is true and what isn’t.

      • Lisa

        Hi Kathy,
        Thanks a lot for your reply, I appreciate it. I don’t know if that’s what it is, I’ve never heard of that. I think it comes partially from my mom having me and my sister too early and missing out on a lot/regretting a few things. I think I’m somewhat terrified of ending up like that although I have no children and this isn’t my first relationship. I think serious commitment just scares me like crazy. I’m trying to tell myself that these thoughts are normal. I’m wondering g if they still fall under relationship anxiety though.

        • Anna

          I think it is. The specific intrusive thoughts you have don’t change that, it’s about the pattern that your mind goes through: “what if..” -> anxiety -> searching for proof -> seeking consolation -> not being satisfied with consolation bc the fear drowns out calm, composed thoughts. And then it starts all over again. I’m sure there are personal variations to each pattern though.

          • Anna

            Sorry, to clarify: by ‘it’ I meant a response to: does this thought still fall under RA

          • Kathy

            I agree with Anna, I think that it is relationship anxiety just in a different form. And I can identify with the fear of serious commitment, there are times that I remember the time before I met my partner when I was still single and I can’t help the nostalgic feelings that come up. There are obviously ways to keep your identity, but honestly there are things that you will miss out on being in a committed relationship. But maybe you’re associating being single with being alive and free. Remember that it’s not your partner’s job to make you feel alive. I think Sheryl has a post on this somewhere, kind of mourning the loss your single self, because you do have to kind of do that. Maybe let yourself feel that loss instead of being afraid of it and relabeling it as a reason you should leave.

          • Lisa

            Thanks both of you for your replies, it means a lot.
            I guess it is an intrusive thought after all , however, the feeling that comes with it is so well known to me. I’ve went through this 2 times before, once at 15 and then again at 20 or so
            I’m 25 now
            I ended both relationships, the first one obviously because I was so young but also because there was this strong call to leave and ‘be free’
            I was very young so obviously it made sense, I don’t regret leaving this relationship. And because it was the right choice back then and also the 2nd time round, it is really really hard not to give in again.
            All I can do is look at the facts which all say ‘stay’ , I’ve had my fun, but the feeling and calling to leave is incredible and so familiar. Did I have relationship anxiety at 15? I’m super confused

  • Anxious_Lover

    I am with a loving and caring soul with whom I want to forge a wonderful life.
    She is a lovely person with all those values that I would look for in a life partner. But I have been overthinking and self sabotaging this wonderful thing we have. Offlate I have been struggling with feelings of loneliness, lack of attraction or deadness. And usually I get dreams that point me to my true feelings and I feel reassured. But yesterday I had a dream where something bad happened to my partner and I was still feeling indifferent. I woke up with a racing mind and anxious feelings. Why would I have such a dream. I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with this fantastic woman but why do I feel so numb?

  • Katie

    I have just purchased a book called, love you love you not by someone called Stuart Ralph. Has anyone else read this and if so does it help?

    • Amica

      I don’t think it’s written by Stuart Ralph is it? I know it’s a book he recommends though. Isn’t it by Bruno Ping?

      I found Stuarts work (OCD stories, recourse, YouTube vids etc) before I found Sheryl’s. He draws on some similar things but from an objective point of view I find Sheryl’s work a lot more in depth but he’s a great guy. I emailed him once and he replied with some encouragement.

      Katie I have to ask, can you see your resistance at play?

      You ask so many questions about the break free course and many people here including Sheryl have advised it will be beneficial yet you’re still hesitating.

      I understand it’s because you don’t want to discover your truth is you have to leave.

      How paradoxical! You don’t want to leave so you don’t have to.

      You have relationship anxiety. You are anxious and it is focused on your relationship. Same as the rest of us here!

      You will also get access to the forum once you sign up. I think that would really help you as it seems like you need a lot of reassurance at the moment.

      You really will get there. It gets better!!

      • You’re spot on, Amica. Thank you for offering support here.

      • Katie

        Thank you for your reply and I know I’ve been commenting loads for reassurance. I am going to get the break free course I’m just waiting until I have a few more funds. & yes I’m worried I’m gonna find out I don’t love him because I don’t want that to be true, I’ve met someone who I can see an amazing future with. With all this being said about love not being a feeling etc etc, I’m just confused on how you’re supposed to know you love someone if that’s the case.

        • Anna

          If you don’t want it to be true, it doesn’t have to be true. Like I read in another of Sheryl’s posts, whatever you water will grow.

          I think you already know, but you find it hard to drown out the intrusive thoughts, which I know is very hard. You don’t want to break up, you see a future with your partner. That is the core. If love would just be a feeling, it would vanish after a fight or anxiety. But it doesn’t. It can feel like that, but you keep coming back to “I don’t want to leave him” (of course there are moments or days when you cannot access this intuition but it’s about the big picture).

          Maybe something more general to think about: what do you think about control? Are you generally scared of life not going the way you want, or do you feel the pressure to mould it in a ‘perfect’ way? Because this was definitely a factor for me. It was heartbreaking to realise that I can’t control the future of my relationship: there is no guarantee we’ll be together forever however much I want that now. He might want to leave some day even when I don’t want to. This was very troubling in the beginning but now I turned it around: I can’t control everything; so I shouldn’t try to and then by definition get set up to fail. Now I’m trying to work on myself and to open my heart for my partner. I am doing the best I can but that is all I can do. And now that actually feels freeing because it’s not about perfection but about instead taking care of myself. I don’t know if this story speaks to you at all, but I hope there’s something to think about. Of course I still have a long way to go but this is the process I’m in.

          • Katie

            I just can’t even explain really what goes on with my head, when the intrusive thoughts are sitting in the drivers seat it doesn’t feel like it’s me, I have no control over it. & I have noticed aswell that whenever I’m at work or whatever, some of the time I’m wondering if other guys find me attractive (I’ve learnt that it’s okay to find other men attractive and that it’s normal because we are human), but I feel like I’m always telling myself or trying to make sure I act like I’m not available, so my head makes me think that I actually want to be flirty and chatty to other men but I’m telling myself to give off the impression I’m not available because I’m with someone. If that makes sense? If you love someone then none of that should even cross my mind surely? I shouldn’t have to always make sure I’m not coming off the wrong way because if you love someone then you just naturally act like you’re not interested or whatever, or again is this the intrusive thoughts playing up? I used to love my bar job when I was single but since I’ve been with my partner I’ve not really been fussed by it.. even if a guy makes me laugh at work my head is like “you have a boyfriend you shouldn’t be laughing with another guy”

            I do need to try and find a therapist and sit and talk and find out what this is all stemmed from with me. A part of me thinks maybe its to do with when he broke up with me a year ago, but then If someone was to ask me does that still bother me, I’d automatically say no?

  • Briana

    How do you let go of your fantasy partner? I think my anxiety comes from the expectations I have with my fantasy partner- when my current partner lacks in an area and I see or hear someone someone else that is strong in that area, my anxiety spikes. How do I let go? What is a healthy mindset towards my partner?

  • Angela

    Hi All, And to my dearest Sheryl,
    Tonight I came across mind body and soul, Im sure you tapped into it. I came across a powerful, brave, compassionate woman called Psalm Isadora, she was a sexual healing coach. She shared her very traumatic sexual abuse from her father all throughout her childhood. Her mother knew and did nothing. How can her evil parents do this to her???? Unfortunately Psalm Isadora committed suicide last month, I write this with tears, I feel so angry 😡 that she helped so many people but couldnt help herself. Its so heartbreaking, A beautiful woman inside and out will definitely be missed. Her mission was to really help everyone.Please listen to her hear talks you wont regret it. Life is so precious ❤️

  • Angela

    Your very welcome Sheryl, she was only 42 😪😪😪Her memory will live on…….no doubt

  • ann

    Hi Sheryl

    Just beautiful thank you. I always thought my partner would just “get me” and I would never feel lonely or pain like you described. I thought my partner would inspire me as well and make me fell alive and whole

    What I got was a very loving partner, who I enjoy being with but doesn’t inspire me or help me solve my problems. IE Im terrible with my finances and am very unorganized, and instead of my vision of someone inspiring me, rescuing me, holding my hand and telling me it will be all right”, hes hard on me and challenges me to solve the problem myself. I sometimes makes me fell like Im with the wrong partner because it feels very uncomfortable to face the truth and grow.

    • It’s not your partner’s job to rescue you, but we do need to feel safe enough to come to him for reassurance. What do you mean when you say that he’s hard on you?

      • ann

        For example, Im really in a lot of debt from poor financial choices in the past, and though I’ve changed for the better, I haven’t been able to pay the bills. Im more of an ignore the situation type when Im overwhelmed, and when I get notices in the mail I push them to the side, but he will get on my case like “you have to pay these bills, please call them today” and I’ll say “I can’t pay it” then he will say “you need to figure out a way to make more money to pay them, you need to come up with a solution”. If Im sad about it he will listen to my fears about the situation. And hes sat down and helped me come up with solutions in the past too. But I guess he really pushes me to face the problem and fix it myself. And he will “nag” or remind me frequently because I have the tendency to ignore it

        In my fantasy world he would know my hesitation isnt because Im lazy but because Im scared and overwhelmed. And would say “I see you are hesitating, why are you so scared?” “let me help you and take care of it” and perhaps figure it out for me and call the creditors, or just pay it off for me. But I also know he doesn’t have the money for that

        Is that a red flag? Im a bit scared now. I do feel safe enough to tell him my fears, but sometimes Im scared at the same time to tell him the truth about the situation (ie that Im too scared to face the problem or that I have no solution)_. I feel like its a parent nagging me, but I know he does it because he wants me to face the situation and stop pushing things aside.

        • I’m not hearing any red flags. What I am hearing is that you’re expecting your husband to rescue you, as you already know. It sounds like you’re hoping that he’ll be the fantasy-father that handles it all for you instead of the loving father who encourages you to do it yourself.

  • ann

    What also spikes me is when I read about women describing their spouse as their “rock” who inspires them to do anything, should a partner be a rock?

  • growinglove

    I made a terrible mistake. So I googled “attraction in a relationship” and a woman was having doubts about her fiancé. She had agreed to spend time with him upon the urging of her family, and he was a catch (in a personality way definitely) but he just wasn’t so attractive. This sort of resonated with me, my boyfriend can be attractive. But he’s just come back from an Islamic pilgrimage part of the rituals is for the male to shave their hair, so he isn’t looking very attractive at the moment. We had a nice time yesterday but it felt a bit odd too, I’m scared that I will have to end it with him and that maybe he’s not the person for me. And I am very sceptical of how our negative views can be reflected onto our partners- surely not everything is a projection? I don’t know. There were minor moments where we were lost in conversation and the attraction thing wasn’t such a huge issue but then it comes back, and it makes me feel like I can’t be with him. He’s so sweet to me… another thing in the article was the girl said “I had alcoholic parents and my fiancé came into my life and I had some sort of stability”, something amongst those lines. He’s also taller than me but not as tall, as I would like to see in a guy I guess. But ugh it bothers me, I feel like we can’t be together. Because I’m leading him on or something.

  • growinglove

    Also the woman was told that she should leave the man because it’s unfair of her to marry her fiancé when she’s feeling so doubtful about things. Because she has never been attracted to him to begin with. So that raised some concerns for me… I have never truly connected to my partner without anxiety being there, at least not for a couple months now. So a lot of the time it feels like a chore- when I look at other guys I feel bad but I’m scared that I’m just a stupid idiot, who isn’t bringing any goodness to this relationship apart from the fact I may potentially hurt my partner very badly because of my own “lack” of’s. I feel like if anyone outside of this website spoke to me,, they’d tell me to leave my partner. 🙁 I don’t know if I do or don’t want to, I don’t feel so drawn.

  • Ali

    Is it common to have relapses in relationship anxiety? I was in a really bad place several years ago and took the Conscious Weddings e-course, which absolutely saved my life. I was able to overcome my debilitating anxiety regarding my relationship and be happy again and we got married about a year ago. Our marriage has been wonderful, it was definitely the right choice and I’m so grateful we were able to get to that point, but being an overly anxious person I still have intrusive thoughts pop up every now and again. Usually I am able to let them go and move on with my life, but the other day one came into my head about my marriage that really took ahold of me. Thankfully, because I know now what is going on I am able to recognize this for what it is, but even though I know this it still really upsets me. Some old feelings are resurfacing from before that I thought were gone for good. I know now this doesn’t mean the relationship is bad or wrong, but is this something normal that sometimes reoccurs after the initial episode has passed?

  • Briana

    I have noticed something, when I focus on the intrusive thoughts, emotions, stories- the fear- I don’t see a positive outcome, all I see is the fearful outcome. But when I choose to acknowledge the thoughts with truth I am brought to peace, as if the intrusive thoughts never existed. I am certain and feel strength. So that’s my truth right? Is that what I trust? I had a few days where an intrusive thought/story/emotion popped in my mind and I met it with a more positive thought alternative, in doing that the thought died, fear subsided, and love grew in my heart. I felt strength and a little giddy! It felt like truth- so am I safe to assume that is my truth?

  • Briana

    Another thing I have noticed- say I have a good day or two without the intrusive thoughts, I’ll notice it and even think to myself “wow, that thought doesn’t bother me anymore”, and within the course of a few hours I will fall back into the cycle. Is that normal? It happens every time without fail.

  • Cassie

    Thank you so much for a very insightful and helpful post, Sheryl! I did have a question that I’d love your thoughts on if you see this. Do you feel there is value to trying to understand WHY you’re feeling the way you are? You mentioned this is an attaching story and doesn’t really work? For me I can find it quite helpful in the sense that it makes me feel “not crazy”–in other words, that there is a reason for how I feel. For example, the other day, I felt my partner’s declarations of missing me and wanting to be around me were “needy”. This made me feel irritated and annoyed. When I peeled back the layers, I could see my partner wasn’t actually needy. Instead I was feeling annoyed because I had a very busy week and hadn’t given myself some “me” time- time to reflect, relax, rest for myself. Once I saw this, it felt like my irritated feeling made a lot of sense and that I needed to attend to myself. Hope this makes sense!

    • There’s a crucial difference between attaching to a story and discovering a root cause. It’s a subtle difference and somewhat hard to explain, but in a nutshell stories tend to make us feel more anxious and generally have a subtext of escape-hatch or blame whereas root cause helps us take responsibility and brings compassion to ourself and others.

  • H.L.

    What if the blank stares and stony silence happen more often than not? And what if he has a female friend who lights him up and relieves his depression and shares the connection I long for? I trust him 200% but I thought we were supposed to connect and ignite each other. Not a friend that he’d probably want to be with if I hadn’t come along. I have no idea why he loves me if I can’t compare to this friend or even make him feel better at all… 2/3rds of the time I get no response from anything I say, but his best friend, a female, gets an instant animated response. She gets better hugs. It’s not a romantic thing – I don’t know what it is. It means I feel like I’m the girl who does his laundry, never gets kissed and is a passive sounding board for another partner’s depression instead of realizing my lofty dreams for life with a partner….

  • Dani45

    Thank you so much for devoting your life to this Sheryl! Since finding your blog I no longer feel alone in this battle and am learning not to be so hard on myself. I have been with my partner for 12 years. We met in our teens and he is the only person I have been with. A year and a half ago we bought a house and moved in together for the first time. Two weeks after living together anxiety hit hard, convincing me I needed to run away because I didn’t feel how I “should” feel when moving in with my partner. I was terrified. I pushed through, met with a psychologist and after a few months found calmness in my home with my partner. Overall I would say the past year living together was great! In December by partner proposed and we were so excited. We booked a venue and made a guest list right away. I remember thinking back to how I was feeling before and feeling certain that I made the right choice to stay and work through my anxiety. For the past few months however I have been brought back to the same place as before, feeling that something is wrong and I need to run away. Of course my fiance is not perfect but I know that when I focus on his strengths, we have a great relationship. Your blog has helped me to calm my thoughts a bit but moving forward in the planning process still feels uncomfortable to me. I have never been the type of girl to dream about her wedding and the thought of planning such a huge event does not excite me however I always thought it was something I would do as my parents are married. I have also questioned what marriage means to me and wondered why I am doing this if it is causing me so much anxiety and panic. Based on what happened with the house and reading your posts, I feel this will get better if I am patient with myself, but planning a wedding doesn’t really give time for patience! A huge fear of mine is that the whole wedding will be planned and I will want to run away again. I also worry that one day the feeling will get so bad that I will run. Any advice or insight would be much appreciated!

  • Elle

    Sheryl, you mention elsewhere on the website that it’s not possible to make it work with just anyone – there has to be a ‘connection’ of sorts. You also advise us to ask ourselves the question “at a basic level, does my partner get me?”
    What if I feel as though my husband never really ‘got me’ – and I don’t think I’ve ever really understood him fully either? Our first few dates were pretty rubbish to be honest…conversation was stilted and we never managed to find an easy, effortless flow; I always felt that I was keeping it going by thinking of things to say and questions to ask. I went for the second and third date because we’d spoken a lot by email before we met in person, and we seemed to have a lot in common, including envisaging the same type/dynamic of marriage – so I didn’t want to give up too early when perhaps we just needed time to find our groove or discover the area in which we connected.
    After the third date, I went home and cried as I felt I had to break it off with him – I felt guilty for stringing along a caring, decent, solid man when I didn’t really feel attraction or chemistry with him, and after three dates it seemed unlikely to grow or appear. However, he told me he was feeling positive about us, and I found myself feeling a flutter in my stomach – and before I knew it, the words were coming out of my mouth “me too”, and for a couple of weeks, I was infatuated. A few weeks later, anxiety hit HARD – I was in bits, in tears, feeling that I should have broken it off earlier, wondering where that fluttery feeling had got to and utterly confused about whether to continue or not. I’ll spare the long story about how we eventually came to be married – which included a whole bunch of anxiety on my part, and many attempts to/thoughts of breaking it off – but suffice to say that I’ve never really felt as though we ‘get’ one another.
    We seem to operate in different paradigms – I’m an introvert though love to talk, intuitive/theoretically-minded and a thinker; he’s an extrovert (though quiet and not very chatty), and relies on his concrete senses and his emotions. We share the same faith, though we relate to it in different ways; while I value intellectual curiosity, deep thinking and striving for improvement, he doesn’t find value in delving deep and ‘overly complicating’ things, and is fairly content with where he is in relation to faith and God. I worry that our relationship will never be as deep or meaningful as I had always hoped my marriage would be – I know that I can seek those elements elsewhere in my life, with other people, but I don’t like the thought of my marriage being shallow or lacking meaning and purpose.
    Is there ever a situation in which people really are just too different and lacking in connection?

    • Elle

      I genuinely worry that perhaps I said yes to him in the end simply because I was scared that I wouldn’t find anyone else (I haven’t had much luck in the romance area) and he was a decent guy who loved me – almost as if I said yes because I couldn’t think of a reason why not, rather than because I really *wanted* to. I remember there were times when I wished he would break things off with me and take the decision out of my hands, just so I’d have the relief of not having to decide to say goodbye to a lovely man with whom I just didn’t feel enough chemistry/connection. I also worry that our lack of intellectual connection (not because he is less intelligent, but simply because his intelligence is different to mine and we see things through different lenses) will mean that I end up losing patience with, and respect for, him – and this will lead me to emotionally disconnect. The last thing I want is to lose respect for him as he doesn’t deserve this, but I feel guilty that I may have inflicted this upon him by choosing to marry him in spite of knowing that we didn’t click on this level, but because I enjoyed the feeling of being safe and loved and was scared to pass up that opportunity when I’d found it so hard to meet anyone else.

  • Kathryn

    I have to say I’ve been reading this blog and following Sheryl’s advice for years. I was in a three-year relationship with the kindest, most giving and respectful man I have ever been with. We got along famously, cooked together, enjoyed the outdoors and the city together. We were friend first for about a year and he then confessed his feelings for me. I was so happy. Everything seemed perfect. It was perfect – on paper. I had so much anxiety creep up, so much doubt and I distanced myself from him. I kept going back and forth between trying to understand my own feelings, anxiety, etc. And I do think it’s very valid that these intrusive thoughts can obscure our love for the person in front of us. Especially as I was not really in love before with someone. But the hardest thing for to understand, that this truly was coming from me just not being in love with him. I loved him, but in the end, as a friend. I was attracted to him, but later realized myself pushing away from him. It was the hardest thing for us to break up after 3 years. I am a year out from it and finally feeling better. But if I stayed with him I know now it was because he seemed like the perfect fit, and he was safe and secure. But my gut was right. It really was. Sometimes I think with all of your stories above, some of the relationships just truly are not meant to be. I was in convincing mood and in the end it really was the wrong relationship for me. Very exhausting!

    • I’m glad you found your clarity, Kathryn. Everyone needs to find and take that path that is most loving for them, and that looks different for everyone.

      • agnes

        I’m so confused and anxious about this comment…it seems to go against everything taught here on this blog. It seems to be written from the cultural mainstream idea of love :S

        • Yes, I’m expecting many people to feel spiked by Kathryn’s comment. She has come back to share her experience, and yes, her decision is similar to those found on mainstream sites that make the “doubt means don’t” equation. We can trust that she made the most loving decision for her and that you have your own loving path to follow. No two paths are the same.

        • growinglove

          I certainly feel the same way. And am scared this is true for me too. Sigh, it’s 3am. I really should not be compulsively reading online right now.

  • Kathryn

    Hi Elle,

    I just wanted to respond to something you wrote,

    “I remember there were times when I wished he would break things off with me and take the decision out of my hands, just so I’d have the relief of not having to decide to say goodbye to a lovely man with whom I just didn’t feel enough chemistry/connection.”

    I must admit that is exactly how I felt. Unfortunately I broke his heart, but he could feel my pulling away. I didn’t have that chemistry in the romantic way (I thought I did) and it’s so important I am finding out. I don’t think that’s anxiety. I think it’s the wrong fit.

    • Elle

      Sheryl, what do you think? You mention that the way we know it’s anxiety and not intuition is that when we hear those screaming thoughts, we’re pained by them because we don’t really want to leave. But surely there can be reasons for not wanting to leave that aren’t to do with truly loving our partners – e.g. fear of hurting them, fear of being alone, fear of not finding someone else and regretting that we gave up on a chance to be in a relationship, etc? Just as you talk about how people give in to fear caused by relationship anxiety and leave good relationships, despite intuition telling them their partners are great and they love them, is it possible that people give in to these other fears and so *stay* in the wrong relationships, despite intuition telling them that it’s not right?

      • Elle, Yes, that’s certainly possible, but it’s not typically what I see. For the vast, vast majority of my clients, readers, and course members, the anxiety/doubt is alerting them to places inside of themselves that need attention and healing – places that would arise with any loving, available partner – as opposed to red flags in the relationship. I would need a lot more information from Kathryn above to understand what she means when she said “it wasn’t right and it was the wrong fit.” I hear that she’s saying that they didn’t have chemistry in a romantic way, by which I’m assuming she means physical and sexual attraction, and I certainly understand the mainstream response to that statement which is to walk away. I hold a different stance.

        • Elle

          Thanks for your really quick reply Sheryl, I truly appreciate it 🙂 do you also disagree that one should walk away from a relationship in which intellectual/conversational/personality-related chemistry isn’t there? I agree with you regarding physical and sexual chemistry, as I feel these are often ephemeral and that a relationship should be underpinned by a strong friendship and a deep enjoyment in one another’s company – but what if one feels bored, un-excited and un-stimulated while in the other’s presence? Sometimes when I’m sharing experiences with my husband, I wish I was with my best friend or another friend instead, someone whose personality is more like mine so we can connect over enjoying the same things, having similar opinions etc. It’s painful to see that the elements of an experience I’m enjoying are quite different to those he’s appreciating, and that we can’t really understand or share in one another’s joy and interest.

          • Have you always felt this way around him? In other words, was there a time in your relationship when you felt more excited by or fulfilled by spending time with him?

          • Elle

            I wouldn’t say ‘excited’ or ‘fulfilled’, really. We always got on well by text and email, because he has a way with written words; he can be very witty, which I enjoyed, and occasionally spiritually/emotionally reflective, so it was nice to get an insight into his thoughts and feelings. However, these traits don’t seem to manifest in person – he’s much less expressive when we speak face to face (both in terms of what he says and also the way his voice sounds); he’s also not very ‘quick’ so while our conversations can be interesting when he has time to think about what he’s going to write, in person, he just doesn’t keep up with me, or come across as witty or reflective. He’s solid, accepting and comforting, but quiet. Our best conversations are those when we’re joking around or discussing concrete, practical matters – but I’m by nature a serious, deep and intellectual person, so it can feel draining and like it takes a great deal of effort and energy for me to remain in that light-hearted, small-talk mode in order to connect. I often feel that if I had met him in real life first, I wouldn’t have gone for a second date at all, as there was little indication of our chemistry – but it was the written conversations we’d had which made me feel as though there must be more there…more depth, more potential to connect, and perhaps we just needed time together to become more comfortable and allow that to surface. I was convinced that he was a puzzle waiting to be solved, a ‘still rivers run deep’ guy who could be drawn out over time, but perhaps I was simply projecting my own complexity onto him. I became attached to him not because this connection arose, but because of his affectionate, patient, steadfast nature – which I won’t deny is wonderful, but I often can’t help but feel that it’s not enough on its own; I should have waited for someone who provided me with that safety, security and love but also fulfilment, excitement and connection. Having had a bad history with trust, relationships and feeling secure, and often fearing that I was too damaged, broken or unloveable to find such acceptance, I worry that I ‘settled’ simply out of fear that I wouldn’t find anyone else.

          • I’m not hearing that you settled, Elle. What I’m hearing is that you have some unrealistic expectations about what partnership is supposed to provide AND that there’s room to grow in your marriage for both of you (as there is in every marriage). It sounds like there’s a way in which the two of you communicate that may shut him down and now allow for his full heart and spirit to emerge. This would be an area to explore.

          • Elle

            Thanks Sheryl. Which parts were unrealistic? I know a partner won’t always light me up or be the source of my alive-ness, but I did hope for someone I could have easy conversation with about the things that interest and matter to me, whom I’d be excited to spend time with. I’m really interested in what you said about the way we communicate though – do you think that potential for stronger connection is there, but somehow his being shut down by our interaction style is blocking it? How can we explore that and find a solution?

          • Your desire for easy conversation about things that interest you are completely realistic, but it’s this statement that sent off a bell or two: “I should have waited for someone who provided me with that safety, security and love but also fulfilment, excitement and connection.” It sounds like some part of you is wishing you had waited for the perfect partner with whom you wouldn’t have to work at staying connected. That doesn’t exist. My strong recommendation is that you seek couple’s therapy through the EFT model. It’s an extraordinary model created by Sue Johnson 30 years ago and she has trained therapists around the world in it. You can find a local therapist here:

            http://www.iceeft.com/index.php/find-a-therapist

  • Kathryn

    Hi Sheryl and Elle,

    I certainly hope it doesn’t sound like I was trying to detract from Sheryl’s advice and blogs, etc. I think she is extremely helpful, and I have utilized what I have learned in my every day life. Anxiety, intrusive thoughts. I’ve experienced them so much that I really struggled with this particular relationship. It was the fact that I was so close to this person I believe there was a lot of blocking of intimacy because I was scared and anxious, and didn’t live in the now. I think what I mean to say, is that when I was quiet, and didn’t let those thoughts in – I really did feel my body and my head say that this really isn’t right for you. Don’t beat yourself up I finally concluded. For me, it really was the fact that the attraction/sexual chemistry wasn’t there and would unfortunately never be there. I thought it may, but it didn’t. But he was wonderful and nurturing in so many ways that I learned a lot from him.

    I definitely did not easily walk away. He was a wonderful friend for almost 2 years, and then my romantic partner for 3. Hardest thing I’ve ever done and the loss was very difficult. But I do have a better understanding of when it is anxiety getting in the way, and when it is being with the wrong person. Hope that makes sense. And I think your work is truly inspiration and comforting Sheryl. Thank you.

    • Elle

      Thanks for clarifying, Kathryn. When I’m calm and don’t have those intrusive thoughts, my prevailing sense is usually “he’s so lovely – I could stay with him.” Not that I desperately *want* to, just that now I’ve made this commitment, I could stick it out. It wouldn’t be great but it also wouldn’t be awful. That’s when I feel like I’m settling: staying with someone I *can* be with, in a life I could get used to, rather than one I’d necessarily choose if I could go back and do this all again.

      • agnes

        This conversation is really alarming :'( what if you conclude the worst when your head is quiet? What does that mean??

        • Agnes, I suggest that you step away from your screens now and turn inward. You’re not going to find your solace or comfort here. Ask yourself what you’re needing and how you can take a loving action that might bring some stillness to your inner world. Go for a walk. Get into nature. Do whatever you do that helps you connect to your higher self.

        • Elle

          Agnes, I’m sorry if this conversation spiked you. Of course we come here and lay out our darkest fears, and I’ve been spiked by many a comment on her blogs, but I still have a lot of hope that Sheryl is right and that there is a way for me to find peace and happiness in my relationship – I wouldn’t be here otherwise.

          • agnes

            Please don’t apologise, my spikes are my responsibility, but I appreciate it all the same. Sheryl was absolutely right, I needed to step away from my screen. I’m struggling with finding ‘the truth’ about myself and situation at the moment and am very susceptible to these spikey comments.

  • Kathryn

    I happy to share my experiences with you Elle. I don’t want to stir the pot by any means, but I felt very similar to what you are saying. I think if he didn’t break it off with me, I’d still be with him. (Let’s just say my discomfort was so amplified by the end that he recognized it took the step to end it). It pains me to read what you write because in my eyes that is a wrong fit, not a form of relationship anxiety. It sounds like fear is coming in to play. I was worried I would not find someone like him again. He’s great, secure, etc. But my gut couldn’t take it. I’m single and a bit scared, but happy to see what the future may bring. I would never settle again.

  • Kathryn

    *sorry for the typos!*

  • Briana

    I have been caught up in my intrusive thoughts for days, I have been doing my best not to indulge in reassurance, it has been a bit of a challenge but I feel like I have been doing decent. The strong need to answer the questions of the intrusive thoughts is what is weighing me down. My fear is that my thoughts are truth and not fear. I am afraid to step out into new places for the fear that once I let my guard down my fears will be reality. I can’t tell if fear is interjecting when I can see myself doing the things I fear- or if that’s a part of honesty within me that’s warning myself of the future. Please, how do I know the difference? Or is this merely fear? My need for certainty is overwhelming me, and my fear feels very real. About a week ago I had no fear or anxiety- it only last a few days but I felt strength, hope and love in my relationship- I was confident and certain- was that my truth? The fear and anxiety have brought back doubt, and I don’t know what to trust any more.