The Joy of Loving Freely

IMG_5083I write a lot about the power of fear and the work of relationships. I write about this to help people learn about the tricky ways that fear manifests in intimate relationships, which helps them to identify fear more readily, thereby diminishing its power. We chart how fear shows up in our minds and bodies, call it out on the mat, and thus begin the work of releasing its stronghold over our ability to show up fully for our intimate loved one.

But what I don’t write a lot about is what you can expect to feel when fear starts to loosen its grip. Is it realistic to feel the butterflies and ecstatic longing that we’ve culturally come to identify as the hallmarks of being in love? No, but it’s realistic to expect something so much better.

What are the qualities of real love?

Real love is two open human beings being willing to stand naked and vulnerable in front of each other and swim in the warm and comfortable pool of daily love together.

Real love is joy. Real love without the prongs of fear in the way feels easy and effortless. Real love just is, and it’s in its simple “is-ness” that we find the hum of joyful connection that we’re all longing for. It’s not thrilling. It’s not always exciting. But it’s a sustainable joy, like a quiet and beautiful melody that underscores your life.

Real love inspires us to focus on giving more than getting.

Real love, especially when we’ve had to climb over boulders of fear to get there, feels like the victory of standing at the top of a very tall mountain.

We feel humbled by and grateful for real love. We recognize that it’s a gift and a privilege. We don’t take it for granted, and with the awareness of its preciousness, words and actions of appreciation tumble easily off our lips like gems.

Real love feels safe. We trust that our partner has our back, and we act in ways that show our partner that he or she is a priority. Partners in real love have a foundation of trust that creates a pillow of safety. We rest on this pillow of safety, and often use it to find our wings to fly. The love and trust that a safe relationship offers inspires us to rise into the best of ourselves and to bring our gifts to the world.

Real love isn’t ecstatic in the way our culture defines ecstasy. It doesn’t fill up all of our empty places and it doesn’t bring the aliveness that characterizes the infatuation stage of a relationship. Even in the happiest of relationships, we’re still left with ourselves, and we still must learn to fill our own well and tend to our own pain.

If real love is so easy and effortless, why is it so hard to sustain? Because real love includes tremendous risk. We’ve been hurt, and our hearts record each hurt with perfect accuracy. Enter fear. Fear is designed to try to keep us safe from the risk of love. And once fear enters, everything changes. Fear colors perception. When fear is in the driver’s seat of our hearts, we see ourselves, our partners, and our world through fear-eyes. Through fear’s lens, the world looks gray and our partners look less than appealing. Where the first stage of falling in love opens us completely to a kaleidoscope of feeling and a cornucopia of experiences, as soon as fear enters the picture the movie-magic stops dead in its tracks.

But when we learn how to challenge fear, real love takes the reins and we see clearly again. Our partner’s face shines with the beauty that lives in his or her heart. He radiates goodness. She sparkles with kindness. This isn’t fairy tale love; rather, it’s the magic the arises when we clear out the cobwebs of fear and pain and old stories and unrealistic expectations and find ourselves standing in the original garden of our true nature. And with real love at the helm of the relationship we can tend to our painful places and empty spots with greater tenderness.

While real love isn’t the stuff of Hollywood, there is bliss there: the bliss of clear and clean loving.  There is, in fact, the deepest joy you will ever know, the joy that comes from finding that place in you that can trust and be trusted, that can know and be known, that can love and be loved. There is the joy when the inherited fear – the fear that is not yours but was funneled into your sensitive soul from generations past – sifts through you like sand, and you find yourself willing and ready to let go of anything that stops you from loving.

It’s up to us to do this work. We must take the actions that crumble the fear and allow us to swim in the current of good love. Are you ready to loosen fear’s grip? Are you ready to step fully into the arms of your loving partner, to become the stable, safe base for him that he likely is for you? If so, I would love for you to join me for my sixth round of Open Your Heart: A 30-day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner. The program begins on Saturday, June 20th, and this is the last week to register.

I will end with this: I’m still learning about the relationship between love and fear. I’ve carried layers of fear so deeply in my body that it still exacts its claim and prevents me, at times, from fully loving and being loved. The work, I believe, isn’t necessarily to break free completely of fear’s hold; I’m not sure that that’s possible. The work is to name it for what it is, to see it clearly and not mis-assign its appearance by taking it as evidence that you’re with the wrong person so that you can slowly, over time, over many years perhaps, live in freedom.

I wrote this poem one year into my relationship with my husband, at the very beginning of what would be come both my personal and professional work: deconstructing the beliefs and expectations I had absorbed about love, grasping fear’s power, and sharing what I learn with others. I am still finding out about love, and I imagine I will for years to come. For a lifetime, in fact, with the beautiful, beloved man I’m lucky enough to call my husband by my side every step of the way.

Real Love

Real love takes nothing.

It is an endless waterwheel that

creates light from the

simple falling of

water

    onto

          wood.

The others

drank of me,

sucked blood and life

from my bones.

They fed until I

dwindled to nothing and

gasped at the edge of the forest for

one deep breath.

But not you,

who asked only to part my mists and

meet the flesh woman who lives here.

Not fairy or goddess,

but a woman

ready to meet a man

and find out about love.

78 comments to The Joy of Loving Freely

  • Amy

    Hi Sheryl,

    I got married a little over a month ago and am finding that each time I feel my walls come down and my love for and acceptance of him grow, another fear pops up. It’s the fear of possibly losing someone I love so much, and in those moments it is overwhelming. I’m wondering if this is a common occurrence for those of us who have struggled with anxieties over choosing “the one”. Could all of this boil down to placing walls up in order to protect myself from the profound loss of losing a mate?

  • beautiful Sheryl!! I still feel so strongly that we have some work to do together….sending much love and the intention to reconnect soon! xo

  • Tricia

    Thank you Sheryl for your powerful insight and work. I live in the abundance of true love for my spiritual & life partner. However, I am working through my fears in mothering my daughter (5). These fears are not prevalent in my relationship w my son (2). I notice that I speak the same love language as my son and our rhythms are more aligned. I would love to hear more about how to navigate these fears in parenthood.

  • Lexy

    I was doing better, I’ve fought my fears. But recently, I’ve been under a lot of stress… and now I’m almost worse than ever. On the surface I’m “certain” this relationship isn’t for me, but because of this site, and the work I’ve done up to this point, a part of me says I shut down because my old wounds have been open. I hate that my first reaction to seeing my boyfriend is feeling anxious (after hanging out for a little bit, I loosen up). I don’t know what I want anymore. It’s scary not to feel things you “should” be feeling and “want” to feel. I should stop pressuring myself into feeling things, maybe it would come if I stop stressing about it too much.

    Great post as always 😀

    • Larly

      Hello,

      I find myself in the same situation as you sometimes and have ended up becoming really ill because of it. I am now on the road to recovery and thank goodness I still have my boyfriend by my side. A lot of things cause me anxiety and to feel ‘low’ but sometimes I feel like it is him causing it -push past the surface level of this anxiety and more often than not it is not him as such, rather the way I am feeling at the time, or the way I am feeling towards him. It is so easy to say that you need to stop stressing about it too much isn’t it? In reality this is so much harder. i just wonder what you do to help yourself push through these difficult and painful times?

      Larly <3

  • fightforthis

    Sheryl, next month will mark the anniversary of me finding this site and purchasing the Ecourse after entering a new relationship and feeling the all to familiar panic rise up, making me feel like my only choice was to leave. I think this text perfectly ilustrates what I experience now, after doing some hard work. for more than 7 months I can say that I have been relationship anxiety free and when the anxiety knocks I know how to dismantle it. Everyday I find more and more proof for your work and how much it benefits us. I am eternally grateful for you and how you helped me safe my amazing relationship with my perfect (don’t spike – perfect in the sense of loveable and perfect for me) partner!

    • Fantastic to hear, fightforthis. It does, indeed, take work and time, but it’s entirely possible to dismantle anxiety and live more and move in the flow of love.

    • Carmen

      I am so happy to read this. this assures me that I am doing the right thing. I just signed up for the course and will be starting it on June 20th. I hope to be where you’re at when I’m done with it! What was your anxiety like? did you cry a lot? that’s where I am right now.

      • fightforthis

        Sorry for the late reply. My anxiety was completely off the handle. I was bedridden at times, I cried the whole day through I couldn’t eat, barely sleep was shaky and freezing all day. I promise you, it’s all due to false beliefs. With hard work, you will get there

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, Love all of your blogs, so soft, subtle real words coming from your experiences, just like a poet you are Sheryl.
    I have been stressed lately, not from anxiety but from my husbands brother. He was staying with us and it was saffocating.. I felt trapped in my own home. No freedom or privacy. I basically kicked him out because of his disrespectful behaviour towards me. I Told my husband how i felt and he fully supported me. We got married in december 2013 and would you believe we havent had alot of quality time to ourselves. Its totally selfish of him to even consider staying with us another 6 months. I told him are you serious, i just dont feel comfortable with you, go back to India with ur wife and daughter and leave us alone. I have never met such boring, arrogant, selfish people in my life. I feel so happy and relaxed now. I now know my husband was worth the anxiety i experienced the last 2 years. He supported me all the way. He knows his brother isnt a nice guy. I still want him to talk to him but i dont want anything to do with these. I have been to nice and patient. I am so proud of myself for speaking mind.

  • Larly

    Hi Sheryl,

    Another wonderful post that really soothes my anxieties surrounding my own life, relationships and above all else, fears. You suggest that in order to alleviate your fears we should act in the face of it. I am just wondering if there any particular things you would suggest in order to help me soothe my fears over not loving my fiance ‘enough’. Sometimes when things get particularly stressful for me I just want to run away and I find myself nearly blurting out that we should break up. This is not what I want but it’s like a reflex reaction. Would you say that I should challenge my fear by blurting out ‘I love you’ instead in the hope that it will shrink my fear over time? Sometimes when I feel myself pushing away all I want is a bit of love and to feel safe or wanted/needed, even. Would you say this is fear presenting itself?

    Larly <3

  • Joanne

    This recent post has really spoken to me about how things are in my relationship and how things should be. I have always had unhappy, frantic, fraught relationships that have never lasted longer than 18 months to two years. When I met my partner he was totally different in his ways to any of my previous partners and I felt a connection to him and also a strong attraction. The only problem is my partner is not conventionally good looking at all and some people have described him as ‘ugly’ before which is a terrible thing to say about him as he is so kind and such a nice person. However after 18 months I started to get all of the feelings that everyone else on here describes – “not sure if I’m attracted” and “I’m not sure if I am with the right person”. At the time I had just became sure of his love and commitment for me and that was when it all started.
    After thankfully finding this website and reading all of the articles etc. it released some of my anxiety and the post describes exactly how I feel towards my partner when I am not worrying whether or not he is right for me or if other people think he is not good enough.
    I have never had anyone in my life before encourage me and be happy for me to do well with studying and developing myself. I then had the anxious feeling that maybe that was using someone to make all my dreams come true, if that makes sense, but then after reading this I have realised that true love is really about supporting someone to be better. So thank you for your words of wisdom.

    • Yes there’s so much confusion in the culture about what real love is, and we often get sucked into the codependency myth and then judge ourselves for only being with our partners because we feel safe and supported. Those are wonderful things to feel and in no way unhealthy! I’m so glad my blog has been helpful of you.

  • Lea

    Lexy,

    OMG, it’s like you’ve taken those words out of my mind. It’s the same with me, at times I am almost certain that I am just convincing myself to stay and then I imagine it and can’t see myself going through it with no reason when he is the best person ever and treats me like a queen. The problem in my case is that I’m over focusing on the negative aspects of the relationship to the point of even believing my own lies in my mind. Never in my life have I been so depressed as I am now, I find myself being aggressive towards him, I say things I don’t mean, I hurt him for no reason and he puts up with me after all. I feel guilty all the time, it’s like I feel the urge to leave but I have no courage. I really need to take the course and do something but I am so scared that my truth is to leave. My first reaction to seeing him every day is also anxiety, and then I loosen up a bit. This is exhausting…… It’s draining my energy and the stress level is soooo high. I don’t know if this is how it is supposed to be……..

  • Northernlass

    Hi Sheryl and everybody,

    Sheryl, your blog posts have been life savers. Thank God for you and the truths that you share.

    I’d like to know how anyone copes with a partner who suffers from relationship anxiety? Unfortunately when my man goes into a spiral of anxiety, it triggers my own intrusive thoughts and anxiety. I try to be loving and gentle with him while he is ‘on a downer’,but I’d like to know about any specific tools I can adopt to make life easier for us both until he has the ‘upper-hand’ again.

    He always comes though because we both know that our relationship, although not perfect, is so precious and worth climbing any mountain for. It is built on a solid foundation of mutual respect, desire for growth, friendship and a love that conquers any difficulties that arise. Our anxiety and intrusive thoughts always stem from a place of fear and disconnectedness. We are both highly sensitive people and prone to anxiety in all aspects of our lives. The fact that we both have this kind of anxiety actually teaches us to be more compassionate with each other and ourselves. Perhaps one day we will be able to see it as a gift.

    • RoseBloom

      Hi Northernlass,
      I feel like I’m in a similar situation to you. I totally believe in everything Sheryl says and her blogs are so helpful to me at times when I need some reassurance.

      My partner and I (together for around 5 years) have a loving relationship based on respect, friendship, fun, loads of things in common and a strong attraction. We have had several blips in our relationship where he feels worried that he never had that ‘spark’ for me, and whether or not his feelings for me are enough. Two years ago I moved out for a few months for us to have a break, and for him to really think about his feelings for me. But every time he comes back to me saying he can’t imagine his life without me and he wants me in his future. We always work through it together, listening to each other and trying to understand each other’s doubts and fears. Although really all of the doubts come from him…

      I feel that ‘spark’ he’s missing comes from the fact that we met when he was brokenhearted from a previous relationship. Most of the time things are fantastic between us, but every now and then I see that doubt rising in him again, this makes me anxious and then I think it has a knock on effect on him as he worries he’s not making me happy. I always find myself back on Sheryl’s blog looking for reassuring words, but often I feel that really it should be him reading this not me!

      I feel like his logical mind believes in the things I tell him from Sheryl’s blog, but sometimes his heart gives him the feeling that he needs more for our relationship to really go the distance.

  • Lexy

    Hi, Larly and Lea (btw, we have the same first name haha). I can see a connection between rOCD and the stress in my life. Whenever i have something more important to do or stress about something, I always project that onto my relationship – and stress about it, instead of the thing I should really worry about. Like it’s my escape from reality. We live in our heads, and that’s our biggest problem. For example, today I accidentally came across my bf, and I wasnt anxious at all (a little bit scared I will be, but that’s it). I came to a point where reassurance doesn’t help anymore, haha. I don’t know, I guess this is a make it or break it point 😀
    We need to become strong, and find the courage to look deep inside us to discover what we really want.

    • Charlotte

      I have tried to tell myself that when i’m feeling stressed or particularly anxious or down, I am not in a good enough place to make any major decisions. So I have to play the waiting game a little bit and let my anxieties subside before I can address any fear I may have. It has helped me a lot because over time I am realising that although my fiance is my initial thought, it is usually not him and there is something a lot bigger going on. I went away at the weekend and panic his me out of no where. I immediately thought of my fiance and how I needed to break up with him. But I wasn’t even away with him, I was with my friend, he wasn’t there so he wasn’t to blame for my sudden spike. He is unfortunately my scapegoat if you like. It’s a horrible ‘habit’ that I need to break but I’m slowly breaking down those walls.

      Larly <3

  • Carmen

    Sheryl,

    Thank you again for such an amazing post! It makes a lot of sense! I just wish my fear walls would come down a little easier! I am moving in with my boyfriend within a week and the fear is hitting me very hard right now. Fear that it may not work out, fear that I don’t love him enough when I know that he is the greatest, most loving man I have ever been with. Would your course help me? How much is it to join?

  • ScaredyWife

    That spikes me a bit to see the phrase “real love is easy and effortless”. It has me think “well, since it’s so hard for you, you must not have real love.” How can I work around this?

    • Great question. Love does require hard work because we need to learn how to work with fear, but in the moments and times when fear isn’t running the show real love feels easy. And working with fear is no walk in the park. It’s truly the hardest work you’ll ever do.

      • ScaredyWife

        Thank you Sheryl! I’m definitely excited about learning more in the “Open Your Heart” Program! When my husband and I are clicking, it does feel easy. I don’t get mad or frustrated with him as much when we are both in that connected space. They can just feel like rare moments. I’m ready to do the work, because him and I are totally worth it!

  • Lea

    Does anyone feel like they are suffocating when they are next to their fiance/boyfriend? I can’t recognize myself anymore, I used to love being next to him and kissing him and now, now I can’t even look at his face, it gives me such anxiety and everything inside of me screams RUN…..

    • Northernlass

      Hi Lea, I’ve felt this way too before. However, no matter what my intrusive thoughts scream at me, these feelings DO pass and I’m eventually left with that window of truth when I remember how it feels to be close and connected to my partner, and why I’m so happy to be with him.

      Sometimes it can take days for these uncomfortable feelings to shift, but they always do. I think if we don’t feed our anxiety by analysing our intrusive thoughts or thinking that we shouldn’t feel this way if we were really with the ‘right’ one for us, and just do the hard work of facing up to our deepest fears (mine is the fear of loss), eventually the anxiety will get bored with us.

  • Hillary

    Lea, yes. I have never commented before but felt like I should reach out to you. I used to feel this way constantly after my husband and I got married. It is mostly gone after 4 years (yikes, don’t spike!! :)) but the beast still rears its ugly head occasionally. However, I know now that so much of the anxiety has to do with other factors, including my relationship with myself. I can say that I am so, so glad I didn’t leave him. And frankly, I am amazed at how patient he has been with me, through all my doubt, anxiety, depression and irritability. *I* wouldn’t have stayed with me! 🙂 I am learning that the fantasy is just that, and that what seems ordinary is not ordinary at all. You are not alone. Reading this blog and comments has been helpful because it is a community of people who know, generally or pretty specifically, what you are suffering. You CAN work through this. You are worth it and so is your relationship if he loves you.

    • Mary

      ‘I wouldn’t have stayed with me’
      Wow, this is exactly what I said to my partner yesterday when I was suffocated with fears and had to open up to him about my thoughts and feelings. I asked him to leave me if this was too much for him and that he should not stay with me because he feels sorry for me. But he is not going anywhere he answered… he will not leave because things are hard right now (and he also added that he could imagine that things are much more harder for me than for him..). He knows that it’s my fear talking and that I am in a big transition. He is just the most understanding person I have ever met.
      What I also experienced is when I opened up towards him about my thoughts and fears and doubts, I was relieved and my thoughts disappeared.. I almost can’t remember what the thoughts were exactly. This does not mean that I feel 100% better, I steel have this nagging feeling and the feeling of being on my guard.. but I don’t have thoughts I had yesterday which almost had convinced me to break up.
      I love to hear the stories of people who worked through this, they give me hope. Thank you!

  • Bethany

    Do you think some people just take longer to love? I’ve never actually been in love, so I have nothing to compare my relationship to except movie love and the love I see with people around me. Even then, I’m sure I shouldn’t. I end up wondering why I don’t feel like this or this toward my boyfriend like they do. I think that’s actually part of what started up the anxiety to begin with. I find myself freaking out if I’m attracted to other people or if I don’t feel like talking to him sometimes because it used to be my favorite part of the day. I know it’s likely that other people are attracted to people while they’re in relationships, but I used to not really even see other people before I started this. I only ever thought about him. Lately I’ve been obsessing that I have feelings for my friend, even though I really don’t even think I do. Is this something that happens with relationship anxiety as well?

  • LC

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thank you so much for the work you do.

    Two years ago I ended a relationship with a caring, open, loving partner who I believe I did share a connection with, because I was moving far away from home and my partner. As someone prone to relationship anxiety, moving brought up a lot of fears or doubts in me about our relationship, and so I broke things off between us.

    I am now home from living abroad and my ex recently reached out asking if we could meet to go over reflections about our relationship and how it ended. This spiked a lot of anxiety in me since I was never very open about my fears wit him, and while trying to get some direction for what I should do, I came across your site which helped me understand some of my fears and talk with him.

    We ended up having a very healthy conversation, but he told me at the end that he still had feelings for me. He wasn’t asking to get back together or expected me to confess the same to him; he just wanted to be honest with me. I thanked him for the honesty and told him I needed some time to digest everything from the day.

    So here I am now feeling very stuck. After coming across your site I am a bit more open to spending time with him again and exploring getting back together. However, I keep thinking: Would I be leading him on? Shouldn’t he be with someone who’s going to be equally confident or committed to their feelings as he is? Does he say he is accepting of my relationship anxiety because he is clouded by feelings for me – ignoring what may be best for him? Am I eventually going to break his heart again? Does getting back together mean we have to stay together and maybe eventually get married?

    I’m writing to ask if you have any advice or thoughts about my current state right now? Sometimes I think that if I’m thinking too much it must mean we’re not ‘meant’ to be together. Then I go back and try to work with some of the tools you have given when these thoughts arrive.

    • Hi Layla: It sounds like your fear has been driving the show and that you’re being given a chance to try again. I suggest you dive in, perhaps purchase the Conscious Weddings E-Course (ignore the sections on engagement and wedding for now), and don’t put any pressure on yourself to have to “know” or even fully commit. You can also be honest with him about where you’re at. I hope that helps.

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, I have been seeing a physcologist i havent seen before. I told her about my history and how my mum dosent like my husband and that she thinks he is using me for his own reasons. I understand her concerns but this is my life. My husband is an amazing guy he treats me with respect, thats all that matters to me. This phycologist i think believes i settled because i feel i cannot somebody else. Its so untrue, i know whats in my heart. My advice to those of you who are seeing a phycologist. Dont listen to their bullshit, only listen to your own instincts and most importantly Listen to Sheryl Paul. You have saved so many relationships because you know your work from years of research from other wise mentors who also learnt from others. Medical books arent always right. Peoples experiences are worth listening to. Not how society expects you to do things. The right way. As they say.

    • Hi Angela: I’m so sorry you had a negative experience in therapy. There are certainly many therapists who don’t understand relationship anxiety, and it’s unfortunate when you find yourself in someone’s office who makes you feel terrible about your loving relationship. However, there are also many excellent therapists, and it’s worth trying again if you feel you would benefit from counseling right now – and I personally believe that everyone can benefit from a great therapist as we’re not meant to walk this path of life alone, without mentors. Love, Sheryl

      • Carmen

        I agree, Sheryl. I have had some bad experiences with therapists and now I see one who references your site all of the time. She is truly a blessing.

  • Lauren

    Hey Sheryl, I’m a bit off topic, but as this is the latest post I thought I’d respond here and hope to get some advice. I’m a long time follower of your work and it’s thoroughly changed my life: when I let it. I seem to only come back to it when I’m desperate and need some comfort because I’m lost and feeling overwhelmed. I keep telling myself how much it would help to do something daily to help center myself and really learn about what’s going on internally (i.e. journalling) but I make every excuse in the book to avoid, avoid, avoid until it’s too late. I got married about a month ago (and went through all of the pre-marriage struggles and fears) so I have a lot to “work out” emotionally, but honestly can’t figure out how to make myself do the work. Any advice?

    • Hi Lauren: What you’re describing is RESISTANCE, which is one of the more challenging forces to work with. There is often some wisdom in the resistance, and then there are times when we have to wrangle our loving, firm parent into the driver’s seat and say, “I know I don’t want to do this, but it’s time.” I often use the analogy of exercise: it’s always hard to exercise, and always easier to sit on the couch and do nothing, but we’re always happier when we do it.

      • Lauren

        Thanks for the response Sheryl. So is it genuinely a matter of “forcing” myself to do the work? What do you suspect is the reason for anyone’s resistance? Is it not wanting to grow up (of sorts) which creates the resistance to the loving, firm parent being able to take the drivers seat? I’m finding this might be a pattern for me in other ways as well (eating healthy, working out, loving myself better/well) and would love to know some resources to battling it!

  • Emma

    Bethany,

    I just want to say that I can relate in terms of fearing feelings for someone else. I’ve been with my boyfriend 4 years and he means everything to me. But with the relationship anxiety I’ve felt “bored” of him and found myself feeling that “high” and “thrill” of new love when talking to an old flame. The fact that I can even feel this rush for someone else gives me HORRIBLE anxiety because the only person I want to have that feeling for is my boyfriend. I constantly fear that I’m bored of him and that the relationship has run its course and I should move on (even though all I want is to be with him the way we used to be and love him the way I used to love him). I recognize that thrill-seeking as a void I’m trying to fill and that I can fill my well of Self at the source (me! not someone else) and I’m working on that. I used to do this even before I was in a relationship, it was always one guy after the other — I constantly needed to have someone to feel ‘complete’ and validate me. I also deeply fear that my boyfriend and I are growing into “roommates” and that I will lose interest. My parents divorced and I never saw what a healthy, normal, realistic relationship looked like, and at 23 years old I’m having to learn in other ways. This is a really difficult journey.

    I pray every day that my relationship anxiety will settle (off and on since Jan 2014) and that I can be back in that comfortable place, free of doubt and gnawing anxiety, with my boyfriend whom I adore so much. Wishing you the very best xx

  • Emma

    Sheryl,

    I must ask you this coming from a 23 year old: do you still struggle with relationship anxiety the way you did in your early 20’s? xx

    • Hi Emma:

      I don’t struggle with relationship anxiety at all and haven’t for many years. When fear comes in now it appears as pure fear, and I know how to attend to it. Once you recognize the signs of fear – including projection – anxiety is no longer necessary and you can deal with the core emotion or need, whatever it may be.

      Sheryl

  • BB

    Hi Sheryl,

    I’ve been in 3 relationships in the last 4 years. They always end with me “suddenly” being over it. I get a nagging feeling that it’s either “not right” or I just shut down completely and I bolt. I met a wonderful guy 4 months ago, well, we were planning on just being friends with benefits, but it naturally developed into more. He doesn’t have the greatest track record with how he’s treated women in the past, but he treats me like gold and honestly I can say I trust him. However, I’m starting to get into old thinking patterns. And recently I’ve felt unattached to him. It’s very disheartening, given the fact that I really believed this one would be different. I’ve done things differently however, such as be honest with him about this. He’s nothing but supportive. I do a lot of writing and praying around it. It seems to be worse hormonally (ovulation-period) and I’m not on birth control. Something inside of me tells me that this isn’t a matter of “God doesn’t want me in this relationship” or that I’m just “over it”. I’ve had enough experiences to see the common denominator is me. Granted, I don’t regret breaking up with my exes now so sometimes I wonder is it a matter of not finding the right guy? Or is it something deeper, such as fear of intimacy etc. This article helped nonetheless, even though I did get spiked. How do I find a therapist who specializes in relationship ocd/anxiety? Thank you

  • Caroline

    Hi,

    I’ve been returning to your blog every couple of weeks for 6 months now, and I always leave feeling somewhat calmer. Thank you for the reassurance. I can work through the feelings I’m having, if I’ll only sit with them a while before running away!

    I’ve ended relationships in the past because they weren’t “right” and I’d just hit the 2 year point in my current relationship when the old familiar feelings of “What if there’s someone I’m better matched to?”, “He’s not the reserved/academic/serious type I always envisioned I’d be with” and “Am I settling?” hit in.

    I’d like to join your course at some point, because I’ve found your blog immensely helpful. It can get quite lonely as the people I think of as close (my mum, sister, best friend) listen and want to help, but their responses usually involve some form of “if you’re not 100% sure, you should end it”. That would be me running away from a relationship with a kind, generous, creative man who shows his love for me every day and who I can see a real future with.

    So I’ll continue to journal and read your blogs, and eventually the rational side of me will (hopefully) prevail. Thank you Sheryl.

  • Denise

    Thank you so much Sheryl Paul, for helping me realize I’m not alone in this. haha

    I am with a wonderful man. My therapist even thinks hes great but when I started to have the relationship anxiety fears she told me “so what? You’re not married you can leave him!” that scared the crap out of me and I was very unhappy and freaked out. I stumbled across a post of yours on mind body green and was surprised how well it applied to my situation. I have always been an anxious person, and when I had an anxiety attack about the doubts I have with my man, I spent over a month feeling worried and anxious to the point of feeling sick. After reading several of your articles I started to calm down though. The way you preach love makes a lot more sense than other articles I’ve read or the way my therapist interprets it.

    I still have a little anxiety, and thoughts pop in my head still going “Is he really THE one?” “Do I like that about him?” “Could we really live a life together?” “What if he gets sick of me and leaves?”

    But since reading your blog I’m better able to identify that this is just fear and that I do love him, and have to work on being less selfish in order to keep on loving him.

    Thank you so much for your work! It’s truly making a wonderful difference in my life!

  • Charlotte

    Hi Sheryl,

    I’ve been doing a lot of research into relationship ocd, is this a term you use? I am a little confused sometimes with what is going on but believe I have rocd but am not entirely convinced it is even a real thing

    Charlotte x

    • It’s not a term that I use because I’m not a fan of diagnoses, and anything that has the word “disorder” in the description turns me off. There is nothing “disordered” about anxiety, or the person who is experiencing it, but rather the anxiety is a messenger that it’s time to turn inwards and ask what’s needed.

      • Charlotte

        Ok thanks Sheryl. I’m not particularly after a diagnosis I just feel I have been in denial with my anxiety for so long. I have noticed a pattern in my behaviour in relationships in the past and came across the term rocd, which seems to fit with a lot of things you say. Similarly though, even though you don’t use the term I can relate to nearly all of the posts on your site. I suppose there is a small (naive) part of me that thinks if I have a diagnosis, there may be a ‘cure’…!

  • Rachael

    I’m 21 years old and I’m seriously struggling with relationship anxiety, or perhaps, I’m not? I’m not quite sure, part of me believes I’m in the wrong relationship. It’s happened before though, so I’m not sure. I start off a relationship, and for the first few months it’s wonderful and perfect and blissful (albeit with some arguments thrown in!) and then after those ‘happier months’ have ended, I become anxious. I can lay next to my partner, or be out with them and I’ll begin thinking ‘he’s not attractive’ ‘I don’t love him’, ‘I don’t want to be with him.’ With my previous relationship, it happened because I lost my virginity to him; therefore, I became anxious and analysed whether it was ‘the right one’ or ‘the right moment/decision/experience/choice.’ After 5 months of agony, he left me and I was heartbroken. Then, I met my current partner. We started dating a year ago, and for the first part I’d felt happy and alright (we’d argued about his depression and other normal relationship stuff), then by the May (almost a month in) I started panicking and worrying. I’d lay awake at night and question everything, it all happened after a comment from his ex girlfriend and comments from friends/family. I started to go to counselling in the September, and for a while that seemed to help. I felt a bit better, then the arguments got worse because I felt trapped/constricted and more than anything, CONFUSED! I was tired a lot and I didn’t know what to do, our arguments became more frequent and it was so difficult. I have quite an aggressive personality and find it difficult to control my emotions, so a few times when my mind/anxiety started to control me, I became physically aggressive and pushed him away when I ran away from the arguments. I saw my counsellor a lot more after that, however, I finished University and couldn’t see my counsellor anymore. We’ve now been together for a year, and I’ve left the town where we both lived so I could move back in with my parents. We’re roughly 140 miles away and it’s horrific at the moment. I’m seeing him in just over a week, however, my anxiety or whatever this is has been telling me to leave him and it’s starting to sound like a good idea. All I ever hear is ‘you’re not in love’, ‘he’s not the one’, you’re fine, it’s just the wrong relationship’; but he’s such a lovely, kind, amazing guy. My brain tells me that it’s wrong and we aren’t supposed to be together, there’s so many reasons and it’s been so long that my mind is starting to sound quite rational and perhaps even correct. I’m scared I’ll lose him, and I’ll never have a happy relationship. Please tell me I’m not alone!

    • Brittany

      Rachael,

      You are NOT alone. This is my exact life situation. Thank God I’m not crazy!! Well, I am sometimes, but I’m glad to find others struggling with the same thing. I’m in a relationship with a great guy, and the same pattern of the same doubts/obsessions you experience have surfaced. It began with being AFRAID of the FEAR happening again, and I pretty much essentially manifested it. What I realized was I’m the problem. Not him. It helps that I can be completely open about this issue with him and luckily he’s supportive. Communication is everything. I refuse to give in to my fear. Fear is all it is. Hope that helps.

      • Rachael

        Oh my goodness Brittany! I feel so at ease to know it’s not just me, I can’t believe that there are other people that this is happening to! I woke up one day next to my boyfriend and suddenly thought ‘I don’t want to be with you’, however, he’s never been anything but supportive, understanding and caring. Other people are the problem, their thoughts start to really get into my head and I can’t get them out. I’m such a sensitive person that I really pay attention to people and I’m more attuned to their feelings etc. I just don’t know what I’m scared of, maybe it’s me making another mistake/him being the wrong person. I’m still trying to get out of the thought that there is ‘the one’, which is just as difficult as anything.

        • Brittany

          For me it usually stems from old ideas and beliefs. My mom truly believes that anxiety and intuition are the same and she just “knew” with my dad and it was different with him. But then I got some more realistic opinions of people who said if it’s a consistent pattern it’s probably you. And then I stumbled upon Sheryls site. I’m really considering doing the e-course, what do I have to lose. The thing that often scares me is how in the past after I felt this way, I eventually got over it and now I’m glad I’m not with those people. But now I’m with a good guy who I WANT to be with but have peace at the same time. And it feels right because he wants me to tell him this stuff when it arises. But the anxiety is debilitating when it’s there and I cannot focus on anything else!

  • Charlotte

    I realise the programme has already begun however I am highly interested in knowing when the next one will be(if there is one sorry.) I am also curious to know whether I would be suitable for it? I have just been given a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome traits and I am worried these will be a setback for me in healing my relationship anxiety. Although not been given a diagnosis as it hasn’t been required, I am in therapy for my relationship anxiety here in the UK however I feel as if not many of the professionals in my area know much about it and how to help me, they are extremely understanding though and my psychotherapist is a phenomenal therapist! I’ve suffered with this for a year now and I am desperate to begin to heal and discover more about myself as I am beginning college and have recently gotten a part time job in which my anxiety is interfering with. It would be great if you got back to me, I have been a fan of your site for months! Thank you

    • Yes, Charlotte, I’m sure you would benefit enormously from this course. I will likely run it again in September.

      • Charlotte

        One thing I’m concerned about is if I am too young for the course, I am almost 18 but I do believe my anxiety is getting in the way of me living my life the way I would like to. I’m also terrified that certain things won’t apply to me as obviously I’m not married or anything! Thank you for getting back to me.

  • Joanne

    Hi Sheryl,
    I have a few questions for you if you don’t mind..
    What if my attraction for my lovely, kind hearted partner left me after 18months (together 3 years) but comes back sperodically for about 3 weeks at a time and then for no reason goes for a month or two and I stop wanting to make love (although still love cuddles and affection?
    My partner is the best person I have met for a relationship. He is caring, kind and on the same wave length as me. We have the same morals and values. I really don’t want it to be over but feel sick to the stomach with these lack of in love feelings which occur.
    Do I stand a chance of making this work? Would one of your courses help me or is mine a different problem to the anxiety and fear you talk about?

    • You have every chance of making this work. Lack of desire and attraction is one of the first and most common symptoms of relationship anxiety.

  • Matt

    Hi Sheryl,
    I’ve been visiting your site regularly lately and finding that many of your articles resonate with me and my particular situation. My boyfriend and I had been together for about 5 months until I ended (fearfully, I might add) our relationship. Early on in our relationship, I had fears that he didn’t feel as strongly about me as I did about him. Eventually, those fears were calmed when he finally opened up about how he felt. However, it wasn’t too much longer after that that I began to have reverse fears, a fear that I didn’t feel as strongly about him as he did about me. These fears too were eventually calmed too when I began to see the way he looked at me or when we would hug or express affection for one another. It was then clear to me that I did love him. Unfortunately, just within the last four weeks or so, I began having pretty strong anxiety about how I felt about him yet again. This time, the anxiety seemed to be continuous and it got the point where I was uncomfortable just being around him, like I couldn’t enjoy anything we were doing together and even the thought of spending time together brought up even more anxiety. This anxiety came shortly after he expressed to me that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and marry me someday. While this is what I’ve always wanted to happen eventually, I can’t help but wonder if these statements are what brought on this extreme anxiety, perhaps due to a fear of commitment or of the future. Fast forward to last week, the anxiety was so strong, that I began to have what seemed to be small panic attacks. At this point I just couldn’t handle it. I explained to him that I was worried that I didn’t think I felt the same about him as I did in the beginning and in a very rash decision, I broke up with him. It’s been a week since our break up and over that time I’ve cried over loosing him, been more anxious, been confused, and am now to the point where I don’t really feel anything. Not feeling anything is what worries me the most, because he’s currently out of town visiting relatives and I don’t really miss him. Which makes me wonder if maybe breaking up with him was the right thing to do, yet still another part of me wonders if I should try to reconcile things with him because of how great things were in the beginning. I just don’t know what to do.

    • You’re describing a classic trajectory of relationship anxiety: fear of losing other (does he really love me? am I enough?), then fear of losing yourself (do I really love him? is he enough?), then anxious, confused, and finally empty. You’re in the right place ;).

      • Matt

        Thanks Sheryl! I’m going to talk to him about everything I’ve been feeling and I hope he understands. I don’t want fear to be the winner here.

      • Rachael

        Sheryl, does this also relate to my feeling of confusion and worry that started because of someone else’s statement? My anxiety mainly subsides until someone triggers my worry with negative thoughts, I then begin to think that I don’t love him enough to make it work long distance.

  • Carry

    Is it possible to just love someone in your own way ? And what if you never get to the point your talking about ? Because I find that when I’m not nervous sometimes I do feel the flow of love but not exactly what you describe it’s more of a sudden moment a sweetness but then I still go on dates and get anxious wondering omg what are going to talk about what if I boring ?? Lol

  • Kris

    Hi! I have been dealing with anxiety,fear,stress and the thoughts about another person for months now! I am not sure what to do or if any of this normal. Because it definitely does not feel normal! I have been in a loving relationship for over 8 years now.. I have never ever felt this way about fiancé in all the years we have dated until after we became engaged. So part of me makes me think that this is fear, and a crazy emotional roller coaster.. but then part of me thinks that maybe all these feelings are real.. Can thinking about another person be considered intrusive thoughts? My world has been turned upside down because of this. I feel like I have lost control. I do not want these feelings towards another person. I want to feel whole again! Some days I know this is what I want and other days I don’t know who I am. If there is any advice that you could give me I would greatly appreciate it!

    Thank you!

  • Lexy

    Sheryl, I have a little different question. My boyfriend, well, now my ex bf (we broke up two days ago), has his own psychological problems (depresion, and such) and has finally decided to get some help. Throughout the relationship (one and a half years), he had done some things that hurt me, but even then I would be scared and anxious that he is not “the one for me”. Even when he hurts me – I still want him to be “the one”. We broke up, and I’m taking it really well. We decided to work on our problems, and maybe get back together, because this is simply not working. Now I’m scared “What if he gets better and I don’t want to get back with him”, “What if the whole relationship was a lie and I knew it all along it’s not for me?”. I don’t know if I want to get back with him, I don’t know if he is the one for me. (but it’s not happening any time soon). The thing I’m confused about is, I always forgive him quickly and start to trust him again. I don’t dwell on that, but I transfer it into my anxiety, if you know what I mean. I’m looking for a psychiatrist too. Please answer if you had experiences like this from people who asked you for help. It would mean a lot.

  • V.A.S.

    This article was very important for me to run into this past month. I recently was in a very deep and soulful relationship. It was a healthy and very loving relationship. We both came out of toxic relationships a couple of years before meeting each other and both experienced different versions of abandonment. My partner recently left the relationship because of the loss of the “butterflies”. He phrased it this way and your article resounded much with me. Even after acknowledging the deep connection between us, recognizing what we have can’t be duplicated, he had been losing connection with himself and feared that if he told me exactly how he felt that I would leave him. But the fear festered…and months later he ended up breaking the relationship to find himself. Letting go has been difficult but I know I need to if he has to heal on his own. I’ve found a lot of comfort in your articles because not only do they speak to my pain that I need to allow to pass through, but I’m beginning to better understand the “worthlessness” he feels because of his anxiety. It was very difficult to watch him be so hard on himself. I was just heartbroken that he felt he had to do it alone. I’m hopeful for a future if he can reconnect with his Self, but your articles have helped me greet the discomfort of the unknown so that I can begin to let go. Thank you.

  • B.

    Sheryl, I’ve been reading your posts and articles and I believe I may suffer from relationship anxiety.

    I’ve been dating my amazing man for one and a half years now, he is a kind, funny man who makes me laugh, holds me tight and wipes my tears.
    Everything would be fantastic if it wasn’t for that lingering feeling that “something is missing” that I have. We were good friends for about 3 years before we started dating, and it all started pretty randomly I must confess. At the beggining, I worried that I wasn’t feeling the whole butterflies in the stomach thing, as I did before with my ex-bf of 4 years (that I started dating at age 17).

    I think from the early begginning of my current relationship I have had the tendency to over-analyze things and I have been longing for that “head over heels” feeling of being completely in love, I know it exists because I felt it before so I know it’s real. All else is great, he is a loving, caring young man, the sex is amazing, and it really pains me to be having these thoughts.

    I think deep down what bothers me is never having had that excitement honeymoon phase all other couples seem to have. I seem to think that without that rush, that adrenaline, that “I’m so happy I could die” feeling I’ll never be able to be truly happy and feel complete. He knows of all my fears and concerns from day 1 and he says I never really calmed down enough for the butterflies to come.. That soothes me for a while and then all the thoughts come back in.

    This whole anxiety makes me above all truly sad that I may be wasting away a relationship that could be the one for me, and a man that has shown to be nothing less than perfect for a life together. I just can’t help feeling unsure and confused about my feelings for him, given that I feel happy when we are together but not on top of the world, and I remember feeling that way with my ex. It’s not that I miss him – I just miss the feeling of wanting someone so badly that you just know with every fiber of your being you want to be theirs forever (even if it turns out to end).

    I really wanted to get over this for good. I feel no one understands what I’m going through and everytime I try to get advice from friends I end up hearing the inevitable “Doubt means don’t” and that makes me even more anxious. I don’t want to be settling but at the same time the idea of breaking up makes me burst into tears.

    Is is honestly possible and feasible to overcome these feelings in this relationship? Can I feel complete without the “va va voom” of the early being in love? Why does this happen to me now, when it never happened before?

    I feel a little silly posting all these questions to a post online, but hopefully you get to see them, Sheryl, and possibly bring me some insights on them. Thank you so much for your work. It seems you helped lots of people deal with their own demons.