The Lives We'll Never Live

IMG_1387As we were leaving Everest’s wheel-throwing class today I struck up a conversation with one of the other moms. She has two daughters who attend the class and I asked the basic questions, “How old are they? Where do you live?” etc. The girls went to retrieve their coats from the cubby holes and there was something about the way they joked with each other that sent a small, almost imperceptible pang of longing through me. I could have easily brushed it aside. But I didn’t. As soon as we walked into the icy air and crunched our boots into the snow the sentence appeared in my mind, “I’ll never raise sisters.”

It’s not the first time this longing has appeared. When we learned that our second baby was a boy, I celebrated and grieved. I had always imagined that I would have a daughter, so after our first son was born I still held out hope that our second would be a girl. But he wasn’t, and as I lay in bed that day after receiving the test results that revealed the sex of our unborn baby, I lay also with the awareness that I would never raise a daughter. I don’t remember crying. I do remember rolling around the phrase, “I’m the mother of sons” in my mind and trying to adjust. But I have cried since then, knowing always that it’s through the grieving that acceptance arrives.

Needing to attend to my kids after the pottery class, I filed the longing away in rolodex L of my soul files and trusted that in a slowed-down place it would resurface to receive the attention in needed.

Later that evening I felt it bubble back up, and my ego-mind stumbled for a moment on a quick and fruitless litany of “what-ifs” – “what if I had made a different choice here or there” – as a way to avoid the rawness of the longing. This is my small mind’s obviously futile attempts to control the past and avoid the vulnerable and unpredictable realm of feeling by keeping me trapped in the thatched pattern of thoughts that dead ends in a chain link fence. I stayed there for less than a second before I opened the fence and walked into the field of feelings, letting myself sink down, go in, shift out of my head and breathe into my heart.

Then the grief flowed through. In an instant I knew it wasn’t only the grief of not being able to experience what it’s like to raise a girl or sisters but also the grief about not having a third child. We’ve decided to close the door at two, and while the choice feels loving for our family, there’s still a pain that pricks my heart every so often. And here it was, making its way up the riverways of sweet grief that bend and curve from heart to soul to eyes. The surrender to pure pain is always sweet. We may fight it, the engrained habits of another era or another stage creating resistance to the pain, but once the fortress falls away there’s a smile attached to the tears. Sweet release, sweet opening inside, sweet tears clearing out the pain and transforming the longing into gratitude.

It’s easy to to fall prey to the belief that longing necessitates action, which would mean that if I occasionally long for a third child it means I have to have a third child. Part of the growth process involves being able to hold a feeling without immediately resolving it, trusting that resolve occurs with no action other that conscious holding and tending to the feelings. We also mistakenly conclude that every feeling that passes through our field of consciousness is an unarguable and blanket truth. We don’t understand that you can feel longing without it being the final truth. In other words, I can sporadically long for a daughter but my deeper truth is that two children completes our family.

The work, thus, is always the same: make room for the pain, move toward it, welcome it, love it and… and… orient toward the beauty and gratitude. I wrote all of this in my head while lying next to my unbelievably precious almost-five year old boy, this child who makes my heart feel like its going to explode from love. I often hear my clients say things like, “But if I allow myself to long for ______, doesn’t that mean I don’t love or appreciate my current (partner, child, parent)?” No, it doesn’t mean that at all. The seasoned mind can hold the polarities.

In fact, being able to adopt a both/and approach is one of the hallmarks of maturity. The world isn’t a black or white place. The control-mind believes that if we categorize every experience we will feel more in control. We can categorize our spices and organize our clothes but the realm of the heart-mind is often a messy place that defies categorization. The best we can do is make room for the apparent opposites, to hold them both as true while knowing that one doesn’t invalidate the other. I can experience a moment of longing for a daughter while celebrating with immense gratitude my two sons. I can allow myself to long for the experience of raising sisters while relishing the adventure of witnessing the complex layers of my boys’ relationship to each other. I can grieve and celebrate, lose and love, long and feel grateful. There’s room for it all.

57 comments to The Lives We’ll Never Live

  • Betsy

    “The seasoned mind can hold the polarities.”

    Absolutely love this quote and blog post Sheryl. The other day I was talking to my husband and we were discussing about how there was no right way or wrong way for the particular situation to be and I realized how I finally understood and truly accepted that concept. I still sometimes struggle with wanting the world to be black and white, but my ego-mind is finally sitting back and allowing my core to accept the reality of a complex life. How liberating it is to be able to accept that! Blessings to you and your family!

    • “I still sometimes struggle with wanting the world to be black and white, but my ego-mind is finally sitting back and allowing my core to accept the reality of a complex life. How liberating it is to be able to accept that!”

      Excellent, Betsy! You’ve done so much hard work to get to this place. And the work does continue in ever-increasing layers of depth and complexity for the rest of our lives, I believe.

  • lalalove

    this is my favorite part: “The surrender to pure pain is always sweet. We may fight it, the engrained habits of another era or another stage creating resistance to the pain, but once the fortress falls away there’s a smile attached to the tears. Sweet release, sweet opening inside, sweet tears clearing out the pain and transforming the longing into gratitude.” :)

  • Kiyomi

    This was so beautiful and so important <3

  • Krista

    Oh my goodness, Sheryl. What perfect timing. I awoke this morning after having very vivid, emotional dreams about this exact topic: the life I’ll never live. It’s been really throwing me off today, so I really appreciate you sharing this article. You’re right. There is room for it all. I just needed to face the grief and let it pass through.

    Thank you for this, Sheryl!

  • Jacky

    Thank you for posting this.

    I have been reminded of the importance of grieving as a step to acceptance.

  • Tina

    Yes, yes, yes. Yes to all of this. I also really like the phrase, “seasoned mind.” I believe I will borrow it.

  • Lydia

    Thank you so much for sharing this experience so honestly Sheryl… I spend a lot of time blaming myself for the ways in which life is disappointing rather than grieving. This post helps me see that the blame is just a trick to avoid the rawness of the pain of the disappointment. I know, in my heart, that that is true. It’s a trick and a consequence of, like you said, not having been taught that pain is a natural part of being alive, having a human experience. Thank you for the reminder, and for constantly standing for this in these times.

  • I love that youhave “soul files”..I think I will start using this term for myself too. Thank you!

  • Giovanna E.

    This is all so true! Before I did my inner bonding work, I thought that if I accepted my thoughts, such as “I don’t love him enough,” or “I don’t see him in the right way,” or “we have nothing in common, how can this last?” That it would mean they were true – but they aren’t! Sometimes we just need to accept these thoughts because they just need a place to leave your body. Once the negative thought leaves your body, you have the courage to dig deep and figure out why you feel the way you do. It’s a hard thing to train yourself to do, but with practice, becomes easier.

    • P R F

      “Before I did my inner bonding work, I thought that if I accepted my thoughts, such as “I don’t love him enough,” or “I don’t see him in the right way,” or “we have nothing in common, how can this last?” That it would mean they were true – but they aren’t!”

      This struck me as though I wrote it!! I am doing so much work on myself, but continue to push push push my love away with blame…past patterns continuing, but I am working with all of me to say ‘no! you aren’t my pattern anymore! Breaking up would give you relief only because you’ll be alone again and not seeing someone else hurting!” though it is still difficult to not “give in” and fully believe those thoughts. They transform my stomach into nausea. What are some things you did/do to just say “no” to them?

      • Giovanna E.

        I never said “no” to any anxious, or fear related thought. It got to the point where I couldn’t avoid the thought anymore, and I just fully embraced the thought, mentally an emotionally. I would say to myself “i really don’t love him in the righ way.” I would believe the thought and let it flow through my body. I then felt calm. After the thought was embraced, there would be enough space in my head (and heart) to ask myself “okay, why do I feel this way?” I would dialogue and journal, and I could feel the answer come from my body.

        I know this doesn’t make sense, but we have to grieve the thought away. We need to accept the hurt before we can move on.

      • Giovanna E.

        It’s like being a child and falling off your bike. You get hurt and scratch your knee. When your mom finds you she cleans the scratch. While cleaning the scratch it may hurt you, but cleaning it properly is the only way to heal. It’s the same thing here, metaphorically speaking :) I hope what I said makes sense.

        • P R F

          I like that…”cleaning it properly is the only way to heal”. So embracing…even accepting it as there and saying “okay…I hear you…but where do you come from?” and “digging deeper” within yourself. It’s in us…not our partners or even our relationships (most of the time).

          • Giovanna E.

            Yes, exactly. When you admit your fear to yourself, it doesn’t mean the fear is true, even though it feels that way. When you admit your fear, you’re just giving it a place to go, and that is out of your body. This work isn’t easy, but the more you practice it, the easier it becomes to deal with.

  • Gordon Gould

    Sheryl

    Beautifully put. I struggle continuously with “what if”. I even manage to find creative ways to torture myself with the what-ifs by trying to puzzle thru the various multiverse theories being put forth in physics today. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse)

    But, at the end of the day, even if there is a near infinite number of nearly identical Gordons living out different lives in the multiverse, they are (most likely) forever unknowable by me.

    So your advice to hold the polarities of the actual / longing is very sage advice. Very helpful

    Hope you have been well :

    PS- I did a weekend course at Pacifica :)

    • Hold the polarity, yes, and also drop down into the heart. The well of feelings connected to the right hemisphere usually can douse the thought-flares from the overactive left.

      Nice to see you here : ).

  • Candie

    I really love this post! It’s a very common subject yet noone speaks about it as its very taboo to admit you are a tad disappointed with the sex of your unborn child. My friend cried at the scan as she wanted a girl yet found out she was having a boy. She loves her son more then anything and would never change him now given the choice.

    Sometimes if I feel angry at my children or stressed my automatic thought process can follow the anxious route of. “You obviously don’t love your children the correct way or enough to feel like this”. Very black and white distorted thinking. It was only when I allowed myself to feel a mixture of emotions and recognise that no parent is feeling joyous love every minute of the day for their child did I realise I was normal and then the anxiety subsided. Again another form of anxious thinking created by a society that’s teaches us if we don’t feel rushes of love when our child Is born we are ill. I believed for so long that my feelings where incorrect when my children where born, I wanted that rush of love so badly that I could never feel any joy whiles inviting anxiety in with expectations rather then feeling in the moment. Now I realise I have always loved my children as I’ve always taken loving actions towards them. I feel joy, lots of joy but I also sometimes feel exhaustion, stress etc all which block Joy sometimes but I have learnt to accept those feelings and then ask myself is there anything I can do to help myself cope a bit better with motherhood. Much better then the inner dialogue of telling myself I’m not good enough and then feeling depressed.

    • Beautiful, Candie. You’ve articulated the experience of millions of mothers around the world. The idea that there are “correct” and “incorrect” feelings is probably one of the most damaging messages in our culture.

  • Gigi

    This posting really struck a chord with me. In recent weeks, several people I know have passed away suddenly. It really woke me up and made me realize that while I was waiting for my life to start, so many wonderful things have already passed me by. I let fear and indecision stifle me, and now I have missed the boat. My friends have moved on with their lives – getting married, having children, progressing in their careers. It is like I have been frozen. I have wasted so much of my life just waiting. Waiting to decide if I wanted an MBA or a JD, waiting until I lost another clothing size to tell the man I love how I feel. Meanwhile, the man I wanted fell in love with someone else and I have just been floundering in my career. I’ve had fun – I look young and I feel young. I feel 25. The problem is that I’ve felt 25 for the past 15 years. These people dying somehow shook me and made me realize that I am 40 years old and don’t really have a lot to show for my life. I now have to make peace with the fact that my “nonchoices” have been choices. I have to live with the fact that I have probably waited too long to have children or to rise in my career as I had hoped. It is a bitter pill.

    • I’m so sorry for your losses. Sometimes this is what it takes to “wake us up” and break us out of the frozen malaise caused by indecision (which, as you so wisely so, as actually a form of passive decision-making). A bitter pill, perhaps, but also a profound opportunity. You still have many, many years left. Grab them.

  • Gabrielle

    Great post as always. I’ve had these thoughts with regards to my husband and then feel very guilty about it. I think about how my life might be different if I had married a different man. When we choose one partner all other possibilities are no longer possibilities, and I have learned that these lost opportunities are real losses and I try to let myself grieve them. But I still feel somewhat guilty about it.

    • That’s at the very core of my work, Gabrielle, so you’re far from alone on that one. Sometimes just knowing that you’re not alone can help alleviate the guilt. It’s a normal thought; what matters is what you do with the thought. Act on it? No. Acknowledge it? Yes. Grieve the lost possibilities? Absolutely.

  • Bettina

    thank you!

  • gabrielle

    Always spot on, I related this in terms of relationship when crossed with intrusive thoughts and anxiety of freaking out that one may be happier single or with a partner that’s more perfect than yours etc etc,but the reality is not to go away from it but to dive into it and see it for what it is and realize that you are never in control of the shades of grey your brain throws at you but u can make a loving choice to accept the life you have chosen , be thankful for it and love the people around you :)

    • P R F

      And at the same time, start to learn where some of the intrusive thoughts stem from to help in the long run. Sometimes it does seem “easier” to give up and run…but not when it’s based on scrambled “what if’s” and past patterns…speaking out loud for myself :)

  • NBB

    “We can categorize our spices and organize our clothes but the realm of the heart-mind is often a messy place that defies categorization.”
    Sorry the previous post wasnt supposed to go through!
    Anyways, I love this quote. Love this article Sheryl.

  • Kirsty

    Oh my goodness, as always your email is so timely. I’ve been struggling for a long time to accept that there will be no more children for me. I have two beautiful children, one I birthed and one that came to me through marriage. My husband and I decided that our two shared children are enough for our family and we really do feel just right. However I, like you, grieve for the children I wanted and haven’t had and the life I haven’t lived. In my denial I’ve turned this around and blamed myself for choices I have made that lead me to this place. I have only just realised it is time to allow myself to grieve if I am ever going to reach a place of acceptance.

    Your quote “It’s easy to to fall prey to the belief that longing necessitates action” struck a chord with me and made me realise that just because I have this deep longing for more children doesn’t mean I have to follow through with it, or that it is right for my family and I. So I am going to put my big girl pants on and allow myself to feel the grief that I have been much too scared to allow myself to feel and as such has not allowed me the freedom to move forward to a place of acceptance. Thanks Sheryl

  • Denise

    Thanks for this Sheryl. Just today I was talking to a couple of friends of how the process of learning and therefore living requires the acceptance of loss as part of it. I cannot be the person I want to be if I don’t accept that I will be lossing or leaving behind who I thought I was. Every transformation involves grieving and being conscious about it is key to keep an open heart and mind. In my case I realized how many concepts of life, my life, I had that I lost in the way of life from conscious and deliberate choice, I just now started allowing myself to feel sad for some while grateful for the choices I have made.
    In relation to our kids I found myself saying to my daughter that she should not be asking for more (toys, things in general) because that was not being grateful for what she had, it is a lie! I just now realize that you can want more and yet be greateful for what you have, as you are longing what you don’t and that is perfectly ok. I understood it with concepts but could not accept it with material things. There is something that comes from spiritual lies or misunderstanding that states at wanting things is bad or not grateful, and it is not, I realized just now.
    Thank you for opening the door to that rigid part of me, th ego who wanted to control all possible pains coming from wanting and not having.
    Love
    Denise

  • Rpeli

    As with all the other posters- this blog post is so timely! Alot of grief has come up for me lately, and some of it to do with the path I’ve walked that’s gotten me to where I am in my married life. I have found myself at the whim of my wounded self, more than I would like and back to seeing my marriage through stuck eyes. There’s alot of emotions floating around within me, and it’s so useful to remeber that just because an emotion comes up about our situation, it doesn’t mean we need to act on it, and change anything to stop feeling this way. Rather, it’s important to process and feel it, allow it through us (eventually) send it on it’s way.
    (Also, my yoga teacher has been telling us for the last two weeks: ‘trust that you’re meant to be exactly where you are.’)

  • Leah77

    What a reassuring post, from someone who has suffered from hypochondria all my life! Your opening letter from Anne’s House of Dreams absolutely blew me away! That and a couple of things from the Open Your Heart programme yesterday.Thank you ! Xxx

  • Leah77

    Sorry, the hypochondria comment was in relation to another post I read yesterday! Reading so much these days my brain is a bit mixed up, lol! This one resonated very deeply with me as well as I learn to adjust to life as an infertile mother of one precious little girl . Absolutely beautiful. Xxx

  • Yellow

    Terrific post, as always. I have three children and we will not have more, and I have these exact feelings. When I can remember to lean in to the grief and be present with it, I always emerge peaceful and aware that what we have is right for us. It’s the same with my anxieties about marriage…I think that my work is to be more mindful and disciplined with being present and accepting of my emotions. I tend to “fall” into good moods of loving feelings just like I fall into bad ones, and so it all ends up felling out of my control. However, it really isn’t. There are always good/bad choices that lead me to good/bad feelings and thoughts. I just have to create better habits of mindfulness.

  • lynne

    Great post and I can relate to Gigis comments. I’ve let fear, doubts and indecision stop me marrying the man I’ve lived with for over 20 years or have children. After loosing my parents I have never felt so lonely in my entire life and have grieved not only for my lost family but the family I’ll never have. I am slowly accepting the consequences of my inactions and its been very very hard.

  • Glo

    Someone once said to me… Instead of saying “but” replace it with “and”. Its been so powerful in shifting my conflicting feelings and allowing me to hold polar opposites.

  • kelly

    Sheryl,

    In reading this article, it made me think about past relationships and the life Ill never lead with them. I’m having anxiety over this ex and Im comparing this relationship with my current fiance. In many of your articles (including this one: http://conscious-transitions.com/when-love-is-longing/) you mention that many of your clients only felt assurance when they were with people who were unavailable. Would if my ex was fully committed to the relationship and there were no red flags? I feel like I felt more assurance and love for him than my current partner, things felt more sure and right. At the time of this relationship I was very religious, I felt this pit in my stomach feeling and after two years together we broke up within a few days because I thought it was a “sign from God” that I wasn’t supposed to be with him. A year later I called to tell him I still loved him and he was with someone else. Now part of me feels like I owe it to myself to find someone else who I have those same feelings for and that if I stay with my current fiance I’m settling for less than I know I experienced in this past relationship. So would if we were very assured with our last partner and they were available? what does that say about the current anxiety I am experiencing?

    Also this part of your article really gave me a spike in anxiety: “We also mistakenly conclude that every feeling that passes through our field of consciousness is an unarguable and blanket truth. We don’t understand that you can feel longing without it being the final truth.”

    I was long distance with my fiance for 2 1/2 years of our 3 year relationship, however we still saw each other fairly often, at least once a month if not more, we just moved in together about a month ago. Since getting engaged my anxiety started back up (I had anxiety at the very beginning of our relationship and occasional doubts throughout the last few years). while we were apart we were always longing to be together but then when we were together I truly enjoyed getting to be around him and enjoyed simply spending time together. Since this bout of anxiety started, when he is around I just don’t feel the connection, comfort and enjoyment we once had. This week he is gone for work and I find myself feeling that connection again and the longing feeling. The text above spiked me because you say that “you can feel longing without it being the final truth” so since much of my relationship has been spent longing could this mean that the connection feeling has left because our relationship was based on a longing that wasn’t really my truth? Could you please provide me a better understanding of when longing is equated to love and if that means that when I thought I was feeling love it wasn’t real? I simply want that easy going connection we had before back, I want to sit next to my partner on the couch and feel that “this just feels right” feeling again (even though that assured feeling wasn’t constant, it was much more present than the doubts and feelings of “this doesn’t feel right” I had occasionally).

    • It sounds like anxiety hit in your previous relationship and you didn’t have the skills and information then to challenge it. Now the same anxiety hit in your current relationship as soon as you bridged the physical distance. If you attach onto the belief that you should be with your ex, you’re missing the opportunity to address your anxiety consciously and you’ll likely end up in the same boat with the next partner.

      • kelly

        Sheryl,
        Its really not about wanting to be with my ex (I know now that our values no longer align, but they did during our relationship), I really have no desire to be with anyone other than my current partner, its just that I worry that I am settling for less than what I experienced in terms of the assurance and the “it just feels right” I felt in that previous relationship since the anxiety only came right at the very end. In contrast I have had occasional doubts and “this just doesn’t feel right” moments with my current partner throughout the relationship. Should I see this as a sign that my current relationship really isn’t right and I should wait for someone else that I feel as assured as I did with this other partner?

        Between this partner and my current partner I dated another guy and within a few weeks of dating him I started to have this distant feeling and then pure panic/anxiety. After about two months I broke off the relationship and have never looked back, I know he was not the right guy for me. Now I am experiencing the exact same symptoms with my current partner which terrifies me and makes me feel like it means that my current partner isn’t right. Had I found this website during that time I might have stayed in the wrong relationship, how do I know that this time it’s right and its the anxiety and not my true feelings again?

        Thanks so much for your guidance.

        • How do you know that the guy you dated for a few weeks wasn’t “right” for you?

          • kelly

            I guess because it didn’t feel right and when I walked away I didn’t regret it at all, I felt much more at peace and never looked back. Whereas with the first partner I mentioned I regretted it and a year later went back to him and asked if we could try again, we didn’t because he was with someone else. I guess it was the “inner sense of knowing” that some people have mentioned on this blog. Part of me feels like Im just being a coward and I’ve had these feelings before and walked away from the relationship and was happier that I just need to fess up to the fact that this is the same situation and that its the only fair thing to do for both me and my partner…

  • Nobody knows yourself as well as you do, Kelly, and if deep inside your knowing is telling you to leave, then perhaps that’s your answer.

    But since you’re here and many others will be reading these comments, what I can share with you is this: A relationship “not feeling right” is often a masquerade for anxiety, and unless you can point to tangible issues in the here-and-now that indicate a clear reason to leave, my guess is that it was anxiety pushing you away from the other guy as well. I could be wrong, of course. Maybe there wasn’t a strong enough connection. Only you know. You can find the “doubt means don’t” philosophy everywhere on the Internet, but since you’re here my guess is that there’s some part of you that’s suspecting that this could be anxiety.

  • kelly

    I’m sorry, I don’t mean to spike others on the blog. I am just so desperate to find answers and I respect your work. I want more than anything for my relationship to work but all that keeps running through my mind is that, just because you want it to work doesn’t mean it will. There is no tangible reason for me to leave, no red flags, I most definitely question whether this is anxiety or not but I just don’t know how to determine which it is? I have a wonderful partner who I feel guilty for dragging through all this. I have moments of assurance and then moments where I think “I have to leave”. Before this extreme bout of anxiety I had made peace with the previous doubts and felt assured I wanted to marry him, or so I thought. I don’t mean to question you I am just trying to make sense of all this in my head, when you say that my anxiety may have kept me from continuing a relationship with the other guy I guess I just wonder if everyone pursued and/or stayed in every relationship where they experienced anxiety then we would never move on, and since few people find their life partners on the first try Im just a bit confused on when to listen to the anxiety and when not to? I really appreciate all your feedback and help.

    • No apology necessary, Kelly. I have no doubt that others will learn a lot from our exchange : ). Have you considered the e-course? There’s only so much I can answer on the blog because in the end the answer has to come from inside of you, and the best way to find that answer is with accurate information, effective tools, and compassionate support, all of which you’ll find on the course.

      • kelly

        I have been considering the e-course but I guess I have been somewhat resistant, would if I go through it and it tells me that Im in the wrong relationship…? I don’t want that answer. In terms of the course, is it work at you own pace or do you have to move through it in a certain amount of time? Also is there a forum where I can talk with others? If so do you contribute to the discussion?

        • That’s everyone’s fear, Kelly, before they start the course : ). Yes, it’s self-paced and you can sign up for the forum once you purchase the course. I’m not on the forum much but it’s moderated by two incredibly wise and compassionate women – both of whom experienced relationship anxiety prior to their marriages several years ago – as well as hundreds of other wonderful women and men around the world. It’s a very special online community.

  • kelly

    Sorry last question: Is it possible that my anxiety could have meant that the first relationship truly wasn’t right but even though I am experiencing the same doubts this time around that my current relationship could still be the right one for me?

    Thanks again

    • Marc

      Kelly, there are many archived articles from Sheryl that will help you find the answer to your questions. Articles like http://conscious-transitions.com/living-gods-will/ and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sheryl-paul/relationships-fear_b_1584707.html explains the fallacy of your assumption.

      Have you ever thought about what is “right”? Is it some intuitive feeling that makes you feel like you have the answer to what you’re looking for? I’m reading a book called “Thinking Fast and Slow” that explains how our intuition works, and how too often we rely on our intuition for answers that feel right but turn out to be sub-optimal. You will be very surprised how misleading our intuition can often be.

      Unfortunately we are culturally programmed to believe that there is a right relationship and right person for us and when you’re with this mythical person everything will just feel so right. The truth in reality is very different. Yes, some people are better matches for us than others but there is no such thing as the perfect match, and ultimately if you wish to commit to someone forever you will have to CHOOSE an imperfect relationship and an imperfect person to love.

      That is what real, sustainable love is all about, learning to love and appreciate imperfection and focus on your partners goodness. And this mindset will not just extend to your partner, it will extend to your children, parents, friends and ultimately yourself, and if you’re failing to do this you cannot connect to the people around you, and you will not experience the feelings of love you desire.

      Furthermore hoping for a feeling of rightness is a form of trying to absolve yourself of your responsibility to choose, and is also a function of your ego that is trying all it can to protect you from becoming vulnerable to the uncertainty that goes with commitment and the potential loss of opening your heart to your committed partner.

      The reality is that if you’re in a solid, loving relationship and you still don’t feel right it really has nothing to do with your partner or your relationship, but rather everything to do with you, and that there is probably something inside you that is scared and you’re not working hard enough to overcome your fears and cultivate love, which you can then give to your partner and relationship.

      Until you learn to cultivate love for yourself and your partner, you can forget about any relationship working. You need to ask yourself some big questions, like is the person you’re with worth it? Is your relationship worth it? Are you worth it? If the answer is yes, are you up for the challenge?

      • kp

        Marc,
        Thank you for your response. I had a huge moment of clarity since writing my post and felt much better, all the anxiety basically stopped but then as the clarity slipped away a thought has now come into my mind “you don’t want this,” “although you now understand that your partner isn’t the problem in the end you just really don’t want this relationship”. Now its like all my desire to connect has gone. I find myself resisting the idea that I want to connect again, even though this is all I have been wanting for weeks. The scariest part is that I don’t really have much of the anxiety symptoms anymore. Part of me still believes that this thought is anxiety but another big part of me is sorta numb and scared that this really is true… any advice?

        • Marc

          My guess is that it is simply another intrusive, irrational thought brought on by fear and anxiety to protect you from the vulnerability of committing to your partner. Unfortunately thinking that your intrusive thoughts or anxiety will simply vanish forever because you wrote a post and you felt good for a few days is very unlikely.

          There are so many layers to the healing process and it takes a lot of time and effort, and by the sounds of your posts you have only just started it all. I suggest you go through this site, read all of Sheryl’s articles and comments, join her courses and maybe have private counselling sessions with her. It’s pretty tough to accomplish all the healing without guidance but it is important to realise there is no one on this planet who can give you the answers you seek, except for you.

          Learning to appreciate your thoughts and anxiety is a lifelong practice that requires patience, curiosity, compassion and a willingness to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling, however painful it may be.

          As you become more skilled in this process you will learn to understand your various states of being and you will be able to differentiate between all the characters in your mind/psyche and you will learn how to dialogue with them.

          For example when you are calm and in a loving state of being, i.e. when you’re connected to your loving self, you can ask yourself what do you really want? Do you want to be with the person you love? Do you want to give and receive love with your partner? Do you want to be in a loving relationship?

          Similarly when you are in anxious state i.e. when you’re connected to your ego, acknowledge what your ego is telling you, don’t try to resist, welcome the thought into your head and pain into your heart and try to understand what your ego is trying to protect you from.

          Always remember whatever/whoever you choose to believe will ultimately be your truth.

  • sarah

    I love this post, Sheryl. There’s something so beautiful and precious about it that is hard for me to put into words. It went directly to my heart, melting the ice that formed there and released my own longing into consciousness. It really felt like a release, like giving myself permission to loosen the grip on the longing, to see it for what it is. And it’s in the seeing that it can be there without tugging on my mind trying to make itself known by manifesting into very detailed and elaborate fantasies.

  • t-lgh

    Hi Sheryl, I’d really love some advice (or if anyone else has an opinion PLEASE share, I would really appreciate it.)

    I have been openly in love with my best friend for over a year. I tried ignoring these feelings, dismissing them as longing, even going through two short relationships. However, last year I dated a guy who I deemed as absolutely perfect (I have a strict family and he was accepted by them, he has a good future, good opportunities, is amazingly handsome to me) BUT I was always anxious over my feelings. I worried why I couldn’t open up and relax physically, though mentally we were very close.
    I would fantasise about my best friend, and things just felt more special with him compared to my boyfriend. This anxiety eventually ended my relationship. Then, lo and behold, my best friend started getting feelings for me. We were together for a week before my guilt over my last boyfriend got too much, and my family also has issues with my best friend in terms of family background and ambition (so do I), though I can openly admit love.

    So here is my issue: a battle between my head (go for the guy who still loves you, even though you aren’t sure, but you deem as IDEAL – massively attractive from a good family whom you have a different kind of care for, despite the anxiety) OR go for the best friend who you are sure you love, but whom you doubt in terms of ambition and drive, and feel you have to ‘look after’, and sometimes catch yourself wondering if they’re right for you in the long term. Help! Because I’ve never been sure of love before apart from my best friend, but I feel like perhaps I could be in a more comfortable place if I push through anxiety. Opinions would be much valued.