The Risk of Living and Loving

IMG_4599On our way home from a lovely Christmas day with my family who lives about an hour away from us it started to snow. At first it was a wet sleet, but within a few minutes it thickened to a snow storm, and before we knew it we were driving through a white-out. The temperature dropped quickly, the slick roads turned icy, and everyone’s speed slowed to a crawl. We were driving in treacherous conditions.

I doubt anyone enjoys driving in those conditions, but being from California I seem to have a particularly strong aversion to driving in snow and ice. So I sat quietly next to my husband, who was intently focusing on the road, and sent out prayers for us and everyone around us: Please let us all arrive safely at our destinations. We’re driving in treacherous conditions. We passed a car turned upside down on the side of the road, then a policeman on his way. Treacherous conditions. Please let us get home safely. The phrase kept popping into my mind: Treacherous conditions.

And then I thought: Life is treacherous. Being a human being in a body is a risky endeavor. It’s treacherous primarily because of this thing called death, and because there is no way of possibly knowing when that thing will arrive. It’s treacherous because we experience death in many forms, one of which is the loss that accompanies loving. Life is a risk. Love is a risk. When we hand our hearts over to anyone – friend, partner, child – we do so knowing that our hearts could break. No, it’s more than that. We do so knowing that our hearts will break. We will eventually leave or be left by everyone we love, even if that parting is after a long life. It’s a searingly painful thought.

The more sensitive you are, the more aware you are of this inevitable and heartbreaking reality. And if you haven’t learned how to do otherwise, you will reflexively erect walls around your heart to protect against this truth. Sometimes the walls are more obvious and come in the form of creating emotional distance or leaving a relationship altogether. But sometimes – and often in the best of relationships where the risk is highest – the walls arrive through the back door with statements like, “I don’t love him enough” or “I don’t find her attractive” or “He’s not intellectual enough” or “We’re not on exactly the same page regarding religion.”

What’s essential to understand when you’re dealing with relationship anxiety is that these are all defense mechanisms, and that at the core of every single one of these intrusive thoughts is the fear of loss: of self, other, or control. The sentinel part of you – the hypervigilent scout who sets out in front of the tribe to scan the horizon for danger – is on high alert as soon as it realizes that your heart is vulnerable to being hurt. This may happen once the fear of “Does she really love me?” flips to “Do I really love her?” (which can coincide with an engagement) or it may happen randomly (or seemingly randomly). It doesn’t really matter how or when relationship anxiety begins. What matters is that you call the fear out on the mat as quickly as possible and name it for what it is so that “I’m terrified of getting hurt” doesn’t morph into “I don’t really love him or her.” It’s infinitely easier to deal with the core fear than it is to untangle its offshoots.

The sentinel is searching for the answer to the million dollar question: Is my anxiety/doubt a warning sign that something is wrong and I need to leave my relationship or is it a sign of something else? The million dollar answer is that it’s both. There is actual danger in your relationship because intimacy is inherently risky, so the warning system is accurate. Does it mean that you need to leave? No, not unless there are real red flag issues that are obvious in the here-and-now. And the anxiety/doubt is a sign that you’re ready to deal with the deeper layers of unshed grief from past hurts, unhealthy beliefs about love, romance, attraction, and marriage, and the fear of the unknown that intimate, committed relationships activate.

The drive home reminded me of what I struggled with after last year’s flood devastated our land: how I longed for certainty in the aftermath of the loss and destruction, and how my mind tried to convince me to move in order to find it. And then the deep-down body knowledge that there is no certainty; life is uncertain. We often hear these days that we’re living in uncertain times, but the truth is that every era in history has struggled with uncertainty because it’s simply the nature of life. And the only way to remain sane in the face of this somewhat insane arrangement is to learn to become more comfortable with uncertainty.

One way to do this is to learn to ride the waves of emotion that surge through you – to learn how to dive head first into the deep end of the heart. We find solace and comfort in learning to open to each new moment, including the feelings that it brings. The waves of the heart guide us toward accepting of uncertainty, if we learn to ride them. About a month after the flood I wrote in my journal:

How can I remain on land that has betrayed me? How can I ever feel safe again? But fear of the future is a mask against the grief that still floods up in every footstep, in every morning sight of our broken land. If I run I’m running from grief, from everything I’ve ever taught, from the woman who sits at the creek’s edge still and beckons me into her arms. Are we safe? I ask. There is no safety, she smiles, laughs, except the safety in your soul. Dwell there. Immerse yourself in the living waters of your grief – full body naked soul self – and you will know safety. I sit down at the edge, lay my body on the soft and muddy earth, and cry. 

I share this with you now: immerse yourself in your hidden places, in whatever longs to be known that you’ve buried deep inside of you. Life is treacherous, indeed, and love even moreso. There is no certainty and there are no guarantees. The sentinel scans the horizon looking for danger and it finds it, and then believes it’s time to run. If things are pretty good, there’s no reason to run; running will change the location or the person but what’s being asked of you will find you wherever you are and no matter who you’re with. The safety is in accepting that what’s being asked is nothing less than a hero’s journey: to enter the dark forest of fear, swashbuckle your way through the vines and sit under the canopy of trees to release your unshed grief, examine your expectations and beliefs, dig deep and deeper still until the wellsprings of your core, shining self emerge and you realize that it was all worth it, this treacherous business of being human, because it’s how we learn how to surrender, how to have faith, how to connect to something deeper and wiser than the present moment, and ultimately, always, how to love.

63 comments to The Risk of Living and Loving

  • N.

    Lovely article 🙂 I’ve always wondered tho, what are some true red flag warnings that it’s time to end a Relationship? How does one find the strength to end a relationship in the first place? Is it a gut instinct that tells you to abandon ship? Do you rely on the simple feeling that you get that tells you that something isn’t right? How can you tell if your worries are legitimate or simply anxiety?

  • Red flags are: emotional or physical abuse, addiction issues, unresolvable trust issues, deep-seated control issues (your partner doesn’t support who you are and constantly tries to change you), irreconcilable differences regarding religion and having children. All of these issues may be resolvable, however, provided that both people are willing to seek support and do their inner work. As far as your other questions, please read the article again ;).

  • lalalove

    You are such a beautiful writer and I’m so glad this is your calling! This is really one of my favorites (as usual). This, all the time:”We will eventually leave or be left by everyone we love, even if that parting is after a long life. It’s a searingly painful thought.” Thank you! 🙂

  • Rita

    Dearest Sheryl,
    Thank you so much for this article. It is EXACTLY the reminder I needed. What you say is true “running will change the location or the person but what’s being asked of you will find you wherever you are and no matter who you’re with.” I had a hard time accepting that as truth, and yet it is true. My husband’s stepfather died last Wednesday. I noticed on our trip home I started to recognize the stress I’d been under. For someone like me it doesn’t show up saying, “Wow, that was really stressful and sad. I must be exhausted and grieving.” Rather, “Maybe I shouldn’t have married my husband. After all, I’ve questioned it being ‘right’ from the very start.” After working with you and reading your articles I now recognize what’s really going on. Thank you so much for reminding me of that today. May you be blessed.
    Rita

    • That’s such a common pattern, Rita: to focus on the relationship as the problem instead of on the murkier and more vulnerable waters of emotion that live underneath the projection. Thank you for sharing your process here, and I’m so sorry for the loss of your husband’s stepfather.

  • jkinikin

    Beautiful article and so true. Life is continual uncertainty. This was highlighted in the Call the Midwife Christmas special that I watched last night. Cynthia, one of the midwives, was also facing uncertainty as she was deciding whether or not to become a nun. Her experience mirrors those those who are dealing with relationship anxiety, fear of the unknown.

  • Thanks for this Sharyl. Wanting to leave is a big on-and-off struggle for me. Today was especially discouraging because I thought much of it was behind me. Sometimes it seems all my inner work gets me nowhere. Your article came at the right time. I know if I leave, I’ll just repeat the same pattern. Now back to work…

    • It’s not a quick-fix, Ryan, as I’m sure you know. It’s layers and spirals of healing and learning. If we focus on the destination it’s easy to lose heart and jump ship.

  • Diane

    Such an inspiring post-thanks so much for sharing

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you for this, Sheryl. My boyfriend in college died in a car crash and I lost my dad suddenly last Christmas. I have so much trouble focusing on the grief and have been stuck creating projections that tell me why my current relationship is my “real” problem. The anxiety shifts its focus from one reason to the next but doesn’t let up. It is so much easier to focus on the relationship as the problem instead of the fact that I am terrified of further loss. I am clawing for certainty that any number of issues won’t force the relationship to end, so I obsess..”do I even like him?” “We aren’t on exactly the same page about religion,” “what if he turns out to be gay?” “What if he leaves me for a coworker?” “He over explains things.” Etc. The ironic piece is it is precisely this obsessing and projecting that will end the relationship. A hard habit to break. I really appreciate your work as there are so few who call out relationship anxiety for what it is and encourage people to take accountability for their own happiness.

  • hangovergirluk

    Thank you,Sheryl. I am not going through relationship anxiety right now, but impending motherhood anxiety! With only a week until my due date my sentinel is well and truly on high alert! A million different fears course through me every day. Will I love the baby? Will I be a good mother? What will it do to my marriage? How will we cope financially? At times I find myself thinking “i don’t want this baby at all, I’ve made a mistake”. You’ve reminded me that this is fear in the driver’s seat. I need to sit with my valid and normal set of fears, try not to “what if’s” and “shoulds” and recognise why they’re there. Because I’m about to open my heart in the largest possible sense. And there is every likelyhood that my poor heart is going to take a bashing.

    • Yes, it’s exactly the same for the next transition, isn’t it?!? It sounds like you know exactly what the healing path is to break free from the intrusive thoughts.

    • Clara

      Thank you so much for sharing this! It resonated deeply with me because of my own crushing experience with pregnancy anxiety. I fully fully understand what you are going through. It’s wonderful that you have the insight to notice and name your fears, and that you have the support of Sheryl and the Conscious Transitions community. Many blessings on the journey ahead. I will hold you in my heart.

  • Clara

    Beautiful, timely article Sheryl. I have a question. I have gotten past most of my relationship anxiety and the thoughts of maybe I don’t love him enough…but now I fear death 24/7. Not for myself, but for my boyfriend and family. It makes me not want to make any plans, have any dreams…and is giving me soul crushing anxiety. I want to get out of all this but fear there is no answer because she future is uncontrollable. How do I go about dealing with this??

    • Naomi

      Hello Clara. Someone who commented on another of Sheryl’s posts recommended a book by Thich Nhat Hanh called “Fear”. He also has another called “No Death, No Fear”. I have read parts of both of these and found them useful in dealing with my own fear of death. They are not necessarily a quick fix but might be helpful to you too.

  • Sabrina Valdez

    I love reading your blogs. All the emotions I question within myself feel “normal” after the readings.

    Thank You,

  • A

    This article came at the perfect time. My relationship anxiety has started up again which I’m pretty sure is due to the fact that we just signed a lease and will be moving in together soon. Since signing I find myself questioning whether it was the right thing to do or not because maybe I don’t love him like I thought I did and maybe I can’t deal with how annoyed I get with him sometimes. I just hope I made the right decision

  • lynne

    Such a moving blog …. after the death of my parents I was consumed by emotions and was terrified of my life without them. The thought of only having my partner who Iv never been sure I loved caused a breakdown n I nearly left him. Counselling helped me deal with my grief, fears and anxiety and I found your site. You av helped me so much and I often wonder if Id found you earlier in my life I might av been a mother. I was so terrified of childbirth I didnt av children. My partner is all I have to love now and your blogs help me cope. I realise Iv always loved him but directed all my anxieties onto our relationship. Hes a wonderful man n Im lucky he stuck with me. Thank you Sheryl for stopping me from throwing everything away. Blessings to you n your beautiful family x

  • Kevin

    Excellent post as always, reading your opinions on such matters always seem to calm the bolting anxiety within, I would just like to ask, regarding my now 6 month relationship, throughout this entire journey, I’ve found myself dealing with a lack of attraction and even feeling unnerved when I see a feature about her I don’t particularly adore, whether it be physical or otherwise, I always seem to find myself questioning, is this going to work out? how can I be sure? is it true, that this could stem from a fear that comes from loving someone flawed as I was known to be a perfection and was lonely as a child? And how may I learn the love laws if I am unable to afford the course? And in case you would ask, there are no severe red flag issues, there are conflicts, most of which are my fault, but that is why I wish to learn from this amazing community and from you too, thank you for noticing this post

  • DA

    I think what I mostly have a problem with lately is that my anxiety focuses on whole issue with the on-again off-again relationship we have had for two years. I know she is unlike any other person I’ve been with. And I certainly know that she has her share of things to deal with. Which I guess she did come upfront and say that and admit that she wants to work on herself and grow. I know when we broke it off recently (abt three months ago) it was because she needed to work on herself and she felt like she wasn’t giving me the relationship I deserve. I have been doing my best to work on myself. I have had anxiety about our relationship the entire time we were together but this time (now that it seems we are close again and heading back in that direction) it’s so much more worse. And the thing is that I know I don’t want to leave her and be with anyone else. But I’m so focused on the fact that she left that I can’t even fully appreciate that she has so many good things to her and I just don’t know what to do. Does that even make any sense? I just have so many what if questions day in day out and I feel a sort of block and disconnect. it ebbs and flows and there are times I am more open to her but then I shut right back off. And I’m not sure what to do. I just wanted your (or someone else’s) input I guess.

  • Romy

    This is such a beautifully written article Sheryl, and once again so timely. The approach of the new year, the fast-paced nature of these last few weeks, and some world events have left me feeling extremly vulnerable and essentially ‘unsafe’. Whilst the connection wasn’t clear to me at first, my mind has- once again- turned on my relationship; as a dear friend has pointed out ‘doing this gives you the illusion that you’re in control.’

    One question I have- since meeting my partner (then boyfriend, now husband) one of the things that drew me so strongly to him was that I knew exactly where I stood. There weren’t games, I knew he wanted to be with me from the start. I still know that I am his number one. I’ve not ever feared he would cheat, lie or hurt me. Yet, why then the fear of loss? Despite knowing he won’t go anywhere (God willing), and myself never having lost someone through death until recent years- it doesn’t immediately connect for me that my anxiety is trying to save me from being hurt by a person I feel so safe with.

    • “Yet, why then the fear of loss”

      Because psyche doesn’t work linearly or literally. You’ve been hurt before at some point in some way so you know that the possibility of being hurt exists. And we don’t know that our partners won’t go anywhere. Chances are high that you’ll live out your life together, but anything can happen, and the heart knows this. There are simply no guarantees in love.

      • Romy

        Thanks for your response Sheryl. I guess when I consider the hurts I’ve experienced, the one that sticks out the most (at this time) is some friendships I let go of long ago. The reason I make this connection now is because a lot of my anxiety towards my husband (at this present time) is focusing on the fact that I may have been happier/better off with someone taller, smarter, more confident, a man that other women desire, (a guy I’ve actually recently met). In the long run, I think ‘happier’ could mean ‘being accepted by others’ and essentially the reasons why I let go of those friendships in the first place.
        I have done so much work around this and it does seem like a long bow to draw, but perhaps this is a sensitive point which will continue to visit for me during times of vulnerability and fear.

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, I hope ur holidays with ur family are peaceful and joyful.
    I remember my brothers always telling .. Angela your a risk taker. U plunge into everything without hesitation. That may be true but I was also afraid of failing and being hurt. and I still am.. The difference now is that your wisdom of knowledge has made it that much easier for me. We all need someone to guide us through tools that actually work. I’m not a religious person but I do believe in spirituality and listening to your feelings whether there bad or good is what I call being human.
    Sending you love Sheryl Xx

  • Stella

    Dear Sheryl, this post came at the right time. When I woke up this morning my anxiety started immidiateley. I’ve been stuck in this projection for a long time now and it pushes me away from him. It turned him into the type of man I always dreaded. I know that I didn’t see him like this before my anxiety started but I can’t get out of it. Two nights ago my parents and I went for dinner at their friends’ house. Their sons were home for the holidays and I had been in love with one of them for a long time before I met my recent boyfriend. The thing is that this guy is absolutely everything I ever looked for in a man, brilliant musician, intellectual and charming. I chased him and he made use of that and treated me horribly. I know this, but after that night I can’t get him out of my head. Thinking that he is everything that my boyfriend isn’t. I’m very scared of the fact that my boyfriend is very different from me and doesn’t share my passions. Reading this post I think once again made clear that my head is telling me to run from my boyfriend cause we are never gonna be a good match, while our relationship was amazingly loving before it all started and he was open to my passions even though we weren’t on the same level. I want to say no to fear and leave that old crush behind, get rid of the projections, but my head is so convincing I almost left my boyfriend today. Ridiculous. Do you have any tips on how to deal with the projections? I don’t even know if they are projections anymore… Thank you for your wise words Sheryl, as always, but this time they don’t seem so hang on as usual and that scares me. I’ll keep fighting but don’t really understand how anymore. Love, Stella

    • Are you member of the Conscious Weddings E-Course? It sounds like you need more concrete tools to begin dealing with your projections through daily work.

      • Stella

        Im not on it yet! But i definately will as soon as i can afford it, hopefully next month! Thank you, i had no idea the ecourse would offer help with projections and the way fear changes perception.

  • Rian Lennon

    Thanks for this Sheryl, was a bit anxious today. I’d watched a film called ‘au hasard balthazar’ about the life of a donkey, and it was a really sad, kind of hopeless portrayal of human existence. I was asking ‘well whats the point if its all so hopeless, is there no relief? is existence just inherently bad?’ but you reminded me to turn inwards and deal with the real feelings instead of the ruminations. I heard something once that I really liked, that life is ‘brutiful’ it can be both brutal and beautiful, and I guess how much you stay open hearted will determine how beautiful it really is.

    • Yes, staying open-hearted is the key. However, it’s also important to be very careful about what movies you choose to watch. I would suggest that you stay away from that type of depressing and hopeless film for a long time, Rian, until your sense of self is more intact. It’s not the type of food that will nourish you right now.

  • Loren Kaplan

    Hi Sheryl,

    Lovely post, as always. I’ve been thinking about these themes a lot lately because I have a close friend who is very ill. And her treatment is horrendous, sometimes it seems almost as bad as the illness itself. And she could die. I don’t feel like I’m struggling with the desire to flee, but it is just so heart wrenching to watch her go through this. And then, on top of it, it does bring me to thoughts about my own health and mortality. It’s so hard not to filled with anxiety right along with the grief. Living is treacherous. And when you’re old enough to really believe that, to stop thinking you are invincible, it can be hard to keep living even the daily regular parts of life. Are we supposed to just pretend that it isn’t so dangerous? I know gratitude is probably important here, but it feels so cruel to be grateful for what I have when my friend is struggling so much. It feels like I’m rubbing my luck in her wounds (not that I would share those sentiments with her, it just feels so unkind/unfair.) Any thoughts?

    • Thank you for your comment, Loren. My eyes filled with tears while reading it, as I could feel your pain and your helplessness about this heartbreaking situation. I’m not sure there’s any way to avoid feeling some anxiety about your own health and mortality when you’re watching someone you love – especially a peer – go through a serious illness and treatment. Yes, gratitude helps. Allowing yourself to grieve whenever you can helps. Talking about it and seeking your own support helps. And if you’re a spiritual person, prayer helps immensely. Sending you love.

  • B

    Hi Sheryl,

    Your vignette about the drive home made me realize another source of my anxiety. I noticed that when my partner and I are going through an occasion that has the potential to be fun and enjoyable, like a holiday, I feel extra pressure for it to be momentous. Then I get nervous when things happen that might tarnish that potential and turn it into a missed opportunity. I ultimately get frustrated that such a beautiful day ended with nitpicking or one of us getting offended by an off-put comment on the drive home. And I usually end up asking myself “why can’t we just enjoy ourselves like any normal couple without one of us feeling hurt or anxious?”

    I’m learning that I need to take things in stride and understand the source of the anxiety, but still have a long ways to go.

  • Angela

    Happy New Year everyone.. You know what the beauty of humanity is we all learn from each other., whether we are young or old, different cultures.. Wired different intellectually. We even learn from animals and they learn from us. What I strongly feel is that when people pass away., we actually learn from their teachings. People uniting for happy or sad occasions is a blessing to us all. Amen XO

  • stephanie

    sending you love, sheryl. happy new year!

  • sarah Jean

    It’s strange what the holidays do to us. I spent last week feeling very close to my partner whole we spent our first Christmas together since we moved in together. We traveled up north to Chicago to visit my parents and then down south to Brownsville to visit his, all in the course of a week
    He was so supportive of me, as seeing my family usually brings me stress and reminds me of childhood trauma, opening up old wounds. The week went better than expected, though I realized today I have some grief and discomfort that I haven’t been aware of or worked through that I took home with me. I also was let go from my job the Thursday before Christmas.

    Cue this week when we’re back home, and my depression is back full force. I feel so empty and dissatisfied with my life right now. I was so connected to my partner last week, but this week I am confronted with increasing feelings of nothingness. Not the distressing nothingness, as usual, but a nothingness that almost feels certain, as if I have suddenly decided he is not for me, that I could not possibly love him, and that this needs to end. That he’s a great guy, but “not for me,” and I suddenly feel like I don’t understand why I’m with him, and that I’m just forcing it. The idea of leaving is almost a relief to me. This is extremely saddening, as I don’t know where it came from. I used to always be comforted by his arms when in the throes of anxiety, and this reassured me. But suddenly I feel trapped around him. I don’t want to be near him and I look forward to him going to work so I can be alone. I dread physical intimacy and feel like I’m lying every time I tell him I love him. He is so wonderful supportive, and kind, the best partner ever, but I fins his sweetness lately to be annoying. I can’t stand how nice he is to me! Here is a man who will make cocoa for mW while I’m in the bathroom will do breathing exercises wwith me when I am anxious, and will come up and rub my shoulders when he sees I’m tense. And he does these things, and a part of me feels like he is so pathetic and spineless for fawning over me.

    Sometimes I feel like I just want to be completely and utterly alone. I don’t know how to deal with this. I don’t know if it is depression and projection, or just a sudden falling out of love, or if I get frustrated with his loving actions because he loves me more than I love him. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I brought this up on the e course and got very few replies. I fear this is my truth, and it makes me very sad. Life feels empty to me.

    • DA

      Hi Sarah, I wanted to tell you that you’re not alone. It is very scary Sarah, I know exactly how you feel. I still haven’t figured it out yet but I understand exactly what you’re going through. I must say that if you fear that this isn’t your truth and it makes you very sad, shouldn’t that say something about the fact that it is anxiety. I know that Sheryl has spoken about the fact that when we find out our truth we are certain of it. There is nothing wrong with you. I’m going through the same thing.

    • Lia

      Hi Sarah , I feel a lot like you sometimes but then I remind myself why I love this man and why he makes me happy . Try to shut the negative out with positive . He seems like an amazing man don’t give up !

    • plk8891

      Sarah Jean,

      I completely understand what you are going through and I am still working through it myself. I am on the ecourse forum if you ever want to message and talk.

      -Katie

  • M

    This post, along with many of your other posts about relationship anxiety speaks to me so clearly. I’ve been dealing with doubting questions about my partner since we got engaged a year ago. He is truly a loving and supportive man and I feel lucky to be with him, but I can’t help but continuously have nagging doubts about my feelings for him. Every time I read one of your articles, I feel a wave of relief that soothes my nerves, but then those nagging doubts return and I attach myself to them. After each article I think my anxiety is behind me, but it’s never settled. Why does it keep coming back and consuming my life? I’m exhausted.

    • Accurate information – what I call a big dose of truth-water – is an important part of dealing with anxiety and can keep it at bay temporarily, but it’s not nearly enough to deal with it more sustainably. To heal from anxiety requires a four prong approach where you’re addressing where you may be off-kilter physically, emotionally, cognitively (that’s where the accurate information comes in), and spiritually. There is no quick fix, but if you’re willing to put in the daily work, you can learn how to stop being a victim to anxiety and live your life in the driver’s seat of your mind.

  • Jo Spillane

    Lovely post Sheryl. I think if I look back on 2014 where grief and cancer seemed to affect people in my life close to me, it taught me life is fragile. We don’t know when death will occur and if I really sat that with that thought, it scares the hell out of me. I have a friend who has lost his wife to cancer, they had a wonderful love that was evident to see at her funeral. Unfortunately, the flipside for him now is immeasurable grief and loss. Those two emotions go hand in hand. I can’t help but feel he was so honoured to have had a love like that.

  • Desperate

    Sarah Jean you’re not alone. The same thing happened to me. I was so in love with my fiance and happy to have him in my life but the moment he proposed me I panicked. First I remember feeling confused about the whole thing, I said yes because I loved him and because I knew I was gonna stay with hi for the rest of my life but it was not what I wanted at the moment. I felt like I died at the same moment I said yes. Like I had to say yes because I didn’t want to lose him but I hated the idea of getting married. The first 2-3 weeks were terrible, I was shaking and sobbing most of the time, I couldn’t work and do anything, I felt like I was trapped. I started taking medicine for anxiety since I knew there was something wrong. I was desperately trying to get my feelings back for my fiance. It’s been more than a month now and the scariest thing is that now I don’t feel the love anymore. I wander if I love him because while I was dating him I didn’t feel this way. I can’t possibly imaging getting married to someone that makes me feel this way. Where did my love go??? I’m so scared, I don’t know what to do anymore. Please Sheryl is there any hope? We need to start planning our wedding, but at this point, it just gives me such anxiety to even think about it.

    • “I can’t possibly imaging getting married to someone that makes me feel this way. Where did my love go”

      It’s not your fiancé that’s “making” you feel this way; it’s your fear. And your love is trapped behind your fear. Take the course :).

  • muncher

    Glad i found this site, i am going through anxiety and self doubt about love at minute, i am in a happy loving nearly 7 year marriage. My fatger came to visit us from uk, and said to my husband after a few drinks, does my daughter love you, i dont think she does?? Bast@rd,….sorry. …so now a year on i feel the need to ask the queation myself, its like living in a mental torment….i / we had no issue on love before this and were deeply in love soul mates…. now the one person who i should be able to trust has destroyed me…. i am an only child after my mother died aged 11.

    • Your father’s comment was insensitive and painful, but your reaction to it is a symptom of lack of self-trust and self-knowledge. You may want to consider my Trust Yourself course in March 2015.

  • Lia

    So happy to find this website , a little background of my relationship …I’ve been with my bf for 9 years ( I’m 29 ) , first serious relationship I’ve ever had , and I know this sounds crazy but a lot of my family hasn’t met him due to the fact that im from a kind of strict greek family and he’s far from that , my mother doesn’t like him and I know she would be happy if we broke up . A couple months ago he told me within the next year or so he wants to get engaged and buy a house . That deff spiked my anxiety a little but got over it cause I snapped back saying well people need money for down payment and we just don’t have that right now . But shortly after that my mind started to go crazy got anxiety thinking omg I’m going to tell my parents I want to marry him there going to hate me and probably want nothing to do with the wedding . So of course what do I do start googling why I was having anxiety about all off this and all these websites said its because its your gut telling you it’s not right , so from there I started googling what’s the difference between in love and just loving someone which spiked my anxiety tremendously . I started to think maybe he’s not the one , maybe we’ve just got stuck in this long relationship because it was comfortable , maybe I’m not attracted to him anymore because sometimes I just don’t feel like being intimate . All of this caused me to break up with him because I couldn’t deal with the anxiety anymore , he was so caught off guard he couldn’t believe what I was saying . I told him I’m not in love with him anymore and I don’t think I’m attracted to him anymore . he kept saying no it’s your family that’s making you crazy you still love me and I told him no it’s my gut feeling and I need to let you go .. I couldn’t believe I broke his heart

  • Louise

    Hi Sheryl, I was wondering about you’re red flags that u listed above? I know I keep wanting to change my partner and all I see is his flaws. I know also underneath I’m terrified of loving him and being loved but what if we’re just not compatible rather than fear blocking me? I’m so scared and I feel so bad for hurting him, I really don’t want to cause him anymore pain. He deserves to be loved and respected but all I do is tear him down. I want to stop but I’m afraid I never will be able to. I’ve been seeing a therapist and I know at the root of it all is I don’t accept myself either. I hope by learning to accept and love me, I can do the same for him. But I’m so scared and it hurts to not be able to love him for all that he is. I don’t want to hurt him anymore or mess up his life. He would probably be better with someone else

    • DA

      I think t he fact that you don’t want to hurt him anymore and that you have been seeing a therapist and trying to grow and change says a lot about you wanting to be better at love and about your love for him. I wish you well on your journey. I must say that he chose you. It doesn’t matter if someone else would be “better” or “worse”, what he believes is best is you. Hang in there!

  • Louise

    Sarah, I feel the same too….I feel like I’m lying when I say I love you. Its horrible, yet I have moments of unyielding love that just pours out (not very often). It’s so confusing to know what the truth is especially when ally body wants to do is pull away. The week before Christmas I felt I made huge steps forward and this week I’m anxious and disconnected again. It’s all so distressing, ur not alone. It takes huge courage to face this fear x

  • Loren Kaplan

    Thank you, Sheryl.

  • Lia

    I have a question , do any of you compare your relationship to others ?

  • Clare

    This is stunningly beautiful, Sheryl. Thank You.

  • Stephanie

    As always, wise words delivered in a beautiful and moving way. I find myself at the center of a terrible emotional storm and am in dire need of insight and support…

    Two nights ago, my live-in boyfriend two+ years more abruptly ended our relationship. He said that he no longer feels the same passion/love for me he once did, and that it is best to leave now. Apparently this is something he has been grappling with for a couple of months, but I was blindsided. He has since left our home and is making plans to find a new place to live with his kids, who I have loved and cherished. When he told me, he was almost completely devoid of emotion, which is not like him at all. I asked if he was willing to try and work things through, but he said that he didn’t think it was something that could be fixed.

    As you can imagine, I am completely devastated and confused by what has happened. We have been a solid and loving couple for more than two years…but after two months of feeling his passion/love for me dissipate (his words), he has decided that the only course of action is to separate permanently. Yes, things have cooled between us from a passion standpoint, but every time I brought the issue up or wanted to discuss how we might address it, he insisted things were fine.

    Ironically enough, I was the one with acute relationship anxiety when we first started dating, but used the tools and insights from Conscious Transitions and therapy work to overcome those fears. Even up to the day he announced he wanted to break up, my boyfriend and I had a loving, supportive, connected and committed partnership, so the announcement he was ending our relationship was like a dagger to my soul.

    My boyfriend has had two failed marriages, so I wonder if he isn’t trying avoid another “mistake.” Somehow he’s convinced himself that, if he doesn’t feel the same kind of love and passion for me, leaving is the only/best option. I’ve actually been exactly where he is: I left a fiance 15 years ago, and more than anything, I remember just wanting to run away so the anxiety and fear would subside.

    We have not had much contact since he left three days ago. I emailed him and said that, if his decision to leave was final, to please make arrangements to remove his belongings from the house and return the key (I bought the house for us and we moved in back in May 2014). I then sent a follow-up message letting him know that I love and care for him very much, how grateful I have been for our time together, and that I hope somehow we can find our way back to one another. No relationship is perfect, but I can truly say that he is so special and such a perfect match for me (flaws and all). If he’s scared, I get that. I’m scared too-but I also believe in what we have, and the love we’ve forged. That doesn’t just go away…

    Given where things stand, I’m not sure what to do next. Part of me wants to send him this article, but I don’t want to further push him away. If ANYONE has any thoughts, I would love to hear them. I know that there is a real possibility he not change his mind, I feel like I can’t give up without at least trying to help him recogniza that fear is clouding the love he once felt for me, but it isn’t gone. PLEASE HELP.

    • I’m so, so sorry for what you’re going through, Stephanie. I can imagine your heart is shattered into a thousand pieces. Yes, I would suggest sending this article, as well as a few others that you think might resonate for him, like “Fear Eyes or Clear Eyes”:

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sheryl-paul/relationship-anxiety-fear_b_1135768.html

      Let him know again that you understand how scary relationships can be, and that you will support him in any way that you can if he’s willing to address his fear. And of course seek support for yourself so that you can tend to your grief and helplessness, should he decide not to do his work. Sending love –

  • Diana

    Hi Sheryl,
    This website has been a big help for me and I am sure for many others that are having relationship anxiety. I am currently dating an amazing man who loves me and I love him but as soon as he mentioned the word marriage I started having really bad anxiety. There are days I feel like I can go through it and other days I am terrified and have so many fears and doubts. He is perfect for me and I’m not worried about him not loving me, i am worried about me not being good enough for him. I can’t imagine myself being without him. I always say that if I were to loose him because of my anxiety I wouldn’t know what to do. Part of me really wants to be with him and marry him but part of me is so afraid and that is when the confusion kicks in. The thought of breaking up with him brings me to tears and even little fights we have make me cry. I don’t know what to do and how to handle my anxiety. He doesn’t deserve this, he loves me so much and he shows it to me every single day. We are in a long distance relationship now for a couple of month and it has been really hard to not be with him. I am sad all the time and I keep coming back to your website to seek advice and comfort.