When It's Time To Say Enough

For those of you who are struggling with relationship anxiety, you probably saw the title of this post and wondered if I was going to talk about when to leave a relationship, and perhaps felt nervous that it was going to spike you. But hopefully you have enough faith in my site that you know that my philosophy is that as long as you’re in a healthy, loving relationship where you share basic values and vision and you have a voice deep down inside underneath the anxiety that’s afraid of someone telling you that you have to leave then you’re struggling with classic relationship anxiety and the last thing I would do is tell you to leave.

On the contrary, this post is about helping you break free to the next level of your healing, especially for those of you who feel hopelessly stuck on the hamster wheel of relationship anxiety (or any other form of anxiety). On my ecourse and forum I have a thread and article about the critical difference between those who break free from relationship anxiety and those who remain stuck, in which I talk about unhooking from the projection that the problem is your choice of partner. And while this is, indeed, an absolutely crucial piece of the work as it fundamentally points to one’s willingness to take full responsibility for one’s well-being instead of falling prey to the mindset that a different partner (or job, city, house, having a baby) will fix everything, it’s not the whole picture. The second piece of the puzzle is the willingness to commit to and practice the daily tools.

When I work with a coaching client who says that they’ve been doing “the work” for months or years and are still stuck in the loop of intrusive thoughts, the first question I ask is, “What work are you doing?” To which they typically respond: “I’ve gone through the course, watched the videos, post on the forum, and read the books on your recommended reading list.” That’s all great, essential even, but it’s not what I mean by “the work”. Daily work requires implementing the tools that I teach in the course in depth and on this blog to a lesser degree: effective journaling, mindfulness, yoga, breathing techniques, etc. It means taking the information that you’ve absorbed and transforming it into action. We do not heal on the realm of the mind alone: Insight + action = change.

It’s a magic moment in a session when a client will suddenly realize that all of the “actions” she’s been taking are actually various ways to feed the mental addiction, which, at the core, are about looking for the magic pill or quick fix. Clients and readers will say things like, “I go on the forum or your blog to look for the magic sentence, article or comment that will give me a moment of relief, but I can see now that I’m really just indulging the same conversation and strengthening the same circuitry. This really isn’t serving me.” Right! We can then dive into the conversation about what would serve, which is turning all of the rumination, worry, reassurance-seeking, dissecting, and analyzing into an exploration of the inner world. There are labyrinths and mazes of pain and stories inside that seek your attention. When you turn away from the story that the problem is your partner and toward the new story that this anxiety lives wholly inside of you, everything changes and you’re on the road to freedom.

The title of this post therefore refers to when it’s time to say enough to the part of you that has taken over your psyche and is running the show: the part that believes that your partner (or something out there) is the problem; the part that takes a thought and runs with it; the part that likes to engage in actions like reassurance-seeking, dissecting, and analyzing, none of which will set you on the path toward freedom. And what I’ve seen over and over again is that those who truly commit to both of these principles and dive in headlong to their healing work, which often includes some from of journaling or dialoguing, are the ones who break free.

So to restate the critical pieces that are required in order to break free from anxiety:

  1. Unhooking from the belief that the problem is your choice of partner. This is what we call “reeling in the projection.”
  2. Committing to your inner work, which means practicing the daily tools (and, yes, that means daily).

In order to say “enough!” to the fear-based part of us, we need make sure that our loving, inner parent is at the helm of psyche. Without this part of you, you’ll fall into the fear-pit alongside all of your other fearful characters. The example I’ve often given of what this looks like is of the child who is scared of the dark and screams out for his mother in the middle of the night: “Mommy, mommy come quick! There’s a monster in my closet!” If the mother rushes into the room and say, “Oh my god, you’re right! There IS a monster in the closet,” and jumps into bed with the child, there’s obviously no parent in the room and fear will wreak havoc with the minds of two three years old. This is what it means to jump into bed with fear. But if the mother holds the rope of clarity and reassurance, she will be able to hear the child’s fears and bring him comfort. This is what it means to show up as a loving, inner parent.

This doesn’t only apply to relationship anxiety, of course. Whenever we’re caught in an anxious spiral about any variety of stories we need to access the wise and clear part of ourselves who can stand on the shore of psyche and provide the anchor.

When you’ve had enough of the mental torture, you’ll be able to say “enough” to the part of you that has been running the show. And even when you’re ready to take back the reins, the resistant voices will pipe up, perhaps even more loudly than before, and say things like, “This is all b.s. You’re just too scared to leave” or “You shouldn’t have to work this hard. Why don’t other people have to work this hard?” or “You’re prolonging the inevitable. Just admit that you’re in the wrong relationship.”  When a client voices these classic resistant lines, I encourage them to do an experiment: first write down all of the voices of resistance, then package them up, put them to the side, and commit to doing the true inner work for six months. Six months won’t make or break anybody. Tell yourself it’s an experiment: for six months you won’t indulge the intrusive thoughts but will instead practice the methods I teach for working with them so that you can turn inward and pay attention to what actually needs your attention. When you learn to replace the old habit of indulging the fear with the new habit of standing on the shores with wisdom and reassurance, you’re on your to freedom.

81 comments to When It’s Time To Say Enough

  • Bee

    Hi Sheryl.
    I think this is exactly what I need today. Your courses and tools have helped lot with my relationship anxiety and other forms of anxiety. Now I I rarely get relationship anxiety. Lately I have had alot of confrontation with my mother, as I chose not to do something that she wanted me to do. Now she no longer wants to speak to me. I accept that as it’s out of my control and tried to get on with my life. But now I wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety. I now feel overwhelmed to meet my friends or do things I used to do and keep cancelling plans. Do the same tools apply with This type of anxiety ? I have been doing mediataion every day but I don’t know if it’s because I feel a loss and have to feel the pain? Thanks

    • Yes, the same tools apply, and it sounds like in this situation what’s being asked is for you to feel the full extent of your grief about your relationship with your mother. Healing from a mother-wound is very challenging work and can take a long time, and the core is letting go of your fantasy of your mother and grieving the loss until you can see and accept her as she is.

  • Nikki

    This came at a very critical point for me. I think I’m starting to reach that “enough” point but I’m truly the most resistant person and I can acknowledge that fully and need to change that. My worries however aren’t at the moment about my partner but about returning home. I have convinced myself my happiness lies at home even if it means my partner can’t come with me and we need to end. Again for months I have heard him say we will compromise but i don’t let that settle me but just ramp me up to constantly make sure he won’t change his mind. I also fear constantly never returning home permanently and I’m convinced I won’t be able to handle that so I have to return some way. This is my enough point because I’m rotting in my upset and anxiety, practically incapable of living a single moment in the present. My partner and I have circled September 1st 2018 ( the month I graduate) to discuss the future and I’m trying to commit to figuring out if this is about something deeper till then

    • I’m glad to hear that you’ve reached your “enough” point, Nikki. Oftentimes we need the suffering to reach a breaking point before we can find the courage and strength to take the reins and harness our loving inner parent. It should like you’re there or almost there.

  • agnes

    I was initially a little worried when I read the line “…and you have a voice deep down inside underneath the anxiety that’s afraid of someone telling you that you have to leave…” I thought, do I? The spike was brief and barely a spike at all as I’m feeling pretty clear about my good, solid, lovely relationship now. However, in regards to pocd: I might not pass every test (though there is really no way to pass) or be able to answer my mind’s questions with the clarity of those who don’t have this intrusive thought theme, but what I do have is that quiet voice deep down that hopes someone will tell me with 100% certainty that I’m not a pedophile. I really do want that. I want permission to let it go and trust I will be a safe parent and good person in my future. Without this thought…I’d be floating. Life would just simply be life, with all it’s quirks and experiences.

    One way that I do catch myself getting caught up in RA again is with boredom. Resistance is so quick to blame my partner (having one partner/lack of sexual variety – ridiculous because I love the safety of one, familiar person) for boredom. I’m really glad you took the time to explain to us what you mean by ‘action’, even though I think most of us knew deep down. I have also told myself I’m doing the work when I’m reading a new book, combing over articles or sticking on a video from Break Free. When I do this I’m still in the mind realm, stick somewhat stuck.

    Thank you for helping me spot resistance, Sheryl, and reminding me to DO something towards healing.

  • agnes

    *stiLL somewhat stuck (though that was a cute typo)

  • Monique

    Somehow you always know exactly what I need to hear. Still an intense every day struggle but one day at a time.

  • Maria [Germany]

    When I read the title of today’s article, I actually felt… relief. It IS time to say enough to the mental torture, to the projection, to the intrusive thoughts. Actually, one year ago from today (yes, really today), I had a major panic attack which kind of set my relation ship anxiety free, and I suffered for months after that, and by that I mean really suffered, cried a whole lot, doubted my sanity, experienced multiple panic attacks and choking sensations whenever I only SAW my partner…and yet, I’m here, a year later, moved in together with him and sharing a daily and cozy life with him. Thanks to your block and your weekly articles (which are always so incredibly on point it’s almost spooky lol), I was able to work on myself, to get to know myself better, to get myself into the stage of healing. There are still some days where the anxiety tries to take over, but now that I know the tools to use, I’m not scared anymore. Thank you so much Sheryl, greetings from Germany ♡

  • Susie

    I spent 2.5 years with a man with extreme relationship anxiety. He would become infatuated with other women and leave our relationship and then always return with a big apology about the mistake he made and then I would take him back. It just happened again and I completely cut ties. His apologies had become meaningless and I had a hard time saying no to him so it felt like the best choice for me. He wasn’t willing to do the work and I couldn’t love him enough to help him feel safe in our relationship so I had to walk away. Some days I wonder if I did the right thing but mostly I’m sure of it. Life with him would be an endless loop of him running towards and then away from me. Maybe you could write more about when your partner has relationship anxiety and how to spot it so you can walk away before you get sucked in and hurt again.

    Thank you for your work, I always learn something.

    • It’s an important topic, Susie, but it sounds like your partner suffered from more than just relationship anxiety since he actually acted on his infatuations and then made empty apologies. In any case, it sounds like you’ve absolutely made a loving choice in terms of walking away as there’s no way to feel safe with such an avoidant partner unless he were to fully commit to you and his own healing, which would mean dedicated, weekly therapy. I recommend that you read “Attached” by Amir Levine.

  • Gen

    Hi Sheryl,

    I hope you are well.

    You may ge award of my story. I’ve been doing work with my therapist about what got me into my previous relationship which was not ideal and trying to stop this from happening again. I’ve started internet dating and have gotten a number of people who are interested in me. However when they compliment me, I get a little disgusted if I’m honest. I’m curious as to why this is and am exploring it non judgmentally. I’d be curious to know any thoughts you have on this. This may feed into why I chose my previous partner.

    Thanks,

    Gen

  • Alyssa

    Hi everyone. This post couldn’t have come at a better time (as it always seems, doesn’t it?), and I was hoping for some guidance from Sheryl or anyone else who can relate with what I’m currently going through.

    Yesterday, my brother told me that his wife had just asked him for a divorce. They’ve only been married for a year and a half, and she said the reason was that she has been unhappy for a very long time within herself. She thought getting married would fix her issues, and she feels like everyday she has been lying to him.

    I think almost everyone here can imagine what an anxiety spike this was for me.

    I am incredibly sad for my brother, as I feel incredible amounts of empathy for others and it seems I physically feel his pain (or what I assume his pain would feel like). I am making an effort to, instead of push the pain away and distract myself, to sit with it and feel the sadness. It’s much more difficult than I thought to push away the instinctive jolt to find distractions! In addition to the sadness for my brother, my anxiety is very high. My parents divorced 10 years ago when I was 14 years old, and it was a terrible time for my family and I; I believe this experience altered and bent my expectations and belief of what real love looks like in a warm, healthy relationship. To make that long story short,divorce is a term that sparks a great amount of fear in me. Because it happened to my parents, and now my brother, it must happen to me someday. Or at least that’s what my mind is telling me, and that I should leave my loving relationship now before I can let that happen.

    It’s classic relationship anxiety and it’s the classic story, I know this. But right now in the current situation myself and my family are in, my mind is in shambles. I don’t want to seem like the person Sheryl mentions above, someone looking for a magic pill or quick fix, but I guess I’m just looking for some insight during this painful time, and how to be supportive of my brother while also looking out for myself?

    Much love to you all,
    Alyssa

    • I’m so sorry to hear this, Alyssa, and I know how spiky this kind of news can be. First and foremost: let yourself feel your grief, your uncertainty, your vulnerability, and your powerlessness. As you already wisely said, it’s so easy to distract against these difficult feelings, so your primary task will be to be mindful of that tendency and work against it. Secondly, review these articles as they will help you remember that their story isn’t your story:

      http://conscious-transitions.com/absorbing-other-peoples-lives/
      http://conscious-transitions.com/world-anxiety/

      It can be so difficult when we come from a legacy of divorce to believe that we can chart a new path, but you can. Holding that mindset foremost will help you navigate through this pain more successfully.

      • Alyssa

        Thank you so much, Sheryl. When the World Anxiety post came out, I read it over and over again as I related so much to it, and am so thankful you wrote those words. I hadn’t yet read Absorbing Other Peoples Lives, and it was definitely helpful. I wish I could refer my sister-in-law to your work, considering her sudden reasons for divorce, but I don’t feel like it’s my place to assume what her fears are.

        I’m working on remembering that it’s their story, not mine, but given that the grief is so close to me (my Dad’s grief which still is very present 10 years later, and now my brother and my 7 year old nephew who will feel the pain first hand), it is certainly difficult to accept the powerlessness I feel. I like to think that I am resilient, but I’d like to learn how to be resilient while also accepting and moving through things I cannot change (ex. brothers divorce, dads grief, my grandmother in hospice care). I am thankful to know that my anxieties and spikes toward my loving boyfriend are projections of these other things going on in my life, especially while we move toward being more tightly wound in each others’ lives. For this, I am grateful, and I wouldn’t be here without you. Thank you again Sheryl.

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, I needed this today, thank you 😊 🤗. I have been doing the daily tools, not so much of the breathing techniques because I feel no anxiety. Is it crucial to still do the breathing exercises even if i feel good? I like doing the tools, i journal i do mindfulness, i listen to music, I walk, and eat healthily. I look at all my spokes to see if im attending to all of them. I will continue to commit to the daily tools without fail. I just have been fixated with the thought Old Angela has gone. I came to accept my single life is in the past, i feel i grieved my past. This is my wonderful new life now. Not sure if im still greiving though..

  • Sas

    Hi sheryl ,

    I read your response to the guy who actually acted on his impulses and left the kept returning to his girlfriend . I suffer anxiety but am at the point now where I am looking around to find another man as I just don’t feel in love with husband anymore . Does that mean it’s Definately more than anxiety if I’m doing this ? I have a young son and am heartbroken. Sas

  • Ravenna

    Ah! I’m crying at how amazingly timed this article was. It helped me realized I too have been striving to reach that magic pill and quick fix…thank you for this.
    I had a question however in regards to readiness, how do you know if your resistance is trying to tell you youre not ready or if its just a disguised fear voice? I have been sitting with this for a while and seem to waver back and forth, is it even possible to know if youre ready for that commitment? (Whether it be to growing up, to your partner, to your inner work, to learning about love etc.)

  • Shay

    Hi Sheryl,
    I have been battling for over 5 years with the same circuitry and at times of commitment like buying a house, moving, my birthday, I get panic attacks and go into a spiral of darkness and anxiety thinking that I have been living a lie this whole time, thinking I just have to end it and my pain will be over.
    I am with the most loving, available, giving man I could ask for and realise that I do need to work on my own grounding and sense of contentment internal. These spikes/breakdowns have happened almost yearly. I had some extreme anxieties when we first got together and I found your blog – I am still dealing with the same thing. This is the worst it has ever been for me – I am seeing a psychologist and have tried hypnotherapy which was very beneficial but then I stopped working on myself and slipped back into anxiety.
    It is a daily exercise and I am committed to my own sense of contentment, grounding and happiness. It has been a long road and I realise that the issue to find my own footing. I really worry that life is just passing by and I am missing it all because it really is mental torture

  • Clara

    Amen, Sheryl! I am just one of the many people who, after reading Sheryl’s work and working with her as her client, got to the place where I was genuinely able to say ‘enough’, to reel in the projection, and to take responsibility for my own recovery through daily spiritual practice. It gave me my life back. And my love back.

  • Morgan

    Hi Sheryl,
    Wow, wow, wow. This article is not only eerily timely, it’s also one of my favorites. You have a way of cutting so cleanly into the real problem- just as you said in the article that we all need to have the adult part of ourselves at the helm of our ship- you so beautifully rein as our adult/ mother guiding our own inner parent through this deep and layered work. I can feel how much you’re communicating “enough is enough” to all of our adult selves that know that studying, reassurance-seeking, ruminating, obsessing, analyzing and dissecting aren’t enough.

    This is so timely for me because my husband and I just celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary this weekend. Today, we actually talked in depth about how I’ve read until I can’t read anymore- everything on your blog, a lot of the books you’ve recommended, taken 3 of your courses, read many inner bonding posts, taken an inner bonding course, read forum post after forum post on both your class forums and the inner bonding forum. I’ve been going to therapy and diligently trying to find the right therapist. And here I am, still stuck on a boat with my anxieties (relationship anxiety and also other areas of my life as you mentioned). My boat use to be in the middle of the sea, with no shore in sight. All the insight I’ve gathered from reading put enough wind in my sail to see the shoreline of freedom, but I’m now so clearly at a point that I know the actions NEED to happen and happen everyday for my sail to have the wind to bring it all the way to the shore.

    Lately I’ve even begun to feel as though I’m getting worse and worse physically the more time goes on that I don’t take the action- it’s if my body is screaming out to drop down into it and give it as much attention as I give my mind. I know deep in my bones now, after years of feeding the mental part of this, that my body is in desperate need to bring this work into action. I’m not sure if this happens to other people (I’m sure it does) but I feel as if I actually don’t even have a choice anymore to just feed the my mind with reading without taking the actions.

    With that said, I love your request/recommendation to those of us who are at this point to write down the resistance, package it away, and take the actions for 6 months as an experiment. This is exactly what I need right now and I’ve never felt more ready. It’s time. I know this too because the times I’ve taken action, it has felt so good and right.

    I do have a few questions:
    I’ve finally found a therapist nearby that works with HSP’s and is an HSP herself. I found her on Elaine Aron’s site and was so excited because she’s the only one in my state and I live 20 minutes away. Anyway, she uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I’m newer to ACT but she told me it ties in well with Eckhart Tolle and Michael Singer’s work (which I’ve read and really resonate with). As you know, Singer says that none of our thoughts are us- not even the good ones. This makes sense to me, but it leaves me wondering how to journal or dialog because I feel like all I’m doing is then just hearing a positive voice and a negative one- neither of which are me or a loving adult. Can you lead me to an article of yours where this is explained or can you briefly comment?

    My other question is do you recommend for the 6 month period we don’t feed the mind with reading and reassurance seeking on your site, other sites, or books? I feel like I have almost a compulsion that I can’t miss a new blog post, or a new book. It’s as if I’m scared if I stop reading then I’ll lose all this knowledge or will miss out on more key information for my healing. I tell myself that the only reason I’ve come this far is because of all this knowledge I now have (and this is actually true as I know insight is part of the equation) and it feels very scary to step away from it in order to devote more time to action.

    Thank you so much for this post (and all your posts!) and for reading my comment and questions. Thank you for being the earthly goddess mother to all of our inner parents, guiding us ever so patiently and lovingly through the work of our souls journey.

    • Hi Morgan: I’m delighted to hear that you’re READY to take action, and yes, our bodies do speak to us when we’ve reached a saturation point or threshold with the mental information. As far as your second question, I suggest tuning in to yourself and asking what your intention is when you’re signing on to forums and reading blogs, comments, and articles. If it’s coming from fear (“I can’t miss a single word”), then I would recommend taking a step back from these sites and doing your own inner work instead. For your first question, I encourage you to trust the process with your therapist and not try to figure it out too much. Bring her your question and see if she can guide you through. A relationship with a loving, skilled, local therapist can be transformative, and I’m so glad that you’ve found someone who seems like a match.

  • Rachael

    Hi guys,
    At the moment I’m not really sure what started this ‘phase’ of anxiety but this time it seems to be here to stay. I have this horrid feeling on my chest where it’s like someone is choking me and my thoughts are mainly focusing around my partner and me not being compatible. I’m worried he doesn’t make me laugh enough or he doesn’t find me attractive at all. Also, it focuses back on my feelings that I am not in love, that I’m not happy and not attracted. This relationship anxiety has happened with every boyfriend for four years. I’m currently on a waiting list for counselling and i’m hoping this will help me work through the issues.

    I always get scared that because I’m anxious it really does mean it’s the wrong person because I sometimes have the thought that he isn’t right for me. But, I also have that amazing feeling of calm, comfort, happiness, and the pure bliss where I can look at him and feel home. I feel a little voice saying he’s still the one. I just worry, what if I’m more in love with the wedding or the engagement moment (hasn’t happened but we’ve talked about it) and after two years should we even be talking about it…

  • Emma

    Sheryl, like others I find that you just seem to post the perfect blog at the perfect time. Last night I came within inches of breaking up with my partner – the urge to leave was just too strong, but I could not fathom why I wanted to leave.

    I am luckier than I dare believe to have such an incredible partner, who held onto me and talked and talked and talked to me. We shared the most amazing connection last night once I had voiced all the different sides of me that were all screaming out.

    This morning I wrote to myself, in capital letters, that this lives in me. There is nothing wrong with him or with our relationship, in fact, I can’t believe how lucky I am. It’s all in me, and I know if I walk away from this relationship I will be making a huge, huge mistake.

    Yet my mind is so incredibly resistant to doing the work. I can just feel myself underneath, determined to do the work, but at the same time I have a wall of stone that is determined to say no.

    How can I break through this wall? Just a few days ago I was ready and open to doing the work – how do I converse with this incredible resistance when it is determined to stare straight ahead?

  • Mary

    Hi Sheryl,

    I have been in a healthy relationship (man woman) for 4 years and for about three of them I have been in a lot of anxiety. All of my symptoms are the ones you list over and over again, including worrying that I am gay. I am currently in therapy and had a session last week where my therapist suggested a different sexuality label for myself, because of my anxieties about being gay. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that but I feel like I have been wanting someone to help me out of those anxieties because deep down I feel like I know they aren’t true. But now I am questioning everything and extremely confused. Do you think it is possible for a smart, well intentioned therapist to lead someone down a wrong path? I have been going to him for 6 months and because I talk about how I am not traditionally feminine and I have a lot of anxiety about getting married one day and having children, this is how he came to the point of suggesting a new sexual/gender identity. Sometimes the only thing keeping me in my relationship has been reading your articles. Thank you for them. They have really helped me for over 2 years now and I hope to one day take your e-course and actually change my patterns.

    Best,
    Mary

  • Emma

    Sheryl, thank you. Like so many others, your words always come at the right time.

    I am feeling so much resistance right now, to the point that I came within inches of leaving my partner.

    Every time I try to interact with that part of me I get silence, or I get “You just don’t love him”. What do I do with this part of me? How do I engage it in conversation to find out what’s underneath?

    • You ask, “If I wasn’t focused on the belief that it’s about him, what would I be feeling right now? What is this thought protecting me from feeling?” And you sit, breathe, move your body in some way, and wait. The hardest part of the work is to unhook from the well-worn thoughts patterns/circuitry that wants you to believe that the problem is your partner.

      • agnes

        Thank you, Sheryl, I needed this spelling out for me. When I ask “what is this thought protecting me from feeling?” I am quite inpatient waiting for the response. I barely wait at all, in fact. If there’s no immediate answer I’m back to the head chatter of “see? It DOESN’T work”. Do you suggest we move or breathe for however long it takes for emotion to arise?

        • Emma

          I agree, I needed to learn patience. I waited tonight, and it seemed to take forever, but eventually it came. But I don’t know what it means.

          It was the voice of a terrified little girl who hasn’t been listened to for decades. There was the briefest sense of something which had happened long ago, but I can’t see it. It brought tears to my eyes though.

          Is it possible that something has been so squashed down that I can no longer remember it clearly, but it’s still affecting me?

  • Gen

    Hi Sheryl,

    Yes that speaks to what I have been feeling! Thank you!

    It also may explain how I got into my other relationship as it “felt” right but was reminiscent of my past – if that makes sense.

    Thanks again Sheryl.

    Hopefully I can move forwards from here.

  • Bee

    So lately I’ve been feeling okay. & in work ive been having training with another guy from another store. This guy is married, he may be a few years older I am not sure, he seems like a nice guy, very chatty and got a lot of humour. He helps me a lot with work.. the other day he was over at our store and he was speaking to a customer for me, he was telling the customer that I would go out and do a home measure for them (I design kitchens) and as he said “my colleague bianca here will come out and measure” he winked at me. & since then my head has been in overdrive.
    “Why did he wink at me” “does it mean he likes me cause he winked at me” “was he flirting” “do I like him” “do I fancy/have a crush on him” “when he winked at me did I feel anything” “do I look at him and make him think that maybe I like him”
    It’s basicslly ridiculous how much it goes round and round in my head. These thoughts bother me more than it bothered me when I had the whole “do I love him” thoughts because it’s making me feel like I’m being unfaithful to my partner. I don’t want to like anyone else, fancying someone else scares me because I don’t want that to happen. I know sometimes you can’t help if you end up liking someone else but I’ve only ever met this guy like 3/4 times, I don’t have a connection or anything with him, I don’t even want to, I’d choose my boyfriend over him/any other guy any day.

    Is this normal? Is this another form of rocd / anxiety?
    I just worry “what if you do like someone else” cause I don’t want to lose/leave my partner, he is still the person I want my life with 🙁 I hate the idea of liking anyone else.

    I’ve told my partner about this and he is still being so supporting. I don’t wanna lose him. I can’t lose him. He’s the best thing that’s happened to me. I’ve wanted for so long to meet someone and finally have that “he is the one” feeling and feel in love all the time, just makes me feel sad that when I’ve finally met someone who deep down I know is the one I want to spend my life with that I have all these thoughts.

  • Ruth

    Hi Sheryl,
    Whenever you say ‘as long as you share the same values and vision’ it really spikes me. That’s the thing I’m most afraid of – finding out that it’s not true so I avoid working it out. I guess some of the values my parents would say are most important, we don’t entirely share, and I’m not sure I know well enough what my values are to know if we share them. We don’t share faith, have different views on marriage, have different views on other things, but are in a loving relationship…
    I know this is reassurance seeking but I find it so hard.
    Thanks!

    • Ruth

      I’m also aware I’m going round in circles which look like I’m working on it but are probably just different forms of reassurance seeking… I’m on a lot of different groups and support forums…

      • I suggest you get off the forums and groups and commit to your own process.

        • Ruth

          Where is best to start with that? Act therapy is something I’ve touched on. I find mindfulness and meditation really really hard. I find journaling takes me too deeply inside my thoughts and allows for rumination. I’ve got some phrases and images that help but I know there’s more out there in terms of recovery, I just can’t seem to commit to one thing.

        • CT

          Sheryl if you don’t mind me to ask, what to you mean by basic values and vision?
          I feel like we always been on the same page with all of that woth my partner, but something in me spiked when i read basic vison.
          Musc appreciated,
          CT

          • Ruth

            No I don’t… As I said, I struggle to focus on anything. I also don’t know where those comments are anymore.
            I can’t afford your course and I know you’ve suggested it before. I’m still new to exploring rocd and am now at a different point in my process where I know what I’m doing isn’t working.

  • sally ann

    Is there information on the website about the best journaling practices? I seem to simply cycle thru the pain and wounds without finding insights…

    Thank you. Your words are always so very helpful to me.

  • rochelle

    Hi Sheryl
    Ive been doing this work for about 2 years now, daily journaling, filling my well of self, facing my feelings, healing past pain…and Ive definitely healed/grown a lot! However I still have this “feeling” that its not quite right. It feels a lot like the feeling you get when you leave the house and feel like you’ve forgotten something then realise you have left your keys in the house, or the feeling you get when you go to view a house to buy and it doesn’t feel quite right, but then don’t get that feeling with the one you actually buy! Ive been listening to my intuition a lot over the past 2 years and noticing what it sounds like compared to fear. And I have to say this sounds a lot like the times Ive been right to question/doubt. There’s no red flags in our relationship, for the most part we are physically/emotionally/intellectually connected, we make each other laugh everyday, we share the same values and vision, we use each others love languages everyday. We are not perfect- in an ideal world we would argue less and make love more, but we always try- when one of us in withdrawing the other one will reach out. When I am grounded and calm I know we have something really specially but this feeling still hides inside. Ive tried moving towards it with curiosity but cant seem to understand it any better than thinking its just not right and with someone else I wont have this feeling.
    We are still working on handling conflict (reading Hold Me Tight Book etc) do you think it could be this which is keeping me stuck or more inner healing to do?
    Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    • I don’t think it’s the conflict that’s keeping you stuck. I think it’s the belief that the feeling of “it’s not right” is because of your relationship.

      • rochelle

        So then what could this feeling be? More inner work to do? Or am I missing something?? Ive looked through your blog and course but cant find much on “feelings” more about thoughts.

        ive just found this on your blog which speaks to me;

        “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then, gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

        • Yes, that’s one of my favorite quotes and I’ll be writing more on it next week. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s thoughts or feelings. What matters is that we approach our inner world with tremendous curiosity and resist the urge to mis-assign meaning by automatically assuming that the “missing feeling” is because of an external situation.

  • Anetij

    Dear Sheryl, I have been battling this anxiety for 2 years, since engagement. I recently celebrated 1 year anniversary, but anxiety and doubts continue to plague me. I have never had infatuation phase and had doubts very early on. My concern is that my anxiety often manifests as strong emotions of unhappiness rather than thoughts. Is that common? How do you address it?

  • lovingkindness

    Hi Sheryl!

    Thank you for the timely reminder to get back to basics and do the work! Also, I love that you reminded us as readers to commit to 6 months or more. I know when I started this journey in October 2016 I felt like I could just power through the course and be healed! And then when after 2-3 months I wasn’t healed, I felt something was wrong. Great reminder.

    I actually just got engaged to my wonderful partner last week! I am very excited, and this engagement wouldn’t be possible without finding your work. Had I found a different site other than yours to answer the question,”What does it feel like to fall out of love?” my relationship would have been toast! I am very grateful for your work and the healing journey you have lead me on. <3

    Despite feeling very good for a few months now, and excitedly waiting after picking out my engagement ring, im feeling the thoughts creep back in like "what if I am bored of him? Is this what I want? Will I really be happy?" I don't feel anxious, which I think is actually a sign of growth because I'm no longer unconsciously pulled into the underworld. Instead, i just hear the uptick in the thoughts and am able to observe them. I think it's just called me to do a new layer of healing with this transition. I will recommit to the DAILY work and turn inward – my habits have slacked in the months of feeling good.

    Much love,

    LK

  • Eve

    This was super needed today! I have had an interesting first year of marriage, where about the last 6 months were pretty clear headed and enjoyable, but the last month or so has just been spike after spike. I know I’m feeling stuck when I have a spike, it feels TERRIBLE and IMPORTANT and TRUE, I feel awful, inauthentic, and I stop seeing a future version of myself. I can’t imagine kids, moving house, buying a car, etc., because I just feel so stuck and uncertain. My spikes always land on the same theme, “is he moral enough”? are our differences in values of morality a deal breaker? But then I have moments where I zoom out, and feel that the spike (whatever it is), is just not that important. Days go by, sometimes weeks, where I’m just more in the moment and don’t get as hooked by thoughts or they just feel more silly. It’s been difficult again this though, so I appreciate the reminder to actually DO something about it, and not necessarily just reassurance seek through reading or asking friends their thoughts. Merci Sheryl!

    • Eve

      Maybe to clarify the thoughts about morality… he is a loving, compassionate and thoughtful person. But sometimes he complains about paying too high taxes, or makes a non politically correct comment, etc. Writing these things helps me see them as less important than they FEEL, but man, do they ever FEEL SIGNIFICANT in the moment!

      • Alyssa

        Hi Eve!

        I think these little moments feel more significant than they are because it’s our ego and our fear looking for any little thing so it can try to convince us to leave. I need reminders of this often too, as my boyfriend sometimes does things like that that bother me. For example, last night at a restaurant, he ordered his drink without looking up and making eye contact with our waitress. I was a waitress once upon a time so I make a conscious effort to be as friendly and respectful as I can be to waitstaff, so seeing him do something I would consider “disrespectful” spiked me and made me question his morality. Meanwhile, like you said, he is such a loving, thoughtful and compassionate person! And once I thought about it, we have been at a restaurant more times than I can count where he was friendly and outgoing to the staff. Perhaps he was just in a non-friendly mood, or was thinking intently about something else (the menu, his day, etc.). But at the time, it FELT immoral and it FELT like a big deal.

        It’s great that you wrote it down and realized the nitpicking that we make out to mean much more than it does. It’s so important to be able to decipher the difference between our fear ego and an actual red flag!

        • Eve

          Hi Alyssa,

          Thanks for your very kind and thoughtful response. It’s always comforting to be reminded that I’m not alone in these experiences, and your example definitely clarified the difference between something feeling important versus being a red flag ! I’m sure I myself have occasionally been inpatient with a waitress without realizing 😉

  • Nosebleed

    Beautiful article, Sheryl, as always 🙂
    In my own exprience, looking for the quick fix is actually really, really counterproductive. When I was deep down into the rabbit role of anxiety, your blog and articles helped me immensely in getting my life back and stopping the physical symptoms of anxiety (for the most part). But it didn’t stop me from ruminating and giving fuel to the fire of intrusive thoughts. Once I read a quote or an article that would give me relief, I just thought: “Oh, I see! There’s no problem here. I just have to stop thinking that there is no “The One” or perfect partner. I feel so better now!”. Surely, abandoning old beliefs is an important part of your work, but just a part of it.
    As a result of this constant ingaging with the intrusive thoughts, my fears of resistence became so, so high. Lately I’ve been drowing in a sea of cynism and utilitarianism: “You could leave your partner and you would still find someone special. You could even cheat on your partner and this wouldn’t prevent you from finding another special someone and being happy in the future. You could leave your partner and find someone who’s more attractive and you would still be happy – if not happier – in the future. You could be happy AND have a special partner who’s also a MORE ATTRACTIVE partner”.
    I kept my ego on the driver seat and now it’s more convincing and colder than ever. Not only the loving feelings diminished, but the affectionate/friendship feelings too: but I think that’s the direct consequence of such empty, cold, egoistic and love-free views of romantic relationships and people. Not being able to feel the affection and the importance I have for my partner was really, really hurtful. I’m slowly getting better, but this wasn’t a pleasant experience. At all.
    I hope that sharing my experience will prevent others to go through this. It’s such a damaging view for your relationship and it gets harder and harder to open your heart again. Luckily, I’m still fighting hard, and I can still feel the love for my partner inside of me. And if it survived months of comparing, looking at what’s missing, negative thoughts, or even resentment, maybe it’s more real and stronger than I thought. 🙂

  • Anetij

    Dear Sheryl, thank you for replying. As for daily tools – I am journaling (sometimes posting on forum, sometimes not) and going for swim and run regularly. I re-started therapy sessions once every two weeks. However, I also have indulged in blog and forum post reading. I do feel stuck and the fact it has been 2 years worries me. I also worry that I never had deep clarity about my choice. It has been more mind based acknowledgment and affection. What I am not seeing?

    • Without working with you personally I can’t say exactly what it is that’s keeping you stuck. However, my hunch is that there’s still a way in which you’re blaming your unhappiness on your choice of partner and are hooked into the story of “I never had deep clarity about my choice.” As long as you believe the story, you will remain stuck and it will prevent you from delving into the deeper healing work that needs your attention – the root source of your pain that has nothing to do with your partner.

  • Hi Sheryl – I just wanted to say thank you. I found your work in Spring 2015 when I was going crazy with anxiety. I remember taking lunchtime walks at work and just crying the whole way around thinking I just had to leave my boyfriend. Well a LOT has happened since then, the culmination of which was getting married in May this year and it was the best weekend of both of our lives by a long shot! I am truly happy with my wonderful husband (and our new puppy Luna! We have a family!).

    This wouldn’t have happened without you. I’ve been subscribed to your blog for two and a half years now, but I think it’s time for me to go. I hope this comment helps all the ladies who are still on their journeys – you will get there if you do the work, as Sheryl says! Once again – thanks Sheryl for letting me accept happiness in my life xoxoxo

  • Custard353

    Hi
    What is classed as effective journaling? I write/type out my thoughts and emotions every day and read them back to try and gain perspective. I also write down any clear headed, loving adult voices/thoughts and i have. At the end of a journaling session, I write down things which I am grateful for. I have also started meditating every day and participating in yoga. But I am worried this is still not enough.

  • Blue_Is_Beautiful

    Hi Sheryl,
    How to deal with resistance when it takes the form of ‘I don’t have time’? I know it is resistance and I know it is a question of choice, however I keep telling myself that I will do it (later), and I just never start doing the real inner work. Also, do you have any recommandation regarding how to better manage our time? It is a difficulty that I have since childhood.
    Thank you

    • It’s a challenge for many people, and often has root causes in old patterns around original caregivers that have to do with control and resistance. But the short answer is to harness your loving inner parent who can say, “Enough! Enough procrastinating! It’s time to get down to work.” Easier said than done…

  • Marlene

    I’m interested in what you might say to a person who isn’t having anxiety as much as disappointment and still feeling a lack of attraction that makes intiMac difficult. When I push through the feeling of revulsion I end up feeling empty. Any thoughts?

  • Endofmyteather

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thanks for a timely and thorough post. Your article brings up for me one massive point of confusion. Where is the line between accepting and being with your feelings/images/voices/thoughts and not putting energy into them and putting them to the side. It would be impossible for me to put my ruminations to the side. Even if I’m not thinking them they are there through image or feeling. It is so deeply entrenched and I can image just writing them down and putting them to the side. I’m afraid it would add fuel to the fire.

    This boundary between accepting and living with anxiety and then fostering the inner parent is something I can’t quite strike a balance on.

    I feel like I am misunderstanding something fundamental. How can I move forward from here?

    Many thanks!

  • A

    Caught in the midst of indecision at the moment. I feel like I do want to leave my boyfriend… the relationship is beginning to feel really draining and stressful, because we both keep arguing and I feel bad for saying this but I feel like he isn’t as smart as me. 🙁 I didn’t know how else to word it sorry… we can’t have really interesting conversations about things because half the times he’s too opinionated / not willing to have a discussion or he doesn’t understand the terminology that I’m using. It’s becoming increasingly frustrating. At first I thought it was the relationship anxiety… but this has been a prominent anxiety of mine. I don’t know how I can be accepting of him, in relation to this… I have always been drawn to someone who can challenge me and the only way he challenges me is to piss me off in an argument we are having. Our arguments are intense and borderline toxic and he isn’t a very forgiving person… sometimes I think he’s that silly that I have to tell him right from wrong… almost like I’m playing the role of Mother. To me this is a red flag? And I’m exhausted and almost out of love with him at this point. I have no hope for us and am taking this as a sign that God wants us to finish because we are not right for each other. 🙁

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