Among the many questions that dart through the mind plagued by relationship anxiety, the one that can cause either hope or despair is, “Will this anxiety ever end? The short answer is yes: the acute anxiety that you’re experiencing – the one that wakes you in the night and causes you to lose your appetite, will end when you receive accurate information and can douse the flames of “What’s wrong with me?” with a good splash of truth-water. But the shelf-life of deeper layers of the anxiety are directly correlated to your ability and willingness to pull the projection off your partner and take full responsibility for your well-being. The equation is simple: if anxiety is a call from soul to wake up and heal then the depth of our healing is in direct proportion to the depth of our willingness to hear and heed the call.
That said, every once in a while one of my longterm clients – someone I’ve been working with for six or seven years who found me prior to getting married when they were dragged into the trenches of relationship anxiety – will have a spike. These are clients who are in solid, loving relationships that hum along nicely most of the time, but when they’re in transition or caught in a stress-spiral of life, the relationship anxiety can re-emerge.
Luckily, because of the work they did when relationship anxiety was at its peak, the spikes no longer drag them down the rabbit hole. And because they’re still steeped in their inner work and they understand that projection in all forms – especially and including relationship anxiety – is an indicator that something is off-kilter in one of the three channels the comprise a marriage (relationship with self, partner’s relationship with self, relationship with each other), they’re not hooked by the anxiety. In other words, just like a headache often indicates dehydration or blood sugar drop, the anxiety is pointing to a disconnect or need, and instead of latching onto the initial fear-based hook of “this must mean I’m in the wrong relationship” they’re quickly able to turn the magnifying glass into a mirror and ask, “What is happening that needs my attention?”
So to ask, “Will relationship anxiety ever end?” is kind of like asking, “Why do I keep getting headaches when I’m dehydrated?” The acute layer will end, but once we understand that anxiety is a symptom and a messenger, our entire perspective on the anxiety shifts from one of shame and alarm to curiosity and compassion, and instead of treating the symptom at the level of the symptom we delve into exploring the root causes.
An offshoot of this question is, “Will I have to work on myself forever?”, which I understand to mean, “Will I have to keep using the tools that you teach in your courses if I’m going to feel better?” Again, this is akin to asking, “Do I have to keep exercising and eating well if I want to feel good in my body?” There are certain actions we must take in order to feel alive and well. Because of the explosion in consciousness around physical health in recent decades we understand that exercise and healthy eating are precursors to well-being, and that these actions require time and effort. The mental-emotional health consciousness is catching up but we’re not quite there yet, which means that we still have a lazy attitude when it comes to inner wellness and believe that it should somehow happen effortlessly once we take a course or read a few books. If you want to feel a sense of meaning, purpose, and well-being, then yes, you have to use the tools on a daily basis. But the beauty is that, once the tools are integrated, it doesn’t feel like work anymore. It’s just becomes part of the fabric of how you live your life and approach your inner world.
It’s always inspiring to connect with people years later who were once in the trenches of relationship anxiety to hear about how they’re doing now. I recently checked in with “Leo”, whose full story is contained in the free Conscious Weddings E-Course Sampler and the Break Free Sampler for Men, to see how he’s doing five years later after he first contacted me and took my course. Here’s his response:
To update you on what things are like 5 years after, I must say that marriage is and has been great. More than great, really. It has grown and evolved beautifully, just as we did over time and through the challenges, victories, losses and changes of life. It’s something that takes two people to nurture, but provides such infinite rewards.
In our short 5 years together, we experienced many happy days and our share of dark periods of despair, but what’s important is that every morning I get to wake up to a person I love more and more. Love is indeed not just a feeling, but an action, a choice, and a decision, and it takes time to fully understand that. And this is what the e-course helped me do. This doesn’t mean that occasional projection doesn’t strike, but when it does, it is so much easier to disarm than I ever thought possible using well-practiced tools.
When I found the Conscious Weddings E-Course course, I knew right away that this was the approach and the tools I needed. And so I did the course, then another, and then a number of sessions with Sheryl, because I wanted to truly understand it. This work is not a one-time shot, and I don’t think it’s meant to be something you do for the rest of your life over and over, but it’s almost like learning how to drive, or learning a new language. Once you invest yourself into learning it, it becomes a part of your life toolkit, and a part of who you are. Then it becomes simply a matter of practicing it. It took concentrated effort at first, but after some practice it became an ongoing part of my self-care. It is almost like having an owner’s manual for a sensitive mind.
The tools I learned helped me with many other highly stressful transitions: switching jobs, moving, buying a house, infertility and pregnancy loss, and providing care for my extended family. They also helped me to understand other people, to recognize other sensitive minds, some of whom like me once, don’t understand or refuse to acknowledge their own sensitivity. I came into this work just wanting a quick fix to my projections and pre-wedding anxiety, but ended up learning so much and healing so much of my inner self. Breaking free from anxiety let me reconnect to my sensitive inner being, and to enjoy life, love, pursue my hobbies and interests instead of spending days ruminating and projecting. Doing this work has been one of the most important things I’ve done for myself.
To all of you who are in the trenches, hang on. Trust that the anxiety is here for a reason, that it is, as hard as it feels sometimes, a gift and a messenger, and that once you incorporate a mindset of growth and practice effective tools you will open your heart to a lifelong path of learning about love in all ways. As Leo said, it’s like having an owner’s manual for the sensitive mind. Buckle up, read the manual, practice the tools until they’re integrated, and you will find your way to the open-heartedness that you’re longing for.