Falling in Love with Other People

Let’s blow the cover off of another taboo topic in our culture, one that causes my clients to barely be able to whisper their experience loud enough to share it with me: “falling in love” with people other than your partner, including bosses, celebrities, religious figures, and even your therapist.

I’ll start by reiterating something I often express on this blog, which is that I deeply wish that we, as a culture, were more educated about the normal thoughts and feelings that the vast majority of people experience. It saddens me that there are still so many aspects of our inner terrain that remain hidden. I’m not sure where these kinds of conversation need to be happening – perhaps in school or university – but I know that the vast majority of the shame that people feel about their normal thoughts and feelings would be eradicated if they simply knew that they were shared by millions of other people. So when a client comes to me and shares that the “feelings” they’re having for their therapist, for example, is causing them to sink into a cesspool of shame, I want to reach out across space and infuse a huge dose of normal into their veins. If they only knew how textbook this is they could bypass the shame and cut directly to harvesting the gemstones of the experience.

There’s a term in psychology called transference, which essential means the tendency for a client to project their unmet feelings and needs onto their therapist. This can apply to almost anyone in your life, especially those in a position of power. For the next few paragraphs I’ll use the example of falling in love with your therapist, but if that hasn’t been your experience please apply the information to any time you’ve had a “crush”. In the case of the therapy room, this often looks like a client who wishes that her therapist was her father, mother, or lover. Transference, like projection, can manifest in both positive and negative form, meaning that we can transfer “positive Daddy” or “negative Daddy” onto a male therapist and positive Mommy” or “negative Mommy” onto a female therapist. Regardless of the nature of the experience for the client, those of us steeped in the world of psychology always regard the emergence of transference as positive for it means that the client feels safe enough with the therapist to begin to address their deeply-seated blueprints around their early relationships and is being led to take back their gold.

We “fall in love” all the time, which really means that we can project our mother-longing or father-longing onto almost anyone: a therapist, celebrity, sports hero, professor or teacher, boss. Transference doesn’t always take the form of sexual longing, but when it does it’s important to understand that it’s the psyche’s way of trying to “have” someone else completely, the way we do when we make love, and also the way a baby, in the ideal scenario, has his or her mother completely. It’s our way of trying to fuse with someone who carries the qualities that we’re longing to receive from another and, ultimately, trying to grow inside ourselves. We long to be seen, held, loved, carried, validated, mirrored – all experiences that ideally would have occurred early on with mother or father but likely didn’t to the degree we needed, so we transfer them onto others as a way to see them externally first then integrate them internally. It’s what Jungian analyst Robert Johnson refers to as “taking back our gold.

“The alchemical gold has been processed differently in other cultures and other era. In the medieval period, people had a local saint or hero or at least a relic to hang onto. If you couldn’t have the saint around to hold your projection of the divine, at least you could have a bone or a piece of his or her clothing.

“In today’s secular societies, while we are channeling the religious impulse and projection of the highest value onto romantic love on the individual level, we are at the same time channeling it into celebrities at the collective level. We worship not only the would-be gurus but also the Sunday afternoon sports heroes, the movie stars, and the latest rock ‘n’ roll bands. We create Hollywood and Disneyland to carry our projections of greatness. But as a society we are putting ourselves at risk in this process, for a celebrity may not be a true hero. As the great mythologist Joseph Campbell once pointed out, the celebrity lives only for his or her own ego, while the hero acts to redeem society. We have many celebrities but few true heroes these days. Modern Westerners have evolved psychologically to the point where we are placing our gold on living beings rather then dead bones, as was done in medieval times, but it remains to be seen whether we can learn to carry our own gold and find heaven within instead of without.” (pp. 66-7)

When you find yourself “falling in love”, it’s an opportunity to introject and integrate the next layer of your inner masculine or feminine and carry your own gold. Longing for a male therapist, for example, when worked with consciously, can be understood as a longing for one’s own animus (inner masculine) and often initiates a grieving process around the unmet needs in one’s relationship with one’s biological father before introjecting the inner masculine/loving father into psyche. The more you develop this aspect of yourself, the less you will long for your therapist (or whoever the subject of your projection may be).

And of course it’s the therapist’s job to maintain an ironclad boundary with the client at all times and especially when transference is present. It’s the watertight seal of the therapeutic relationship that allows for the alchemical process of healing to occur. If the therapist pokes even the tiniest hole in the seal, not only is the possibility of healing shattered but the safety also collapses, which means that the client will feel violated.

Transference can happen just as easily with a same-sex crush, and here it’s essential to understand that transference has nothing to do with sexuality or sexual orientation and everything to do with the psyche’s push to integrate the next layer of Selfhood. At its core, our unconscious or soul has one guiding principle: to move toward wholeness. From a Jungian perspective, this means integrating our feminine and masculine aspects into the next layer of healing and growth. So when transference becomes sexualized, we see it like a dream image: it’s our psyche’s way to try to introject another’s qualities at the deepest level. Just like we don’t take dreams about having sex with someone else at face value, so we understand that the feeling of being “in love” or having sexual longing indicates that we’re in the realm of gathering our gold.

What I know from my Jungian studies, my work with clients, and my own life is that there’s only one thing that meets that place of longing: our relationship to spirit, source, God, or whatever you want to call it. Our parents weren’t meant to fill our Well to completion and meet our every need; they were only imperfect humans doing their best to love us in the only way they knew how. Despite what Hollywood and Disney say, our partners aren’t meant to complete us or rescue us or make us feel like life is worth living; they, too, are only imperfect people doing their best to find their way on this tricky and challenging planet. Therapists and professors and religious figures can fill in a piece of the puzzle, but it’s certainly not their job to lead us into wholeness. Over and over again and through a variety of sources we’re lured into believing that the antidote to our emptiness and longing comes from out there, yet the more we seek completion through anything external – including and perhaps mostly these days spending time on the internet – the emptier we feel.

Here are some basic guidelines to follow when you feel consumed by a crush:

  1. Notice the longing and name it for what it is: normal and healthy transference. Remind yourself that it’s not literal but that, like intrusive thoughts and other manifestations of anxiety, it’s a clue that there’s something inside that needs your attention and that, when approached consciously, will reveal gems.
  2. Remove the shame by reminding yourself that this is normal and healthy human experience designed to invite you into the next layer of healing.
  3. Become curious about the longing: What does it feel like? What does it remind you of? Is your psyche ready to integrate your own inner masculine Great Father or feminine Great Mother at a deeper level? Is there some aspect of yourself that you’re not seeing that you’re imagining will be seen by this external other?

The unassailable truth that needs to be placed forefront in the excavation process is that a crush stirs up longing like dust that has settled at the bottom of the soul, and that contained in this dust is an invitation to turn toward ourselves, to pull back the projections and seek an experience of wholeness in the company of our own being. When we become adept in the language of longing, we may even begin to find rapture in the longing itself. This, in itself, allows us to taste our own wholeness, if only for a moment. And that’s what we’re all seeking: to bathe body and soul in the gold-dust that carries the whispers of our own awakening.

86 comments to Falling in Love with Other People

  • anon

    Oh thank GOD for this post! I didn’t expect this at all this week. Thank you Sheryl. I think fear of/attraction is inevitable in any relationship. Luckily we have you to guide us. X

  • Nicole

    I “fell in love” with my personal trainer who happened to be a female. The trainer caught on and started acting inappropriate. I felt so guilty and so ashamed for a very long time. It caused me to have severe anxiety and depression. I started going to therapy (still do) and take meds to help with my panic attacks. I had to switch gyms to create distance and clear my head. Knowing that this is normal and I’m not “bad” is a huge relief. My question is.. do you recommend to cease all contact with someone who you have/had a crush on? Is it possible to have a friendship with them without jeopardizing your relationship?

    • Oh, it’s so normal, Nicole, and I’m so sorry that your trainer didn’t handle it well. “Falling in love” with one’s trainer is actually very common, and I wish everyone in a position of authority could be trained in this most normal of phenomena so that they could understand instead of abusing it. As for your question: If you’re referring to this particular trainer, I would absolutely recommend ceasing contact as it doesn’t sound like she’s someone you can trust.

  • Gary Pollitt

    Maybe this is a guy thing, but I fall in love with every attractive woman that smiles at me.

    I always trip out when people say that have never been in love before.

    I fall in love 3-5 times a day if I’m out in the world.

    • If you understand “fall in love” in the context in which I teach in this article you’ll see that you’re experiencing a phenomena of projecting you’re own unmet needs and dreams onto these women. It’s not real love and it has nothing to do with these women.

  • mel101

    So glad you posted this! But i had a quick question. My mind keeps telling me for 5 months that I like or love this other guy, but I don’t know really know anything about him. I really love and want to be with my boyfriend, but this just keeps coming up and I keep questioning if maybe I want to be with this other guy.I just don’t know anymore and i feel so bad and guilty. Please help

  • Brittany

    “And that’s what we’re all seeking: to bathe body and soul in the gold-dust that carries the whispers of our own awakening.”

    So beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. I also did not expect this post. I have been experiencing “crush” feelings for someone in a 12 step meeting I attend, and I knew not to take it at face value, but didn’t know the deeper meaning yet. Thank you for your guide. In the third part of the guidelines you wrote, you asked whether there was a part of ourselves we imagine will be seen by the other. YES. The crush came on the heals of some deep work with my therapist, during which my inner child opened up to me and shared with me what she wants to do in the world on an even deeper level. She is starting to feel me and trust me to hear her. I was filled with joy and so much love in connecting with her.

    Then, I totally imagined this guy would see HER and her aliveness, love, purity, and playfulness. And to an extent, he does, which is why I enjoy his presence at the meeting. But now I see it: the longing for the other to hold space for, cherish, and love this beautiful soul of mine. To ENSURE she gets to express herself in the world, something she is LONGING, LONGING, LONGING to do. And of course, that is my divine privilege to do. And I can share it with all whom I choose. It is certainly a process, which is why the “quick fix” of being seen by this man is so alluring. To my strategist, it is a way to get free. But this is my work, and I can feel how deeply satisfying it is for me to take this journey, rather than choose the “solution” in the other.

    Thank you!! <3

  • Kim

    This is my main problem. Mine was sudden thoughts of a friend that I had to cut out of my life whilst I work through my anxiety because the intrusive thoughts got too loud. I’m better at not hooking on as much, I often recognised the fear, but whatever it is is so deep rooted it keeps bouncing up. I’m working hard on it, but this is the message that I’ve been waiting for, thank you so much.

  • -C

    Thank you Sheryl for sharing such valuable and relieving information with us. I wonder, how do we know the difference from the longing you get when you really like someone as opposed to the longing you feel when there is transference? the longing sucks anyway. In my case, staying up in my head was always my addictive method to protect myself from pain and it took me years to understand it. My mind still gets carried away but I am able to later on identify it and name it. But how do we know the difference from the longing we get? Is longing healthy when we are seeing someone new?

    • I’m not sure I would describe the early feelings in a new relationship as “longing” unless you’re the pursuer and the other person is the distancer. When we’re in the position of pursuer and there’s a sense of uncertainty about the other person’s availability then, yes, longing can ensue.

  • rochelle

    HI Sheryl

    I know I just spoke to you the other day but Im really confused with my anxiety and really not sure if the doubts are valid or not. What Im stuck woith is, even when I am open hearted and feel connected to him I cant answer the questions right then if I want to marry him/spend the rest of our lives together. Yes I can say he is a great guy and loving etc but I cant answer “yes I want to marry him” Sometimes I think “omg I cant actually believe im going to marry him” other times Im excited to get married, day dreaming about the wedding, but I think im just excited about the wedding rather than the marriage. I just read one of your posts “am I convincing myself to stay” and on the end of the article is said that

    “The last question I think you should ask yourself is what is your desire? What is your want? Do you WANT to marry him? Forgetting all of the fear or lack of emotions, what do you want deep down? The reason I ask this, is your comment about no part of you saying you want to be with your fiancé. In my situation, despite all the crappy feelings, I wanted to marry my husband. Yes I felt scared, sometimes so scared I couldn’t even get out of bed or make it through the day without breaking down, but in the end, what I *wanted* was to get married. What do you want?”

    Im not sure that is what I want. I think I just don’t want to go through a horrible break up!

    Thank you

    • Having just recently spoken with you I can say that your fear-mind is at the helm right now. How would you respond to this voice from a loving, wise part of you? I know she’s in there ;).

      • rochelle

        She would say: Fear is never out of the drivers seat long enough to be able to feel the “want” when I continue to heal and unhook from the projections more easily I will be able to feel the “want” to marry him.

        At the moment it just feels like I want to want to marry him. Or if I do feel like I want to marry him its for the wrong reasons.

        Also remember how I said I’d read an article about a woman having doubt in one relationship then not with her husband. Well I found another article from her (I know Im obsessed and I know you said to be careful what I read!!) But I am actually pleased I did, because in this one she said how she had fear of making a mistake and cold feet when marrying her husband. So after all that she actually did have doubt! Ive spent 3 years clinging on to that she didn’t have any doubt! So this has allowed me to relax that some doubt is normal. But whats different is that she says “in her heart she knew he was the right partner” and I cant honestly say that.

        You posted a blog post I think recently and there was a lifeline story in it, a girl who had doubt from the beginning and now she’s happily married there was picture of her in her wedding dress looking out of a window. I can’t find the post?

        Thank you

    • CT

      Omg rochelle, you have no idea HOWMUCH i can relate to this specific topic. And also reading the same article i got full on anxiety attack. I felt like I couldn’t answer those questions and it really scared me.
      And its been bugging me lately again. The marriage is question. I feel lik i have voice in my head that I don’t wat to marry him but it doesn’t make any sense to me bc for so long i knew I wanted to mqrry my partner, I couldn’t wait for the proposal. And boom 3 weeks after the proper i had my first full on anxiety attack. Its been almost 2 y since my anxiety started.
      I kno that i love my man,I don’t want to leave,I don’t want to lose him. But the marriage question just makes me feel that if i have that voice in my head sayig that I don’t want marry him that must be my truth. But again those thing don’t bring me peace. Im just a bit lost.. 🙁
      I guess i just wanted say that you are not alone

      • rochelle

        Hi CT, thanks for your supportive message! Good to know we aren’t alone 😉
        Its great that you have that anchor to go back to that “for so long you wanted to marry your partner” so when anxiety kicks in or when you can’t feel what you “want” you know that you wanted to marry him before all the anxiety! I would keep going back to that!
        For me, I had anxiety/doubt on our first date! I remember sitting opposite him, the conversation flowing and I felt confident and myself and so interested in what he had to say that I though “Oh wow this is going to be an important relationship for me” after that I was always unsure if its what I really wanted. so its difficult for me to find that same anchor that I think people who don’t have anxiety from the beginning have.

        • There are SO many people on the Break Free course who had doubt from day one. I encourage you to go through the course again and listen to the interviews, especially those who talk about their early doubt.

        • CT

          Hi rochelle,
          Like Sheryl said,there are so so many peoole who have had the doubts in very beginning and they have been able to work through it. So again you are not alone at all !!!
          When you say that inhave this anchor that before the anxiety kicked in i knew I wanted to marry my partner..but again for me i find it so hard to use it as my anchor,it feels like it doesn’t matter what i knew and wanted before the anxiey. And in mu head its just that maybe The anxiety kicked in after the proposal bc I actually know that I don’t want to marry him. I still remember that when he proposed,i was in shock, and I remember that somwhere in my head for a second poped up a word no.. but of course i said yea. That is the other thing what really scared me. It didn’t make any sense,especially if i knew I wanted ot for ao long and then when it finally happened i was kinda in shock and i would never expected to have a word no going through my heas. Even writing it now i fewl ao uneasy and scared. Maybe i have just been lying to myaelf all thia timw :S
          But again i know that i love my man so so much,i dont want break up,i don’t want anyone else..i truly dont!!

  • Yachal


    I cannot put into words how much this article means to me. My anxiety really began after being deeply hurt/deceived/emotionally abused by a female mentor who helped me through my parents’ divorce. I carried the deepest, most secretive shame for so long that eventually morphed into obsessive anxiety about my sexuality. I have done a ton of work, but am still intermittently haunted and shamed by this part of my story. This article spoke a language and story to me that I have had trouble articulating and truly healed another small layer. Thank you, so much, for your work.

  • Marlene

    Wow! You just blew my mind! What a relief to know that the longing for “that guy” I could never have is perhaps an indication of something I’ve been ignoring too long in myself. Thank you thank you thank you!💗

  • Sarah

    I’ve been challenged with a lot of guilt lately around the topic of former emotional affairs, or crushes,I’ve had. I met my now husband of 13 years, when I was 17. I didn’t really date anyone else besides him. I have always loved him tremendously, but there have been many times throughout our relationship where I have had feelings for someone else. They didn’t always make me anxious either. A year ago is when I had my latest bout of anxiety, waking up to the thought, “Do I love him enough?” I’m working through this as relationship anxiety, but one of the mai. Things I keep returning to is, if I did REALLY live him, I wouldn’t have had feelings for (and in two cases made myself available) these other guys. Most articles about emotional affairs site that something is lacking in the primary relationship, but I came across one that made mention to affairs filling a personal void, a feeling that has been repressed – a need to feel alive, or longed for or young. I have always sought praise, recognition, and being wanted so this seemed a like what I was seeking in the crushes, not a lack of anything on my husband’s part. Your artical seems more in line with that which is what my issue is. I have felt a tremendous amount of guilt about these crushes. Thank you for this post, as it offers a new perspective.

  • Laura

    Thankyou for this Sheryl! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately in terms of having a crush on an old roommate and friend. I don’t want to be with him, but I want to feel what I had with him with my current partner which is a deep comfort, ease and fun. It made me reflect that this was also missing in my own life and I’ve been feeling serious, anxious and stressed rather than feeling at ease.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m kidding myself and I would be a “better match” with my old roommate. Is that a common think to feel/think? Even though I don’t actually want it, I just want to feel that way with my current partner rather than have fear and anxiety.


  • Kelli

    So powerful, and wise. This has to be my favorite post (although I gain so much insight from them all). I always tell my beautiful boyfriend that we are pathways to divine love. We act as doorways to each other, and I am so grateful for that. We will never fulfill each other’s every need but we can invite one another to have a taste of the divinity that lives in both of us. Your work has brought me closer to that understanding, as well as my own spiritual deepening. I no longer take my thoughts at face value, and now have many tools to come back to center, come back home, and feel the ecstasy of connection to myself, and inevitably my darling partner, as well. To those who are still experiencing the struggle, I promise you there is a way out. It looks and feels like deep compassion for yourself on this tumultuous human journey called life. Thank you, Sheryl. You are a wise woman.

  • Mary

    This post hit home. Thank you. Prior to reading this, I had my world shuck due to an experience like this, luckily I was blessed with many strong women around me that pointed me in the right direction.
    This article just confirms what I’ve gone through in the past two years.
    So much growth, so much love. I am still on my journey and growth. Love your blog and site.

  • Jen

    Hi Sheryl,

    Such wisdom distilled in beautiful writing.Thank you.I’d like to ask a question that is irrelevant to your topic here.It is when could I know that I am recovering from losing my mother? It is 4 years from the date and I just cannot seem to heal from the loss.I hope it is ok to ask.

    Thank you,


  • Anon

    Sheryl, I completely understand this post and it is so freeing in itself to understand this more deeply. If anything, it seems to eradicate self-doubt and anxiety when you can bravely see things this way. My one question is, I find, as I heal myself, that I become closer and more in love with my husband the more I allow my inner self to be loved and acknowledged. I find myself, in these early stages having an inner dialogue that tells me he sees that inner child when I acknowledge her and that seems to allow me to be more at peace and our love flows peacefully. Am I doing anything wrong in those moments though? By telling myself that he sees me and that that matters? Should we eventually be able to live and love from this energy we curate from within without the need to believe that others, even our partners, see and understand and cherish that inner child in us? In this sense, what is the difference between this type of “falling in love”, the one you discuss here, and really being in love with our partners?

  • Jen

    Hi again 🙂

    sorry-should’ve looked harder,found your “Invisible Lines of Hope” post about how everyone suffers..I forget so easily.Thank you for the prayers and hopeful words.I’m going to print it out.So beautiful.



  • Anon

    It may be that I’m confusing transference love with real love and forgetting that real love lives there between you irrespective of how much you love yourself but that sometimes it’s the experience of love that improves when you learn to love yourself first and not depend on the approval and acknowledgment of others to feel any one way…

    Thank you, Sheryl, for your wise words.

  • Nicki

    Okay, I have to be honest. I definitely needed an article with this title and my heart did a somersault when I saw the subject line of this email. But after reading it I find myself even more confused. Am I supposed to understand that I have feelings for another man because I’m missing something from my dad? Because my dad and I have a wonderful relationship – always have. And while I completely understand the truth that our cup needs to be filled by God (at least for me) and we cannot feel fully satisfied from anything else… still, I was looking for some comfort and peace and perhaps even methods for putting these feelings to rest for good. I know there is no magical fix, but I found this article to be so jumbled up in therapy and psychology jargon that I could barely make sense of it. I don’t have any idea what “finding my gold” means… I just want to stop having feelings for a friend of mine when I’m happily (except for the anxiety… but that’s why I’m here) on my way to being engaged. Anyways, I hope this is not taken as offensive or abrasive. I guess I’m just wondering if you have a dumbed down version for me? This is the topic I’ve been waiting for.
    I have tremendous respect for you, Sheryl, and everything you’ve done in your line of work. Finding you and your site was like a breath of fresh air when I felt as though I was suffocating under the weight of anxiety, unrealistic expectations and the myths our society believes about love. You have made me feel normal again, and given me so much peace. Thank you, and I wish you all the best!

    • If you’re newer to my work I can understand how this article might be confusing. I encourage you to go back and read as many of my earlier posts as you can until you can grasp what I’m describing. Also, I recommend reading as many books on my recommended reading list as you can, especially those by Robert Johnson. Learning to think in the language of metaphors takes time, so please be patient with yourself. This article might help:


  • H

    this is really helpful! but I wonder about something else that I think is distinct which is when you are in polyamorous relationship. of course, being poly does not block this from applying, but I wonder about situations where people are consciously choosing a different relationship style. thoughts?

  • rochelle

    She would say: Fear is never out of the drivers seat long enough to be able to feel the “want” when I continue to heal and unhook from the projections more easily I will be able to feel the “want” to be together.

    At the moment it just feels like I want to want to marry him.

    Also remember how I said I’d read an article about a woman having doubt in one relationship then not with her husband. Well I found another article from her (I know Im obsessed and I know you said to be careful what I read!!) But I am actually pleased I did, because in this one she said how she had fear of making a mistake and cold feet when marrying her husband. So after all that she actually did have doubt! Ive spent 3 years clinging on to that she didn’t have any doubt! So this has allowed me to relax that some doubt is normal. But whats different is that she says “in her heart she knew he was the right partner” and I cant honestly say that.

  • Nuris Martinez

    Thank you thank you thank you! Every time I read one of your articles, which I joyfully anticipate, I feel like another layer is shed. God bless you and your work!

  • Frances

    Love this article and perfectly timed. I have been struggling on and off for about 2 years now with a work “crush.” It’s not really a boss / authority figure situation, however when I started the job, I had to work underneath him on an assignment but now we are fully peers. I was feeling so shameful the past few months as at a few work events, which I will admit involved lots of alcohol, that I was engaging in flirting and fueling this crush. It caused me to spiral into a bit of relationship anxiety around “if I was in a great relationship why would I let this happen, why would I feel like I have a crush on someone” which of course perpetuated. Doing some soul searching on my own and reading this article are helping me to realize that maybe the crush has something to do with wanting to feel a certain way that I miss – being liked by someone in that adolescent way, or feeling more “free.” He lives by himself and has nobody to worry about but himself which at times I think I am jealous of. Not sure if anyone else has had a shared experience to that!

    Either way, thanks for posting this article! It’s helping me realize that most of these feelings are really about reconnecting with my “Self.” Going to start thinking about some self care steps that I can take to empower myself and ultimately be a better partner to my amazing husband.

  • Anetij

    Dear Sheryl, how would you approach “crushes” that focus on co-workers and are based on attraction, sense of humour, good looks, intelligence? People you could be tempted to date or even fall in love with if you were single. What hides there – unloved lives, escape from current difficulty etc.

  • talespinner

    It has been a while since I posted on here, but this particular entry pulled on some strings. I have been in a relationship with an amazing man for almost seven years, but that passionate spark as most of us are missing is not there. We started as friends and the relationship grew form that. We have a warm, loving, supportive, fun relationship and really it isn’t lacking when I really look at it. He is like a warm pair of socks I put on every day and I do really love him, I can feel that.

    Now here comes the small complication. I had a boyfriend off and on through my life. We met in the fourth grade and were inseparable, but due to outside influences we had to break it off. Then again when we were 18, came back together, but again could not go forward with what we had so desperately wanted to have. Over a year ago he saw me at a public function and we connected on Facebook (destructor of relationships), and all those feelings came back on both our parts immediately, and have stayed for over a year now. We keep minimal contact, occasionally will go out to eat, and although the topic of reconnecting has come up, I have stayed within my boundaries, not crossed the line, and have been a supportive and caring friend for him and he for me. I am trying to approach who he is now with curiosity to really try to “see” him, something we never did as kids.

    He is engaged as am I, and he has many things he needs to work on in his life, that I frankly don’t want to take on. In so many ways it is a beautiful relationship because we know once again, it is not our time, but this time we can choose to keep contact without a forced departing which can be quite painful at times.

    I did tell my mate about him as well and he is not the jealous type, (he understands the human heart is complex and we can love more than one person at a time), we are friends first, his response was if I want to be with this person, then I was free to go, he really is an amazing man. Now I will repeat, I love my partner, I care for him very deeply, he is my best friend, and I can’t imagine my life without him, so that should answer the above question, but it comes back to me knowing without a doubt, that this other person, I will always be in love with and this hurts me, like something is missing without him. I would in some ways rather have these feelings (as gross as they are) with my current partner, but for whatever reason, I am drawn to this other man.

    My biggest issue is, I feel like I am home when I am with him. I feel a sense of ease that I don’t have with my current partner, (although I can feel that building over the years). The familiarity is so strong, it is hard to ignore it, and honestly I keep thinking if we still love one another this much after 31 years, perhaps I am passing up someone I really should be with.

  • Samantha

    Hi Sheryl,

    I love my boyfriend but I also sometimes feel as if I like or love one of our mutual best friends who is very close to me. We share a similar sense of humor and he is very comforting when things aren’t going so well for me. It freaks me out because I love my boyfriend but also feel like I have feeing for this friend. I’m not sure if this is transference or perhaps my ego telling me I would be more in love with him as a way to shield myself from the real love that is already present in my relationship.

  • Unsure

    Would this theory also explain the obsessions with an ex?

  • Jennie

    Oh my goodness, yes. I’m a Catholic woman who has had what felt like “crushes” on priests and other men who reminded me of Jesus, and on women whose traits reminded me of the Blessed Mother. For a while these feelings panicked me, then I began to suspect that these were not true romantic impulses as much as transferences of my desires for deep connection with what I see as Holy. Thanks, Sheryl, for this post.

    • Yes, yes, yes. This is exactly what I’m talking about.

      • Jennie

        I don’t usually like to second-post, but this is an exception as I want to add: The same-sex feelings of crushes were particularly terrifying as I don’t identify as gay, but then to realize that I am simply trying to access and tap into parts of myself that are begging to be actualized in my life, was very freeing. It is helpful for me now, a few years later, to see your word “introject” used and the whole process described in detail. It normalizes it for me. I wonder how many people experience profound confusion about their sexual orientation by not understanding this phenomenon, and hope many people will access your post and find these truths that lead to emotional freedom.

  • Stephanie

    I’m trying to dig into my feelings and try to resolve my needs that are not being met but I do t know how to resolve them. Changing my way of thinking is at my top priority list however I find it difficult to continuously do this.

  • Allison

    Sheryl, one day your blog posts will be published in an anthology of wisdom for the modern soul. Thank you for always being so generous with your words; they ground me in the confusing tumult of our time.

  • Cece

    Hi Sheryl,

    Can this theory also apply to your “first love”? I feel like in my situation, I stayed friends with my ex who was the first person I really fell in love with. And I have been with my current bf for a little over 4 years. My ex and I have mutual friends and he’s even friends with my boyfriend now. So because we have mutual friends, we all hang out alot. And even though I know he isn’t the type of guy I want, I can’t help but get those feelings of what i think is just lust or longing because thats I think all that relationship ever was. I even catch myself wanting to look nice before going out with my friends knowing he’s going to be there. It makes me feel guilty and bothered because it makes me feel like I’m doing a disservice to my boyfriend. And it worries me that I don’t do that with my current bf who is so wonderful and amazing but have all this relationship anxiety with. So I guess my question is, do you think that’s just a crush-y feeling I’ll always have or is there maybe some part of me that needs more closure that’s causing me all this anxiety?

  • Anon

    Hi Sheryl,

    I know you understand dreams a lot better than most people and i dont know where else to seek help in understanding what is happening to me. I feel so close to leaving my partner of 6 years because for the last few months i have been feeling as if i cant ‘recognize’ or remember him. Every morning I wake up and I feel as if we have broken up, and I havent seen him for weeks as a result. A lot of the feelings I have been experiencing are the exact same as just before and just after my ex and I broke up 7 years ago. In many ways I feel as if i am back in 2011 and its terrifying me. Most nights i dream of my ex too. There were no red-flags with my ex. We were just young and werent committed in the end, I guess. I have never regretted breaking up with my ex, and hadnt really thought of him in the 6 years I have been with my current partner. Im afraid that these feelings of not recognizing my partner now and feeling as if we have already broken up are a sign that I dont love him anymore and need to leave him? Im afraid of whats happening to me, and my dreams are so disconcerting that im beginning to fear sleep. I dont want to leave my boyfriend, but i fear my psyche is guiding me to do so anyway.

    • Anon

      And just to clarify, I meant that every morning it just feels as if i havent seen him in months, because it feels like we have broken up. In reality, I see him every morning before he goes to work.

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl,
    I have thought of my first love, it was more a very young love and, we were so physically attracted to each other. He is married now with 3 children. I do think we couldve been married with kids. At the time we were madly in love, he broke up with me because i was talking to my neighbour, i thought that was a very lame excuse to break up with me. He was immature. I didnt fight back for him because I didnt want a guy who gets jealous over nothing. I do think of him. I compare my attraction with my husband and him. I am attracted to my husband but not like my first love. It dosent worry me, but I wish i could feel a more stronger desire, is that wrong of me?

    • just me

      I would love to hear Sheryl’s answer to this. I have struggeled with thoughts and intensive dreaams about my passionate first love for years. Now those dreams about leaving my husband because of him have stopped and I am not fantasizing about my ex anymore, but I still think deep down that I need that kind of love in order to feel sexually fullfilled. I feel that something is missing. Somedays it is easier to accept but sometimes I feel sad that I do not feel same kind of attraction with my husband.

  • Aussie Jo

    Very clever Sheryl! I loved reading this, so thank you for sharing.

  • Josephine

    Hi Sheryl,

    I’ve had relationship anxiety for years (with my first and current boyfriend that I love deeply). I’m from Sweden and over here, relationship anxiety doesn’t seem to be a thing as I can’t find any information about it what so ever. When I found your website, I felt so relieved and like I was not alone in this. Though I get triggered every single day, as soon as I have a thought that’s negative towards him.

    One thing that really hurts me, is that I feel the need to tell me partner about all my thoughts, as I feel like a liar if I don’t. I have these same feeling with friends and family and feel so much shame all the time. I’m so tired of feeling that I have to “confess” things all the time, as it makes me feel embarrassed.

    My boyfriend is my first since I was 21 (6 years) and i’ve always been stressed about the fact that he’s my first, that I don’t know if I would have the same anxiety with someone else and that society keeps on telling me that if you’re bored and restless, annoyd and frustrated with your partner, you should end it, because if you don’t, you waste their time and life. I love my partner so much, but i’m si scared that what I read on this website is just something I want to believe as everyone else has another opinion.

    • Cece

      Hi Josephine!

      I saw your comment and just wanted to share some insight about it because I went through the same thoughts. The best thing I think I ever learned from Sheryl’s posts is that we have the conscious power within ourselves to say how things go and be able to put our ego self (the one that lets feelings dictate everything) to rest. We are not our feelings, but rather our actions. And we get to choose how we are towards our loving partners. Things aren’t suppose to be anything but what you make them. With that being said, the culture we grow up in, opinions of our loved ones and people around us, as well intentioned as they may be, are not necessarily your truth. It’s an amazing thing to have been with someone for that amount of time. But we’re never done learning from eachother. And so what if you feel bored? Would you stop being friends with someone just because they make you feel bored or frustrated? Of course not. But why is it so easy for us to think that ending it with our partners is the solution to that? Because we have grown up in a time that feeds us infatuation stories and pass them off as “real love”. I just wanted to let you know, theres nothing wrong with feeling bored, frustrated, or even annoyed with our partners. When you say that you’re scared that what you read here might just be something you want to believe, I promise you it’s not and that’s a fear that you’re anxiety likes to, as Sheryl has said before, hang its hat on. Hang in there. When I went through this, something that helped me was learning how to appreciate the things I might have not seen before in my partner. And not just in him, but in everything in my life, because a huge part of me was just projecting me being bored with him, when i was just bored and frustrated with my own life. I still don’t have it all figured out, and I still struggle but I’ve learned so much throughout all of this. It is definitely a process but one worth the patience. I wish you the best of luck!

      • Josephine

        Thank you so much for your lovely response, Cece. Everything I read on Sheryls blog, also what you said, feels so true to me. I guess my anxiety makes it hard for me to trust myself, so I always look for reassurance from the outside and Internet is my biggest trigger. I will stay patience, cause I know that I wouldnt be happier with anyone else. I’m just afraid that it will come a day in the future when I give up, because relationship anxiety causes so much pain. X

  • Stuck-in-a-Rut

    Hey everyone, I’m currently in a predicament that seems like relationship anxiety but I’m not too sure… I need some help.

    I’ve had my current boyfriend for almost 9 months now and it was pure bliss until about a month ago. It was in the middle of college finals and anxiety when I started feeling this way. We got in a small fight (but we have gotten in small fights before and they never seemed to be bad and this one wasn’t either). We made up and then I called my mom and told her about it and she asked me if I was losing feelings for him in anyway or falling out of love and that’s when it all kicked in. When I finished my finals, he visited me (we have a long distance relationship of about 3 hours). And all felt better for me. My thoughts subsided, I cried and told him about everything that was going on, he told me he understood. I felt so guilty anyway but once we had gotten on the road together to go back home (winter break had just started for me), I was feeling a little bit better and the stress went away for the time being. Then a few days later, my stress came back during a very terrible family vacation that I went on over Christmas. It was long and difficult and my thoughts cam creeping back. Once I got back home from vacation they went wild!

    I would go from wanting to be with him so badly to getting myself to think I didn’t actually want to spend time with him. It makes me think, is he the one, am I feeling anxious because I want to leave him but am too scared to? Is there someone else out there who better suits my personality and needs? Occasionally I’ll think about breaking up but I know it would hurt him and also myself. He’s such a great guy and has everything I have ever wanted… he’s funny, quirky, and cute, tall, attractive, athletic, and adventurous. He’s the total package with no red flags. He and I have similar future goals too. He talks about a future with me all the time but it just spikes my anxiety more because what if I don’t actually want one? What if I end things? Now I feel like my mind is numb… I feel like I can’t focus on school work (I’m now back at college from break) and it hurts. He’s going to visit me soon and my anxiousness feels like it’s pushing him away from. What if this is the end of us? Are we supposed to break up now that feelings and thoughts are so negative about him? Can he still make me happy? Are we even compatible anymore?

    FYI, in the past I’ve had issues with anxiety (separation from my parents in elementary school and in middle school, asking myself “what if I’m gay?” in high school and worrying over and over again, and having panic attacks when speaking about death occasionally, having panic attacks in random situations).


  • Alyssa

    Hi Sheryl,

    Are you familiar at all with Brene Brown’s work? My yoga studio is starting a book club and the first book is “Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” I was curious if you’ve heard of it and recommend it yourself?

    Thank you!!

  • Hannah

    Hi Sheryl
    I know you posted this nearly a week ago so hopefully you can still reply to this!

    I have been with my fiancé for nearly four years. I had anxiety from day one but I managed to deal with early on thanks to your course and these articles. I finally thought I got to grips with it. Stopped questioning if I loved him when the ‘feeling’ was absent, realised love wasn’t just butterflies etc it was sometimes very absent but you still carried on regardless. But now, the last 7 months or so have been challenging for me. No matter how bad my anxiety was in the past I would never become annoyed with my partner, never feel like he pisses me off etc, but the past 7 months almost on the daily he annoys the hell out of me. The thing is, I stew on it. That’s just what I’m like with anger and irritation, I find it difficult to let it go. So for days I will be stewing on how annoying he can be and all the nice warmness and comfort of our relationship will be replaced with anger and thoughts of ‘why the heck am I marrying you?’ At times, I feel this is worse than anxiety. At least I knew it was anxiety because I was genuinely scared of losing him, now I just feel irritated and sometimes like I would be okay if I left him because I get so annoyed with him. There are no red flags. Just me being picky! I have always been like this, when I lived with my family I was the same.

    I suppose, because we’ve been together a while I have become more comfortable with him, hence the annoyance. But sometimes I deliberately push him away, it’s like I want to just so I can get annoyed with him. I’m thinking this is another form of anxiety, but it’s coming out in irritation because I have to deal with the difficulties of a relationship.

    We are 3 months away from our wedding day, I don’t necessarily feel terrified like I used to but I’m still scared because in the back of my mind there is constant chatter asking me ‘is it normal to feel THIS annoyed all the time?’

    How do I move away from the irritation and get back to love again?

  • Jen

    I had this experience with one of my classmates. After he gave me a few compliments and said that he kind of liked me, I got obsessed over him, even though I had and have my boyfriend that I love and want to be with. Though, I think that I like to fantasise about how he see’s me I guess, like I crave for more compliments, attention, looks etc. I told my boyfriend about this and he’s fine with it, as it is what it is. I know that I would never act on this, but I feel so much shame over my day dreaming. We’re actually good friends today, the three of us, and since we all been spending time together, I don’t obsess. Until he got interested in my best friend who always gets the attention above me. This made me jealous and kind of took back a bit of my obsessive behaviour. Like I said, I’m not acting on anything and I don’t think I’m in love. It’s just daydreaming that makes me feel terrible towards my boyfriend, and also now against my friend. Is this normal? I feel awful.

  • Lydia

    My husband search an article in front of me that “why your wife should be smarter than you” he always want smart woman n he always assume that I’m stupid just because of my languagr ability..n he said thats why I want to work at google so I can meet This woman..
    I feel abandoned I was crying in front of him

  • Emily

    How can you work around the guilt that comes with these thoughts? Should you always talk to your partner about it? I do that, but it never stops as I always feel like I have something to confess. I get obsessed about other guys and with the thoughts comes a lot of stress as I feel like i’m cheating, even though I would mever fysically do it.

  • Katie

    This article has brought me to tears! What a lifesaver. I am a person that chases passion and romance and butterflies. It was for this exact reason that I feel so blessed to have found your website. Because after 3 years of living with my love I no longer have butterflies. In my eyes I thought this just meant the relationship is over. However, I have obviously just been taught or learned an incorrect idea of relationships. How will I ever learn to not crave the new-ness butterfly feeling? What I do is imagine the last one night stand I had prior to my fiancé almost 4 years ago. Because that was full of passion and chills and all things “new” that enters my mind as maybe I was meant to be with him. But the reason the butterflies were there was because we only spent 22 hours together so of course they were there. My fiancé and I are having to work all the time, no vacations, very little time together in order to pay for our wedding ( only spending 3000 on it) but that’s a lot for our budget so it has us running tight every month. Just looking for advice at how to stop craving the newness. I don’t want to struggle with this for my life. Or end up cheating because i long it so badly…

  • Dalia

    Hello sheryl. I’m 21 now and i’ve been dating my boyfriend for 2 years , he’s a great guy but i’m always feeling that something is off and i’m feeling that i’m falling out of love but the feeling is killing me because i know how much he loves me and he’s so sweet .i am attracted to another guy and i’m feeling all the butterflies i’ve been missing with my boyfriend but i cant decied wether its from anxiety or am i really falling out of love??? Please help this is stressing me so much

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