Hang On

IMG_5941At the end of one of the interviews in the E-Course, when I asked the interviewee what she would like to say to those who are still in the trenches of relationship anxiety, she responded quite simply with, “Hang on. Hang on. Hang on.” Those words have offered a lifeline to countless people who have gone through the course and wondered, ruminated, and obsessed about whether to stay or go.

We live in a culture that encourages people to jump ship if they’re not “happy.” We’re conditioned to chase after happiness like the gold-rushers chased after gold. We’re sold the bill of goods that there is a pot of endless bliss at end of the relationship rainbow, and that you’ll know that you find it when you feel unequivocally happy, certain, and in love.

Neither relationships nor life work that way. The barometer for whether or not you’re living an awake and fulfilled life is not happiness but contentment, and contentment can only arise when we’re not afraid to face our fear, grief, and pain in all forms. In our quick-fix, microwave-and-pornography addicted culture where we expect heat and arousal at the click of a button, we’re simply not trained to hang on when the going gets rough. “If you’re not happy, walk away,” the culture chirps. “If you’re not certain, it’s not the right relationship,” friends and family concur. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I can hear the anxious choir singing:

“But what if I’m only staying because I’m scared to leave – scared of hurting my partner or scared of being alone?”

“What if [the classic beginning to a fear-based thought] I’ve never felt right about the relationship and have had doubt from day one?”

“It seems like your work tries to convince people to stay in a good relationship even if it’s not the best relationship for them. What if there’s a better match out there for me?”

I can certainly respond to each of these queries, but it’s more effective to respond to the fearful undercurrent that causes the questions to spin around in an untrained mind. When fear is at the helm, we can’t see clearly. My work isn’t about convincing people to stay in their relationships. My work is about offering accurate information and effective tools so that people can find their still point of clarity. From that place of self-trust, anchored in the seat of their own wisdom, they can make a clear and loving choice for themselves.

That said, the vast majority of people who take my course on relationship anxiety choose to stay in their relationship. The key word is that sentence is choice. They choose to stay because they know that the anxiety lives inside of them and would appear with any loving, available partner (and many, other not all, have a had a lifetime of struggling with anxiety, worry and/or intrusive thoughts). They choose to stay because they don’t want to walk away. They choose to stay because they recognize that leaving would bolster their fear and, even if they experienced temporary relief, they would eventually find themselves face-to-face with the darker demons of self that appear when we run from emotional challenges.

Yes, relationships can be very challenging. Many wise people would say that relationships are designed to challenge us at our deepest level of pain for the purpose of healing. We can certainly be asked to grow in many other ways, but there’s nothing like standing face-to-face, heart-to-heart, and body-to-body with another human being to activate our deepest fears around attachment, abandonment, rejection, and what it means to love and be loved. Even when relationship anxiety is mostly handled, we’re then left with the challenge of being in the relationship itself without the anxiety in the way. Buying a house, having children together, sharing money, dealing with in-laws and friends, and job stress can all add additional challenges along the way. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that the divorce rate of couples with young children is higher than during other stages of marriage; it’s harder than I can put into words to stay connected to each other when the needs and demands of young children are constantly underfoot. But is the answer to walk away? No. Not in my book.

The answer is to hunker down together under the same umbrella and watch the rain until it passes. The answer is to find the one warm spot under the winter blanket and gather there until spring. The answer is to seek help when help is needed and to keep reaching for each other with vulnerability and honesty even when every part of you wants to hide behind the familiar defenses of blame and withdrawal. The answer is to know that we need each other, that our one special other is one of the greatest safeguards against depression and anxiety that we have, and provides the springboard from which we can launch into life with more confidence. As Sue Johnson writes in Hold Me Tight:

“Learning how to nurture the bonds of love is an urgent task. Loving connection provides a dependable web of intimacy that allows us to cope with life and to live life well. And that is what gives life its meaning. For most of us, on our deathbeds, it is the quality of our connection with our precious ones that will matter most.” (p. 252)

“Even our identity is a kind of duet with those closest to us. A loving relationship expands our sense of who we are and our confidence in ourselves. You wouldn’t be reading this book had I not found a way to plug into my husband’s belief that I could write it, and my ability to hold on to his reassuring words kept me writing rather than walking away. Our loved ones do indeed come into our hearts and minds, and when they do, they transform us.” (pp. 253-4)

While we may feel this loving bond early in the relationship (a sense of safety and support, like your partner has your back), it can take years to learn how to nurture and rely it, to learn how to express our needs in a way that encourages our partners to respond. The truth is that we don’t know each other at all when we marry. You’re virtually strangers for the first five years, it takes at least ten years to know your partner deeply, and it takes about fifteen years to find your stride. And not only do you not know each other, you don’t know yourself in relationship to your partner. We learn about ourselves through an intimate relationship, and through the knowing and learning and growing and falling and getting back up both separately and together we create a symbiotic circuit of shared nervous system and heart system.

So if you’re with a loving partner and underneath the anxiety you know that the relationship basically works, if there’s a foundation of friendship and shared values and something deep inside of you does not want to walk away, then hang on. Hang on, my friends. To stand under an apple tree in full bloom after a hard, cold winter is the fruit we reap when we stay in a relationship year after year, decade after decade. To watch the children you’ve raised together running and laughing on the grass, to gaze into their clear, open faces and know that they’ve been nourished in the ground of your love, is one of the greatest blessings we, as humans, can experience. And we can’t get there without going through the muck of anxiety and the difficulties that can arise in the early years of marriage (and by early years I mean the first fifteen). Hang on. Go for the big picture. Therein lies the true gold.

78 comments to Hang On

  • Nicole

    Thanks for this Sheryl. Earlier last week I was trying to explain to a fellow forum member that the point of the work is not to force yourself in staying in a loving relationship, rather it’s to dig deep to find out what’s inside that is preventing you from enjoying this loving relationship. And when you can dig deep, get to know yourself, and connect to yourself, you’ll be able to see the relationship for what it really is and make a conscious, loving choice for yourself. Interestingly enough, when people can step back without the anxiety, they’ll see that they have great and loving partners with whom they want to share a life with!

    I’ve just graduated and I find myself projecting and paying more attention to the thoughts these past two days- I know they’re trying to distract me from being sad about closing a chapter in my life. One thing I’m reminding myself is that this journey is about learning, there is no destination of “no more intrusive thoughts” or “perfect relationship.” It’s been hard to accept that but I’m glad I’ve finally accepted that it takes time to heal.

    I hang on for many reasons.. but I think the biggest is because I know how great of a partner I have and that I can learn about love with him- and I’ve known that even in the thickest points of the anxiety.

    If you found this website, it’s because you want to hang on, and you want to learn. Thanks for this, Sheryl!

    • You have such a clear and solid handle on this work, Nicole, and you’re a blessing to everyone who finds their way to forum. You’re right on target when you say that the projections since graduating are a cover-up for the sadness and vulnerability (and fear) that come with this transition. It’s amazing that you know that! I’m excited to see how you walk through the decade of your 20s, as I know you’ll do so with consciousness and grace (which doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to fall down many times ;).

  • Berrylotusgirl

    Yes to this, what a beautiful article! I especially resonated with “The barometer for whether or not you’re living an awake and fulfilled life is not happiness but contentment, and contentment can only arise when we’re not afraid to face our fear, grief, and pain in all forms.” I’ve found so much contentment in my relationship lately (along with moments of joy and discomfort)—and that contentment tastes so much sweeter than the highs of infatuation! I’m so grateful you help us to hang on so we can find the gold in our relationships.

    • I find it synchronistic that you and Nicole were the first two to respond to this post, as I could easily have interviewed both of you for the e-course and I know what anchors you both are on the e-course forum! For anyone who is in the trenches, please know that if these two can pull themselves out and experience true contentment, anyone can do it; they’ve had every thought, feeling, fear, and doubt that all of you have had (including “I’m the exception”). True?

      • N

        I couldn’t agree more with you Sheryl – both of these ladies have been a great support on the forum!!!

      • Nicole

        Oh, many times have I thought I was the exception!! And sometimes, I still get the thought but it doesn’t bother nearly as much as it did before. The improvement is slow, but strong- it’s like one day you wake up and realize that you’re not ruminating all day long, answering the thoughts, or even believing them! Again, don’t get me wrong I still get the thoughts, I just don’t allow it to take up my day or call the shots- and I STILL have much work to do (that I’m actually excited for!)

        All thanks to this work, Sheryl

  • Clara

    So wonderful. So true. I love what you say about how long it take (at least 15 years) to really hit your stride in a relationship – that 5 years is really nothing, in terms of the kind of intimacy that comes later. That has been my experience. And I can say from experience, that avoiding emotional challenges definitely gives birth to far scarier demons, and that hanging on – even through times far tougher that you ever imagined you would ever have to confront, does eventually give rise to a new and more genuine kind of clarity, contentment, acceptance and love.

    • Yes, we have this idea that we “should” hit a stride in relationships in five years, but it takes so much longer than that! Thank you, as always, for chiming in and sharing your experience. For those of you not on the e-course, Clara’s one-hour interview, where she shares her amazing story, is in the course. xoxo

  • Emily

    Sheryl, thank you so much for the work you do. This beautiful post fills me with tears of joy. I took your relationship anxiety course a year ago. I struggled with relationship anxiety in my first relationship, which ended for other reasons, but when I sensed it arising in my second relationship, I wised up and realized this is about me, not my wonderful and loving partner. I feel so lucky to have found your work at that time. I am still in that relationship and it gives me much joy. When anxieties pop up from time to time, I can see them for what they are and wait until my fear eyes have cleared. What gave me the most joy is that I have a friend who recently articulated to me her own version of relationship anxiety. Everyone in her life was telling her the common misunderstandings–she’s “not happy” and should leave the relationship. I felt so happy that I could empathize with her and give her a different perspective, and direct her to your work! Slowly but surely, this work is catching on. Thank you!!

  • Natasha

    Sheryl thankle you so much for this. Right on time. My boyfriend and I really work the way you describe above. Something in me doesn’t wanna give up and knows this anxiety is about me not him. I know he’s it for me. . I’m hanging on and getting back on my feet.

  • Elizabeth

    Thanks Sheryl,

    5 months until our wedding and I’m in the throes of awful PMS, which nearly always amps up the fears and minimizes the connection. I love the timing of your posts, every single one! Your words are like a beacon of light in the storms of anxiety.

    Thank you for reminding me why I’ve chosen to say ‘yes’ to real love; messy, authentic, vulnerable though it may be. Your work is a gift.


    • Eleonora

      Hi Elisabeth,
      I just wanted to say that I have the exact same thing. My PMS makes me extremely scared and suspicious about my partner. As those feelings also can exist during other periods its so hard knowing “who I am” in all this. Thanks for sharing. All the best,

  • Sonja

    These words washed over me with such warmth and comfort. I sigh with relief. I’ve been married for 9 months and I feel disappointed that I have not found my stride, my natural rhythm and contentment in my marriage. Thank you for reminding me that it is okay. We are basically still strangers. It takes YEARS to find that stride. Who speaks the truth like this? Nobody! God, I wish our culture would support this. What a loving, compassionate world that would be. I appreciate your bravery, support and soothing wisdom.

    • Yes, it really does take years, and it’s not a message that the culture delivers. Be kind and patient with yourself in these early years, and keep reaching for each other.

  • Katherine

    This is likely my most favorite blog post you have written, Sheryl. Your work is about so much more than relationship anxiety. That’s how I first came to it, but it has been almost two years since I’ve struggled with the sick-to-my-stomach intensely physical and emotionally overpowering relationship anxiety that I experienced a few years ago. Yet I continue to read your work every week because you have such a solid understanding of how to nurture any healthy relationship. Of course, as you noted, even without relationship anxiety my relationship is still not perfect. But I know exactly what you mean by the line
    “To stand under an apple tree in full bloom after a hard, cold winter is the fruit we reap when we stay in a relationship year after year…” That feeling of the clouds lifting, of falling in love all over again is worth all of the hard work. I know this without a doubt now, and that is not something I thought I’d ever be able to say.

    Thank you.

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, Love this so much, thank you Sheryl just inspirational?
    Great words HANG ON, HANG ON, I have fallen and you helped me get back up, my determination, my strength, moving forward even in my emotional stress, and miserable state, I still kept going, I am so proud of myself. My motto has always been coming from deep within me is NEVER TO GIVE UP, no matter how much u wanna have some relief. GROWING, TRANSITIONS are what we are striving for. Love is worth it, its a loving choice to be with my handsome until I am grey and old. ??

  • Mitchell

    I really love your posts Sheryl. Even reading them calms my soul.

    How do we approach all this even when the very beginning phases, even the first date, is enough to trigger the anxiety of “I don’t like them enough” “I don’t feel ecstatically happy when I am with them” “I don’t want to be around them 24/7”

    • I see that you just purchased the course, Mitchell. All of your questions will be answered there.

    • ColoradoGirl

      Hi Mitchell.. My anxiety (and many others) popped up from the first date.. You’ll find my interview in the e-course.. I hope some of my words resonate for you.. Sending love your way!


  • Rosie

    Through all my relationship anxiety, I kept telling myself to hang on as I knew deep down I really wanted to be with my man and that regardless of who I was with these same intense vomit inducing fears would arise. Sadly for me, he decided my anxiety fuelled behaviours and comments were examples of extreme selfishness even when I shared with him my history of childhood sexual abuse and my resultant fears of abandonment and mistrust. He ended our relationship and has refused to reconsider, despite telling me repeatedly during our time together that he would look after me til the very end and he would never walk away from me no matter how hard things got for us. I wish he had been able to hang on and work with me on my managing my anxiety. He just ran out of love and patience. Maybe if he was willing to walk away then it was a blessing in disguise as we hadn’t even had any of the really tough stuff to face of family deaths, illness etc. It’s so hard to deal with relationship anxiety when you have a long history of being abandoned by partners as I do.

    • I’m sorry to hear this, Rosie. It’s very painful when a partner decides to walk away because it’s too hard, but, as you said, it’s better to learn his limits now than later.

  • Justina

    Hallo , I would really like to be helped , I’m engaged and I would like to get rid of this anxiety , I want to become really happy , and totally fall in love , not just seeing his mistakes

  • Eleonora

    Thank you again, Sheryl, for a very nice blog post. Yesterday, after walking in the forrest, I started to sense the grip my fear has over me. It has had me in its grip more or less since I met my boyfriend, about 8 months ago. During this time, I have tried to fight that fear.

    When I sensed the fear yesterday I asked gently why it was there. I saw that it was very scared and did not want to let go. I then felt that: it’s ok. It’s ok to be scared and have anxiety. It’s ok to feel disconnected. I told fear that it was ok and that it was welcome to stay.

    It was therefore lovely to read the first two paragraphs in the The Conscious Transitions eZine which, which, I felt, was saying the same thing. With best wishes,

  • Kelsey

    I think this has to be my favorite post so far. It is almost an addiction to keep wanting more and never seeming satisfied. It is important to be able to stop, take a look around, and realize what you have is all you actually need. Ive experienced both the feeling of excitement/infatuation and contentment, and without hesitation I would choose contentment over excitement any day! It’s almost like being at peace with what you have been blessed with. It’s so easy to take things for granted, but practicing gratitude really helps you see all of the little things that happen during a normal day that you can be thankful for!! It’s almost fun going about my day and experiencing something that makes me smile and thinking to myself “I can add that to my gratitude list!”

    • Beautiful, Kelsey. Gratitude is one of the most powerful practices we can engage in. Have you read the book “One Thousand Blessings”? A beautiful read that reminds me of your comment.

  • Lea

    What about all the baby boomer divorces? Couples that held on for 25 years until the kids left and are now divorcing? It is a growing number of divorces in this age.

  • N


    Finding your work was an answer to my prayers in the depth of my anxiety a few months ago. I couldn’t explain what was happening to me… why all of a sudden I was scared of a future with A and was uncertain about him. Your work has allowed me to work on all of these false beliefs I have about love and romance… and much more. I have seen clarity and in those moments, I know that I want to be with A.

    One of the latest false beliefs I dialogued this morning about was this belief that if you truly loved your partner, you would be okay with a fake engagement ring, or would be okay with a ring you didn’t really love. For me, this was something that recently came up..when someone suggested I get a fake ring (for financial reasons) and that it shouldn’t matter because I love A… well… of course I started to get anxious because I DO want a nice ring, I cannot help it… but it shouldn’t mean that I love A any less….. I think this goes in line with a false belief/fantasy I have about having that perfect ring, perfect partner etc.

    Prior to this work.. I would have taken me not wanting to “settle” for a fake engagement ring as a sign that I do not really love A… but… I know that is NOT true!

    • ScaredyWife

      N, of course that’s not true! Your story is exactly what happened to me and my husband when we got engaged. He wasn’t making much money and he had enough to get me a small engagement ring. He got a better job shortly after and did end up getting me the ring I’ve wanted since I was 18 years old. What makes your ring “fake”? Is it cubic zirconia? Or it’s it so small it’s s promise ring? Either way, if it’s important that you get a nice ring, maybe you can discuss saving for it together. Good job recognizing that your thoughts aren’t reflective of reality regarding your ring!

  • Bra77

    Is mastturbation in a relationship a problem. My girlfriend and I are abstinent and she masturbste not very often but it really hurts me when I found out. We got into a huge fight about it. Is this a real issue or should I just ignore it?

  • Nicole

    This topic is something that has been on my mind constantly. Last Saturday would have been my wedding day, except it didn’t happen. To make a long story short, I began suffering from terrible anxiety three months before the wedding and I began reaching out for help and that’s when I discovered Sheryl’s site and bought The Conscious Bride. I didn’t want to accept it and it took weeks, but I finally had to come to terms with the fact that my relationship with my fiancé was unhealthy. He had been raised in a verbally and emotionally abusive household and was continuing those patterns in our relationship. I had told him throughout our relationship that his behavior was really hurting me, but he always justified it and I thought I could deal with it since I loved him or that maybe I even deserved how I was being treated. But I reached a breaking point where I was physically sick and couldn’t continue as things were. I called off the wedding and separated from him (he had been living with me).

    After this he sent me a long email acknowledging that he was repeating the same behaviors that he had learned from his family, he apologized profusely, something that shocked me because he very rarely apologized, and then stated that he was a changed man. I love him so much and there were some truly wonderful things in our relationship, but also a lot of hurt and very little trust and respect. I really believed that I would marry this man. He told me that he wanted to work through things, but I didn’t know how so I completely broke off our relationship of two years. We met up several times to sort out personal belongings and at those meetings he told me that he felt betrayed and that I was never committed to our relationship since I broke it off and did not give him another opportunity. This hurts me so much because I feel like I tried so hard and poured everything into this relationship. Now I’m haunted, wondering if I let something go that I should have hung on to.

    • Him telling you that you betrayed him because you broke off a relationship where he was being emotionally and verbally abusive is further emotional abuse and manipulation. You’ve made a very loving choice for yourself, Nicole. The work now is to grieve and let go, and reflect on whatever you can learn from the relationship so that you don’t have to repeat it. When I say “hang on” I’m talking about hanging on to a good, healthy, loving relationship where there are no red-flags and both people are willing to to show up in loving ways (or learn about what it means to be loving). That’s clearly not the case with the man you were with.

  • Sarah

    Love it! So timely! My second boy just turned 6 months and coming out of the newborn stage and getting a little more sleep has left me discontent with other things. I’ve found myself wondering if I “should” be feeling more passionate towards my husband, more “in love” with my life. Such a good reminder that different stages are hard, and it’s OK to hold on until things get easier!

  • Vic


    I appreciate your posts, especially this one. I have been engaged for six months and am getting married this summer. There are so many complex emotions that engagement has stirred in me that have been dormant until now. Your work gives me hope that the anxiety I am experiencing right now doesn’t mean my marriage won’t work out. Of course, I read your posts and the insidious thoughts tell me I am an exception. In my case – my partner and I have different interests and personalities, and we are from quite strikingly different backgrounds (my parents are together, my family is financially stable, I would describe myself as “privileged” – my partner’s parents have each had a series of complicated relationships, he has always had to provide for himself, and he did not have a lot of security growing up). We are in therapy and his attitude is phenomenal. It’s clear that in spite (or because of) all of our apparent differences, we are terrified of losing each other and want to create a bridge to unite us. Part of this is opening up to each other in ways that we never have, and learning about the vulnerabilities and insecurities that cause us to lose sight of our compassion for each other. It is all new territory and it is scary. In this period of engagement, with our relationship under a microscope, every disagreement (big and small) feels like a test, a negotiation, a serious “talk.” It’s been a while since we were able to just relax, breathe, and have fun. We are trying to do the hard work to build a strong foundation for our relationship, and learn the tools to have honest/genuine/empathetic discussion. But WOW, it is hard (have I said that yet?). When I got engaged, I didn’t foresee how hard it would be. In my most anxious hours I think “I’ve made such a mistake – this isn’t how it’s supposed to be – there is someone out there who would be better for me” and in my more “peaceful” hours I think “every relationship has it’s challenges, and I am lucky to have someone who loves me enough to try with me.”

    I haven’t figured out my answers – I’m still grappling with understanding all of this and connecting with the intuition that has guided me in life thus far. So, all this is to say is – thank you for your work. Knowing that others struggle with this as well, and that I am not alone, has been a lantern in this dark forest.

    • To be with someone who is open to therapy, open to growth, is a wonderful gift. It really doesn’t matter how different you are as long as you’re willing to learn and grow together, which it sounds like you both have in spades. And yes, it’s HARD! And also beautiful and magical and a deep privilege.

  • Silver

    Yes! This hit the current spot! I’ve been weakened by my own anxiety for a long time! Now I didn’t know what happened but when I stopped thinking what others are thinking about our relationship, learned to accept that I keep hurting my partner in the past, learning what I keep doing wrong in the relationship it made me a better partner even when I still keep having intrusive thoughts I keep pulling myself up challenging myself and seeing my changes everyday. I learned to accept more and more that I will have thoughts and it will come in different sizes it depends on how we process them. Whenever thoughts come up I simply think of my partner in every aspect of her whether our hardships or a good memory to soften my anger or numbness. I’m learning to discipline and having boundaries in our relationship still my partner keeps accusing me of dating other girls but I didn’t do it. I just need alot of me time

    Anyone encountered a topic about codependency and counterdependency since I’m thinking that I’m counterdependent. I keep seeking who I am to know what is happening and understanding myself.

  • Newly Married

    I had been feeling content and this morning I woke up happy to be married to my husband and that I am glad that I married him, and then after reading this then I got spiked about the thought ” what if my truth once I find my clarity is to leave, but just now I realized that my truth was already there this morning and the times when I know I want to be with my husband and like this morning happy and feeling grateful that I have a wonderful man who is not perfect but wants to do the best for us, and I felt this sense that I am so grateful that no job or myth of going to find my calling stopped me from being with him, but I think my fear wants to take away my clarity and contentment, so I know that if sheryl was to answer this she would say that my clarity was that when I felt happy and grateful and content and not the “what if”…. I just got spiked….

    Thank you

  • Newly Married

    Gosh now my anxiety is telling me : but what if one day you do want to walk away?
    I guess as long as staying is a loving choice…
    fears walls will tell you things or put walls like you do want to walk away, I have had those fears or walls where they seemed to be true but I handed on, because I learned that its not living by feelings but by choice and if its a loving choice then you hang on….
    Would you agree Sheryl ?

  • K

    Hi Sheryl – Thank you for this post – means a lot, and you’re right HANG ON! I am and will. Can you please share articles/past posts that you’d recommend sharing with our partners while we’re hanging on (I see the ecourse, per your recommendation as well). Many thanks and all the best.

  • Jo

    I hear a lot of people speak about their thoughts and what’s if questions. For me at times I will actually “feel” like there is something wrong with the relationship or feel that I don’t love my husband or like him and then I get scared over how I am feeling. Does anxiety make you also “feel” this way and not just think this way? I feel like I am closed off to feeling grateful and appreciative of my partner even though I have a good partner. A lot of you express still feeling god about your partner and this is where I feel I am different. Any advice on if this is par for the relationship anxiety course?

    • Anxiety can manifest all sorts of ways: as “what-if” thoughts/questions, as feelings, and as “intuition” (code for fear). If you’re closed off to feeling gratitude, that’s a good place to focus your work.

    • Ivana

      Hello Jo, I feel the same, like you. I have bad feelings about him and then when I sometimes feel nothing I am very scared and anxious.
      So I am very scared from my feelings, then I obsess that what if these feelings are real. And then I ruminate and then it is worse and worse.

      When I think about it I ruminate about it all days so maybe it is not wonder that I feel really nothing (I don´t feel love).

      I hope that It will help you to know that you are not alone.

      PS. sorry for english, not my native language 🙂

      • Silver

        Yes I feel the same too. I keep ruminating and always chasing for the feelings but I tried to let it go and just think how I can do better at our relationship. But still it sometimes feel guilty due to the fact that you’re doing the work but you might be lying to yourself. I’m scared that I might find other girls attractive and leave my partner easily.

    • worrier96

      Hi Jo,

      Just so you know, yes it absolutley can manifest as feelings. I suffer from the feelings quite badly! If you have been suffering for a while, then it’s likely the feelings have been created by the thoughts. E.g. my initial anxiety thought was ‘what if i don’t love him?’ and of course i felt really anxious and depressed and spiralled, but now i’m no longer feeling really anxious or depressed anymore, i’m left with the horrible feelings that the thoughts created in their path. Unfortunately this only reinforces the thoughts because then you think ‘I feel bad when i’m with him/think of him, that must mean the thoughts are becoming real.’ when actually it’s BECAUSE of the thoughts that you are feeling bad. The main why to deal with the feelings is to accept them. i’ve done it a couple of times, it takes a lot of practice. But you have to try to just accept that they are there and might stick around for a while. So next time you have a bad feeling you have to think ‘I know I don’t feel like I am happy with him, but it is not because i’m not happy with him, it’s because fear is in control and wants me to run and keep me ‘safe’.’ If that makes sense? It takes practice and you have to try to commit yourself to it- acceptance is key to moving past bad feelings! Hope this helped 🙂 p.s if it’s any consolation for you, i’m practicing too! Sometimes I suck, but sometimes it does work- keep persevering!

      • Julie

        Wow. Worrier96, that is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Thank you so much, truly. It spoke straight to my heart.

        • worrier96

          I’m glad I could help Julie! I think Intrusive feelings are worse then the thoughts as they reinforce them 🙁 But accept accept accept! I’m glad I spoke through to your heart 🙂

  • Mindset

    Hi Sheryl,

    I seem to be stuck in a bit of a it-has-to-work-now mindset. I am doing a lot of work to dig underneath my anxiety (it’s so hard!!) and discover why Psyche is using my relationship to get my attention. Each time I come to a realisation, I find that I am immediately mentally checking to see if I feel good about my relationship again and if that is the reason I am feeling so anxious about my relationship.

    It’s really silly and I know that if I keep up that mindset then I won’t progress…how can I get out of it?

    • It’s about choosing your intention. If you’re doing the work to feel better about your relationship, you’ll be stuck in the mental loop that you describe. But if you can do the work for the purpose of your own healing, with the mindset of curiosity at the forefront, you’ll start to create healthier mental patterns.

  • alison

    I loved this, Sheryl. So timely, as always. This may be for a separate post (or might not be something that needs to be separately addressed), but what you’ve written brings me back to center after being lulled by all the “gurus” and life coaches out there who preach a very ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ mentality toward love and life. They tell us to keep searching “out there” if we’re not content with our lives as they are. But to someone who’s highly sensitive and so anxious, I see others’ lives who seem more exciting and interesting and feel horrible about my own life and marriage and like I should leave my husband and go have a globetrotting, soul searching adventure like this. I often feel like I’d be better off without the internet, except for finding helpful, grounded work like yours! 🙂

    • Have you taken the Trust Yourself program? It addresses exactly what you’re describing, and all of the free posts connected to that program address it as well. I’ll be running in again on June 11th. And yes, I think we would all, for the most part, be much better off without the internet!

      • Lili

        Hi Alison and sheryl,

        I completely understand when u say you see others life so intersting and exciting, sheryl i keep wobdering wat the root of this, it might not actually have to do with the relationship itself as i gave in th pas compared other parts of my life to others and took their life as standrad, while i do know each persons life and spirit is unique, could this be a low confidence/ trusting urself issue? Perhaps it is…its kind of like not having your own relationship or life goals and not trusting urself…our psyche is so naughty! ☺

        • Psyche is never naughty. It’s a matter of interpreting the messages accurately and not jumping to erroneous, culturally-induced conclusions. And yes, lack of self-trust is one of the root causes of relationship anxiety. I’ll be offering my Trust Yourself program again on June 11th ;).

        • Lili

          And sorry for the typos, i was typing from my phone and didnt notice the all the errors!

          • Lili

            Thank u very much sheryl. I might need the course too. You also refer to self- trust and relying on inner self in your writings which is really good, thank u so much for your great work. Its a true blessing! In future can you also write more about the issue of comparision, i think im staring to understand some of the root causes, but reflecting more and digesting the causes would be very helpful.

          • Lili: This post touches on comparison, and I’ll be writing about it again in a few weeks. It’s also entirely what the Trust Yourself program is about:


  • J

    Hallo Sheryl , can you can help me out ? Since the beginning of our relationship I felt like I didn’t feel the way I should , I wanted to feel that I was in love with him , and have all these beautiful feeling but I didn’t , but I said yes to him to be his girlfriend , first I’m gonna say , he’s very sweet and he cares a lot about me , and he’s nice to me , and he’s good looking , we dated for over a year , and I am always scared to send him sweet quotes because I’m scared that I can’t relate to it and I so would want that , because he showers me with how proud he is that he has me and so on , I was thinking already he would propose and I felt so weird about it , that I didn’t know what to think , but I knew I’d say yes anyway , and now I’m engaged and I’m still thinking if I really love him , and the weird part is I don’t really miss him , but when I’m with him it feels good , well sometimes not but sometimes I look at him and think I love him , but it’s confusing , often I say I love him but don’t really feel it , it’s not easy 🙁 and I see things I don’t like about him and they bother me , what should I do ? In 4 months further we are getting married , some ppl say you can feel it once it’s the right one , but what if you don’t feel it ? How can I ever get rid of this ? Or do I love him , please help me

  • Colleen

    I’m on my “pre honeymoon” with my fiancé (I’m in school so we can’t get away for Long after the wedding). 2 days into our 10 day trip the thoughts started creeping in. “We don’t have enough to talk about, we aren’t having as much fun as we should be, we aren’t kissing enough blah blah blah” I read this post and it was a perfect reset! This isn’t about the moment to moment experience of this trip. It’s about the big picture and creating memories together. I giggled a sigh of relief after reading this post- I have since been able to relax. Enjoying and smiling at our moments of silence and appreciating the contentment of us getting along and navigating this trip and new experiences together. It’s so powerful the effect our mindset has on our whole experience. So glad I took a moment to seek out this blog when I knew I was spinning too much in my head 🙂

  • Mindset

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thanks for your reply. Yes, I think that is what I need to do, I just can’t seem to get into that mindset because I keep getting afraid that i’ll become truely indifferent to my partner (more then the anxiety creates) if I focus on myself so much. I guess that’s the common worry though, isn’t it? Scared to do the work for fear of out growing your partner. I just find it so hard to fully focus on my inner healing without thinking ‘okay, i’ve done that and I felt all the pain, so do i feel happy when i think of my boyfriend yet?’ type of thing, which is so silly and I suppose means i’m still addicted to my feelings!

    I hope I can get the hang of this soon.

  • worrier96

    I thought i would post this, as i was reading through a book for an essay today and thought i’d share what I read with you all, as when I read it I began nodding and thinking ‘Yes!!’.

    Forgive me, as this qoute is about religion and God, but that is not the reason i’m posting.

    A man is talking about how, although he has been heavily religious all his life, he suddenly began to question his faith and gods existence (if you replace religious with ‘in love’, faith with ‘relationship’ and god with ‘love’ does that sound a bit familiar? 😉 ) he questioned and questioned and questioned and was constantly searching for certainty about gods existence.

    He describes how he felt it in his bones, truely believed that he did not believe in god.

    Annoyingly, he doesn’t actually say how he got through it (typical!!!!!), but he did get through it. He realised he DID beleive in god and there is a qoute I want to share with you:

    “So I ought to not be afraid any longer that all that the senses show me daily may be truth; the exaggerated doubts of the last few days are to be dismissed as ridiculous.”
    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this only lasted for a few days, ey? But what essentially he is saying “Even though every thought and feeling seemed to suggest that I didn’t believe in God, it was not true and I can see those doubts now for what they were-fear.” made me think of my situation and then share this with you all, because no matter how real the feelings can be, or how convincing your thoughts are…it still doesn’t mean they’re real! We’ve all got to ‘Hang On’!

    Even though I got this from a book about Alfred Hitchcock I thought it was quite relatable!

    Hope this has helped someone or reassured someone or even been just something nice to read in someway!

  • Margot

    I’m getting married in a few weeks and the feelings started coming up again. I tend to experience them like waves on the beach. Building up, crashing, and then ascending back into the sea. My moments of clarity make this whole process worth it but when I’m at my low points (where I’m at currently) I feel like I’m in a fog. I’ve been an anxious/sensitive person for my entire life and I cannot remember a stretch of time where I didn’t feel fearful. Right now, I’ve let my adult take the helm until I can learn to trust myself to not sabotage the good that I have in my life. I’d highly recommend the break-free program but don’t just read it through. It takes CONSISTENT active processing and doing the exercises in the program that keep things steady. I’m also learning to not let the judgements/criticisms I manifest and absorb from our culture cloud my view. I would also recommend “Recipes for a perfect marriage.” I think it will speak to many of you. Thank you for sharing your stories!!

  • worrier96

    Sheryl, if you have the time, could I ask for a bit of guidance?

    So so sorry for the double posting as I have already posted on this article, but I feel like I might be doing something a bit ‘wrong’.

    I truly believe I am tapping into my core fear, the fear of loss. I certainly know that this is what has triggered my relationship anxiety. I journal about it, and have just today started dialoguing about it with my inner selves via journal.

    When I am writing about it, I will start to feel the sadness well inside, and my eyes will fill with tears. I’ll let out a cry and a few tears will fall, but after about a minute (or less), suddenly the tears stop and it feels like I don’t need to cry at all. I will continue to write but I am often left feeling weird, almost unsatisfied. I feel that maybe there is resistance blocking me from accessing my fear, thus keeping me stuck in my relationship anxiety.

    I think that deep down I KNOW that this is what my fear is…it’s definitely what caused and triggered my relationship anxiety.

    Do you think it is resistance/ego protecting me from feeling this pain?
    If so, what is a good way to potentially break through this resistance so I can get through to the pain?

    Thank you.

    • The fear of loss is such a core, deep pain that often we can only touch it briefly before our inner protectors rise up to guard the gates of the heart. You’re doing great work, and I know you’ve only just begun the course, so please have patience with yourself and trust that as you become more familiar with yourself and there tools, you will be able to access more grief and fear. Also, know that being with the fear doesn’t always look like crying. You can breathe into the fear, breathe into the sense of unreality, and you’re doing the work.

      • worrier96

        Thank you Sheryl, sometimes I feel like I’m doing really great work and realise that it’s about me and not my relationship, but then all it takes is a bad feeling or a doubt to have me back where I was. After doing the work, and i experience doubt feelings or thoughts I often say to myself “it’s okay Ego, there’s no need to get so defensive. We’re working through this and we’re going to be okay.” I’m trying to approach my ego with compassion rather then annoyance or anger!

  • wonderingwanderer

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thank you for your wonderful work and great post. You mention “underneath the anxiety you know that the relationship basically works.” What worries me that most is that I lack this underlying reassurance. I know that there are no red flags and that my partner is supportive. But I have found that the majority of the time I think that I would quite content being single. The anxiety renders being together quite stressful. What keeps me in the relationship is the thought that I will encounter these fears with another partner in the future. Is this common among people in the course – the temptation to leave to escape intrusive thoughts and fears? I know that there isn’t any guarantee that I would have intrusive thoughts with my next partner, but how common is there any way to predict whether these issues are unique to my current relationship or whether they would be pervasive in another relationship? Most of the time I wonder if it would be worth to start over with a new person and try to create a new story, devoid of fears.

    Many thanks in advance for answering my questions.

    • It’s so common that one of the interviewees at the end of the course tells this exact story – leaving the relationship only to find that the intrusive thoughts were still there – and it’s by Sarah, who now moderates the e-course forum. The belief that you wouldn’t have intrusive thoughts with someone else is one of the most common ways that ego avoids taking responsibility for the anxiety that originates inside of you, and has probably been with you for a long time (long before you met your partner).

  • Hi everyone!

    I felt compelled to write a note on here thanking Sheryl and everyone else for their courageous stories. I, too, have been suffering since getting engaged in December and have found this website invaluable to helping me “hang on.” I’ve been in therapy and that has helped but I still struggle with giving into my ruminations and feelings. My fiancé has the most beautiful soul of anyone I have ever met, and knowing this even when I feel disconnected from him in anxiety (which is more often than not) has kept me putting one foot in front of the other. Every ounce of my being wants to run away screaming (haha!) Everyone’s stories has inspired me to keep going and Sheryl your blog posts have been a lifeline!. I pray everyday that eventually this will end and on the other side will be my husband (scheduled for September!!) and his beautiful soul. I just pray my anxiety doesn’t scare him away! Thank you thank you Sheryl and all you strong souls!!

  • AJ

    I made the decision to hang on yesterday. It was a close call, we had a big fight, but I did it, I hung on. Which I’m grateful for because later that night I got to have one of my few moments of complete clarity where I know I love my boyfriend and want to be with him.

    It’s hard to have a fight while in the middle of relationship anxiety. My mind was screaming at me that this is my ticket out of the relationship, this is my real reason to go – which of course it wasn’t. It was just a fight, that we solved quickly. I know that if we would’ve had the same fight before my anxiety started, the thoughts that it was a reason to break up with him would’ve never come. But it was hard, and it kept being hard.

    Today I was faced with a new thought. He’s supposed to come over to my place tonight and I was struck with: do I want him to come over? Would I rather be alone tonight and sleep alone tonight? And it made me anxious. I’m trying to tell myself that it’s okay to wanna be alone sometimes and that it doesn’t mean I don’t wanna be with him. But now I’m afraid I’ll feel like this every night and won’t wanna see him at all. And it really scares me.

    So my question to you is, are these two things normal? Feeling like that because of a fight, and being scared of not wanting to be with him at all just because I had the thought of maybe just wanting to be alone today?

  • TJ

    Thank you, thank you for this post and all the work you do. Up until about 6 months ago, I had never been in a healthy romantic relationship. I had been in a two year relationship that finally ended last June in which I completely lost myself. I lost friends, alienated family, and forgot who I was an what I cared about. This past September, I met a wonderful guy. Smart, compassionate, loving… We just see eye to eye on so many things and I’ve never felt so loved. We’ve been happily dating ever since. In the past weeks, however, I’ve started to feel anxiety rearing its ugly head. The questions going over and over in my head: “Do I love him?” “Is this right?” “Am I settling?” and the tremendous GUILT I feel about even questioning a relationship that until a few weeks ago brought me so much happiness and contentment. It’s really gut-wrenching to have those feelings, and I hope that I can work through and unpack them sometime soon.

  • Susie

    Just wanted to think you for your words. I’ve gone through some severe anxiety in the last few months and reading your blog every day has helped calm me down and help me deal with the rough days. It’s a sort of comfort now. It’s very strange when someone you don’t know makes an impact on your life but wanted to say a big thank you all the same.

  • Simone

    My moments of clarity are fewer and further apart…I don’t know how to deal with this. I’m terrified of not loving and not wanting to be with my boyfriend, but I don’t feel anything. I’m trying to hang on…but it’s hard

  • Kelley

    Hi Sheryl! I love reading your blogs and it’s brought me a sense of peace during the times I get really anxious. I suffered from abandonment issues (my dad left my family when I was a teenager)– and I’ve never been able to maintain a relationship without feeling codependent. It is just recently that I realized (the most painful way) that I let go of my sense of self in the best relationship I’ve ever been in and I would love to see myself marrying sometime– but I feel like my mind (or heart, idk which) keeps telling me “you need to let go and go find yourself and love yourself fully before you can continue with any relationship”– in a perfect world I could let go of him for a few minutes, take care of me and come back with the certainty that he will be waiting, but we all know that’s not 100% likely. Is it possible to find your sense of independence without giving up a beautiful thing? I want to take your e-course but I really just can’t afford it at the moment. He’s supportive of anything I want to do and he’s literally the first person who has given me that type of unconditional love. I didn’t grow up in the most loving household so this is new to me.

    • Yes, you can absolutely grow into yourself while in a relationship. One of the fallacies of the culture says that you have to love yourself before being with someone else. This is sometimes and somewhat true, but it’s also true that we can learn to love ourselves through being on the path of conscious relationship. You don’t need to walk away from your loving partner!

      • Kelley

        Thank you so much! I am looking into counseling that meshes with my insurances, to dig deep and to help me free these fears/assumptions to help me better my relationship with such a wonderful, loving individual as well as help me point myself to the direction I want to go with life. Also, once I have the money I would love to take your e-course for relationship anxiety (I suffer from that as well). He’s worth everything to me. I think if I didn’t love him, I wouldn’t be trying so hard to get my emotions back on track. Thank you for such a quick and reassuring response. ?

  • Kelley

    Few months not minutes***** sorry typo!

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