On a recent group call, a participant asked one of the most common questions for those struggling with anxiety and intrusive thoughts is:
“So if I don’t trust these anxious thoughts then what can I trust? If my truth is really that we are not right for each other [or that I really have a life-threatening illness] then how would I know if I am teaching myself not to listen when doubts arise?”
And then she wisely responded to her own question with:
“But I can see that is probably another clever resistance pattern.”
Even though she named that the question was coming from resistance, the question itself is a valid and common one, and if you’re struggling with anxiety and have found your way here, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the same thing. It’s really the million-dollar question that inspired much of my work with relationship anxiety, including the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety E-Course. Asked another way, the question is: Is my anxiety/doubt evidence that my truth is that I’m with the wrong partner or does it mean something else?
Truth is a funny thing. We have this idea that there’s a single inner truth and if you could just arrive at the truth you would have your answer. But life is much more nuanced, complicated, and mysterious than that, and when we’re dead set on discovering a truth, we’re usually setting ourselves up for a massive bout of anxiety. Truth is a spike word in the world of relationships, like “chemistry” and “the One” and “settling”, so for now let’s shift away from the word “truth” and instead open a conversation about knowing.
Knowing is the place beyond thoughts and even beyond feeling. If we open to the space between the thoughts and the place beneath the feelings, we arrive at a place of knowing. It’s lives deep inside, quietly shimmering like a warm pool. When we dip into it, anxiety and doubt fall away. We may only dip there for a brief moment in between the bouts of intrusive thoughts, moment of grace, perhaps, when the mental chatter and the attempt to find an answer settle down. But we know it when we’re there. And if we could put words to this place it might say something like, “I don’t want to leave. I’m with a great partner. So I might not feel madly in love, but I don’t want to walk away. I might not know if my partner is “the One”, but I know that they’re someone with whom I can learn about love. That’s a question I can answer.”
We have a hard time in the culture trusting what we can’t see. We want hard evidence, “proof” that we’re with the “right” person, which causes the ego to shift to overdrive in its quest for the answer. But the most meaningful things in life are usually invisible, which means we don’t arrive at them with our five senses. Like the divine, we can’t “see” or “touch” these places, but we know they exist in a place beyond rational knowing.
An analogy recently came to mind for me regarding the need not only to find “an answer” but ultimately what it feels like to trust ourselves despite the messages in our rational-scientific culture that only trusts what it is evident through the five senses. I’ve been a vivid and epic dreamer my entire life. From the time I was a little girl, I would wake up each morning with several, detailed dreams roaming through my conscious memory. My mother was interested in my dream life, and many mornings I would share my dreams with her or in my journal. Nobody talked about dreams at school. None of my friends mentioned their dreams. But because my dream life was validated and seen at home, I never doubted that they were something special and meaningful.
As I grew up, I was exposed to the mainstream message about dreams: Dreams are just a way of releasing excess mental energy. Dreams are a way of processing the day. Dreams don’t really mean anything. Dreams are fluff. For the most part, I didn’t buy into those messages, but once in a while something would hook in, and when it did I could feel a part of my soul sink.
I will never receive a definitive confirmation that dreams are messages from the unconscious. No scientist will ever be able to prove it and no psychologist will be able to disprove it. But I know it in my bones. I know what’s true for me and for many of my clients who bring me their dreams weekly: that dreams are signposts to the soul. That doesn’t mean that doubt about the importance of dreams doesn’t play a cameo role from time to time, for doubt is a character in psyche as well. But I don’t let doubt sidle into the driver’s seat. I see it, I hear it, and then I return to my own place of knowing.
I hope the analogy is clear, but if it’s not let me lay it out for you. When you hook into the widespread cultural belief that you have to leave your loving partner because you don’t always “feel in love” or you’re plagued by doubt, your soul sinks and your heart contracts because this edict is out of alignment with your deepest knowing. Just like we have to swim upstream to defy the mainstream message that says that dreams are fluff, we have to swim upstream to defy the mainstream message that says that if you were with the right partner you wouldn’t be struggling so much, and you do this because your heart – in the deepest recesses, in that pool of knowing – stands for real love.
In some ways, choosing a life partner is as amorphous and risky as trusting in your dream life. There is no formula for choosing a partner, no blood test that will guarantee that you’ve made the “right” choice. You can go from psychic to psychic asking if you’re with the right person and you will likely receive a smorgasbord of responses, each of them certain that their foretelling of the future is accurate. You can poll your parents and friends and, again, will receive a variety of opinions. But in the end none of that matters. What matters is that you trust a place deep inside of you that says yes to the person that you’re with. It might be a quiet whisper of a yes, but if you listen closely enough and with ears that hear in murmurings instead of words, you will send a taproot down into your place of knowing and be able to chart your course.
Jeremy Taylor, who was a master dreamworker through fifty years of working closely with dreams, often said that the only reliable source of recognizing an accurate interpretation of a dream is the dreamer’s own sense of “a-ha”. It’s that subtle or sometimes even exuberant feeling of YES that rises up from the unconscious to meet the conscious insights, that place deep inside that nods its head in agreement and often leads to an opening inside. It’s the moment when oxygen re-enters the psyche, when a sense of spaciousness opens and a smile releases. Many people have this same response when they find my work on relationship anxiety and anxiety in general. It’s the feeling of, “Yes, this is right, even if it flies in the face of everything else I’ve read about anxiety. Or even because it flies in the face of everything else out there.”
The bottom line is that nobody can hand you this sense of knowing; it’s something you have to discover for yourself. In fact, one of the gifts embedded in the crucible of \ anxiety is the opportunity to strengthen your muscle of self-trust – or perhaps to access the muscle for the first time in your adult life. Engaging with and committing to your inner work will help you sift through the faulty beliefs and unrealistic expectations about love and relationships that interfere with your ability to access self-trust, but ultimately the work of finding your path is yours and yours alone.
This is beautiful. Can you recommend any books to assist with deciphering your dreams? I’ve always been a very vivid dreamer and at the height of my anxiety I had numerous dreams about ex lovers. This used to concern me, however as I’ve learnt more about what these images represent I’ve become much more curious about what my dream life can tell me.
My favorite books on dreams are Jeremy Taylor’s “The Wisdom of Your Dreams” and Robert Johnson’s “Inner Work.” I also discuss dreams quite a bit in the Trust Yourself program.
I’m still working on Break Free. Trust yourself is next though for me. I’m thankful for your work and your wisdom.
The discussion on dreams in this post is so timely for me. I’ve had the most vidid dreams over the past week regarding my husband–in one we were planning to renew our vows and I remember the feeling of doubt within the dream, feeling “Do I really want to do this again?” which translated to “If I could marry him again, I don’t know if I would…” and it made me feel really disheartened. But in the dream, we went through with it, I heard the song I walked down the aisle to, and all was well. In another dream I was yelling at him and so angry, and I had this deep feeling that if I have this much animosity toward him then it just isn’t right. But when I woke up I thought about it and considered that maybe that dream is representing how closed off I have felt towards him lately.
It’s so odd, I don’t feel like I really have relationship anxiety anymore. We’ve done so much work as a team and I feel I’ve moved beyond that fear, but what lies after that has been… just kind of… meh. No spark, not much attraction. The only thing that’s sparked any bit of anxiety lately is these dreams that I feel like are telling me there’s something more “magical” out there.
There’s definitely something more “magical” but it’s not out there; it’s inside. While the dreams may be telling you on one level that you’re carrying some resentment toward your husband, on another level dreams are always telling us something about ourselves, and through this lens every character in a dream represents some aspect of ourselves. So the questions to ask yourself are, “Am I angry with my inner masculine, the part of me that speaks up and takes action and is direct and clear? Is there something I need to say that I’m not saying? Am I angry with some part of myself that is making my husband responsible for my aliveness?”
Such an interesting point. The dream about being angry at him was so strange because it was actually a male coworker (who I sometimes get frustrated or annoyed with but who is a very nice person) that was the symbol for my husband; and upon waking I was able to see that I often give them both a hard time unnecessarily, like it’s very easy for me to take both of them for granted (one an otherwise good marriage and another a good alliance at work) simply because they’re so nice and patient. I feel like my inner masculine may speak up too much in my waking life–like I may be overcompensating by making sure I’m constantly standing up for myself, but it’s often in anger and excessive defense to make sure I’m never the one being victimized. And now my thoughts are coming full-circle back to a past abusive relationship.
Thank you so much for your comment, Sheryl. This really got my wheels turning and helped me to remember that there’s always more to our thoughts and feelings below the surface 🙂
So when you say knowing is this an example: when I am practicing self love and self care I’m head over heels for my fiance. I feel like a yes to him forever. Is that a sense of knowing Sheryl?
Does this mean that if I have dreams filled with dread and foreboding about getting married to my partner, without a resolution of me feeling like things will work out in the end, that that is my inner self revealing my truth? Or do dreams just manifest our fears more strongly or concentrated? Because i have recurring dreams that are more like amorphous thoughts instead of vivid pictures or storylines of “you know you aren’t in love with him” “you’ve been leading him on and lying to yourself about it” “if it was right you’d feel peace about it and not all this anxiety and uncertainty” and I wake up with a pit in my stomach and feel like I’ll never be able to move forward with my fiancé. Should I be trusting those dreams?
I think dreams tell us something but the message may not be the obvious one in the dream. When I am going through times when I am experiencing alot of anxiety, I usually have dreams about the anxious topic. It can sometimes cause me to wake up with fear, dread and panic. Sometimes those dreams cause me even more anxiety than the actual anxiety that I originally experienced because of what you said about it maybe revealing my inner truth. Like Sheryl said, I’ve tried to just take it as a message that my brain is trying to tell me that I have more work to do. Besides we shouldn’t be surprised that we have anxious dreams when we have anxious minds during our waking hours. Be kind to yourself and know that if you do the work to fix the anxiety , the dreams will stop…. well, you may still have dreams about this theme in the future but they won’t trigger you like they do now. I hope that helps.
Dreams rarely tell us what we already know, so it’s unlikely that the messages coming through in the dream are to be taken literally. This article may help:
Sheryl, thank you so much for sharing your insight and wisdom. I have been with my partner for nearly two years now and we just moved into our first house together. He is an amazing man but I can’t seem to get past the insecurity that stems from a past partner cheating on me and never truly having a good or lasting.example of marriage in my family. I believe we’re headed in that direction and a good part of me wants it but the other believes that I’ll just inevitably be hurt again. Do you have any past posts that pertain to learning to let go of hurt in order to be open to new love?
Almost all of my work is about learning to tend to our scared hearts. Our hearts have been hurt for a variety of reasons, and the healing path is to learn to attend to those hurt places with love, compassion, and curiosity.
Following my divorce (married young, emotionally abusive and took way too long to get out of) I was in a long term long distance relationship. Everything about it was so different, was the first time I felt love on an ongoing basis and wanted to receive it in return. It was fairy tale like for a while. Then suddenly all the challenges we were well aware of took center stage. Different countries / religions / places in life / sexual issues. And for the last 2 years of our relationship I was riddled with anxiety. Which is probably when I found your site years ago.
But during that relationship I had moments of YES. When I dipped into the well of “we can do this” “I love this man” and more. And those moments inside that well ironically ended up causing me more anxiety in the long run because it clouded the reality that what was amazing was no longer so. I witnessed a man go from being on my team me to challenging my every move. It was so confusing. At the end even though the distance and differences would have proved difficult, it was his shift in attitude that put the nail on the coffin. I felt like I got out of another divorce, that’s how hard and long it took me to actually finally emerge from it. (and yes it was me who ended it and he still writes me 2 yrs later)
So then I wondered – Do all loving relationships start showing their true faces x time into it once the infatuation has worn off and then both parties just start complaining about everything the other does?
So moving on—
I was BEYOND fortunate to give this other guy a shot, who I am now officially with 18 months. With this guy I started off totally non commital, not ready for anything, and still joke about it. But what I’ve discovered is that relationship anxiety is relationship anxiety, and even though my questions are now more on “what to do if you’re with someone too amazing” “how to manage with us both having children” (I love that he’s a great dad, I’m a great mom – but how can my anxiety deal with divided love (even though I’m the same with my kids) and “why did he talk about marriage at the beginning but now it’s more vague” and as I mentioned above – “when is it going to crack? When is he going to start complaining about how I clean, eat, sleep, work” But I discuss this with him, and we are just so so so good, because he is so good.
I guess my real question is that how can you trust that well of love? If I had trusted it with the last guy, I’d still be a ball of nerves today but probably in love. I trust the well of love with this guy and know I’ll do my best to power through these anxieties. But maybe I felt this same way 18 months into the previous relationship.
I have always been a vivid dreamer and followed my dreams… I saw dream about leaving in my two previous relatinships and leaving those relationships were best decision I have made. I never regretted those decisisions. There just were not enough connection.. I have dreamed about leaving again for years, but I have not been able to leave because I am married and we have a precisios son. I am from very religious background, where divorces are very rare.. But it is true that my husband feels more like a dear friend and there is not deep attraction between us.. I am coming to think that I should listen those dreams again if I want to feel whole.. It just feels so scary to divorce, but I have to trust my ability yo survive..
I have tried different kind of therapies for five years, but I am not healing.. I made some progress, but my depression is always there. I feel that it is there because I am living against my will, which is showing up in my dreams.. (Leave!). I am unemployed and so scared how I am going to handle divorce.. My son is going to be devastated, because he is so attached to his father..
Just me, it struck a chord with me when you said that you were unemployed. I realise this is probably because you are raising your son, but I wonder how that makes you feel? Employment can provide much-needed structure, something I am feeling a definite lack of right now. Let’s just put your feelings about your husband to one side for a moment. How are you feeling about other aspects of your life? How is your social life? How do you nourish your body? What are your hobbies?
Let’s go back to basics for a moment as well. You say your husband is ‘more like a dear friend’. This is a really great platform to start from. When anxiety is so present, it’s helpful to strip it right back. As soon as you start to feel that there is this blueprint of love to fit to (in-love feelings, hot sex, great connection etc etc), it is impossible to grasp onto. Haven’t you noticed that when you try to find emotions, there’s just nothing? We have to learn to allow thoughts and emotions to come and go or indirectly arrive at them through actions/practices e.g. exercise = more sexual stimulation. I hope this helps. I truly relate to that feeling of ever-present depression xx
Thank you Agnes ♡My son is already four years old, but I have been so seriously depressed that I have been unable to work since August.. I feel quite empty and lost in all areas of my life. It is not only my relationship which is causing my depression, but it is one part of it.. I feel that I am not sexual human being in this relationship.. It depresses me deeply.. I keep dreaming about other men with whom I experience that chemistry and aliveness.. I know that I am responsible of my own aliveness and happiness, but I seem unable to bring those feelongs into this relationship like I was once in my previous relationship..
I understand that it feel SO incredibly compelling to focus on you partner, but it is a strong possibility that it is a distraction of the ego. I have also experienced stronger sexual chemistry with other men, but that was because other men kept me at arm’s length emotionally. When you are DESPERATE for a person’s attention and approval, it intensifies all of your emotions – ‘love’ is a constant drama in these relationships. Please also remember that these men are figments of your imagination; characters of your psyche. I also find working very very difficult, so I understand. It sounds like you feel there is a lot to tackle but you can break it down and make it much more manageable. Perhaps explore the opportunity for some potentially fulfilling volunteer work a couple of days a week? Or some sort of creative club? Or exercise class? Or some sort of self-caring practice? It will take a while to learn to fill yourself up. A bit of trial and error. You are not alone, I too am suffering from a very dry well.
On your dreams specifically: I want to share something with you which feels quite risky to me, but something I hope will illustrate to you the non-literalism of dreams. I have periodically suffered from paedophile intrusive thoughts since I was 10. I have been doing much better with it all, but last night I dreamt that I went back to therapy and they did a scientific test on me which confirmed 100% that I was a paedophile. I woke up this morning very depressed. Our psyches can be torturous and it’s really hard to hold onto hope in these times, but I want you and I to both believe that these dreams just mean that we haven’t quite hit the right spot yet and that we need to keep going; keep exploring.
Thank you Agnes ♡ I love your responses! Thank you for sharing your dream! It is true that dreams are not meant to be taken as face value and we have to explore them more deeply.. It is just so hard to think positively about my dreams, because I had these same dreams about leaving in my two previous relationship as well and leaving was then the right thing to do, because I felt so relieved and I think that I forced myself to like those nice guys with whom I had not enough connection and chemistry. I am scared that this is the case again.. I have tried to convince myself about loving my husband romantically, but my dreams reveal my truth.. I have to find a job before I leave, because I cannot handle all those things as seriously depressed and unemployed..I have to take responsibility of my unhappiness for my son’s sake.. He needs me and I am so ashamed that I have been depressed since he was born..
I too have experienced relief in the past when leaving a good partner – or all partners, though relief has played a greater or smaller part in the mix. This is because leaving does end the turmoil…………….until you find yourself in another relationship. You sound to be relating the relief with your partner being a bad choice after all. But, I wasn’t (nor were you) aware of this work back then, so I made that choice with a different set of beliefs. Looking back now, I could have made it work with that other man, but we were 17 and didn’t know any of this. This doesn’t at all mean that I’d swap my partner out for anyone (if this spikes you, remember that I have worked to get here).
Please try to practice being compassionate. How would you respond to that shame? I’d say something like, “It’s not your fault that you have been depressed at a time when your son is young. So many mothers struggle and fight while trying to be a mother. There is no shame in the pain I feel, but now it’s time to move towards wellness.”
and, something very important, *you have to take responsibility of your unhappiness for YOUR sake*. You are important. A huge part of giving to others is giving to ourselves first. When you are empty, there is simply nothing to give.
Agnes ♡ Thank you!! You are wise and beautiful soul. I feel that only way to take responsibility again is to divorce. But part of me is scared that I will find myself again in same position. Only relationship I truly regret is relationship with my first love ( I was pursuer in that relationship). With him I experienced high sexual chemistry and deep connection..
Thanks Just me, I just want to help you. I hear your struggle week-in-week-out. It’s okay, some people do endure a long, hard slog to break through. What I’m hearing is this focus on ‘connection’ and ‘chemistry’. Perhaps you need to go over the Break Free course material and hone in on your beliefs about these two elements. Sure, I’ve had more chemistry with other men…if we’re talking about that constant tingle and arousal so intense that you feel like your veins will pop! But I see connection and chemistry so differently now. In fact, chemistry doesn’t even feature. It’s one of those pop-culture words to me, which have no place in my relationship. Much much love to you, it sounds like you have more work to do, just like the rest of us.
Agnes, you really helped me! I know that I have much work to do with myself and this depression will follow me. It is not only because of this relationship, but the truth is that I have suffered from very low libido since beginning (maybe be Aroused ten times during all these years together (7)). I do not blame my relationship. I blame myself for not paying enough attention to thosw needs before getting married…I excercise many times a week and I am feeling most of the time good in my body, but it does not make me want my husband sexually.. It is deal breaker for me and I cannot ignore that need anymore..
Justme, feeling good in your body is not just about exercising, there are other important aspects, on a mental level. You say you’re depressed. When I was depressed, the first thing that shut down was my libido. For me, getting out of my depression (and, to be honest, switching to a non-hormonal contraception) made me have so much more lust for life, and that was so noticeable on a psychological and sexual level. A depression is a terrible affliction, so don’t forget that this actually has an influence on your whole being – an influence that can’t simply be countered by doing exercise.
You also say that “Only relationship I truly regret is relationship with my first love ( I was pursuer in that relationship). With him I experienced high sexual chemistry and deep connection..”. Could it be that you connect pursuing someone with the height of intimacy and connection? Especially if it was your first love, that is such an impact on what you think love should/could be, it can take years to even slightly change one’s mind about that.
Also, you say you have low libido, but you have a need that you can’t ignore. Do you mean that you are not attracted to your husband right now, but you have a high libido in general? Or are you not aroused by anything? If the first, that could also be an ego trap, it doesn’t have to mean all that much.
I don’t want to sound harsh in what I’m saying; I’m just trying to be direct in sharing my experiences. And in my case, everything turned out OK. I stayed, I worked through/got through my issues and that turned out to be the best decision I have ever made. I wanted to leave a thousand times when I was anxious, falling in the ego trap of “I have relationship anxiety. So I could be at peace if I just leave this relationship”. I fell into that trap so many times, but I waited to get out of the dark woods of my anxiety before deciding what to do about my relationship. And in my case, that was the right decision.
I truly believe anyone can work through relationship anxiety. Yes, there will be times when you fall back. And no, there is no clear line of progress, where you just get better and better until you’re “well”, just to stay well forever. Instead, I know that my relationship anxiety is just an expression of some psychological issues I have, and that there is no option but to try to deal with it every day. But I truly believe anyone can work through it to get to a level where they feel mostly healthy and functioning, if they just set their mind to it and do the work. So I truly believe you can do that too.
Thank you Ana for your long response! You had many good points in your comment. I do not feel aroused in general or attracted to my husband at all. I feel that he is just friend and I do not know how to bring those sexual feelings into this relationship.. Something in his apperance just turn me off, I feel terrible to say that, because he is just a lovong man.. But those divorce dreams bother me so much that I cannot help thinking that I have forced this whole thing.. We discussed with my husband about divorce and he told me that if it makes me feel better then he is ready to let me go.. I feel sad.. Part of me loves him, but there is big part of me who wants out of this ambivalence, indifference and repulsion.. I do not trust myself that I can get over this.. I have been in this stage for seven years already.. I feel that I had to just make my decision and let go, eventhough it hurts.. but staying hurts also.. I have not total serenity, but I believe that I will never get to that place..
Hi Justme. How are things now? Hope you’re well.
Thank you Sheryl for this. You say that an indication that you really want to stay is the feeling of a sinking heart you’d have when thinking about leaving.
I am wondering though, how do I know this sinking heart is not the fear of having to be alone? I always thought it might mean that I am afraid of parting, because of the huge change it would bring, and energy it would require.
For me it was always the difference in the type of emotion that helped me see why staying with my current boyfriend was my truth. I got really sad when I thought of breaking up with him. But I did not get scared, thinking “I can’t handle the pain” or “I will have to tell everyone” etc etc, like I did when my previous relationship was about to end.
This is exactly my problem right now.
So much anxiety when I’m with him over doubt etc, constant knot in my stomach because I’m so afraid it isn’t right that I spend my whole time convincing myself of what’s wrong with him.
When I finally go with the worry and say okay you have to end it (accepting the fear) I feel so dark and depressed and my whole world feels pointless.
Then I worry do I feel this bad because I don’t want to lose him or because I’m so afraid of being alone. Then I feel even worse.
I’m someone who has to do what makes me anxious/what I’m afraid of to eliminate the anxiety so I think breaking up with him is my solution, and to know that I’m okay with out him (even though this makes me feel so overwhelmed and terrible) but then I just really don’t want to. But then I’m with him convincing myself I’m attracted or not attracted to him and feeling sick over it. It causes me to feel repulsed at times. I try to ignore the anxiety while with him but then I just have a constant sickness sitting there. But I handle it because he makes me so happy even with this pain..
I would really like to know what happened, and what is your current situation, if you don’t mind?
And, I too got caught in the trap that “maybe my intuitive ‘no’ to leaving is not out of love but fear” but I told myself to stay with my partner, work through my fear, and then see if we really shouldn’t be together. And I’m glad I did that.
Thank you Sheryl. I’m so grateful you are here devoting your time, energy, soul and heart to this work. You’re Gd sent.
What you wrote resignates with me in so many ways. In love and attraction, in life and in the way I chose to raise my children. It’s sometimes so difficulty to stay connected to our truth. Especially when so many people are telling us we are wrong or crazy, and especially when those people are people who you tell yourself know you best or want the best for you like a parent, family member or close friend. I find so many people are ruled by fear and grow up following the life someone else chose for them… so when they see you following your heart and taking big leaps of faith, they call it crazy or irresponsible…
‘right’ and ‘wrong’ can be spiky words, but so can ‘know’. Perhaps another way of looking at it is ‘how can I get the courage to act even without knowing?’
Yes, that can be a helpful question when anxiety and fear are high. Ultimately, however, it’s important to learn to connect to the deeper place of wisdom that resides in all of us. We act based on values, not feelings, and then we do our inner work that can help us access our wisdom and self-trust.
I think it’s confusing that ‘know’ can refer to different things. So I would say I don’t know, and can’t know, that the relationship won’t fail, that my partner is ‘the one’, etc. But I do know, intuitively, which feelings spring from love and which from fear (and have a choice about which ones I value). And I suppose we all know deep down that we don’t want to leave, otherwise we wouldn’t even be here doing this work. If that makes sense? The problem is that I’m heavily analytical, so when I read a word like ‘know’, I take it in a very scientific, logical sense. But you say it “goes beyond rational knowing”, indicating that perhaps I’m reading it the wrong way.
Yes, that makes perfect sense, J. And yes, I am talking about a place beyond rational knowing, which is a difficult concept to grasp in our rational-materialist-scientific culture ;).
I remember 4 years back now, gee time flies, i was struck by anxiety, i was consumed by the physical symptoms, that I was so frozen by it that I didnt question Im I with the right person. Now that im not in the depths of it all, More of the unwanted thoughts pop up? I know i deeply love my husband but these thoughts wanna barge in and decide to protect me from what? I get it now Sheryl, why stir the pot when im ok, i dont need protecting, im risking this thing called love,otherwise I wouldnt marry my beautiful sweet husband. If reading the courses is not enough what do i need to focus on?
Reading the courses isn’t enough, Angela. You have to practice the tools daily, or as much as possible, for real and lasting change to occur.
Im talking to the anxiety not you my dear Sheryl, i love you
Wow… when my anxiety is at its peak I always have very vivid dreams. Last night I dreamt that I was drunk, and that my ex’ face had morphed into my current partners. This has sort of been a recurring dream for me, where my current partner and ex morph into one. I do carry hurt from my previous relationship, but all the pain from my childhood till more recent experiences with guys is dampening me developing and growing with my current partner. I always feel tense, like I want to run away from him. Or like he’s disgusting and not attractive. I feel like right now I’m forcing myself to love him, it’s making me feel quite depressed… but I remember the other day, when I did some self compassion activities towards myself, I felt more accepting of my partner. Nonetheless this was coupled with some anxiety and resistance… but I hope I find it in me to do more self compassion for ME, because I feel some sort of pressure when I associate that I must do self love towards myself for my partner.
This is such a brilliant article, we are so lucky to have you. Never in my life have I had a source of wisdom like you and this blog. It’s as close to having a religion as I’ve ever experienced. It’s really lovely. It anchors me.
I was a little spiked by “knowing” as sometimes I feel like I do “know” the worst things I fear about myself. However, I also have little openings where I “know” that of course, these things are not true.
A lot has happened so far this year, or should I say, very little has happened. We decided to move in together in January, but have had financial difficulties interrupting this process, which has left us in limbo – we’re neither a couple that lives together nor doesn’t live together. I’m also struggling to do the most basic of tasks, like getting up at a regular, early time of day. I think a lot of this is to do with the fact that I have no day-time structure (I work in the evenings) and that I’m left so depressed by my dreams, which are ALWAYS nightmares. This lack of purpose and feeling lost makes it very hard to implement good, healthy practices – I want to exercise regularly and make art!
So to summarise, that’s lack of money, poor sleep, poor diet, lack of water, lack of exercise, lack of structure, lack of purpose and a full well. I guess there’s no wonder my head’s doing this to me right now.
Given all of that, Agnes, it’s no wonder that your head is bringing the barrage of intrusive thoughts. It will be so good for you to work through some of this in the Trust Yourself program. I look forward to supporting you more there.
My biggest intrusive thought is along the lines of “what if I have an affair”. “What if someone else comes along that I connect with better and I don’t love my partner enough to resist the other person”. I am afriad of getting a new job and meeting new people for the fear of meeting someone that I am connected and attracted to more. These thoughts used to scream in my head but now they have settled down to nagging whispers. Every time they rear their head, before I fully submerge into the thoughts I tell myself “I will choose my partner”- which helps, but I am still afraid my fear will happen. I have read the majority of your blogs which have helped tremendously! I feel like of all the thoughts… the worry of being swept away by someone else is the worst to have. I am literally afraid to be near any man, young, old, attractive or not- I read a blog about “the look” men and women give. I fear because I am constantly checking to see if my attraction to someone else is real and if my love for my partner overrides other desire– if I am checking myself constantly I feel as if I am giving “the look” or putting it the signal that I am available. I want to choose my partner. I want these thoughts to go away. I want the confidence to know I would choose him over another. I just don’t know what to do.
You’re describing the essence of self-trust, Brianna. When the waters in your well of Self are clear and full you will no longer fear having an affair.
Briana, I don’t have much more to add but I just wanted to let you know that I fear this too. I fear both my partner and I having an affair. Fear grasshoppers between both sides of the coin – fear of losing control.
Agnes- how do you handle these thoughts? How do you know they aren’t truth?
Because the ‘truth’ is that neither of us is currently having an affair and the only way to keep this true is to keep making the micro-choices that keep us faithful. I have learned that this is my fear-based self, grasping on to control and trying to predict the future.
Sweet! One more question. This is kind of a silly question, but when you are in the presence of a trigger(s) do you find that the intrusive thoughts intensify and become stronger in the moment? Almost overwhelming and very convincing of “truth”. I find when I am not in the presence of a trigger I am fine for the most part- but if I am in the presence of a trigger I am bombarded with thoughts, anxiety, images, and various emotions.
That certainly sounds very very normal, Briana.
Thank you so much for your help! I really appreciate It!
Really great post, I’ve discovered this site a couple of months ago and it’s really helping, however, I’m still struggling so much. I just had an awful weekend full of anxiety and doubts. I feel so guilty I just want to cry all day and not leave the house.
I’m 25 and have been dating my boyfriend for around 3.5 years and my main thoughts are ‘what if you’re settling down too early’ , “what if you’d rather be single right now or should be”, what if you’ll realize you made a mistake and then have to go through a horrible break up, ‘what if there are still things you want/need to do in life’
I haven’t seen anyone else mentioning similar doubts on here so that worries me even more. Most people on here seem to struggle with whether they love their partner enough or if they are right for each other. I know I love him and I know he is right for me and gives me everything I could ever ask for. Yet I am doubting it feeling that I need to get out to “experience” other things. I obviously cant ask him to just wait for me for another year or two. I feel so silly.
They started a few months after we moved in together but I’ve always had them, already in previous relationships. They were the same kind of feelings, thoughts about “missing out” if I stay in the relationship.
Back then I always thought they’re due to the guy not being the right one and I just ended it (there were other bigger reasons to end it) but this time nothing else is wrong. He is just amazing and it hurts me to not be able to give all his love back and fully commit.
I went on enough dates, I know I won’t gain anything from leaving him to be single again but the thought is refusing to let go. It’s so exhausting. My inner voice is questioning everything I thought i knew about our relationship and even questions me having anxiety. I started seeing a therapist but I’m just miserable, I never thought I’d have to live through something like this. My therapist thinks it’s my mom/parents because she kept telling me ‘don’t settle down too soon, that’s what I did’ and I remember watching her being overwhelmed and miserable because she had me and my sister too young. She regrets telling me these things when I was so young but that is how she felt back then/didn’t know better.
It all makes perfect sense but this inner voice is still trying to tell me otherwise. It’s all getting a bit too much, I’m incredibly sad, confused and just feel guilty and bad for doing this to my boyfriend. He doesn’t deserve this.
Is this me being afraid of commitment because I saw my mom regret it? Or do I really just want to be single again and am too afraid to just do it? I think if I wanted to end it then it would be easier and I’d just do it. I feel like it’d be a huge mistake but then what do I know… I’d really appreciate some insight on this/hearing if anyone had thoughts similar to mine
I have had these feelings too! In fact a fair few of us who frequent this site share those “what if” thoughts about settling down too soon etc, and most of us are in our twenties! (I’m 25 too!). Sheryl has done a wonderful post on “what if I’m too young” so it’s worth reading that. Also I have thought the same thoughts – rationalising my decision “I went on enough dates, I did x y and z so why do I feel like this etc”. I think it relates to what Sheryl says about ego NEEDING certainty, and also making things very black and white.
A few things that help me are:
Writing a gratitude list about my partner – another course suggested this to me and it really helped reignite the loving feelings!
Realise that you can still do all the things you think you are missing out on whilst still being with your partner – maybe they would even enjoy doing some of those things with you (e.g. Visting a new and exciting place). And if they don’t fancy joining you, well you can still do some things alone/with friends.
Avoid social media/limit yourself/make it a habit to know that it is not true to life – this is something I struggled with as I was constantly looking at other people’s lives and comparing and as the saying goes “comparison is the thief of joy”
It’s very hard when we have parents who tell us not to settle down too soon. Very very hard as not only do you take on their regrets, but you also can feel this huge responsibility of not disappointing them (this is how I feel anyway) but in reality I think our parents love us regardless and we are not them. Their lives are not ours, our paths will not go the same ways theirs did.
You say you’ve had these feelings before with partners – I did too – and it’s so important to learn that you will take your anxiety with you wherever you go, whoever your partner is – I think you know this as you’ve acknowledged you’ve had similar feelings with previous partners.
Honestly though, believe me when I say there are some of us who can relate what you are going through.
I do hope this has helped a teeny tiny bit. And I would recommend the course! It’s mega hard work but I think it’s worth it.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom and love so generously, Mia. I have no doubt that it helps!
thanks so much for your reply and sorry for my late response. It feels good to know that you can relate to what I’m going through.
I guess everyone has these thoughts, the difference is that people like us, who overthink everything, read too much into them.
The decision seems so easy, I know I wouldn’t benefit of breaking up and I know that he is the right choice, yet I can’t let go of the “what if” thought. it’s driving me crazy. most people would go through this thought process once, and then answer their own questions like I just did, and be able to let it go.
Why can’t I do that, why do I keep coming back to the same thing?
Hi Lisa, I too struggle with these fears of settling down at a young age (I’m 24 and moving in with my boyfriend). There’s no doubt about it, it’s scary! But hang in there, the feelings won’t last forever. Because you’ve experienced these doubts in other relationships, I would guess that there is something else deep down causing you to have these feelings. That’s good news! Once I realized my doubts had nothing to do with my boyfriend and were all about something inside me, it changed the way I looked at him. Keep going to therapy and working through this site to find your calm. Both have helped me immensely.
It likely has to do with your parents/family, as I have older siblings who tell me I’m “not allowed” to get married until I’m 30, as if A) They have a choice in the matter and B) it’s the “right” thing to do because I couldn’t possibly “know myself” until 30. It’s all societal BS that is reflective of their life experiences, not mine. We all have our own path, and I know you’re questioning yours as we all do, but consider this: There’s a reason you stay with your man, there’s a reason you feel guilty for having doubts, there’s a reason you don’t end it; you know deep down in this irrational sense of knowing that he makes you happy and you’re in a healthy relationship. Keep going, keep fighting, your relationship becomes more valuable each day you do. I treasure each morning I wake up next to my boyfriend and it’s because of the internal choice I make every day to love him.
Thanks a lot for your reply, it feels good to hear that others feel the same way.
I started doing the break free course and already feel a bit better.
However, the resistance is still strong. Because so far, the course hasn’t addressed my specific intrusive thought, my head keeps telling me that it doesn’t apply to me.
I don’t believe it but it doesn’t make things easier.
I feel like I’m also struggling to choose this one life for myself (Sheryl mentions that we long after unlived lives sometimes)
I know staying with him is the right choice and what’s best for me for the future, but everything in me just screams run, be irresponsible again, before it’s too late. These 2 ‘forces’ just keep going back and forth and it’s exhausting
what if you dreamt about cheating and had lesbian wet dreams about your sister (I think maybe this is a sign of repressed homossexuality) and you had a recognition moment while reading coming out later in life stories os married women? And if you hardly and rarely get phisically aroused by sex with him (the intimacy is fine, the arousal has been there like 3 times) and homossexual fantasies really arouse you phisically (and always have)? What if you have the impression that all the beautiful women sort of excite you and you don’t look at men with interest anymore? I still don’t want to leave my boyfriend, but I’m basically convinced that I’m a homossexual and I’m just being selfish by not breaking up with him because clearly I can’t love him in the same way he loves me 🙁
Bless you, Mary. I’ve experienced incest-intrusive thoughts and dreams as well. Your anxious mind is assigning meaning that ‘you are a lesbian’ to everything that pops up, it seems. I would say that I am more stimulated by the image of women too, but I still gravitate towards men. Things that excite us in our imagination don’t necessarily translate real life. In fact, the things that arouse me in my head may absolutely repulse me in real life. I often find myself getting off to the idea of my partner with another woman, which in REAL life would absolutely destroy me. I haven’t read much of Carl Jung’s work, but Jungian psychologists such as Sheryl (I hope my memory serves me right, Sheryl?) would say that sex dreams are a metaphor for ‘union’. A sex dream about your sister may point to a need for same-sex union (none sexual, more like a soul connection. Sheryl has posts called The Gay Spike and What If I’m Gay? which you will find in the archive.
An arousing dream about your sister does not simply mean that you are attracted to your sister. At the most basic level, simply imagining stimulation, regardless of the scenario, can be arousing. Again – NOT real life.
‘Recognition’ is a tricky one too. Experiencing recognition doesn’t absolutely mean that something you’ve read is true about you, it can be recognition of it being your fear or your current anxiety hook. I used to hear songs about say, dishonest lovers, and experience recognition as I felt like I was lying. Now I see that with clear eyes and not the truth, I no longer experience recognition. Does that make sense? xx
Your responses are so full wisdom and compassion, agnes. And yes, from a Jungian perspective we see all images and intrusive thoughts as metaphors, which means we don’t take them at face value but ask, “What aspect of myself does this image/thought represent?”
Thanks for this perspective and I really hope you are right. But I have also had urges and sexual/romantic thoughts about women, so everything has been feeling more and more like denial lately 🙁 And as for recognition, what you say makes sense but I had the impression my history was the same as other people’s story.
Is it normal to feel like you know you have relationship anxiety, but just don’t care about it? I feel like this and it’s very discouraging
Yes, numbness is a stage of relationship anxiety:
I believe I’ve occasionally had the hints of knowing, like I could be upset about something and I have noticed when I’m upset or angry that triggers my unwanted thoughts, one day I was crying and in the middle of crying I was saying to myself “I love him so much” this weekend my head has been a little clearer, I got annoyed about something earlier and since then I’ve had a funny had, I was getting upset for no reason and I was saying to myself “why me, why can I not love someone who loves me so much” and the occasional “I don’t know if I want to be with him anymore” spiked up. I don’t want to believe these thoughts. I’ve had the occasionall “I don’t want to be with him” thoughts pop up once or twice before but I didn’t pay any attention to it because I knew that wasn’t true, and now for some reason my head has latched onto it. There’s no reason for me to not love him. My head earlier said the same about my own mum and family about not loving them so I do think that there is something within me off kilter, I just feel abit low for some reason and I don’t know why
Hello Sheryl, Would you guide me what might be best among Trust Yourself, Relationship Anxiety, or Open Your Heart? Background: my relationship is just entering the 4th year. He is a sensitive, gentlemanly, hard working man with a very high I.Q.(150), which has its +/-. He is a recovering addict, which, for me is like living under the sword of Damocles. He was practicing his addiction unbeknownst to me when we met. I had come so far in my conscious spiritual and emotional journey and was in a much healed state when we met. Or so I thought. Without the details, I have lost much trust in myself and struggle to have trust in him and relationship. I am in therapy, continue my spiritual practices, we attend a 12-step couples group,etc. Still, it’s a tough road, partly because we haven’t found a sponsor couple, and I can’t seem to connect with him although he seems to love me more than I think I love him. It’s as if I’ve fallen into some abyss and am affected in every aspect of my life, not just relationally.
The story is bigger and broader, since meeting him and before. I just want to stop this angst, make decisions regarding relationship and life in general,, discover a vocational and life calling, stop vacillating over almost any decision, and just plain get my mojo back!:)
Hi Risa: Based on what you’ve shared, I would suggest that you start with the current round of Trust Yourself. Most people do take multiple courses and it doesn’t really matter what you start with, but if finances are tight I would suggest Trust Yourself.
This is exactly what my soul has been trying to convey to me these past few days. Your soul has that deepest knowing. It has that, “But I really don’t want to leave!” If you don’t want to, you never never have to. Only you know what’s best for you. Not even counsellors or supposedly ‘more-knowledgable’ people know what’s best for you. For someone else, a supposed issue or ‘red-flag’ in a relationship could be a deal-breaker, but for you guys it could be something you could actually work through. Don’t let anyone else ever tell you what’s right for you. Take charge of your own life. Be true to what you know deep, deep inside when your mind shuts-up for that one brief second and you realise what an amazing person your partner is.
Exactly it, Northernlass. Very well said.
My head has latched onto the “don’t know if I want to be with him anymore” thought, before yesterday I knew 100% I wanted to be with him and no I feel like I’m not even sure, this worries me because before knowing for definite that I wanted to be with him was the one thing that helped me and now I’m having these thoughts I don’t know what to do. He does nothing wrong, he is amazing in every way, makes me so sad that I’m having these thoughts about someone so amazing and when our relationship itself is so good
The only thing I can hold onto is that this thought only entered my head yesterday, and I think I’ve latched onto it because I was having a moment of being upset and crying when it spurted out so it’s made me think because I was vulnerable at the time when it surfaced that it must be true. I so badly don’t want it to be true.. I do know I need to get a therapist and sit and talk to someone but I just worry that it won’t help me and I’ll still keep having these unwanted thoughts or worse yet I’ll figure out that I have to leave 🙁 I’m so scared because he is perfect. He winds me up sometimes but what partner doesn’t. I wouldn’t change him for anyone
You so badly don’t want it to be true… there’s your answer 🙂
It’s really interesting to see in the comments section how similar the patterns are regardless of what “what if” questions. The content really doesn’t always matter, it’s the underlying beliefs. But I know with anxiety at the forefront it’s hard to access what’s beneath all the worrying. I feel with my partner I’ve kind of hit a wall, he’s not in the country ATM. He’s gone abroad and will be back in 7 days. I don’t even feel like I truly miss him- I’m just consumed with doubts and I can’t really get past them. When I see his pictures I’m checking for whether I find him attractive or not, it’s like an automatic thought lol, it’s so draining… when I feel better I feel like I can’t uphold the feeling of feeling better for too long, then end up making myself anxious again. When things get more serious and deeper with him I feel like I’m so consumed with doubt and anxiety that it just makes me feel like he isn’t the right person for me. This vicious cycle where it appears to make me self sabotage my own happiness is so so so exhausting!
Hi growing love,
Yes, exhausting is the right word. I just want to rest. I am constantly checking my feelings towards my bf. But as someone wrote, how could we ever expect to feel anything under that pressure. We are really not kind to ourselves when we expect to feel this and that. And kindness is what we deserve. Let’s hang on.
It’s helpful to know others feel the same way; sometimes the relief lasts only a second but it keeps me hanging on. Earlier my friend who has broken up with her boyfriend (he suddenly ended things, but they were having some intercultural issues with their families), said something about how she used to convey all her worries to her boyfriend. And then she said “I hate to be a party pooper but he left me in the end”. That spiked me, it was more I wanted to run away from her. Then when my partner texted me I started crying, because I felt as if I would have to leave him. Since “God might not be on my side”. I am physically tired at the moment, I don’t even know how to care for myself.
Another great article. I have been doing a lot of work on myself, spending lots of time in the silence of my own being and have attained a fair amount of stability over the past few weeks. But predictably, fear has come up with yet another story. I married the first girl I ever dated and its a loving decision because she is such a fantastic woman and we share a beautiful equation. But my mind is going on overdrive, saying she is the first girl I dated and maybe life will teach me the truth about relationships(that no matter who I am with, anxiety resides only within me and I am solely responsible) only by making me go through a bad experience. Now, it sounds ridiculous as I type this, but the fear feels very real. I know that there’s a great possibility of learning about and building love with my wonderful wife when I am calm and I really feel the connection in those moments. In other times(such as this) fear takes over. I just want your opinion on whether its necessary to go through many relationships in order to learn about yourself or “find your type”.
I’d say no it’s not necessary. Perhaps your worries reside in what culture today says – “don’t settle! Sometimes you have to explore relationships and go through many before finding what is your type.” It’s not a one size fits all, people do go through relationships, countless of times, but that’s unique to their situation. Fear is feeding on the security your relationship currently provides, and being an anxious personality it will latch onto the closest thing to you, this being your relationship. I love how you asserted yourself and said “I married the first girl I ever dated and it’s a loving decision”, the rest is the fear talking… doubt is normal (something I am trying to internalise), but it’s evident you don’t want to lose your partner or replace her. 🙂
I started reading about intrusive thoughts. Something you said really got me confused- “One of the keys to breaking free from intrusive thoughts is calling it’s bluff. And calling the bluff means taking responsibility for yourself which, in this case includes, recognizing that the underlying pain would exist irreguardless of external circumstances”. That last sentence trips me out. Because the intrusive thought of “what if someone better comes along and I choose them instead of my partner” is the first time I have ever had this thought in a relationship. I can’t pinpoint any underlying pain– the thought is just there, it’s never been there in the past, so I don’t understand why it’s coming now. And it’s making me question my love for my partner. I just don’t know how to navigate through this.
I’m finding it harder now that my thoughts have changed, I’ve gone from “I don’t know if I love him, I don’t love him” to “I don’t know if I want to be with him anymore” and for me this thought is the worst, because at least when I was having the love thoughts I always knew I wanted to be with him so that’s what I hung onto. & now I’m having these thoughts I don’t feel like I have anything to hang onto to keep me grounded. But again I was having these thoughts at work, & the minute I got home with my boyfriend they eased away, I was all loving with him and wanting to cuddle him. Would your book the conscious bride be any help to me?
I can’t really say much because I am in the thick of it myself, but what I can’t tell you is I had the EXACT same thought patterns a couple weeks ago. It started off “I don’t know if I want him”, but I knew I loved him so I had some thing to cling to, but then I had the thought “I don’t know if I love him” both thoughts after a while of questioning turned to “I don’t love him” and “I don’t want him” I ALMOST broke up with him, but recalled- I have tried breaking up with him 4 times because of these thoughts (and other thoughts)- every time I chose to stay instead of end it I have been GLAD, I always learn something new and special about him. We’ve been together for 9 months. When my brain isn’t filled with all the thoughts I KNOW I want to be with him and I can hesitantly admit that I love him, truly there is no one else I want to be with. I say all that because if you don’t feed the thoughts they will die. I know that’s really scary because you want the answers–I do too, especially when caught up in the cycle- but if you can become distracted with something else, work, a hobby, or anything and let go of the thought- I believe you will realize that you really do love him and fear is just grabbing a hold of you. The thoughts come and they are brutal, I know, but what I realized this morning after reading your post. Too many people are having freakishly similar thought patterns that are causing them misery- the thoughts can’t possibly be truth. Again, i don’t have the answers but I can fully relate, I pray that you will find peace- and don’t let that mind tell you that you’d be peaceful without him- I know that’s what my mind would jump to- don’t believe it. Just take it one day at a time, moment by moment, try not to feed the thoughts (read the blog on Feeding the Demons), and choose love, trust your heart because it is probably with your guy:)
Hi Katie, No, the Conscious Bride is about the transition into marriage. For relationship anxiety your best sources are my blog and courses.
Also, I’ve have a new thought enter my mind about my ex. My ex and I dated for three years and broke up because my relationship anxiety. For some reason I have been thinking about my relationship with my ex vs. my current partner. My ex and I had a strong connection, when we hugged I felt like I was home, when I looked into his eyes I connected with his heart- always. With my current partner I do not have any of that. When I hug him, it’s just a hug, when I looking into his eyes, I just look into his eyes. I do feel very safe with my current partner, but I don’t have the sense of home, I’m not “drawn” to him. And this is causing anxiety because I only had this with my ex, I don’t have it with my current partner, but what if I find that with someone else? I am comparing my old relationship with my current one, and fearing the future of what else could come in. Help?
I realy dont know that I trusted myself or not when I said yess when I got married , the uncertainty came when he said that Im not his child so he wont feed me , he sent me some money yess after I begged him, we’re in long distance relationship , I have a job , he dodesnt have a job but he got more money than me, he’s pretty stingy and I really dont understand it ,he said he dont get married like general culture who husband find money n wife provide food , I understand that , he want emantipation for me as a woman , me personally I love work too but I assume when married man gives their wives money ,it’s one of responsible act..I’m really hopeless
How long can intrusive thoughts last? I don’t recall having anxiety in the past but then I have always been an over thinker and a worrier. Ive been having unwanted thoughts for about a year now regarding my boyfriend ever since we got back together after he initially broke up with me. Ive had all different thoughts from “do I love him, am I in love, I don’t love him, am I gay” etc and since I had a cry the other day cause it was all getting to me and I spurted out “I don’t know if I want this anymore” Ive been continuously thinking about it. I don’t want to lose him. Things aren’t easy at the moment, nothing regarding me and him and our relationship but living with his parents is really hard, I’m an hour away from all my friends and family and I do feel lonely. I have read on here numerous times about love not being a feeling etc, and to not try and question how you feel but I can’t detach from that, I’m finding that the hardest of it all. My thoughts are always worse when we aren’t in one anothers presence. I look at photos to try and get a feeling, I try and picture myself ending it up see how I’d feel, when we kiss I try and see if there’s a feeling there and when we cuddle.. it’s been going on for a year but I have had days and even weeks where I’ve been free of the thoughts and I have known that I love him. I’m just struggling on wether this is relationship anxiety or not. I’m scared that say in like 20 years I’m still suffering like this and I feel like it wouldn’t be fair on him, he seems to love me so easily, always telling me that he loves me so much. I hesitate at first but then I do say that I love him back. The first few months together was amazing, feeling happy all the time, excited to see him all the time, literally felt on cloud 9, when he broke up with me I was a mess. Got back together 5 days later and it all started from then. I don’t want anyone else. I don’t want a life with anyone else.. I’m just scared that I don’t know if this is anxiety or wether it’s just not love? I don’t want to hurt him. Surely he deserves someone who knows and loves him so easily? But the thought of not being with him and letting him goes frightens me. I really don’t want that.
I can’t explain how scared/upset I am incase the truth is I just no longer love him and that it’s not relationship anxiety 🙁 I just feel like I want to cry whenever I think of this. He is the most amazing person, I’ve never had someone love and care for me like he does, I don’t want to lose this. I want to be happy again and feel all the love like I did in the beginning 🙁 this breaks me
My partner was coming out a long term relationship where they had a house together, it’s still not fully sorted but I keep thinking to myself that I don’t want to put him through that again, we are looking to buy a house together by the end of this year, and I keep thinking what if even when we are in our own place that I still have these thoughts, I don’t want to have to leave him and put him through all the same rubbish that he went through with his ex.. I’m not happy living with his parents, been living with them for a year and it’s hard, I feel lonely all the time and I spend most my time in the bedroom when my boyfriend isn’t home. I’d like to think that once we have our own place and back living near my family and that, that I’ll feel a little better in myself but I’m just scared that I won’t. He is the most amazing person and I don’t want to hurt him, I want him to be happy but I want him to be with me. I want to be the one to make him smile and happy
And I’m sorry to post again but I’m also wondering why I didn’t have this happen in my first relationship, I was with my first boyfriend when I was like 16 and was with him for about a year and a half and I didn’t have all these thoughts, but at the same time I was young, I didn’t imagine spending my life with him, I was a little upset when we broke up I probably was upset for less than a day, and yet with my current boyfriend we broke up after a few months and I felt distraught for like the entire time we weren’t together, I felt like I accepted it on the day we got back together but I wanted to keep him as a friend so I could hopefully get him back. I just worry that “what if me accepting it was me not loving him” I was plagued with the whole “is this the right thing to do getting back with him” etc, when I’m around him I don’t feel guilty for being with him, when I’m around him I just wanna be close to him all the time, I want to cuddle him and kiss him.
Is it normal to get angry about having intrusive thoughts? The thought of being with my partner makes me glad- however, I get images and then a rush of emotions of what it would be like to meet someone I truly “connected” with. That makes me so angry. Truly, I have no idea why this thought keeps coming and it’s been in my mind since November. When I have days and that thought doesn’t cross my mind I don’t question it or wonder- I pretty much just see it as fear. But it is constantly in my midst. I’m loving the course- it’s hitting some good points for me, however I don’t know what the root of this is, and my mind tells me it’s because that is what I truly desire- even though that may be partially true, I don’t want to lose my partner. Advice?
Do you have the break free course? Does it help? My main thought is “I don’t love him” and it only enters my head when I’m absent from my partner, the minute I’m with him and in his company it goes away and I feel fine. I feel a little distant and sometimes when he goes to kiss me I feel like I sometimes edge away a little but that’s only when my head is anxious, when I’m not anxious I’m all over him haha! Again I don’t know what the root of this all I know is this all started when he broke up with me and we got back together and now I’m constantly trying to check my feelings and because the feeling of love isn’t there in that exact moment it makes me believe that maybe I don’t love him. But I don’t want to lose him. I want to be with him. Just makes me sad all the time and I feel bad for him
do you think the break free course would help me? & if so, if I pay in 2 installments, do I get access to it after the first instalment or once I’ve paid both? And also, when would the second payment have to be done? I’m just scared that the break free course will make me realise that I don’t love this amazing man 🙁 🙁
I’m finding this the hardest cause I’ve gone from “am I in love with him, do I love him” to “I don’t love him” and I think because we have been together almost a year and a half then I should know that I love him by now, what kept me grounded was the fact I knew I wanted to be with this guy forever, and then I had a bad day the other week and now my heads telling me that I don’t even know if I want to be with him, & this happened over night.. my head feels like it’s gonna explode and I feel like I just need to say to him “I don’t love you” it feels like it’s forcing me to say it but I don’t want to 🙁 why me, why when I meet someone so amazing and that I can settle with and have a happy life with this all happens, I do believe it’s something within me though because i just feel down all the time at the moment and that’s not his fault. There’s no red flags in our relationship. The only thing is we don’t sit and talk together a hell of a lot but that can be worked on. I really want to love him and feel the feelings of love
I highly recommend you get the course! I literally have had the exact same thoughts and feelings as you, and they pass over time. When you look back you’ll see it’s just fear:) take the course:)
Did you pay in full or 2 halfs?
Two halves- but you get the whole course:)
Once you’ve paid th first half, how long do you have until you pay the second half?
why you deleted my comment???? is it not related to the article????
I’m so disappointed
It wasn’t deleted, Lidya. I’m offline from Friday to Saturday so sometimes it can take a couple of day for a comment to get approved.
From my previous comments would the break free course help me sheryl? And if I pay in two halfs how does that work?
Yes, Katie, I have no doubt it would benefit you enormously. With the split payment option, you pay half up front and then the second half a month from the purchase date. You receive the entire course upon purchase.
Okay thank you, does it help you go through the whole portray of people thinking love is a feeling etc? And can I buy it at anytime or is there certain open dates?
Yes, it addresses the love is a feeling false belief at length and you can purchase at any time.
That’s great thank you, I’m just trying to figure out how much it is in U.K money as I’m in the UK
Hi Sheryl – I’ve realised recently that all the people I’ve really loved have been people I’ve looked up to and admired, to the point that I wanted to be more like them. From my first best friend to my ex-fiancé, when they were the most significant people in my lives, I tried to become more like them and as well as loving them for who they were, loved the way they made me feel inspired to be a better person myself – I was so grateful for their presence in my life because I felt improved as a result. However, my ex-fiancé betrayed my trust and broke my heart, and since then the well of love, respect, admiration and affection I once felt inside me, which was just waiting for the right person to bestow it upon, feels as though it’s completely dried up. I feel utterly self-absorbed, mistrustful of others, and find it difficult to admire or respect anyone. I also feel as though I gave so much of myself in those previous relationships, that I almost don’t know who I am. I feel numb and detached most of the time – when my therapist asked whether anything makes me feel alive, I said that only intellectual stimulation does; deep, good, lengthy conversation about religion, ethics, people and the world is what makes me light up. However, somehow I’ve found myself married to someone who loves me deeply, but is not intellectual or a great conversationalist – and I find myself struggling to connect with him and look past his other, more minor flaws because we’re missing this spark/chemistry. His lack of intellectual depth or desire to read and learn makes it hard for me to look up to and respect him – and I worry that if I let him in and let myself love him, I’ll become more like him, because that’s what I’ve done in past relationships, but I don’t want to be more like him because he’s not someone I ‘admire’ and aspire to in that way. I realise that losing myself in another person isn’t healthy, so perhaps the fact that he isn’t someone I want to morph into will prevent me entering that dynamic again, and that’s a good thing – but then I don’t know how to have a loving relationship with someone I don’t have high esteem and respect for in that way (I even sometimes think I’m ‘better’ than him because I’m smarter, more concerned with moral and ethical questions etc…). Our connection, when it is there, is emotional – but I also worry that my affection is only because he loves me and cares for me, and because I had bad luck in love after the painful breakup from my ex and so was desperate to feel valued and wanted again; what if I don’t love him for ‘him’?
Sometimes it feels like my truth is that I don’t really want this. That I want more chemistry, more attraction. I want something different than what it is in teality. That feels true. I don’t leave because I made a promise and commitment. So how can I make it better?
Sometimes it feels like my truth is that I don’t really want this. That I want more chemistry, more attraction. I want something different than what it is in reality. That feels true. I don’t leave because I made a promise and commitment. So how can I make it better?
Hello! I’ve been reading your blog and it’s been of great help.
I’ve been reading about rocd and relationship anxiety and I related to both.
Yesterday, I read about something called “Limerence” and how it was related to all of this.
Now, all I think about is “what if my relationship is based on limerence?”. That scares me a lot.
Have you heard about it? How can I tell the difference?
Limerance is simliar to how I talk about projection and infatuation, and it’s nothing to be scared of. Once you understand projection, you’ll be able to work with your relationship anxiety effectively.
Hi! Love your posts. I have a question about the topic of my thoughts. Many people seem to obsess about whether they love their partner, but my thoughts are more about whether or not I’m dependent on him. When I feel good I know I’m not and this is just something I fear (I really want to be independent, maybe because I’m scared to lose him so I better be independent in order to make sure I’m fine when I lose him?). I really like to be with him and to do stuff together but then the stupid thoughts like ‘you spend too much time with him’ ‘you will be bored if you spend so much time with him’ ‘look at your friends, they are more independent’ ‘they are always together and they enjoy it, you have these awful thoughts so just must not enjoy spending time with him’ and so on. Even though I really have my own life and own friends, I still think I’m dependent on him. Now I’m obsessing about our relationship it of course feels like I’m spending too much time thinking about him. But I can’t seem to find any clarity in whether I’m ‘normal’ or not. Can you give some advice?
Whenever our thoughts take over, regardless of the topic, it’s an invitation to grow your loving inner parent who can learn to meet your thoughts effectively. Learn more in my book, The Wisdom of Anxiety.
I know it’s unlikely that you’ll see this considering how many years late this comment is, but, if you do, I would deeply, deeply appreciate your advice.
In your above post, you mentioned that a common feature of relationship anxiety is that, when thinking of leaving your partner, “your soul sinks and your heart contracts because this edict is out of alignment with your deepest knowing.” Can the opposite also be true?
For example: What if, deep down, there’s a sense that I “know” that he’s not actually the one I want to be with forever, but then part of me also wants us to be able to be together forever because he checks all of the boxes except for the “this feels right” feeling? Like, what if the thought of staying with him feels “wrong,” and the thought of leaving feels “right,” but it also feels too painful, so I’d rather stay?
Can this “knowing” be wrong and/or overcome? Can I learn to love him? I just desperately don’t want to leave him and be alone/lose his kindness and affection. He’s my first love, my emotional pillar, and the only person who has ever loved me unconditionally. He’s accepted me and had such a nonjudgemental attitude and vice versa (for the most part). I’ve shared the deepest, darkest parts of my soul with him and vice versa. I’ve been so vulnerable with him (and vice versa!), and I’m just simply not willing to push past the fear in order to have that kind of vulnerability with another person again if my partner and I break up.
Before we started officially dating, we became best friends, and the thought of having someone whom I could call my best friend and vice versa made me cry what I think were tears of gratitude/happiness (although now I question even that?). I secretly hoped he’d ask me out, but then almost immediately after he asked me out, I felt like I didn’t want this relationship and like I actually wanted out.
I have had a limited degree of special affectionate feelings towards him earlier on in our relationship, but before those feelings started, there was initially a “gut feeling” that I didn’t really want to be boyfriend/girlfriend with him or that he wasn’t right for me… I managed to push it away, and we had a honeymoon period, where I felt affection, lust, and compassionate/caregiving feelings, towards him at various times and to varying degrees. (One time, when was sick the day our visit was supposed to end, I cried because he cried because he didn’t want me to go, so I cancelled the flight. There have been other times where I’ve cried over his suffering and his sadness, and I’ve felt depths of empathy that I’ve never felt for regular friends or family before. It felt like what we had was special…)
However, all of these feelings died down after a few months, and most of these “honeymoon period” feelings occurred long-distance over the phone, which makes me feel like it wasn’t “a real foundation for love” since it could have just been transference/idealization, and that maybe the “deep down, I know this isn’t what I want” feeling is actually true.
Please, please help me if you’re able to see this. I feel like, deep down, I actually want to leave, but I also don’t want to lose what we have (so, in that sense, I don’t actually want to leave?). The thoughts of staying make me sick to my stomach and lose sleep at night, but the thoughts of leaving make me miserable too. I wish what we currently have could just be okay, and that it could be a foundation to cultivate actual, healthy love!!
Also, he doesn’t have any red flags, but I do (i.e. the selfish feelings I just expressed in this comment).
I just want to know if it’s okay to stay with him and if I can make this icky “intuition” go away by growing my love for him, even if the place “deep down inside me” says no. Is it possible that whatever is necessary for actual/healthy love to grow just wasn’t there in the first place if the initial feeling was “ick”? Can “deep down intuition” feelings be overcome? Can I still grow to love him and feel at peace in this relationship? Or is it all simply wrong?
It really comes down to self-trust, Mary, which is what I discuss in this articles. There are no right or wrong decisions; there’s only trusting, deciding, and learning.
I feel very similair Mary.. I felt like I couldnt leave but couldnt stay… its a terrible feeling and i empathize with you. I chose what I chose and it caused me immense pain, all I can say is the decision will not cure you, either way you will need to work on yourself, just like Sheryl said, there are no right or wrong decisions, we jsut have to learn and trust and be as honest to ourselves as possible and love ourselves. But its hard…its been a year and everyday is a struggle.
A response to Julia and Mary.
How my heart goes out to the both of you. I remember feeling the exact same way. I was 100% certain I was just with my partner because I was too scared to leave. I was triggered by basically anything. I was not functioning at all. Just one month before I got married I had a session with Sheryl I remember telling her that I would never heal, I was the exception and I do not say that lightly. I was convinced I was in the wrong relationship. But it was, what was mentioned in this blog here that made me hold on…
When I would go deep, deep, down inside I would hear a small something say “just stay”, “just try it, you don’t want to leave for a reason”, “just try it”. and I could barely hear that voice. But it was there, sometimes.
So here is my lifeline, hold onto the fact that you are here for a reason. That this is your fight. Hold on to that tiny something that still makes you say yes. Learn about projection. You might not believe it, but call the lies out by the true name.
You might not feel that in love at the moment as Sheryl says, but if I can (I mean this) do it, so can you.
I can say now, I have come to a place of clarity. I have a beautiful relationship with my man, and I say with tears in my eyes that I am the most lucky girl in the world. May you too become a LOVE WARRIOR.
Hold on, you’ll get there.
mary did you overcome this?
I especially like what you say about scientists and psychologists. Hard science certainly seems to be the dominant paradigm in our culture at present, but it just isn’t applicable in much of this work.
Yes because it doesn’t understand and often invalidates non-rational ways of knowing.
This has to be one of my favorite posts of yours Sheryl. I never thought to articulate how knowing is different than adding up facts or messages from people outside yourself. I have always known my partner is a wonderful match for me and known that I’m not gay. And yet, I spent more than a year and a half getting caught up proving both and feeling so unsure. I’m so grateful for you and your voice in this world always
I’m so glad it spoke to you, Pearl. ❤️❤️❤️
I like how you contrasted the concept of “truth” with the concept of “knowing”. That’s helpful for me, thank you! I also just watched a TED talk about making hard decisions (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GQZuzIdeQQ), and the essence of that talk was this: If the answer were so obvious to you about what you SHOULD do, then it wouldn’t be a real choice. There would only be one option – the obvious one. But when we have to dig deep for our own reasons of WHY we are making that hard choice, it illustrates beautifully that we have personal agency and a say over our own destinies. Some of us have been taught not to trust ourselves, so tapping into that personal agency can be scary at first. But it’s ultimately a freeing thing!
I have read everything about relationship on this blog, and read so many books, and went through therapy trying to find my answer, my truth.
When I read this blog, I feel like maybe there’s a chance I can finally feel at peace in my relationship with my fiancé, and I feel relieved for a moment, because I know he’s a great partner, we could keep the house together, and I can finally have my dream of having children…
But when I really look inside, I think it’s the fear keeping me in this relationship, and the fear that took me there in the first place. I desired having kids so much, and I always wanted to live the married life. My biggest fear is to stay single and to never have children of my own. So when I met this great man who made me laugh and had the same goals as me, I thought, ok, I’m safe, I found someone who’s committed, who loves me.
But as much as I like him, I don’t think I ever truly loved him. I feel nothing for him. I wish I did, I really wish. I look at him and I think he looks good, I find him intelligent… but I don’t feel anything sexual towards him. He’s my best friend, but it’s really friend energy. Not love.
I tried for months and months to convince myself, because nobody has ever treated me this well. I am so, SO SCARED, I really don’t want to leave but I feel dishonest in this situation.
I think I’m going against my deeper values by sticking around. This man truly loves me and I can’t give him back the same love, it’s just unfair.
I compare to my relationship with my ex. My ex did not tick any of the boxes but I had a deep, profound love for this man. Let’s say we were hanging out with his friends and one of his friends was more successful, charismatic and in shape, I truly didn’t care.
My love for my ex was so strong and pure, I loved his SOUL. If that makes sense. But I was younger, and my mother had brainwashed me into thinking I needed an academic, someone who had big ambitions, so I left him ,but I know deep down I didnt want to leave, I just thought thats what I SHOULD do.
So I left. It’s been years since then, now he has a family with another woman. And I finally met this ambitious man, my mom loves him, I like him, he’s great, but I don’t love him of a love as pure as I did my ex.
I don’t think it’s enough, or fair, I think I need to leave.
I’m so afraid to regret it though.
But I’m so tired of trying to force things.
I have been thinking about this so much, I am so exhausted and depressed with this situation.
I’m just a shadow of myself at this point, floating through life.
And anxious, depressed, exhausted, mess.
I wish I knew for sure I would be ok if I left.
I wish I knew if it is ROCD or just my truth.
I am so sorry that you are in this turmoil. I hope that you have found some relief in the time since you wrote your post two months ago. Anxiety about one’s relationship is so, so tough, especially when we are already “neck deep” in the new relationship and it seems so hard to leave, when there seems to be so many good things about the partnership, but also things that really scare us and cause us to feel like we are not sticking with our “truth” and inner knowing. And then the more we spin our wheels, the harder it seems to get to make a decision, while at the same time we are making it harder to authentically connect with the partner.
I know how hard it feels to have an ex whose soul we are more attracted to, that is more “pure” and kind. It is really, really tough.
If you ever need, feel free to email me at [email protected] – I have been (am in) your shoes, and would love to talk with someone who understands.
Warm regards, Beth
Sheryl my partner has loved me the most that anyone can, And for over 6 month now I am at war with my thoughts all day. Now I have stopped fighting my thoughts, I am getting this deep intuitions every morning at 4-4:30 AM – that the relationship is actually over, its like a deep warm knowing that its not right for me.
As I wake up though I get panicked with that knowing and spend all day trying to believe it could still work, we could still grow love etc – isn’t this resistance. Why am I fighting myself to be in a relationship that I am not even enjoying for a long time. MY partner loves me so much so I have been through all sort of intrusive thoughts, but now I just get these intuitions very peacefully to just accept it. I don’t want to accept it but the inner battle has my life on pause. Is there any way I can salvage my relationship, Can I change this deep knowing or is this all resistance. I am so sad to learn that as soon as I started the work – what’s come to the fore is that I have to leave. I loved every blog on this website because its the only thing that gave me hope against everything. I just want to love her – I just want to be in love with her and build a life with her – I judge/shame/hate myself for not being able to love her and or be happy with our relation and want something that align more with me…. I don’t want to live in this hell, is it time to call it quits. or can you even see 1% hope – Please help. I would just want to be in love with her – but this is just a thought , the deeper knowledge every morning is to accept that I am not happy/wellmatched and let it go.
Hi Naina, its scary how much I could have written exactly the same thing you wrote about my relationship. I also feel like my life has been on pause for years now as I balance between the thoughts of staying or leaving without ever knowing what I should do. Without ever fully commiting. It’s so hard. I don’t have the answer for you as I don’t know what to do myself. I send you love and please know you are not alone in this battle. I hope we can stay strong and get through this and find our peace one day.