Relationship Anxiety: Fear Eyes or Clear Eyes?

by | Oct 4, 2011 | Relationship Anxiety Collection, Transitions - General | 74 comments

The power of fear never ceases to amaze me. When I initially entered the fear forest after my first panic attack at age 21 (three months before graduating from college), I prostrated myself at fear’s feet. I handed over my thought processes and became a complete victim to whatever fear told me was true. For several years, most of this occurred unconsciously as I hadn’t found my way to the right support. Until I learned how to challenge fear’s arguments, I was a helpless pawn under its rule, a victim in a dark forest. It was, in short, misery.

Eventually, gratefully, I found my way to the couch of a brilliant psychotherapist. He was the first to say things like, “You’re a victim to your feelings. They rule your life.” Huh? Of course I listened to my feelings. They had been my guideposts my entire life, the clues by which I made my decisions. It took me months to assimilate the concept that feelings are just feelings and not necessarily the truth. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t listen to our feelings and attend to them daily (if not hourly). But I had not comprehended the difference between feelings that were created by my thoughts which then created massive amounts of anxiety and feelings that were a response to the natural rhythm of life.

The concept didn’t really take hold until I met the man who would become my husband. After the initial free-ride of relationship bliss wore off and fear grabbed me in a stronghold of epic proportions (yes, everyone who finds their way to me thinks that their relationship anxiety is manifesting as a worse-case scenario, but I promise you I’ve been there), I was dragged into the underworld and forced to examine the level to which I handed fear my power. When fear said, “You don’t really love him,” I believed it. When fear said, “He’s just going to engulf you and steal your life force,” I believed it. When the critical part of me went into overdrive and picked him to shreds, I did nothing to stop it. Just a few months after we started dating, our tender relationship was hanging on by a thread. We even broke up (for 24 hours), but something in me couldn’t let him go. Some part of me knew that he was everything I had ever wanted in a partner, and if the relationship was going to last, I was going to have to fight.

Under the guidance of my therapist, I slowly learned to challenge fear and call its lies out onto the mat. In a life-changing session with him, I learned that fear was actually distorting my perceptions of my partner. This was astonishing to me! Fear was so powerful that it could actually alter the way I was physically seeing him! I learned that when we see life through fear-tinted glasses, it’s like walking through a fun-house where everything becomes distorted. Except that it’s not fun at all; it’s torture. Fear wanted to convince me to run because in fear’s mind, love is dangerous. Love means loss. Love mean losing myself or losing the other person. Love means risking my heart and breaking down the layers of control. Real love means that I have to be accountable and vulnerable and, since I had never met someone with whom I felt safe enough to do this, almost every fiber in my body and soul wanted to run.

But I didn’t run. Thank God, I didn’t run. I worked my tail off every day and wrote hundred of dialogues between the various characters of my mind, with the voice of my Wise Self responding. There were many moments when fear would dissolve and I would see my partner through clear eyes, standing before me with the beauty of his soul radiating out like the rays of the sun. I would see his kindness that runs through him like a river and emanates out of his warmest eyes. I would see his acts of caring, which are too numerous to list here. I would see his creativity, his soulfulness, the poetry of who he is. I would see that he’s everything I’ve ever wanted and needed, and I would be flooded with love and gratitude. Fear might rear its ugly head the very next hour, but those windows of clarity were what gave me the inspiration and the knowing that I had to keep battling through the fear voices and fighting for love.

It’s now one of my greatest joys to help others work through their fear voices and learn to choose love. When clients share their daily dialogues, I analyze them line by line, helping them see where fear has taken hold and how they can challenge it. I hold out a lifeline for them, a context that says, “I know it’s horrible right now, but if you stay with this you won’t regret it. There is nothing more worth fighting for than a shared life with a loving partner.” If it’s possible for me and the hundreds of people I’ve counseled, it’s possible for you.

I’m in awe of fear but I no longer allow it to rule my life. I won’t lie to you: Fear still occasionally takes hold and I still have to work with it until it releases its grip. But it doesn’t happen daily or even weekly. For the most part, I live my life with immense amounts of gratitude and a solid knowing that none of this would be possible – not our two boys, not our home and land, not my thriving practice, not the inner hum of peace that permeates most of my days, not the sweet and enduring love in our  marriage – had I not said no to fear and yes to love.

***

To receive the roadmap that has guided thousands of people through the stranglehold of relationship anxiety, see my Break Free From Relationship Anxiety Course. 

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74 Comments

  1. thank you for this beautiful post. i relate so much to everything as you have described. and it is possible to dismantle fear, as you have shown me 🙂

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  2. As always, this is absolutely beautiful! I’m so happy I found your site two years ago. My marriage is the greatest gift in this world! Thank god I said no to fear and yes to love! I’m so thankful that I went through the darkness and learned so many skills that will help me for the rest of my life. I am forever grateful!

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  3. And I’m so grateful to both of you for offering your support and inspiration to those still lost in the dark forest!

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    • hi Sheryll, is it possible that fera is telling me that I feel nothing? that I dont love him? thaanks, im very scared and confused and dont want to lose nick, he is trully amazing and loves me but I think im not feeling what im supposed to feel. like a full heart or something. I feel ok but shouldnt it be different?

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      • I felt the same when my anxiety hit. Literally it was a complete 180. Seven years honey moon bliss. Next day, emptyness. Nothing. I struggled to even recognise my life. It was real tough. I got to a point where I emotionally felt okay, but I couldn’t feel any emotion for my life or my partner. But through the work here and Sheryl’s book, I’m in much better place. I’ve come to understand that my anxiety and fear were projecting onto my partner and my decisions in life, which is difficult to overcome. But it can be done. Small steps each day. Now, on good days (which are many) I can feel love towards my partner 😊 don’t let the fear control you! Be brave for yourself. You can do it.

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  4. Great post! I needed to hear this today. I particularly like what you said about “windows of clarity.” I’ve felt a number of anxious/fear based things since being engaged and married to my husband, but something that works so well is to let those windows carry you through the next spell of fear. A few weeks ago we were having a really good conversation, and just enjoying each other, and I had the thought “nothing in me is resisting this right now….there’s no projection, or fear, or worry over how long this state is going to last….just enjoyment and love.” It was a great moment to just revel in and enjoy. Yes. The hard work is worth it!

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  5. It’s a constant battle for me not to work myself up, to obsess, worry and wonder. While it can be debilitating at times, I know if you sit long enough with it, the truth comes out. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. True!! Thanks for posting.
    I find telling myself ‘sit with this, sit with this, sit with this’ helps me push through it instead of the old message (which still appears now and again) stating ‘run, run, run’.

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  7. Sheryl, the experience you have shared in this blog post is nearly identical to mine. I’m in my mid twenties, and one year ago my anxiety nearly removed me from a wonderful 4 year relationship that until then I had always thought was right. I managed to discover the truth about my fear as you have described here and work through it, mainly via counselling as well as a lot of yoga and reading. I actually eventually discovered that it was rooted in OCD-like obsessional thinking that focused on my relationship. One of the rituals associated with my OCD was to search the internet for answers regarding “how do you know you’re in love”, “how do you know someone is the one”, and while this is a negative habit, eventually finding your blog was immensely healing for me. I love that it doesn’t feed into the fantasies and perfectionist solutions offered by popular relationship advice. I am now preparing to move to another country with my partner and will be remembering your words throughout the transition.

    Thank you for your spirituality, wisdom and encouragement.

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    • Yes, the thinking can become obsessional with the corresponding compulsion of searching the internet or checking inside if you “feel” love. And YES to yoga and reading! Meditating, exercise, play, and creativity are also amazingly potent antidotes to anxiety.

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  8. This was such a beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing, Sheryl.

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  9. I’m so happy I serendipitously found your site!! I just love everything you voice on here. I so wish there were more women (and men) speaking honestly about what true relationship is and how its a continual dance in self discovery and the discovery of each other …which of course means fear will always have something to say. I’m in an amazing relationship with a man I truly love, and lately the fear voice has definitely made itself known. It is so validating to read your words of wisdom! Thank you:)

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    • I, too, wish that more people spoke honestly about the ebbs and flows of connection and the power of fear in healthy relationships.

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  10. Sheryl, thank you for this post. I’ve stumbled across your interview with Alanis a couple of months ago but never had the time (didn’t take the time?) to actually listen to it. About a week ago I finally did and it was such an inspiration. I found many explanations for things I didn’t understand before. So I went back to your site and I’m a regular reader now, and just this post right there reaffirms that I’ve stumbled upon something incredibly precious when I “found” you on the internet. I still have a long way to go before I can face my fears as courageous as you do but having someone name the exact fears I have and saying it’s ok to have them and that they can be overcome already makes me feel better. Thank you.

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  11. I’m so glad you found Daev and said yes to love! I love experiencing your beautiful family.

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    • Thank you, Mom! I’m forever grateful that you helped me see through the fear so I could recognize the essence of my beautiful man! It’s so important to have one person who blows the whistle on the mainstream criteria for choosing a partner and helps you say no to fear.

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  12. Sheryl! I just got the e-mail about this post. Now almost 6 months into marriage, this past week my husband and I visited the place where he proposed and where all of my anxiety began. I found the memory of those feelings and fears popping up in my mind. I remembered how scared and confused I was about how I was feeling. The anxiety was threatening to return in the back of my mind, but I remembered how far I have come and how happy I am to have overcome the stronghold the fear and anxiety had on me. To this day, I remember your words and they help me through the times when fears rear their ugly head. Your story is exactly what I went through. I am so grateful that now the anxiety is merely a visitor that rarely returns.

    I also wish people were more outspoken about the reality of relationships – the ebbs and flows of connections, the way your relationship changes on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.

    As always, thank you for your work!

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  13. Just came across your website, thank you for posting this. I’m recently engaged to a very kind and caring man now I overly fearful and anxious of our future before this I felt fine. I can relate to your post and feel some relief knowing I’m not alone.

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    • You’re far from alone, as you’ll quickly see from reading through other posts!

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  14. Melanie, you are not alone in these feelings. I took Sheryl’s suggestion and started journaling exactly what my fears were and thoughts I had that scared me. Somehow, once you get past the fear of putting it on paper, it actually helps separate you from these feelings. And as Sheryl has said, feelings are just feelings. Not everything you feel is always the truth. Keep reading and processing your feelings. It truly helps. Good luck and know you aren’t alone.

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  15. Thank you so much for this post! I, too, spent many hours combing bookstores or the internet looking for the “excuse” to stay in my relationship despite the intense anxiety attacks I had and the fear that my feelings meant I didn’t love him. My anxiety started after several months of dating, but I also had the deeper feeling that I just couldn’t let go of him; that he was my soul mate. I persevered, and now we’ve been married nearly 13 years and have the most amazing three children ever! I still experience fear once in a while, but I fight it more easily and effectively than when it first appeared. Thank you.

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    • Thank YOU so much for sharing your story! I’m wondering if you’d be willing to share how you worked through your anxiety and at what point it dissipated. I know it would provide a lot of inspiration for my clients and e-course participants who are in the thick on it.

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  16. It has been a while since I commented… I just wanted to emphasize how much this website has meant to me since I found it. I wouldn’t say my anxiety really dissipated as much as I’ve come to understand it more and to not let it take over. When it first appeared before we were married, I sought help from a therapist (your website would have been perfect!). Even then, I don’t think I really believed some of what I’ve learned here – that the anxiety has more to do with me and not my husband. I’ve begun to be a witness to the patterns of my anxieties. While it appears rather obvious, it has taken me a while to discover that the doubts and fears creep up more in times of stress and transition or change, like when changing jobs or even school starting up. Your emphasis on transitions is spot on. Knowing it is something going on with me helps make it manageable. I also am open with my husband about my struggles with anxiety. I’ve even asked him how I’ve made him feel loved/how he knows I love him. Then, I used that information to talk myself down when I let doubtful thoughts creep in. It is like a glimpse into my true feelings when I really need it.

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  17. @PC Thank you for commenting. This website has been immensely helpful in my process. The hardest thing for me is that, I think my anxiety is attempt to control things; uncertainty and fear is too painful, so I think things like “50% of couples get divorced” and “What-if doesn’t last?” and I’m working in breathing into that fear and after a while of break-down tears and the thought that, yes, something might go wrong, I’m feeling more clear-headed. I know I have a lot of work to do, but it’s so incredible to see that you have this 13 marriage that clearly is respectful, loving, supportive and communicative. It’s really inspiring me to keep working out my anxiety, challenging it.

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  18. Hello ladies, I hope there is someone that still reads this thread. I could use some help 🙁

    I’m 19 and trying to reconcile with my ex.
    Basically me and my ‘ex’ (who I was hopelessly in love with) broke up 4 months ago because we felt it wasn’t working.

    About 6 weeks ago, we got back into contact and have been talking about getting back together. Things have been lovely, he has been lovely. But I keep having these ‘fear/anxiety’ phases where I have a million things/questions running through my head, ‘what if i get hurt again, what if it doesn’t work out, what if this is not what i want, what if i ruin this, what if i hurt him?’ This is really starting to get in the way of what could be brilliant, but the only way I can describe it is that I have a ‘clouded’ head. I have spoke to friends and family about it and they said go slow and give it time. I have even spoken to him about it, and he has been fantastic but I’m scared it’ll drive him away.

    Yesterday, I went around his house for the whole day and it was brilliant; he cooked me dinner, watched films and played games and even fooled around a bit. Towards the end of the evening, he went quiet and I asked him what was on his mind. He said he was scared to ‘ask me’ (out) because of the outcome. I was honest and said I was scared for him to ask me, because the anxiety kicked in.

    I just don’t want this fear to get in the way :/ can anyone relate to this or offer any advice, it would help me so much.

    Thank you xx

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  19. At the starting of my relationship I was in a bad place. I was closed off by choice and bombarded with negative thoughts and beliefs. I also had major depressive problems and eventually my anxiety started. I don’t know why we started when I was like this but something kept telling me to be with her despite my incessant need to be alone. I even tried leaving once but I couldn’t let her go. I started having intrusive thoughts about how she’s too nice and I can’t be with someone like that. Can you believe that ? As the months passed I didn’t know whether or not I really liked her. I knew I cared immensely about her but I could just not feel like for her. But then something happened and one day my heart opened and I felt immense love for this girl in front of me. Without realizing it she inspired me to become a better person. I still have times when I’m not open and I’m bombarded with even more anxious thoughts now than ever before. But I’m not sure what to do. I don’t know how to let go of control and the uncertainty if this relationship may or may not work out. I’ve done a lot of journaling and dialog using and realized some major false beliefs I have. But now my major intrusive thought is if we’ll last. You see we’ve been arguing a lot over some really simple things. And maybe one major thing. And my m ind is telling me that we’re not good for each other. It’s making me think that she never inspired me to be better. It’s making me look back at how our relationship started and is telling me that it won’t last because of that. Because of me and that I’m not good enough for her and maybe she isn’t good enough for me. But I don’t understand. She has been there for me and has supported me. And never judged me. She never gave up on me when everyone else did and she loves me dearly. We have more or less the same values but I can’t seem to stop worrying. I know I have to work on myself but with all the arguing and feeling disconnected I don’t know what to do. Can you please help ?

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  20. Great article I too can relate as all this is new to Mr, the relationship anxiety an fear but through finding your site it’s helped. An I can’t imagine letting go if my partner an it’s the little moments of clarity that mean the most.

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  21. Hi, read this when looking for comfort in my turmoil. I’ve been married nearly 40 years and had relationship OCD (for want of a better expression) early on, as a result of domineering and controlling parents who left me feeling I didn’t know how to make any decisions for myself. The doubts and panics receded over a few years thanks to my lovely husband who is the only person I can totally be myself with and who loves and accepts me for who I am. It’s MY feelings I feel bad about though -every time I have a negative thought or feeling about him it sends me into a panic ‘Oh God – if I really loved him I wouldn’t get those thoughts/feelings!’ and then it would set off a circular train of thoughts, panic and severe anxiety. Over the years it improved but I did, and do, have other anxiety obsessions – health stuff, being envious of others, that I am a horrible person, etc. They all emerge from time to time, obsess me and then die down again but when one is at the forefront I cannot function and feel terrified. This one is the most terrifying because I don’t want to DO anything about it – but I can’t shake the thought that I want to stay for the ‘wrong’ reasons! The anxieties have got worse in the last few years, as our two adult daughters have become more independent. And I have recently begun a new therapy called Mentalisation Based therapy and have felt considerably worse since I started it, so I am fearful that it will make me worse with no guarantee of feeling better.
    I have plenty in common with my husband – we share many interests and life philosophy. We sometimes find ourselves thinking the same things. Though I had a tough time emotionally as a child and teenager- have never felt much good about myself, not ever, and feel a failure in many other aspects of my life, plus one of our daughters was born with a severe disability so we had a lot to deal with for the last 29 years…. – we have no money worries, and are at a stage in our lives when we could enjoy and be thankful for what we have. I know I have much to be thankful for. So WHY does my head make me sabotage it? I feel so bad for both of us. I just want peace of mind! Any words of comfort out there?

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  22. Wow. Thank you. I have been in a really intence amazing relationship for a couple months. This man is the man ive been praying about, writing about and dreaming about. After we hang out, after our first kiss, although amazing and i want it and need it and love it, i start to get scared. Ive never loved like this before. This impending doom fear feeling keeps cropping in. And my head says, this is wrong, you dont deserve this, this isnt real, you should be scared! RUN! Yet i feel so much joy and happiness and exitement and i see us together in the future. My last relationship, there was no fear, it was easy and safe, but i wasnt in love with him. I loved him in a different way. He proposed and i felt nothing. We got married and i felt i was marrying a friend. This new love is so intence and im scared. But i wont let it go. I will fight. Again thankyou for this post.

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  23. This website has been the most wonderful thing to have found as I desperately ‘googled’ questions trying to find answers to the doubts that plagued my mind. I just want to say thank you SO much for helping me realise that I am certainly not alone! I have only been dating for 3 months. I am almost thirty but it is the first relationship I have had (fear and anxiety has kept me from any in the past). Reading through the various posts on your blog has often been like reading words I could well have written. Anxiety has been absolutely awful to me lately – and it hasn’t helped that I have also just moved house! But with all the anxiety, I have been asking the question of whether this relationship is right. No ‘butterflies’, no ‘fireworks’ – and half the time I can not figure out what I feel at all! I wonder if I am making a mistake. I worry that I do not necessarily find him ‘drop-dead gorgeous’. I worry that perhaps he is uninteresting. I worry – worry – worry! Reading your post on projecting suddenly lead me to an ‘ah-ha’ moment. A VERY BIG ‘ah-ha’ moment… (In fact I am sitting here typing this with my journal next to me as I will be utilising it with your techniques once I am finished here.) I now realise I am projecting so much onto him – which in turn has made me realise I need to work on myself – on loving my ‘inner child’ that has been hurt in the past and built up walls around herself to make sure that would never happen again. I have realised that if there wasn’t something great about this guy, I would have left. But, when the anxiety disappears, even for a split second, I feel like I’m ‘at home’ with this guy. It’s something that is hard to describe. So this relationship might not last – I can’t predict the future and it would be pointless to try. Either way, I am learning so really important (and really tough!) lessons that will help me throughout life. I thank God that I stumbled onto your blog now in the early stages. No more ‘googling’! So thank you so much, Sheryl! Again, it’s just so comforting to know that I am not alone. That even though my friends can not understand and even family sometimes thinks there is something wrong with me – that there are plenty of people out there who understand this anxiety and fear all too well. Thank you for offering us a life line!

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  24. Sheryl, there would be certain things I would do or think that provided me some relief, but now its like none of them are providing relief anymore, Is this normal? Also, is feeling empty part of the healing process?

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  25. I’m not sure how I didn’t see this post before now, but as I read it today, I felt like you were whispering directly in my ear. My head was nodding, I was saying Yes, Yes, Yes…

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    • Sometimes articles find us when we’re truly ready to hear the message. Glad it found you now : ).

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  26. Thank you so much for this. I met my boyfriend a year ago, and safely fell in love with him. I have suffered from anxiety and depressssion and he has been there, he lays with me on low days and enjoys me on good days. For some reason (fear) I’ve started worrying whether he’s ‘the one’ or if we move in together will it ruin us, what if he meets someone who’s happy all the time, what if he doesn’t love me as much as he say he does, what if i dont feel the way i should.Something in me has been telling me to in away. I’ve been worrying about these thoughts, because what if they’re right?! I don’t want to run away. I just want to enjoy him, fully. You’re blog has just taken the biggest weight away from me. Thank you.

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  27. thank God for this post!! ive been fighting back and forth back and forth with my fear i thought i wqs going crazy! lol moving to another state with my fiance to a house he already owned is scary for me. i love him but just like this post my fear kept tellin me i didnt! uugh….wonderfull insight THIS IS HELPING ME OUT A LOT!!

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  28. I recently found this website and wanted to comment because I truly believed I was the alone with my “relationship anxiety”. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and OCD and find that my anxiety takes the form of an unpleasant knot in my stomach which can last for days, weeks or months. I am in a new relationship and had thought it was everything I wanted. Then I woke up one morning and there was that knot again. I examined it and realised it has been present in both of my long term relationships. My fear is that both of those relaionships where not right and I am now thinking that whenever I feel the same anxiety it is because my gut is again telling me it is not right. It is the most frsutrating feeling because I am attracted to my partner and believe I could love him. I am slowly trying to get past the anxiety but am finding it so difficult because at the back of my mind I am wondering whether he is the one and whether I am wasting my time and his. Just knowing your blog exists is a comfort to me and reading through everyones’ comments eases my anxiety somewhat.

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    • Im 19 and so is he, I love him so much, but I haven’t been finding him attractive lately, feel difficult kissing and haven’t felt horny in months(which is the biggest worry for me lately, because then sex feels like a chore), he also usually hurts me during sex (vaginal bleeding during fingering).

      It’s also true that i have been overthinking for months and trying to take on everything myself all alone (except when I dump everything on my partner). If it wasn’t for the sex issue (which he have failed to fix for months, as we both have communicated about it and tried different stuff), I wouldn’t have so many doubts.

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  29. I know this post is two years after you originally posted, but I thought I would give posting a reply a shot. The entire time I read this I had to force myself to hold back my tears and to breathe. For the past 10 months I have been a roller coaster, giving in to my fears every other minute, hour, day or week. My boyfriend has been supportive through it all, and I can’t understand how he deals with this anymore. I felt the exact same way as you described and I continue to say yest o love because of those moments that show me my heart knows what it wants. I moved to Germany two years ago to be with my boyfriend and for a while I have been just terrified of living because of what my fears make me see about him and us and myself. I started seeing a psychotherapist and we speak it German and I feel it’s not helping. I feel judged by her and I can’t truly express myself in another language. I want to get my anxiety under control and for good!

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    • If you truly want to get your anxiety under control I encourage you to consider my e-course. Not only will you have essential tools and information at your fingertips that will help you address your anxiety effectively, but you’ll be able to participate in a global community of people who truly understand what you’re going through. If you’re uncertain about the course, you can sign up for the free sampler here:

      http://conscious-transitions.com/conscious-weddings-e-course/

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  30. To clarify- as to not imply the wrong meaning of being terrified of living, I mean living my own life. I am very open extroverted person, but this anxiety about my relationship effects my anxiety about my every move, how I spend my time, how I interact with people and how I feel about what I am doing with my life at the moment. I let fear rule my every decision and indecision which I consider not really living!

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  31. I burst into tears reading your post and the comments. I was beginning to convince myself how crazy I was for having these feelings about such a wonderful man, my best friend, and my rock. I’ve dealt with small doses of anxiety before but for the last 2 days I have been spiraling down into full blown panic attacks. I am lucky enough to have a man that I immediately talked to about my fears….but I felt that his advice was biased because he loves me. I read a comment above from a couple years ago that I instantly connected with…..the one about OCD and obsessively seeking answers from the internet or constantly asking myself if I truly love this man. Quite honestly, I was doing just that when I found your post.
    Thank you for puttng this into a way that I can try to break down my anxiety and understand why my brain has started to “turn on me”. I’ll always remember this as a true pep talk. 🙂

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    • I’m so glad it was helpful, Kathy. Sounds like you have a great guy.

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  32. I am always deeply encouraged when I see these posts. I am 27 and the man I met is 52. I know, the age difference is huge. Its something that I have had deep anxiety over, from the very beginning. We have been off/on for 2 1/2 years. When I cannot handle the anxiety anylonger, we separate or ‘break it off’, but when we do….I immediately go into a deep depression so intense. I cannot eat, sleep, socialize…I feel like I am going to die. and I cannot live without him. I love him so much. The love feelings come back and I want to be with him again. This happens everytime we break up and we get back together. BUT once the relationship starts to develop again. BAM! Anxiety! Can I deal with the age difference? Do I really love him if I think this way? What if he is no longer attractive to me, Now or down the road? Will I be happy if we get married or wish that I had someone younger? These thoughts consume me. Yes, I always looks for answers on the internet, in books, and assurance from people who I know accept the relationship. ( which is most everybody!, only I seem to have the issue.) I have no reason NOT to love him. He is funny, happy, stable, my best friend. and No, I am NOT after his money ( he doesn’t have any). Is my mind telling me that I truly do not love him, or is anxiety THAT powerful that it influences my very feelings about someone? I do believe, when I am thinking clearly, that I love him and he is my soul mate. but when anxiety takes over ( almost daily) it is the opposite. I am stuck in a whirlwind. I know that if I broke it off finally, I would hate myself. Please does anyone share a may/December relationship? I feel my situation is unique than most.
    This poor man that I love, I feel like he could do so much better.

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    • Everyone believes that their situation is unique, but the truth is that relationship anxiety is relationship anxiety regardless of the specifics of the story. There are actually MANY people on the ecourse forum who are in May/December relationships, so much so that it’s been on my mind to write a blog post about it for quite some time. For you it’s the age gap, for others it’s the height or hairline or lack of education, and in the end these are all just perfect hooks onto which anxiety can hang its hat. You’re in the right place, Kristina, both with your guy and on my site, and if you truly want to kick your anxiety out of the driver’s seat once and for all I strongly encourage you to consider my Conscious Weddings E-Course.

      Reply
  33. …I forgot to mention: Me and my boyfriend are both 25…I often think: this is too good to be true. I will probably stop loving him, I will have to meet someone else. I don t know if this has affected my thinking, but few months before the breakup, a psychic told me that I will not marry my boyfriend but some other guy. My thoughts of not loving him get so strong sometimes and I think: you have to break up, If you don t do it now you will do it in the future anyway, but I don t want that to be truth…then some voice tells me: oh, you are just convincing yourself that you don t wanna break up, and this goes on and on, to the point where I think: maybe I died, and this is some kind of a nightmare…I just don t want him to love me, and get fake love in return

    Reply
  34. I have been going through the same thing as your story. I had a rough childhood filled with emotional and at times physical abuse from my dad. I have had a bad streak with guys and 4 months ago I met the sweetest, most romantic guy I have ever known. (I had written a “Ideal Guy” list after my last break up and he legitimately has every single quality I have ever looked for). Yet, I still find myself questioning my feelings for him, if this would work, if I am just being stupid, etc. I don’t understand why most days and after reading this, it all makes a little more sense. I have awful anxiety and i also struggle with depression. So when fear decides to take ahold of my mind, it does so with a vengeance. I could not imagine my life without this guy; however, the fear just eat away at me. What are some things you did to get rid of that fear?

    Reply
  35. I just found your website, ordered your book, and made it my lifeline. Every word of this post resonates with me so deeply. When I am in fear, it is truly like I am looking at my partner in a fun house–everything is distorted. When I look at him with the clarity of my heart, he’s so generous, caring, creative, kind, solid, committed, funny, all the things I used to yearn for in a parter and could never find. After years of failed and untrustworthy relationships, I found my partner and then, in January, he asked me to marry him. I said yes. Even though I was planning on it, I suddenly felt really scared that I was making a mistake. It was awful. Since then, I have worked through this feeling, sensing into my clarity as you suggested, but your work is SO HELPFUL when the fear pulls me back in. Your work has helped me so much. I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you, thank you.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you found your way here, Nora!

      Reply
  36. This is a beautiful post. But here is a question that I haven’t seen from readers: What happens when your husband is actually acting badly? I’m not talking about abuse or anything, but we all have our bad days and sometimes my husband starts an argument for no reason (as happens with all couples, I’m sure). Of course, that can start a day of me thinking, “My husband is a jerk. If I had married someone else, he’d have all the patience in the world, etc.” Or I start remembering all the dumb things he’s done over the last 20 years and ruminate over that. What is your suggestion?

    Reply
    • Everyone says and does dumb things sometimes; that’s part of being in a relationship and part of being human. The work then is to learn how to repair the ruptures, both past and present. For this I recommend Sue Johnson’s book “Hold Me Tight.”

      Reply
  37. I have bee reading these for a while now and sometimes they calm me down, but other times completely overwhelm me and think I am “the exception” and I don’t have anxiety and this is just reality. My boyfriend and I have been together for two years, and just recently broke up because we were both having “doubts” and not sure what the future brought for both of us. As I reflect and find clarity, these blog posts help immensely to know that I have relationship anxiety and something I want to work on with him, hopefully, as I discover, how great and wonderful he is and I was just too afraid to open up. But in our two years together, we never talked about the future – he would always be open to it, but I was always stand off-ish because I was afraid what the truth might hold, or I was afraid to tell him “I don’t know if I can confidently see a future.” We lived at our own apartments, and he got a dog and people would always say, oh is that both your dog and I was always like nooo? But now I am thinking that that’s weird that it wasn’t “our” dog? I don’t know I am rambling but with this time apart I am realzing I want to be with him, or am I just fooling myself because we aren’t together right now? Is it normal for relationship anxiety to not let you get close to someone, to not talk about the future, to not see them in the future or is this something else? Any tips… I want to want to see a future but how do I know?

    Reply
    • Fear eclipses our ability to imagine and dream, which includes stepping into a future plan with a partner. Everything you’re describing is classic relationship anxiety, including thinking that you’re the exception!

      Reply
  38. Sheryl your work has been truly amazing for me. I’m still learning so much but I know that I suffer from relationship anxiety. My one true fear everytime I panic because I have been ruminating about pleasing others or being that kind person to those I have to set boundaries with, I start sinking. Its absnoball effect and doesnt even have anything to do with my husband, but once i sink, i start looking to him to save me. I keep reaching for that feeling of aliveness, but my anxiety is so bad I cant connect. I disconnect from everything, but I’m always in my head. My one true fear that gets me is that I will never get those feelings back. It haunts me everytime. I have taken your course for opening your heart. I loved it. I know that the relationship anxiety course would be amazing but i have been working with a counselor for about 2 years now. It’s so hard to change a 32 year old mind, for new thought patterns. Counselor says I look to my intimate partner for safety because I didnt get my emtional needs met as a child. It makes since but hard to battle those intrusive thoughts once my brain has been on a hamster wheel for so long.

    I truly love your work
    Mallory

    Reply
  39. how do you get through the anxiety of marrying into different culture and religion? especially there is no support from family

    Reply
    • It’s challenging but you learn to trust yourself and become the source of your own validation. It’s a process of individuating from family of origin until the locus of your self-trust lies with you.

      Reply
  40. plz do reply..i think you should write a book on inter cultural religious marriage//-)

    Reply
  41. First of all, thank you so much Sheryl for these post! They are so helpful and enlightening. I too can relate to being a victim of fear and living a life around this feeling. Because of this, I have adrenal fatigue and am now wondering, if therapy would be exacerbate my adrenal fatigue? Or if it would be helpful? I guess I’m afraid it will make things worse at this point. Any thoughts? I’m in my thirties and my battle with severe anxiety and panic attacks fully took shape 7 years ago.

    Reply
    • Working with the right therapist will help immensely.

      Reply
  42. Dear Sheryl,

    I have started your course breaking from relationship anxiety and it is very difficult to shed all the layers. My relationship is perfect apart from sex. He has been my first sex experience and it is difficult reach climax. Now that I overfocus on it I have no pleasure and feel numb. Im in a high level of anxiety and it is even more difficult because we want to have a baby. Can I have a baby with someone Im not sexually satisfied with? Does everything have to be perfect before having the baby? Can I allow myself that there is still hope our sex life will improve or am I doomed? I don’t want to leave to leave him, he is too precious

    Thank you Sheryl for answering me.

    Reply
    • If every person and relationship had to be perfect before having a baby we would have no babies on the planet :).

      Reply
      • Hi Sheryl
        I have been following your website for years and its been an amazing source of relief for me when I had majoe bouts of anxiety. I had severe engagement anxiety but eventually pushed through and got married and had 2 kids. We are currently in the process of selling our home and buying another one. My anxiety is through the roof, I keep picking faults with our new house and my relationship anxiety is also so bad. I keep worrying I am making a mistake with the house and worry about whether i really love my husband and what will happen if we break up. Is there any particular one of your courses that you would recommend?

        Reply
        • Hi Clare: Unresolved inner issues surface during transitions, so it makes sense that you’re having another bout of anxiety now. I recommend Break Free From Relationship Anxiety or Trust Yourself.

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  43. He Sheryl,

    I just discovered your website and since 1 week started to workin your book and it is helping me to change my life. I’ve had ROCD for 13 years now. With different partners. The biggest difference is that this time it started right away. And I never had the feeling of infactuation.

    Your book is the first thing that gave me real hope and understanding of underlying feelings of inadequacy.

    The partner I am with, we broke off a couple of times due to my anxiety. Now we are together again because I knew that if I didn’t have rocd I wanted to try this with him. And the weeks that I have no ocd I am happy I made that choice. This week is not that week tho.

    After reading the blog I got a full blown panic attack. Because I couldn’t stop myself comparing to your story. There were 2 big differences in mine. Because I was sad and dissapointed when we broke up the first and second time, even a bit heart broken. But after a few weeks I felt better because I had no anxiety.
    And also he isn’s ‘everything I am looking for in a man’ and I don’t know if he is my soulmate. I didn’t had the : can’t live without you feeling as I had with 2 other exes (although that exes were unhealthy for me) I had 2 “soulmates” and that both were destructive relationships. So I guess they weren’t soulmates after all.

    But he is not ‘the guy of my dreams’ as you described your husband. But I don’t know there is some thing as perfect. He is not the “rock climbing, gitar playing, sensitive ultra handsome man”. But I feel like an awfull person just typing this. Because no one loved me more beautifull than he did. He doesn’t wat to posess me or anything. Just lets me be. Even this sounds selfish.
    This is the first healthy relationship. But also the first after exposure therapy and the first relationship I am clean and recovered. So I dont have any comparising.

    I know this is a sort of compulsion, just typing this. But this week my ocd is rumminating for hours and hours a day and I am so sad and scared. I’ve cried for hours after reading the blog. But this time out of panic and hopelesness.
    Maybe if you have the change to read this you could give me some hope.

    Love Marian

    Reply
  44. Dear Sheryl (or anyone else who can help),

    I see a lot of people posting about how they are suffering from relationship anxiety and are experiencing all of these doubts and intrusive thoughts, but then feel much better when they are in the presence of their partner or when they are physically close to their partner. Is it still relationship anxiety if this is not the case?

    I feel extremely anxious and disconnected in both the absence and especially the presence of my partner. I am constantly analyzing our connectedness and it always falls short. I have not enjoyed being around my partner, or experienced the “clear eyes” you constantly talk about since the anxiety hit. The initiation of my anxiety and the intrusive thoughts and compulsions are similar to what you write about, but constantly feeling as if I am repelled by him is making me doubt whether this is indeed relationship anxiety.

    This has been going on for 3 months, and I am not sure whether I should hang on anymore.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hi Tarin, I really really feel you! I’ve spent months now feeling so disconnected because of the intense amount of analysing and attempting to work out how I feel whenever I’m around my partner. Most of my ‘clear eyes’ moments have only lasted for minutes before the fear tells me it’s not real, and that it was just wishful thinking- that’s very painful. I tell myself that I’m the exception, too. I’m just trying to hang in there and get through this- though the fear part of me wants to run and escape, the fighting part of me says that even if the relationship does end at some point, I don’t want it to be a decision made with this level of anxiety and fear, but as a conscious choice. Ending it now feels like it would be entirely fear-led. Sending loads and loads of love x

      Reply
    • Hi Sheryl. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope you are well in this uncertain world right now.

      I just read Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed. In it, she talks about her ‘Knowing’ – that she just knows what she should do to live her truest and most beautiful life. This seems to fly against the notion that we can’t always trust our feelings. However it’s knocked me sideways a bit, like I shouldn’t be with my partner and I’m just delaying breaking up with him to protect him from pain and myself from living my true life. It’s torturous. I don’t want to break up with him but then I convince myself it’s just that I can’t face reality.

      What do you think about this?

      Thank you.

      Reply
      • Glennon is amazing but I don’t think she understands relationship anxiety. “Knowing” is a very triggering concept for people who struggle with anxiety and I encourage you to put it in the box of “people who don’t understand relationship anxiety” and trust that if you’re in a loving, healthy relationship that you don’t want to leave (when you’re seeing through clear eyes) then there’s no reason to leave at all.

        Reply
      • Wow I am SO glad you asked this because reading “Untamed” last month also brought up a ton of relationship anxiety for me. Ever since I read it I’ve been convinced I need to break up with my partner. Fortunately I have a great therapist who is frequently saying the same things to me that Sheryl writes about. I think it’s time I do one of Sheryl’s courses!

        Reply
  45. Hi…You said: “Some part of me knew that he was everything I had ever wanted in a partner”

    But what if you don’t have this part of you? I alternate days in which I show love, I cuddle my girlfriend but moments in which I see a beautiful girl and I want to leave her … I am convinced I want to do it … to have new experiences but I don’t … but I would like to. …

    Reply
  46. Dear Sheryl and this amazing community,

    I just discovered this blogpost. I am 27 years old, engaged in July this year. I’ve been experiencing rather severe relationship anxiety since we’ve gotten engaged. It started almost from the proposal, but got worse when we had to make our first financial commitments (booking the wedding venue) and even purchasing a house. The wedding is 7 months away, but it scares me so bad because I feel like I’ve committed and there’s no way out since we’ve already bought the house. Yet I’ve examined my feelings time and time again and conclusion is my fiance is a lovely god-loving man, and I want to spend the rest of my life with him. Still, a lifetime commitment scares me badly.

    Reply
    • Andrea: I’m so glad you found your way here and you’ll find much support through the blog and the course. Welcome :).

      Reply
  47. First of all, I am beyond thankful for finding this golden piece of advice on internet because in these two weeks of constant worrying I have come across various concerning advice and even disappointing answers, but actually non of those people understood shat we all were going through. I am in a long dostance relationship with this guy that before only could exist in dreams, I even got beautiful comments about how we were perfect for each other, I really started to hope, because finding a good partner was one of the most important things for me. Also I must add that before I was very possessive, jealous and obsessive about him, vonstantly trying to track him even though there was no real need. I m veru emotional and falling out of love is NOT ( at peast I hope) something that describes my personality because next to me I have this most amazing guy, who I m attracted to and love deeply and every time this anxiety occurs, I feel broken because I get the improssion that I dont love him enough, that I’m just attracted to him and that I don’t care enough, and this always breaks me into tears, I lose the ability to even feel sexual need ( I was never a very sexual person) and in those anxiety attacks I feel completely disconnected from him and everything. I have to add that I could never like someone else, because of what I love ahout him, that is not the problem, but throughout this two week anxiety after worrying and analysing so much, I get times when if I try to imagine us toghether in the future ( and there is nothing I would want more with my will and choice) l kinda get blocked and start to fear what if this is my gut, but now thanks to you and my history of anxiety I know its not true, I also have moments of clarity and my boyfirend and I havent seen eachother for two months due to his financial state, a couple of times he was about to come, but couldn’t which would disappiont me so much that I though it was the reason for this state now, but he is coming to my city in two days and I m so ovewhelmed and scared what will happed when I see him, I just want it to be the same again and for me to not have this anxiety because even though I m not able to feel many things now, I know I would be so sad without him and If he loved someone else, beacuse it makes me cry and then I even question – would I be jealous enough and this completely destroys me. Yesterday I felt good and thought this was over but it came back. I want him and kinda know we’ re one for another but in these times it seems so difficult to be convinced and to believe in that ehen there is something always blocking your clarity, I never wanna leave him and I never wanna part ways because he gave me something I could only dream about before, this helpwd a lot, but I still have a lot of work to do. Sending lota of love and support to all of you wonderful people fighting for your love and I am convinced that those people who have such fears love their loved one much more deeply than many other people, they love them beyond infatuation and lust, they love their souls

    Reply

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